How to make Buffalo Chicken Chili in an Instant Pot, slow cooker, on the stove 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!
We love hearty one pot stew recipes like turkey chili, white chicken chili and this ground chicken chili around here!
Table of contents
- Buffalo Chicken Chili Recipe
- Why Make Buffalo Chili with Chicken?
- Ingredients for Healthy Buffalo Chicken Chili
- How to Make Buffalo Chicken Chili
- How to Prepare Freezer Buffalo Chicken Soup/Chili
- Optional Add-In’s and Variations
- Tips for Best Results
- Serving Recommendations
- Making this Recipe in Advance
- More Cozy Chili Recipes
Buffalo Chicken Chili Recipe
I’ve already shared recipes for more traditional chili like beef chili in pressure cooker and Instant Pot white chicken chili.
Now it’s the turn of this spicy, creamy buffalo chicken chili, also called buffalo chicken soup, that can be prepared 3 ways – in slow cooker, Instant Pot or on the stove.
And even fourth option, as a freezer meal!
Healthy buffalo chicken chili combines all the flavors of the buffalo chicken wings but in a less messy, more saucy chili form.
Not to mention that chicken wing chili is topped with plenty of creamy blue cheese crumbles or cream cheese that melts into the rest of the dish and makes for the most irresistible chili (believe me!).
Why Make Buffalo Chili with Chicken?
- Three cooking options: Choice of easy buffalo chicken chili made in crock pot, Instant Pot or on the stove!
- Freezer meal friendly (up to 3 months!): Cook from frozen in the Instant Pot or defrost, then cook in slow cooker.
- Easy recipe: All three 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.
- Crowd pleasing: Healthy chili recipes are a game day, potluck or holiday party pleasers!
Ingredients for Healthy Buffalo Chicken Chili
- Chicken: I recommend using boneless skinless 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 2 teaspoons of each, garlic powder and onion powder, when in a pinch.
- Vegetables: Carrots and celery make up the base of this buffalo chili recipe.
- Canned beans: You can use any beans like cannellini beans, great northern beans, navy beans or white beans. I recommend ‘meatier’ beans which will break down the starches more for a thicker hearty chili. Red kidney beans, black beans or pinto beans will work in a pinch. Use low-sodium, drained and rinsed. You also could even use refried beans for a thicker buffalo chili.
- Diced tomatoes: Use low sodium canned diced tomatoes or fire-roasted tomatoes. During summer, you could use ripe tomatoes instead.
- Buffalo wing sauce: Frank’s red hot sauce is our go-to for all things buffalo like air fryer buffalo cauliflower, healthy buffalo chicken dip and even tacos.
- Sweetener: You can use maple syrup, honey or sugar. It is just to balance out the acidity in tomatoes.
- Spices: This buffalo chicken soup recipe uses a combination of cumin, chili powder and smoked paprika.
- Blue cheese: Use crumbled blue cheese – this really is the ‘cherry on top’ for this simple spicy chicken chili. 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 onions), lime, and tortilla chips. You could also use some extra hot sauce/wing sauce, sliced jalapeños, dollop of sour cream (or yogurt), etc.
Keep reading below, after the recipe how-to, for more information on any add-ins and recipe variations!
How to Make Buffalo Chicken Chili
Honestly, I think simple Instant Pot and crockpot meals are a godsend to any busy home cook. And this buffalo chicken chili can be cooked either way, including on the stove!
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, broth, hot sauce, and diced tomatoes. DO NOT STIR!
- Cook them: Close the lid, set the pressure vent to Sealing, and pressure cook on high for 30 minutes. Then manually release the pressure by turning the valve to Venting position until the valve drops down.
Burn Message Tip
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 1/2 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 crock pot. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, hot sauce, maple syrup, spices and 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.
Stovetop Buffalo Chili
- Saute the veggies: Preheat large Dutch oven or large pot on medium-high heat and swirl oil to coat. Add garlic, onion, carrots and celery; sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the rest: Add chicken breasts, beans, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, Frank’s red hot sauce, maple syrup, cumin, chili powder and smoked paprika. Stir to combine.
- Cook: Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 25 minutes.
- Shred meat and add cheese: Remove chicken breasts, shred with 2 forks and return to the pot along with cream cheese.
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 or Dutch oven. Then, add the cream cheese or blue cheese crumbles, stir, and rest for several minutes (to allow cheese to melt).
- Serve: Serve the buffalo chicken wing chili warm and garnished with cilantro, scallions, lime wedges, and optionally tortilla chips. Also try this healthy cornbread recipe, it’s so moist!
How to Prepare Freezer Buffalo Chicken Soup/Chili
For Instant Pot buffalo chicken chili: Add all the ingredients, except chicken broth and cream cheese, to a gallon-sized Ziplock bag, with the tomatoes on top.
Squeeze out all the excess air, seal, and freeze standing upright (so it can fit into the pot frozen) for up to 3 months. Add 1 cup chicken broth and cook from frozen for 30 minutes on high pressure with quick release.
