My Favorite Slow Cooker Chicken Chili Recipe

I can’t even tell you how many times we’ve made this easy slow cooker chicken chili in the past few years. 100? 200? I think we’re in the 300s by now.

That’s not an exaggeration. Every time a family member, neighbor, or friend has a baby, I bring them over a batch to freeze. (Who doesn’t find comfort in home-cooked chili? Especially new parents!) Every time we have company over for a football game, I make this chili. And every time I want to prep freezer meals, I make another batch. And, finally, anytime we want an easy slow cooker dinner, slow cooker chicken chili is on the menu.

Here’s Why We Love It

  • Easy– a set it & forget it slow cooker meal
  • Flavorful– filled with traditional chili flavors and a little spice
  • Satisfying– warm, cozy, and comforting
  • Adaptable– swap out the chicken, beans, etc
  • Make-ahead & freezer friendly– so convenient!

chicken chili in slow cooker

Ingredients in Slow Cooker Chicken Chili

Everything goes into the slow cooker at once. No pre-cooking!

  1. Canned Diced Tomatoes: Use 2 cans of diced tomatoes. Drain out the liquid first.
  2. Tomato Sauce: Use plain tomato sauce as the base of this chili. I usually pick up 2 8-ounce cans of Hunts tomato sauce.
  3. Chicken: You need about 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts.
  4. Chicken Broth: Use 1 standard can (about 2 cups) chicken broth. I stick with reduced sodium. If you have homemade chicken stock or broth, that works too!
  5. Onion & Bell Peppers: Let’s add a little freshness to the one pot dinner with flavorful onion and lots of diced bell pepper.
  6. Black Beans & Corn: I love adding these because the duo brings a southwestern vibe to the whole dish. If I don’t have corn, I swap in more black beans. If I don’t have black beans, I swap in kidney beans. Use what you enjoy and/or have in the pantry.
  7. Jalapeño: 1 jalapeño adds the perfect amount of spice.
  8. Garlic, Salt, Dried Oregano, Chili Powder, & Cumin: Each ingredient adds depth and flavor. I don’t recommend cutting any of them from the recipe. In fact, I usually add a little more of each after I taste the finished chili.
  9. Cream Cheese: Trust me. See below!

This is a set and forget it slow cooker dinner recipe. Besides chopping some ingredients and using a can opener, the only “work” is shredding the chicken. Remove the cooked chicken breasts, shred them with two forks (it’s easy because they’re so tender!), then add the shredded chicken back into the crockpot for 15 more minutes before serving.

canned ingredients for chicken chili

2 images of ingredients for chicken chili

Best Ingredient of All

You can make regular chicken chili or you can make the BEST CHICKEN CHILI. Stir in a touch of cream cheese after you shred the chicken. The cream cheese melts and creates a thick and creamy base for all these flavors and textures. It slightly cuts the heat, too. I’m not kidding– literally anyone I’ve made this chili for has asked me what my secret is– it’s the cream cheese!!!!

I usually add 4 ounces of cream cheese, but you can use the whole 8 ounce block if it’s easier. You can use light or full-fat cream cheese. Whichever amount or fat content you use, just make sure that you don’t use cream cheese spread. Pick up an 8 ounce block of cream cheese, like the kind you use for baking.

After you mix in the cream cheese, the chili will be creamy and lighter in color. Taste it. At this point you can add more salt, chili powder, or additional spices if desired.

Is This Chicken Chili Spicy?

No. I prefer mildly spicy chili and this has just enough heat to bring flavor without burning your tastebuds. (The cream cheese helps cut the spice, too!) The recipe written below is mild, so if you prefer spicier chili, add more chili powder and/or an extra jalapeño. You can adjust the spices in my pumpkin chili, too.

crockpot chicken chili

Adapt & Make it Your Own

This dinner recipe is adaptable! Sometimes I add more beans, less corn, an extra jalapeño, or more spices. This is a convenient base recipe where you can add/reduce pretty much anything in order to fit your family’s preferences. I’ve even turned it into slow cooker vegetarian chili by swapping the chicken for more beans and cubed sweet potato. See my recipe note.

However you make it, my #1 suggestion is to serve this 1 pot meal with cornbread.

