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Secret Ingredient Chili

Secret Ingredient Chili- You’ll never know this rich and hearty chili started as a store bought packet thanks to a special secret ingredient…peanut butter.

January 22, 2024 by Nicole Collins


Today, we’re making Secret Ingredient Chili!


This one is as simple as it is easy and delicious. We’re starting with a basic store bought chili seasoning packet then adding a couple special ingredients to make this bowl of comfort feel totally homemade. But, this chili has a secret. A nutty little secret that nobody will see coming but really changes the game.


Let me be honest for a second. I’m not chili’s biggest fan. There are a couple reasons for this. One, I can be REALLY weird about tomato based dishes. I really have to be in the mood for them, and I’m extremely picky about them. Two, chili is a little confusing to me because it’s basically just eating meat sauce with a spoon but calling it a soup. My brain doesn’t get it. And lastly, I’m not a huge beef eater. I’ve really cut beef out of my diet for the most part for a number of reasons, and chili is typically made with beef. So if it already wasn’t my first choice, it’s really not my first choice now.


But then I remembered something. It’s my recipe. I can make the chili however I want! So for this chili, I opted to use ground chicken as the base of my stew. Now if ground beef or ground turkey is more your vibe, use that. In my opinion, you can’t really tell the difference once the flavors of the chili seeps into the meat anyway. So, this chili starts simply by cooking some ground chicken and diced onion in a little olive oil until the chicken is fully cooked through. And, that’s basically the most work we have to do for this whole recipe.


For the rest of the ingredients, we’re going to dump and go. To the meat, we’ll add some Rotel, some crushed tomatoes, some drained beans, a packet of chili seasoning, and our secret ingredient…peanut butter.


Now listen, you know I’m a peanut butter nut…no pun intended. I LIVE for it. But when I first heard it was a southern secret to add a dollop of peanut butter to chili, my nose scrunched up a bit. I won’t lie. But after I thought about it for a second and did a little research, I realized how brilliant the idea actually is. And, I’ve never gone back since.


The addition of peanut butter does a couple things for this chili. For one, the fat in the peanut butter balances out the spices in the most beautiful way. It kind of tames them and enhances them at the exact same time. The peanut butter also acts as a thickening agent to the chili making it feel extra hearty. And though you can’t actually taste the peanut butter at all, the richness that it adds to the bowl is undeniable.


So once we have the rest of our ingredients added to the pot, we’ll stir everything together until that peanut butter has melted, reduce the heat, cover the pot, and let everything simmer together for about 20 mins. You will want to give this an occasional stir so the sugars in the peanut butter don’t scorch on the bottom of the pot. Then after the chili has simmered, we’ll need to add salt. The amount of salt you need will depend on a couple things…your personal preference, what kind of meat you used, and what kind of peanut butter you use. So, you have to rely solely on your taste buds for this one. For me, using ground chicken, Aldi peanut butter, and having a high salt tolerance; I typically add almost a whole teaspoon of salt to the pot. But, this is your recipe as much as it is mine now. So, add the salt in small increments and make it taste good for you!


You can’t have chili without loading it up with toppings. I finish mine with a big ol’ dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of shredded cheddar, some sliced green onions, and some crunchy fritos. But let me also say this. I like using leftovers in so many other ways too. Loaded chili fries, chili dogs, chili mac…there are so many ways to enjoy this chili!


Alright, everyone! We’re in full on game day mode right now, so stay tuned for some really fun recipes that have to find their way to your Superbowl table. This chili actually is a perfect candidate too!


I hope you guys enjoy! And, let’s eat!


Secret Ingredient Chili

Serves: 4          Print


  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 lb ground chicken

  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced

  • 1 can (10 oz) Rotel, undrained

  • 1 can (14.5 oz) crushed tomatoes, undrained

  • 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 packet (1.25 oz) McCormick original chili mix

  • ¼ cup peanut butter

  • Salt, to taste

  • shredded cheddar, sliced scallions, sour cream, and fritos, for garnish


  1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add ground chicken and onions, and cook until the chicken is no longer pink and fully cooked through.

  2. Add Rotel, crushed tomatoes, beans, chili seasoning, and peanut butter to the pot. Stir until completely combined and the peanut butter has melted. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 mins, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning, and add salt to taste. (I typically add about 1 tsp salt.)

  3. To serve, transfer chili to a bowl and top with shredded cheddar, sliced scallions, sour cream, and fritos, if desired. Enjoy!

Recipe notes:

*I prefer ground chicken, but you can absolutely substitute ground beef or turkey in this chili.

*I use creamy peanut butter, but feel free to use chunky if you want a little extra texture.


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