Easy Smoked Chicken Chili Recipe

4.75 from 4 votes
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Chicken Chili made with leftover grilled or smoked chicken is super easy, jam packed with flavor, and isn’t too rich to weigh you down.

This recipe is great with any shredded chicken, really, but I love the subtle smoky flavor that the smoked or grilled chicken provides. Great for game day or a weeknight family meal. 

It’s also gluten free and dairy free (if you use dairy free shredded cheese and leave out sour cream)!

Two bowls of smoked chicken chili

Chicken is probably the protein we cook the most around here. Even if we’re smoking a brisket on a Sunday, we throw in a whole chicken to use the meat throughout the week (and also make stock from the carcass!). It’s super versatile, and bonus, our kids love it!

This chicken chili is inspired by our brisket chili, but intended to be a bit easier, and also lighter (brisket is rich!). It’s a great weeknight meal for any leftover chicken you may have (smoked or otherwise). Though we’ve been known to smoke a whole roaster chicken just to use the meat strictly for this chili.

Got friends coming over for a big game? Throw on a pot of this chicken chili!

A whole chicken cooking on a smoker

Smoked Red Chicken Chili

This chili is a red chicken chili versus a white chicken chili, which my husband refers to as a “soup” not a “chili” 😉

What is chili?

That is a question that many people will have different responses and opinions to. If you go the dictionary route, it’s a sauce with chili peppers in it. In this case we have chili powder and red peppers. So technically a chili. There are few rules to chili. Ask someone from Texas, they will say no beans, all meat. Go to someone in Arizona, and their version of chili con carne may include corn, meat, and beans. You get the drift here, so long as we have chili peppers and a sauce, it’s a chili. (Ahem Sean – white chili is a thing!)

In this case we just love the added flavor and body the red sauce provides.

In this case we’re using leftover smoked chicken, but any shredded chicken will do, smoked or otherwise (chicken breasts, thighs, you name it). Layer with onions, garlic, red bell pepper, green chili, some sauce and spices, and you’ve got yourself a winning chili.

A bowl of easy smoked chicken chili topped with avocado, cheese, and jalapeño

How to make Smoked Chicken Chili

First smoke the chicken, for reference, here is a smoked whole chicken recipe to start with.

If you don’t feel like smoking a chicken, use whatever chicken you have around (we use 3 cups of shredded meat in this recipe).

Next, for the chili start by softening some onions and red bell pepper, toss in some garlic, and then add your liquids, spices, and shredded chicken, and let them simmer for 30 mins to one hour. If you want a richer chili then feel free to cook longer. But we’re usually cooking this on a busy weeknight and cut it off around the 30-45 min mark. But the longer you cook it the richer the flavors will be.

A pot full of smoked chicken chili

What to add to Chicken Chili

Like our concept of what is chili…what you put into chicken chili is up to you.

  • Want beans? Add them. Kidney, black, and white beans all work great.
  • Want some sweet to balance any heat? Corn is a great natural addition to sweeten the pot.
  • Like spice? Fresh serrano, poblano, or jalapeño are all great to supplement dried chili powder.
  • You can also add some chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (one of my personal favs).
  • Want a more liquid version? Add some beer, wine, or chicken stock. Add what sounds best to you and what you have on hand.
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Chili Toppings

  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Thinly sliced jalapeños
  • Sliced avocado
  • Freshly diced white onions, green onions, or chives
  • Even bits of crispy bacon!

Smoked Chicken Chili Recipe

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Bowl of Chicken Chili
4.75 from 4 votes

Smoked Chicken Chili

Chicken Chili recipe made with leftover grilled or smoked chicken is super easy, jam packed with flavor, and isn't too rich to weigh you down.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 6 servings


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeño, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3 cups leftover smoked chicken, shredded
  • 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 4 ounce can diced green chilis
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (we love Valentina)
  • 1/4 cup coffee (leftover from your morning pot is perfect)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • In a large sauce pan or dutch oven over medium heat, add olive oil and white onions. Soften for 4 minutes. Add red pepper and jalapeño, continue to soften for additional 4 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 more minute.
  • Add chili powder and stir for 1 minute to toast slightly. Reduce heat if the saute is browning.
  • Add all remaining ingredients and stir. Simmer for 30 minutes covered, with cover slightly open to release some steam. Stir occasionally to avoid browning the sauce. For a richer sauce simmer for 60 minutes total. 
  • When you see desired thickness (can be up to an hour), remove from heat, stir, and serve warm. 
  • Serve with your favorite toppings and enjoy.


Recipe for smoked whole chicken can be found here. Otherwise feel free to use any shredded chicken (no skin). 
For more heat consider some chipotle in adobo.
For additional richness, add more tomato paste or chili powder.
Want more liquid, don’t simmer as long or add more tomato sauce.

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Course: Entree
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 servings
Keyword: chicken chili, easy chili recipes, smoked chicken chili
Like this recipe? Leave a comment below!
Two bowls full of smoked chicken chili topped with chili toppings

Wine Pairing

This is a fairly mild chili, not overpowered by too much spice or intensity. Something fruity with some richness, yet balanced acidity work well. Rioja (or other Tempranillo) is a fun one, as is Syrah. If you start to load it up the chili with some richness or more heat, and need something to refresh the palate, a Beaujolais is a nice option for red (fruity, juicy, and refreshing). You can also opt for a bold style rosé for something bright and refreshing.

More Leftover Chicken Recipes

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About Mary

I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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  1. 5 stars
    Loved this recipe! I had a smoked chicken that I didn’t know what to do with and this chili was perfect for a chilly January evening. My husband also gave it a thumbs up.

    1. Mark that is so awesome to hear!! Thank you so much for taking time to rate the recipe and provide your feedback. Look forward to the next recipe you try!!