Sunday, June 24, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken and Black Bean Chili

Normally, people think of slow cookers as an easy way to create warm, delicious meals in the middle of winter.  There's nothing quite like the smell of hearty beef stew or chicken soup filling your house on a cold winter day, and knowing you'll get to dig in after those luscious flavors have simmered for up to ten hours.

So why am I blogging about a slow cooker recipe in June?

Well, just as slow cookers are life-and-dinner-savers in the wintertime, they are great for summer as well.  Think about it for a minute - sometimes you just don't want to grill (hold off on the horrified gasps for a minute, friends), but you want a hearty meal.  Now where I live, we don't usually get super hot summer days until, oh, end of July (this past week's heat wave notwithstanding).  So even though my dear husband likes to fire up the grill, I usually have no qualms about stirring something up on the stove or baking in the oven.

But slow cookers are great for summer.  Minimal fuss, you're not heating up a single element on your stove top, and they don't add much heat to your kitchen.  Do I recommend them for a 95+ degree day?  Not unless you have central air.  (Which I now have, and I'm looking forward to a summer of baking and canning in cool, air-conditioned comfort.)  On the hottest of hot days, a spinach and tomato salad alongside a couple hot dogs is as fancy as we'll get around here.

But I'm digressing terribly.

Chili is definitely a winter food.  But thanks to your slow cooker, you can enjoy it in the summer with minimal fuss and discomfort.  This particular chili recipe has the added bonus of being low calorie and low fat, thanks to the use of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

And your hands-on time is maybe ten minutes, tops, depending on your dexterity with two forks.

This recipe doesn't have to be made in a slow cooker.  You can make it on the stove as well.  Use a large (three to four quart) pot, and simmer for about a half hour before shredding the chicken.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Black Bean Chili

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 5 to 6 ounces each
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes in puree (the big can)
  • 14 ounces canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 packet chili seasoning (I use McCormick's)
  • 1/4 cup water
Optional ingredient additions include one 14-ounce can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed, one 8-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained.


Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of your slow cooker. I find I sometimes have to trim the breasts a little bit of fat or cartilage, depending on how well the butcher did so at the grocery store ahead of me.

Pour the black beans (make sure you drain and rinse them well) on top of the chicken, followed by the crushed tomatoes and water.  This is also when you would add your optional ingredients, like red kidney beans or corn.  My husband dislikes both of those items, so I left them out.

Add the seasoning packet and stir to combine.

Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, stirring every couple hours to scrape down the sides.

Remove the chicken breasts, one at a time, and shred them with two forks.  The meat will be extremely tender and this job is quite easy once you get the hang of it.

Return the shredded chicken to the slow cooker, stir to distribute everything evenly, and cook on low for another fifteen to twenty minutes.

Serve up this chili with tortilla chips, whole grain crackers, or crusty bread.  You can also serve this with your regular chili toppings, like shredded  cheese, either cheddar or a Mexican blend, sour cream, or sliced avocado.

This really is a very healthy version of chili, even more so than turkey chili.  I worked out the calorie count on this, and it's somewhere around 150 calories for a one-cup serving (not including the toppings or side offerings like tortilla chips).

Leftovers will keep refrigerated in air-tight containers up to four days.

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