You won’t regret it!

slow cooker chicken chili in individual bowls


Slow Cooker Chicken Chili Video Tutorial

Print
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chicken chili in a green bowl with a spoon

My Favorite Slow Cooker Chicken Chili Recipe

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours, 10 minutes
  • Yield: serves 8
  • Category: Chili
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Here’s my family’s favorite slow cooker chicken chili recipe, a complete “set it and forget it” crockpot dinner!


Ingredients

  • 2 (14 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes (drained)
  • 2 (7 or 8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 2 large skinless boneless chicken breasts (about 1 and 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 cups (480ml) chicken broth (I use reduced sodium)
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 (14 ounce) can corn (rinsed and drained) or 1 package of frozen corn
  • 1 (14 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 jalapeño, minced (remove seeds and ribs)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano or Italian seasoning blend
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder (reduce to 1 teaspoon for less spicy chili)
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 4 ounces (1/2 of a block) full-fat or light cream cheese* (see note)

Instructions

  1. Add all the ingredients except the cream cheese to a 4 quart or larger slow cooker. Give everything a big stir. Cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3 hours.
  2. Remove the chicken and chop into bite-sized pieces or use two forks to shred it. Return chicken to the slow cooker and add the cream cheese. Stir everything together until the cream cheese has melted. Taste, then add more salt or seasonings if desired. I usually add a little more chili powder and dried oregano/Italian seasoning blend. Cover the slow cooker and cook for about 10-15 more minutes.
  3. Serve warm topped with fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, or crackers. And serve alongside my favorite cornbread or dinner rolls. Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave.

Notes

  1. Freezing Instructions: Freeze up to 3-4 months. Freeze in 1 big container or a few smaller containers. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or place the container/bag in the sink filled with warm water. Once thawed, cook in a large pot on medium heat for 30 minutes. Or reheat in the microwave until warmed throughout.
  2. Substitutions: The spices like cumin, chili powder, and oregano/Italian seasoning blend are crucial to the taste. However, the following adaptions work well if needed. Homemade tomato sauce works wonderfully instead of canned. You can use ground turkey or ground beef instead of chicken. Brown on the stove first (medium-high heat for 8 minutes), then add to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients. You can also use vegetable or beef broth instead of chicken broth. You can add more peppers, onions, or beans if you want (sometimes I do!). You can use kidney beans or white beans instead of black beans. Add more garlic or jalapeño if desired. And, finally, for vegetarian chili, you can add 1 more can of beans and swap the chicken for 3 cups uncooked diced and peeled sweet potato.
  3. Slow Cooker: You’ll need a 4 quart or larger slow cooker. Here is the one I own.
  4. No Slow Cooker? No Problem! Chop the raw chicken into bite-sized pieces. Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a 4 quart or larger pot on the stove over medium heat. Add the diced onion, chopped bell pepper, jalapeño, salt, dried oregano, chili powder, cumin, and garlic. Stir and cook until the peppers have softened and the chicken is cooked. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the cream cheese, to the pot. Cover and cook for 30 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 30 minutes, stir in the cream cheese until melted and cook, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes. Serve.
  5. Cream Cheese: Over the years, I’ve found that it’s helpful to slightly warm the cream cheese before adding to the hot chili in step 2. Unwrap it, place on a plate, and simply microwave it for 15-20 seconds before stirring into the chili. This helps it combine much easier into the hot chili.

Keywords: slow cooker, dinner, crockpot, chicken chili

142 Comments

  1. I made this for a group of about 15 people. I cooked it on the stovetop the night before and reheated on low in a crock pot the next morning to be ready for lunch. It was a huge hit! One person in the group is gluten intolerant and this fit that requirement. (I made sure the chicken broth was gluten-free). If I were making this for more than 15 people I would suggest tripling the recipe. Thanks for a tasty dish!

  2. Susan Crossley says:

    I am so excited to try this recipe this week! I have two quick questions before I do. Do you think this would work as well with thighs instead of breasts? We just prefer thighs but they do have a stronger flavor so not sure if they would go as well. Second, I’m wanting to half the recipe. Is it okay to exactly half everything or are there any adjustments you recommend to ensure there is enough liquid? Thanks so much and look forward to trying this!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Susan! Yes, you can use thighs instead of breasts and also halve all of the ingredients for a smaller batch. But it might just be easier to make the whole batch and freeze extras.

