by Olena

Buffalo Chicken Chili

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Olena Osipov
5 from 21 votes

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How to make Buffalo Chicken Chili in an Instant Pot, Slow Cooker, or as a freezer meal. Packed with buffalo chicken wing flavor, adjustable heat, and then topped off with creamy crumbled blue cheese- it’s perfect for a hands-off, mid-week meal!

I love hearty one-pan recipes like Instant Pot chiliInstant Pot ground beef stroganoff, healthy Tuscan chicken pasta, Instant Pot stuffed peppers, and chicken and rice casserole!

Buffalo Chicken Chili in bowl with cilantro lime and blue cheese

Buffalo Chicken Chili Recipe

I’ve already shared recipes for Instant Pot white chicken chili, turkey chili (plus an Instant Pot version), vegetarian chili, and chili mac and cheese. Now it’s the turn of this spicy, creamy buffalo chicken chili (also called buffalo chicken soup) that can be prepared 3 ways-slow cooker, Instant Pot or as a freezer meal.

Healthy buffalo chicken chili combines all the flavors of the regular wings but in a less-messy, more saucy format. Not to mention that ‘chicken wing’ chili is topped with plenty of creamy crumbled blue cheese – it melts into the rest of the dish and makes for the most irresistible chili (believe me!).

Why Make Buffalo Chili with Chicken?

  • Two cooking options: Choice of Buffalo chicken chili made in Instant Pot or Slow Cooker!
  • Freezer meal friendly (up to 3 months!): Cook from frozen in the Instant Pot or defrost, then cook in slow cooker.
  • No cream cheese: Easy to store in the freezer after cooking without worrying about separating.
  • Easy prep: Both versions require minimal chopping, minutes of prep, and only one pan (two maximum).
  • Ready in 30 minutes: When you opt for the Instant Pot buffalo chicken chili method.
  • Kid-friendly (heat-wise): But feel free to increase the spice to personal taste!
  • Crowd-pleasing: Game day, potluck or holiday party pleaser!

Ingredients for Healthy Buffalo Chicken Chili

  • Chicken: I recommend using skinless, boneless chicken breasts for the lightest option. However, slightly fattier chicken thighs would also work very well, and even chicken with the bone-in.
  • Aromatics: All you need is garlic and onion for this simple buffalo chili. You can use garlic and onion powder in a pinch.
  • Vegetables: carrots and celery make up the base of this buffalo chili recipe.
  • Beans: You can use any beans; kidney, pinto, white beans, etc. I recommend ‘meatier’ beans like red kidney, pinto, or cannellini which will break down the starches more for a thicker dish; use low-sodium (drained and rinsed). You could even use refried beans for a thicker buffalo chili.
  • Tomatoes: Use low-sodium canned diced tomatoes (fire-roasted tomatoes are recommended). During summer, you could use ripe tomatoes instead.
  • Hot sauce: I used Frank’s red-hot sauce because that’s how I’ve always enjoyed buffalo wings, buffalo chicken dip and tacos.
  • Sweetener: You can use maple syrup or honey. Other liquid sweeteners may also work, but the flavor will vary.
  • Spices: This buffalo chicken soup /chili recipe uses a combination of cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, and salt.
  • Blue cheese: Use crumbled blue cheese- this really is the ‘cherry on top’ for this simple spicy chicken chili as well as my layered avocado Greek yogurt with buffalo sauce. Read the recipe notes for substitutions, though.
  • Oil: Use any neutral cooking oil. I recommend either olive oil or avocado oil.
  • Garnish: cilantro, scallions (green onion), lime, and tortilla chips. You could also use some extra hot sauce/wing sauce, sliced jalapeños, sour cream (or yogurt), etc.

Keep reading below (after the recipe how-to) for more information on any add-ins and recipe variations!

buffalo chicken chili ingredients

How to Make Buffalo Chicken Chili

Honestly, I think simple Instant Pot and slow cooker meals are a godsend to any busy home cook – and this buffalo chicken chili can be cooked either way!

Step 1: Cook the Ingredients

Buffalo Chicken Chili Instant Pot

  • Layer the ingredients: Add the ingredients to your Instant Pot in the following order: garlic, onion, carrots, celery, beans, maple syrup, spices, chicken, hot sauce, and diced tomatoes. DO NOT STIR!
  • Cook them: Close the lid, set the pressure vent to ‘sealing,’ and cook on high for 30 minutes. Then manually release the pressure by turning the valve to ‘venting’ position until the valve drops down.

When cooking from fresh in the Instant Pot, I’ve found that sometimes the tomatoes can leak to the bottom of the IP, and a ‘burn’ message will display. If so, add an extra ½ cup water, don’t stir, and then continue cooking. If it displays again (it doesn’t happen often, but better safe than sorry), I’ve found releasing a little bit of the pressure tends to get rid of the message.

