Preserves in Action: Shredded Chicken Chili

February 7, 2014(updated on October 18, 2023)
pulled chicken chili

On Wednesday, I wrote about how to make your home canned beans from dried (have you entered the giveaway sponsored by Mighty Nest yet?). Since so many of you mentioned in the comments that you like to use canned beans in chili, I thought that I’d share the basic chili recipe I use all the time. It uses 2-3 jars of beans and at least 2 quarts of preserved tomatoes.

When I have the time, I braise boneless skinless chicken thighs in puree of tomatoes, onions, garlic cloves, and fresh cilantro leaves until they shred easily. If I’m running short on time, I skip the braised chicken and instead just stir a pound ground turkey meat directly into the cooking chili (in that case, I add both jars/cans of tomatoes directly to the cooking chili). Of course, another option is to skip the meat entirely, but it would make my husband sad if I did that in our household.

pulled braised chicken

Let’s have a word about this shredded chicken. It’s an awesome addition to chili, but that’s not all it’s good for. I’ve been known to eat it wrapped in a tortilla or spooned over some braised greens. It’s incredibly flavorful and easy to make. I’ve taken to keeping a batch stashed in our freezer for lazy nights. Oh! One last thing about this chicken. Sometimes the onions make it a little bit sweet and so I’ll add either a splash of lime juice or the brine from a jar of pickled jalapeños to balance things out.

My apologies for the less than stellar photos in this post. I made this chili for dinner one night and forgot entirely to take pretty pictures. I snapped the image at the top of the post (it was the very last bowl) just moments before I ate it for a quick solo dinner. And we all know, the total lack of natural light in my kitchen makes photography hard, even on the most lovely natural light days.

But enough of that. On to the recipe!

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Shredded Chicken Chili


For pulled chicken:

  • 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 quart or a 28 ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 yellow onion sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled
  • 3/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For chili:

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 green pepper chopped
  • 1 red or orange pepper chopped
  • 1 bundle Swiss chard leaves separated from stems
  • 1 quart or 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 3 cans or jars of beans I like to use a combination of black, pinto, and red kidney
  • salt pepper, and chili powder to taste


  • Cut chicken thighs into two or three pieces per thigh, removing any large pieces of fat while doing so.
  • Place the trimmed thighs in a pot that holds four or five quarts.
  • Combine the tomato puree, onion, garlic, cilantro leaves,chili powder, salt, and pepper in a blender and puree.
  • Pour the puree over the chicken and place the pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for two to three hours, until the chicken shreds easily.
  • When the chicken is nearly done, start building the rest of the chili.
  • Heat the oil over high heat in a large Dutch oven or soup pot that will hold eight to nine quarts.
  • Add the onion, garlic, chili powder, and cumin to the pot and stir to the combine. Cook for four to five minutes, until the onions begin to brown and the spices are fragrant.
  • Add the chopped peppers and stir to incorporate.
  • Take the Swiss chard stems and chop into 1/2 inch slices like you would celery. Add them to the pot. Chop the greens and set them aside.
  • Add the tomatoes and their liquid to the pot, crushing them with your hands as you add each one.
  • Open beans, drain them of their liquid and add them to the pot.
  • Add the shredded chicken and its cooking liquid.
  • Finally, stir in the reserved Swiss chard greens.
  • Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer the chili for 30 to 45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings (we like a mild chili in my house, so it might not be nearly spicy enough for lots of you).
  • Serve with some grated cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

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9 thoughts on "Preserves in Action: Shredded Chicken Chili"

  • Sounds delicious. Can’t wait to make a big pot of chile.
    Are you going to make something for All Four Burners Can Jam. I’ve recently found that blog, know you’ve mentioned the can jam before and it looks like they could use a little word of mouth to increase their participation. The February challenge is carrots.
    I’ve looked up some recipes for carrot cake jam, and a few add raisins and nuts to the basic recipe found in the Ball Bluebook… is this really safe. Seems to me that it would raise the pH and would need to be offset with some lemon juice. Any thouguts?!?

    1. I just haven’t had the time to do the can jam since the first year when it was hosted by Tigress in a Jam/Pickle. As far as your carrot cake jam goes, the addition of the raisins should be fine. Nuts can be a little tricky, though. It’s best not to improvise at all when working with a recipe that skates close to unsafe territory.

  • I have quite a few beef chili recipes, but haven’t found a chicken one I love. I think this may fit the bill. Can’t wait to try it! Thanks for sharing it. I just love your blog!

  • oh that looks super yum! I always think of chili as beef.. I don’t know why I keep forgetting about making it with chicken!

  • Oops! Looks like a small error in the recipe–you talk about thighs, and the narrative in the recipe refers to thighs, but the ingrediant list has chicken breasts.

    Thighs would be my recommendation.

  • Yay, another Preserves in Action post!!! I love them and this looks so delish. This will have to have a sneaky name change at my house from chili to soup. Hubs seems to feel it is illegal for chili to contain anything other than beef and also the beans must only be red. Sigh…he’s a good man and worth the extra trouble. 😉 Thank you for the recipe!

  • Have you ever canned the chili? Or any of the soups? I am interested in doing that, but haven’t found a single source on how.