Ina Garten’s Chili Recipe Has an Unexpected Secret Ingredient

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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Of all the weeknight meals in our kitchen arsenal, chili has a permanent spot. Sure, it’s often associated with the colder months, but in our minds, anything that’s as easy and ideal for leftovers as chili is deserves billing year-round.

Chili is also perfect because it’s super customizable — just take Ina’s Garten’s version, which feels primed for summer. It’s a balanced and bright take on the classic, and it adds an extra ingredient to elevate the whole thing. In fact, in Kitchn’s taste test of four beloved famous chili recipes, Ina’s chili (spoiler!) was our absolute favorite one.

A Not-So-Classic Chili That Delivers

The first thing you might notice about Ina’s chili recipe — which boasts 500+ five-star reviews — is that it’s arguably more like a stew than a true chili. She swaps out the traditional beef for bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. They roast in the oven while the base of the chili simmers on the stove. Once the chicken cooks through, you’ll remove the bones and skin, cube the meat, and let it finish in the chili.

Here’s where Ina’s instincts shine through beautifully: By opting for skin-on, bone-in breasts, the resulting meat is juicy and flavorful, boosted even more by a final simmer in the tomato-based chili. Also notable, you won’t find any beans in Ina’s chili — as she ditches them for vegetables.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Design: Kitchn; Headshot: Noam Galai/Getty Images

The Small Addition That Adds Big Flavor

The other thing you might notice? Ina’s secret ingredient: fresh basil. It may sound odd at first, but it completely works. The basil — both simmered into the tomato mixture at the beginning of the recipe and sprinkled fresh on top at the end — means you can taste the herbaceous brightness in each bite of chili. It perfectly lifts up the deeper, savory base.

In the words of our chili taste-taster, “[The basil] was a serious game-changer. It added a bright, aromatic note that elevated the entire chili. I ended up garnishing my bowl with additional chopped basil when serving and loved the flavor it added.”

Read our full review: Ina Garten’s Chicken Chili

What’s your go-to secret ingredient when it comes to chili? Tell us in the comments below!