For a while, I’ve been into the idea of eating meat-lite, but the trip to Thailand really reinforced the beauty of appreciating a dish’s noodles, sauces, and vegetables–and few bites of meat. Not that I had any trouble with that before. In fact, when I began eating meat again after my vegetarian days, I swore to practice meat lite-ness, and I’ve mostly stayed true to that ideal. Except when Shake Shack cravings hit.
Growing up, my mom usually made vegetarian chili. For a long time, I didn’t associate chili with meat, lite or not. The closest we have to mom’s chili recipe on the site is this black bean and sweet potato chili.
Whatever flavors and components go into chili, I still think the best part is on top: the condiments. Cheese, sour cream or yogurt, cubed avocado, broken-up tortilla chips.
So while we’re concentrating on the topping, I decided to slip into the recipe and make it really nourishing and healthful. This one’s got shredded chicken, but not that much (meat-lite, remember?), a handful of barley, tons of green vegetables, and white beans. The barley thickens the stew, making warm, spicy bowls of it feel more indulgent than they are.
Healthy Chicken Chili with Barley
Serves 4 to 6
This chili is best the second day – feel free to make in advance.
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, trimmed and diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 poblano pepper, trimmed and minced
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1/2 cup pearl barley
5 cups water
1 can diced green chiles
One 14-ounce can white beans, rinsed
Juice of half a lime
Greek yogurt, 2% or full fat
1 avocado, diced
Fresh cilantro leaves
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, green pepper, poblano, and zucchini and sautée until all are translucent, about 10 minutes. Push the veggies to the side, and add the chicken skin side down. Brown the chicken for a minute on each side. Add the spices, salt, and a few grinds of pepper, and mix everything together. Add the barley and 5 cups of water. Bring the chili to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and cook, simmering, for 40 minutes. Remove the chicken from the stew to a plate and leave for about 15 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Using two forks, pull all the meat off the bones and shred it. Add the green chiles and white beans to the stew and return the shredded chicken, discarding the bones and skin. Stir together and cook, uncovered, for another 10 minutes. Squeeze in the lime juice and taste for salt, adding more as needed.
Top with yogurt, lime, cilantro, avocado.