BBQ Chicken Chili

De Arbol (Capsicum Annuum) means tree like in Spanish. The plant has thick, upright, woody stems and the chile itself is narrow, curved and bright red in color. Believed to be closely related to the pequin, the De Arbol is thin fleshed, with tannic, smoky, grassy flavor and searing heat. This chile has a heat range of 7.5 on the heat scale of 1-10. De Arbol Chiles are comparable to a Cayenne Pepper. Scoville heat units 15,000 to 30,000.

Suggested Use:
De Arbol is a hot chile and a staple in Southwest kitchens. Add some heat to your next salsa or Mexican dish. Be adventurous and add them to your next stew or chili along with the other spices. Add some heat to your next salsa or Mexican dish.

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Dry rub:
2 TBSP brown sugar
1/2 TBSP granulated garlic
1/2 TBSP granulated onion
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
Several grinds fresh cracked black pepper

The chili:
2 lbs. chicken breasts, boneless/skinless
2 TBSP canola oil, divided
2 dried chipotle peppers
1 dried ancho chile
1 dried New Mexico chile
1 chile de arbol
1 poblano pepper
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup apricot jam or preserves
1/4 cup honey
2 TBSP molasses
1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1 large onion, finely diced
3-4 large carrots, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bottle stout beer or dark porter (or use 3/4 cup bourbon, brandy, or scotch)
15 oz. crushed tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
1 cup ketchup
6 oz. tomato paste
1 TBSP ground coffee
15 oz. black beans
(optional) 1 cup corn, fresh, frozen, or canned


Method (stovetop):
In a heavy bottom skillet (cast iron if you have it) turn the heat on to medium and lay all of the peppers skin side down to toast. After 4-5 minutes, remove the dry peppers to the bowl of your food processor, and cover with 1/2 cup boiling water. Let rest five minutes. Once the skin of the poblano has begun to char, remove it from the heat and set aside – once cool enough, dice finely.

To the peppers in the food processor, add the chili powder, apricot preserves, honey, molasses, and vinegar. Blend until smooth, then set aside.

In the bottom of a very large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 TBSP canola oil over medium-high. Rub chicken breasts thoroughly with dry rub, being sure to coat both sides. Lay half of the chicken into the bottom of the pot, and let sear 3-4 minutes without touching it or moving it around. Flip, cook another few minutes, then remove from the pot and set aside. Add the rest of the canola oil and the last of the chicken to the pot and repeat. Set aside.

Reduce the heat on the pot to medium and add the onion, carrot, and garlic. Stir and let cook 1-2 minutes to develop some color.

Deglaze the pan with the beer, then add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, ketchup, the roasted and diced poblano, the coffee, and the hot pepper puree from the food processor. Nestle the seared chicken breasts into the pot along with any juices they may have accumulated and let simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

Once the hour is up, remove the chicken and shred with two forks. Return the chicken to the pot, add the beans (and corn if using), and let simmer uncovered until the chili has reached your preferred level of sloppiness. I like mine nice and thick, so I went about 45 more minutes.

Taste and adjust seasoning (salt, pepper), adding more ketchup if it’s too hot, or more chili powder or a dash of cayenne if it’s too mild.

Method (slow-cooker): As with the stovetop, rub and sear the chicken and blend the peppers.

Add all ingredients except the beans (and corn, if using) to your crock pot and set on low. Let cook 2-3 hours, then remove the chicken, shred with two forks, and return to the slow cooker. Add the beans (and corn) and let cook another 1-2 hours or until ready to serve.

Serves 6-8.