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Chili

  • Sauté the ingredients: Heat a large skillet over medium heat with a swirl of oil. Once hot, add the garlic, onion, carrots, and celery. Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Transfer to slow cooker: Then transfer the veggies to a large slow cooker. Add the beans, tomatoes, hot sauce, maple syrup, spices, and salt, then stir. Finally, add the chicken breast and gently push to sink them beneath the mixture. Then cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.

Step 2: Finalize the Buffalo Chili

  • Shred the chicken: Once cooked, remove the chicken breasts, and use two forks to shred them. Then return the shredded chicken to the slow cooker/Instant Pot. Then, add the blue cheese, stir, and rest for several minutes (to melt).
  • Serve: Serve the buffalo’ chicken wing’ chili warm and garnished with cilantro, scallions, lime wedges, and optionally tortilla chips.

How to Prepare Freezer Buffalo Chicken Soup/ Chili

For Instant Pot buffalo chicken chili: Add all the ingredients to a gallon-sized Ziplock bag, with the tomatoes on top. Squeeze out all the excess air, seal, and freeze (standing upright) for up to 3 months. Cook from frozen for 30 minutes on high pressure with quick release.

Please note, this is a large meal. If your Instant Pot is smaller than 8 quart, then separate the meal into two bags/containers.

For the slow cooker buffalo chicken chili: First, sauté the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Then freeze with the remaining ingredients in a large gallon-sized Ziplock bag for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw in the fridge for 24 hours. Then cook in a large slow cooker for 4 hours or high or 8 hours on low.

After cooking using either method, use two forks to shred the chicken before returning it to the pot/cooker, stirring, adding the cheese, then serving!

You can also watch how I meal prep 5 healthy freezer meals in 2 hours on my Youtube cooking channel. And check out my full list of 20 healthy frozen dinners. I’m obsessed! This buffalo chicken chili is one of them. Isn’t it amazing to not worry about dinners for entire week? I’m obsessed!

freezer meal friendly chicken chili with buffalo sauce

Optional Add-In’s and Variations

  • Chicken thighs would be great as they are more fatty and will add an additional layer of flavor.
  • Other vegetables: There are several veggies you could add to this buffalo chili; corn, sweet potato, kale, etc.  
  • Cream cheese: If you want a slightly creamier buffalo chicken chili while remaining ‘light’-ish, then you could add a little cream cheese at the end of the cooking process (so it doesn’t separate). Some recipes add a whole block – I recommend ½ cup. This also works well as a replacement for the blue cheese (though it can be served with, too).
  • Vegetarian buffalo chili: Swap out the chicken for roasted cauliflower, additional beans and optionally a vegan chicken alternative.
  • More heat: You can boost the heat in this buffalo chili further with the addition of fresh chiles (like jalapeños or even chiles in adobo sauce) or some chili/cayenne pepper.

Tips for Best Results

  • Keep the cheese separate: Blue cheese isn’t to everyone’s taste. So if you’re serving this to a large group, I recommend serving the cheese separately so guests can decide if they want some or not.
  • The salt content: If you aren’t using low-sodium beans/tomato products, reduce any added salt to the recipe.
  • If you aren’t a fan of blue cheese: You can omit it but use ½ cup of cream cheese and/or add some Monterey jack or mature cheddar into the chili when serving for some cheesy flavor.
  • When serving to kids: Don’t add all of the hot sauce to the main dish (though this version is my child-friendly one, already). That way, people can add more when eating, if preferred.

FAQs

For Instant Pot buffalo chicken chili is it better to use fresh or frozen chicken?

You can actually use either – so it’s great for those times you’ve forgotten to thaw the chicken first. Reference Instant Pot frozen chicken breast for additional information.

Can I use chicken thighs?

You definitely can. Thighs are slightly fattier, but make for a wonderfully hearty buffalo chicken chili recipe.

How can I lower the sodium from the buffalo sauce?

You may be able to reduce the amount of sauce used, adding vinegar and cayenne pepper to the stew instead. Though, I haven’t tried.  

Can I use dried red beans instead of canned? How would I adjust the cooking time in an instant pot?

In my Instant Pot chili recipe, I talk about cooking with dried beans and you can follow that liquid ratio and cook time. I also like to pre-cook beans and keep them stored in the freezer. That way, you can add them directly to the pan without thawing first.

If I’m using the Instant Pot do I need to add water to this?

No, you don’t. The ingredients and the steam will naturally make a sauce without any extra liquid needed. Unless the ‘burn’ message comes up (read recipe note for more info!)

Can I make this on the stovetop?

You sure can. Stovetop buffalo chicken chili is easy-peasy. Saute the veggie first and then simmer everything together for between 60-90 minutes – voila! Feel free to brown the chicken first if you want that slight extra flavor/texture.

Can I make this recipe keto buffalo chicken chili?

