Or is that Chocolate Chili Chicken? Or Chocolate Chicken Chili? Or even Chili Chocolate Chicken???

I know – it sounds like a Dr. Seuss story,  but trust me: the result is far from child-like. This is one dark, delicious, sophisticated and sultry stew.

As fall winter? approaches, friends have been asking me for “Crockpot” recipes and this great, one-pot dish is perfect for feeding hungry Trick-or-Treaters (If they can go!) on Halloween.

That said, slow cooking is not quite as easy as just setting and forgetting—there is a little bit of work to be done first but it is well worth the effort. With a soupcon of forward planning, you can have a hearty simmering dinner waiting for you.

Here are a few hints to get that perfect slow cooked meal:

  • Ceramic pots will not brown or sear. So if you are using meat or onions, fry first in a skillet to brown them and to make sure you get a delicious, aromatic caramelization.
  • Never use water – it sucks away flavor. Use broth, stock, wine, juice, brandy – anything with a bit of flavor.
  • Season assertively with herbs although go steady on the hot peppers as they can really get aggressive!
  • Thicken cooking liquids first. Coat meat with a little flour before frying.
  • Crock pots do best with cheaper cuts of meat: chicken thighs, shoulder or chuck cut, brisket, short ribs shanks tri-tips or flank steak are ideal. As the cooking time is long it is best to use meat with lots of internal fat and connective tissue to stop it from disintegrating into an unidentifiable mush.
  • On the subject of mush –  as the texture can become a bit homogenous, have some fresh ingredients to add at the end of cooking such as herbs,  nuts, grated citrus zest – something to elevate the long-cooking stew into some something out of the ordinary.

Here’s the recipe for the Chicken Chili with Chocolate. Or is that Chili Chocolate Chicken?


  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless chicken meat (dark and/or light) cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 cup barley
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 can tomatoes (approx 14 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (approx 14 oz) red kidney beans
  • 1 oz dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium high heat. Add the chicken until it is lightly golden. Transfer to the slow cooker.

Then add the onion to the oil and fry for a few minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, cumin, oregano, chili, cinnamon, salt and pepper and flour stir until the onion is evenly coated.

Then add the barley and cook for another minute. Add the broth and tomatoes and stir until the liquid boils and thickens.

Pour over the chicken in the slow cooker.  Add the beans and cook for 3-4 hours on high or 6-7 hours on low.

Just before serving add the chocolate and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Stir until the chocolate melts. Garnish with the cilantro and serve with grated cheese or sour cream and a crisp, green salad.

This dish is best eaten fast as the texture of the barley is not suited to reheating. I like using barley as it makes it an easy, one-pot meal, but feel free to leave it out and serve with separately prepared rice. If you leave the barley out, you can double the amount of chicken and reduce the broth by ½ a cup.

Being honest, it is delicious either way.

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