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A more appropriate title for this 15-minute meal would be “Chili Made Almost Entirely of Leftovers.”

It was a dark and stormy night. The air was chilly, my stomach was growling loudly, and the refrigerator was in immediate need of a cleaning thanks to one too many containers of leftovers. One of chicken, another of sweet corn… the pantry was looking a little sparse, but the fridge was full of inspiration. Inspiration that needed to be eaten ASAP.

And then I remembered the sole jalapeno pepper I’d managed to grow this year in my sad little garden. (I use the term “grow” loosely. To call it a baby jalapeno would be generous…)


Quick & Spicy Chicken Chili.

I picked my produce with pride, glad to at least have something to show for the $50+ I spent on dirt, cute containers, Miracle-Gro, and colorful plants. Guess even miracles couldn’t help a girl without a green thumb out.

It was supposed to freeze that night, anyway, so I figured I might as well snatch up my one chance to consume something I grew. I couldn’t really risk it getting any bigger if I wanted to actually eat it.

Back in the kitchen, I pulled out a stainless steel pot and in it went the baby jalapeno, the leftover corn, the few cans of veggies I pulled from the pantry, and one leftover chicken breast that got quickly shredded with two forks and an impatient appetite. I spiced it all up – generously – and waited just minutes for my dinner to bubble.

As soon as my chili felt warm to the touch, I dumped in the one flavor of cheese I had on hand, which was conveniently a Mexican blend. I let it all melt and meld together, and presto! Nearly-instant gratification.

Quick & Spicy Chicken Chili.

I scooped up a big bowl for myself and topped it with a little sour cream and some of my favorite lime chips.

Allow me to interrupt for a moment to rave about the lime chips. A friend brought them over with her amazing fresh veggie dip one day, and I’ve been buying them ever since. The lime Tostitos have just the right amount of salt (fantastic, since the nation’s top docs are telling me I have a sodium shortage), a noticeable but not overbearing jolt of lime, and a thin, crispy texture like tortilla chips are supposed to. The only chips I’ve ever liked better are the Guacamole Doritos that were sadly pulled from shelves several years ago (but I’m told these are similar).

Let’s be real: Most of the time, my spontaneous throw-a-bunch-of-random-stuff-into-a-pot meals do not turn out all that successfully. I’m a planner, and spontaneity is not my modus operandi for a reason.

Mmmm, but this one was the exception to my pre-planning, Type A rule.

Quick & Spicy Chicken Chili.

Spicy and creamy and filling and warm. Everything I needed for dinner in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, and the perfect showcase for my award-winning produce at the same time. (Ha!)

I should add (actually, I shouldn’t) that this is my third straight year of Superiority In Gardening. The first year I ended up with one deformed jalapeno. The second year I ended up with one normal jalapeno. And this year I can add one baby jalapeno to my venerable vegetable gardening record.

Shall we review?
1. One jalapeno, deformed but edible.
2. One jalapeno, perfect in every way.
3. One jalapeno, miniature in size.

Can’t wait to see what next year brings – it will be such a surprise and honor to harvest yet another single jalapeno! :)

Quick & Spicy Chicken Chili.

Have a fun Halloween week, folks! May your gardening ventures be ever more successful than mine, and may your children’s plastic pumpkins be chock-full of candy (the overpriced, name-brand kinds, of course!).

Quick & Spicy Chicken Chili

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Quick & Spicy Chicken Chili


  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can tomatoes and green chilies (such as Rotel)
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 1 cup sweet corn
  • 1 jalapeno, diced (seeds removed, if desired)
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • Lime tortilla chips, for serving


  1. Add beans, tomatoes and green chilies, chicken, corn, and spices to a large saucepan. Place over medium heat and let simmer until bubbles start to form, stirring every few minutes.
  2. Once chili is heated through, stir in cheese until completely melted.
  3. Ladle chili into four bowls. Dollop each with a tablespoon of sour cream and serve with lime tortilla chips and extra jalapeno slices, if desired.


This chili is super customizable - use any kind of leftover meat or vegetables you may have! My chicken was already seasoned from the night before, but the added spices in the chili covered the original flavor.

If you're serving kids or sensitive eaters, leave out the jalapeno and serve it sliced on the side as an optional garnish. Fresh cilantro is also fabulous on top of this chili!

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