I don’t follow a keto diet, so I don’t know for sure. However, I think if you remove the beans, then this recipe is naturally keto – as long as you use a keto hot sauce.

Serving Recommendations

Enjoy this slow cooker/ Instant Pot buffalo chicken chili recipe alone (with plenty of toppings!) or with a side (or two) of your choice, including:

bowl of Chicken Chili with buffalo sauce garnished with lime and cilantro

Making this Recipe in Advance

Make ahead: Follow the section about for how to turn this buffalo chili into a freezer meal. Once made, it can be stored for up to 3 months!

Storing: Store any leftover buffalo chicken soup in an airtight container for up to 5 days.  

Freeze: Once cooked, any leftover ‘chicken wing’ chili can be allowed to cool and then freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating OR thaw on the stovetop, heating over low heat.  

Reheat: Gently reheat the buffalo chili on the stovetop or in the microwave until piping hot.

More Cozy Healthy One Pot Recipes

buffalo chicken wing chili in a bowl with garnish
Buffalo Chicken Chili

Buffalo Chicken Chili {Instant Pot or Slow Cooker!}

How to make Buffalo Chicken Chili in an Instant Pot, Slow Cooker, or as a freezer meal. Packed with buffalo chicken wing flavor, adjustable heat, and then topped off with creamy crumbled blue cheese- it's perfect for a hands-off, mid-week meal!
5 from 21 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Tex Mex
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 318kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 3 large carrots chopped
  • 3 large celery stalks chopped
  • 2 x 15 oz cans any low sodium beans drained & rinsed
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes low sodium
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s red hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 lbs chicken breasts skinless & boneless
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbled
  • Avocado oil for frying
  • Cilantro green onion, lime and tortilla chips, for garnish

Instructions

  • Slow Cooker: Preheat large skillet on medium heat and swirl oil to coat. Add garlic, onion, carrots and celery; sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Transfer to a large slow cooker along with beans, diced tomatoes, Frank's red hot sauce, maple syrup, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika and salt. Stir to combine.
  • Add chicken breasts and push on them to sink in. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours.
  • Instant Pot: In Instant Pot, add ingredients in the following order: garlic, onion, carrots, celery, beans, maple syrup, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, salt, chicken, Frank’s red hot sauce and diced tomatoes. Do not stir!
    Buffalo Chicken Chili
  • Close the lid, set pressure vent to Sealing and press Pressure Cooking on High for 30 minutes.
    Buffalo Chicken Chili
  • To release the pressure, do quick release by turning pressure valve to Venting position until float valve drops down.
    Buffalo Chicken Chili
  • Remove chicken breasts, shred with 2 forks and return to the slow cooker/Instant Pot. Add blue cheese, stir and let sit for a few minutes.
    Buffalo Chicken Chili
  • Serve hot, garnished with cilantro, green onion and lime. And tortilla chips if you have any.:)
    Buffalo Chicken Chili

Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

    Freeze: Fully cook, cool completely and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw on a stovetop covered on low.

      Freezer meal: Please see Notes below.

        Notes

        • Chicken thighs would be great as they are more fatty.
        • Other vegetables: There are several veggies you could add like corn, sweet potato, kale, etc.  
        • Cream cheese: Add a little cream cheese at the end of the cooking process (so it doesn’t separate) – I recommend ½ cup. This also works well as a replacement for the blue cheese (though it can be served with, too).
        • More heat: You can boost the heat in this buffalo chili further with the addition of fresh chiles (like jalapeños or even chiles in adobo sauce) or some chili/cayenne pepper.
        • Also if cooking from fresh in Instant Pot, tomatoes might leak to the bottom and “burn” message might display. If so, add 1/2 cup water, don’t stir and keep cooking. Also if it displays again (IP can be finicky), just let a bit pressure out and “burn” message should be gone.
        How to Make a Freezer Meal: 
        • Instant Pot: In a gallon size Ziplock bag, add all ingredients finishing with tomatoes on top. Let as much air out as possible, seal and freeze for up to 3 months. Pressure cook on High from frozen for 30 minutes with Quick Release.
          • Please note this is large meal, so if you are cooking in anything other than 8 quart Instant Pot (I have one) then freeze in 2 bags or 2 containers. For 8 quart Instant Pot freeze the bag standing upright, then it fits and lid will close.
        • Slow cooker: Sauté onion, garlic, carrots and celery before freezing with other ingredients in a gallon size Ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months and when ready to eat thaw in the fridge for 24 hours (food safety thing). Then add to a large slow cooker and cook for 4 hours on High or 8 hours on Low.
        • After cooking: Remove chicken and shred with 2 forks. Return to the pot, stir and serve.

        Nutrition

        Calories: 318kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 79mg | Sodium: 813mg | Potassium: 634mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 4724IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 83mg | Iron: 1mg
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