  3. Highly recommend this recipe – it was super easy and delicious. This makes fantastic leftovers too! Only swaps I did was did only 1 can of diced tomatoes, not include the corn (personal preference) and used around 3oz of Neufchâtel cream cheese instead to lighten it up a bit. After cooking, I cut up the chicken into chunks vs I normally shred for crockpot meals – it turned out great. I called it Southwestern Chicken Soup for my husband who says he doesn’t like chicken chili, and he loved it!!

  4. Tamara Currier says:

    Hi Sally,

    Do you think I could used cooked chicken?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tamara, that should be fine — just add the fully cooked chicken in towards the end of the recipe (when you add in the cream cheese) so that it has some time to take on the flavors of the chili. Enjoy!

  5. It was just ok for me. Not enough flavor. I won’t be making this one again.
    I love Sally’s 20 Minute Honey Garlic Shrimp!

  6. I don’t have a slow cooker, so I use the replacement stovetop version. This is a great recipe, with lots of good flavor, but it’s also very simple. The cream cheese tip was amazing! Never making chili any other way.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      So glad you loved it!

  7. I’m not much of a chili person but I like this recipe. My husband likes it also.

  8. Daisyheadfayzie says:

    Made this last night using boneless chicken thighs in a slow cooker. It was good but I had to do a bunch of stuff to it. It was too soupy so I had to add a cornstarch mixture. It also needed more flavor, more chicken, and more beans.
    I’ll make it again using these adjustments.
    Thanks for the recipe.

  9. Diana Bellissimo says:

    Can the chicken breast go in frozen?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Diana, we recommend thawed, but have used frozen before with no issue.

  10. So delicious, I used leftover chicken thighs. Also used two cans of kidney beans instead of black beans and corn. I was totally skeptical about the cream cheese but it made it so yummy. Thanks for recipe.

  11. Rebecca Ochinero says:

    Can I leave the cream cheese out or is there a substitute?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rebecca! You can leave it out if necessary. It will be slightly thinner.

  12. this is good, but it’s not chili imo, it’s more like tortilla soup without the tortillas. Not sure why I ended up with so much liquid, I drained tomatoes and beans. I ended up adding another can of beans.

  13. I made this with a few substitutions purely based on what I had in my pantry/fridge. It was SO DELICIOUS. I left out the jalapeno because I have two little boys and a huge pregnant belly who do not currently appreciate spiciness. This will be a staple throughout the fall and winter.

  14. Julie Foster says:

    What is the nutrition info on this dish?

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Julie, We don’t usually include nutrition information as it can vary between different brands of the same ingredients. Plus, many recipes have ingredient substitutions or optional ingredients listed. However, there are many handy online calculators where you can plug in and customize your exact ingredients/brands. Readers have found this one especially helpful: https://www.verywellfit.com/recipe-nutrition-analyzer-4157076

  15. Delicious. It definitely is not spicy if one follows the recipe.

    The bonus was I could make it in my 5 quart slow cooker.

    Thank you!

  16. Can I use plain Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese?
    Thank you

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi MG, for best results, we recommend sticking with the cream cheese. You can certainly try using Greek yogurt, but it won’t thicken in the broth quite as much.

  17. We love this recipe but have made a few changes. We added Chili beans not rinsed, kidney beans rinsed and pinto beans rinsed and a small can of diced green chilis.

  18. If I use ground beef how long do I leave it on slow cooker

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Teresa, if using ground beef, we recommend cooking it first before adding to the chili. You can leave it on the slow cooker for the same amount of time in order to allow the vegetables to soften and the flavors to full incorporate.

  19. I’m so happy I stumbled upon this recipe. It made the perfect bowl of chili, seriously. People who didn’t even like vegetables (I also added carrots) loved it! I honestly recommend doubling the seasonings, just a personal opinion
    *I cooked mine in a Instant Pot on the “Slow cook” setting*

  20. I love this recipe and modify it as follows:

    Heat the chicken broth to boil, rehydrate 5 or 6 dried ancho chilis in the stock and let cool
    Add all spices + stock with peppers to a blender, blend
    One can of black beans and one can of cannellini beans, no corn (I dont like corn)
    4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cubed

  21. Bernadette Garven says:

    Thank you for this recipe, Sally! Like all the recipes I’ve tried of yours, this is true to your instructions, easy and Delisch! ❤️

  22. SweetCaroline says:

    The cream cheese trick is brilliant! Partner observed that between the tomatoes, rich dairy, and cumin, it’s a bit reminiscent of butter chicken in the best way. Considering serving this over rice just to see how far we can take it!

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