Instant Pot Tip
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 crockpot 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!
Freezer Meal Tip
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 freezer prep meals. I’m obsessed! This buffalo chicken chili is one of them. Isn’t it amazing to not worry about dinners for entire week?!
Optional Add-In’s and Variations
- Chicken thighs would be great as they are more fatty and will add an additional layer of flavor.
- Ground chicken: Saute 1 pound of ground chicken, transfer to a bowl and proceed with recipe.
- Rotisserie chicken: Use 3 cups shredded cooked chicken, no other changes needed.
- Other vegetables: There are several veggies you could add to this buffalo chili like corn, sweet potato, or kale.
- 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, canned green chiles or chipotle in adobo sauce, or some cayenne pepper.
Tips for Best Results
- If you aren’t a fan of blue cheese: You can omit it but use 1/2 cup of cream cheese. And/or add some Monterey Jack or mature cheddar cheese into the chili when serving for some cheesy flavor.
- Keep the cheese separate: Blue cheese isn’t to everyone’s taste. So if you’re serving this to a large group, I recommend to add cream cheese to the pot and serving blue cheese separately as a topping. So guests can decide if they want some or not.
- The salt content: If you aren’t using low sodium beans or diced tomatoes, reduce amount of hot sauce.
- When serving to kids: Most kids do not like spicy food. Don’t add all of the hot sauce to the main dish or make child-friendly one with 1/4 cup hot sauce. That way, people can add more when eating, if preferred.
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.
You definitely can. Thighs are slightly fattier, but make for a wonderfully hearty buffalo chicken chili recipe.
Yes. You may use 1/4 cup of buffalo wing sauce for healthier yet flavorful chili.
In my Instant Pot beef chili, 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 pot without thawing first.
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.
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:
- Bread: Cornbread is a classic side dish for chili.
- Potato: Serve spooned over mashed potatoes or low carb mashed cauliflower.
- Grains: You might also enjoy it with rice or quinoa. Use cauliflower rice for a lower-carb option.
- Veggie salad: A slaw is always welcome with chili! Like this healthy slaw, vinegar based coleslaw, or dill coleslaw.
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 leftovers 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 Chili Recipes
You might also enjoy browsing through my entire collection of soups and stew recipes or 45 healthy Instant Pot recipes!
Buffalo Chicken Chili
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- 1 large onion chopped
- 3 large carrots chopped
- 3 large celery stalks chopped
- 2 x 15 oz cans cannellini beans low sodium, drained & rinsed
- 28 oz can diced tomatoes low sodium
- 1 cup chicken broth low sodium
- 1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce like Frank's red hot
- 2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 2 lbs chicken breasts skinless & boneless
- 1/2 cup cubed cream cheese or crumbled blue cheese
- Oil for frying
- Cilantro, green onion, lime, blue cheese and tortilla chips for garnish
- 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, chicken broth, Frank's red hot sauce, maple syrup, cumin, chili powder, and smoked paprika. 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, chicken, chicken broth, Frank's red hot sauce and diced tomatoes. Do not stir!
- Close the lid, set pressure vent to Sealing and press Pressure Cook on High or Manual for 30 minutes.
- To release the pressure, do quick release by turning pressure valve to Venting position until float valve drops down.
- Stovetop: Preheat large Dutch oven or pot on medium-high heat and swirl oil to coat. Add garlic, onion, carrots and celery; sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add chicken breasts, beans, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, Frank's red hot sauce, maple syrup, cumin, chili powder and smoked paprika. Stir to combine. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 25 minutes.
- After, to finalize the dish: Remove chicken breasts, shred with 2 forks and return to the slow cooker/Instant Pot/Dutch oven. Add cream cheese or blue cheese, stir and let sit for a few minutes.
- Serve hot, garnished with cilantro, green onion, blue cheese and tortilla chips or cornbread.
- 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.
- 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.
- Less heat: Use only 1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce.
- If you get Burn: Also if cooking from fresh in Instant Pot, tomatoes might leak to the bottom. 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.
- Instant Pot: In a gallon size Ziplock bag, add all ingredients, except chicken broth and cream cheese, finishing with tomatoes on top. Let as much air out as possible, seal and freeze for up to 3 months. Pressure cook on High with from frozen for 30 minutes with Quick Release.
- Slow cooker: Sauté onion, garlic, carrots and celery before freezing with other ingredients, minus broth and cream cheese, in a gallon size Ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to cook, thaw in the fridge for 24 hours, then add to a large slow cooker along with 1 cup chicken broth, and cook for 4 hours on High or 8 hours on Low.
This turned out excellent!! I was wondering if you needed to sauté the veggies in the bottom first in the instant pot before you add the rest.
So glad you enjoyed it! No need to saute but you can if you would like to.
I have leftover thighs and breasts in my fridge, can I use thighs and breasts for this Buffalo Chicken Chili, instead of just breasts?
Hi Lisa. Yes, sure. If chicken thighs are raw and bone in and you are using stovetop method, cook 5-10 extra minutes. Otherwise, no changes to the recipe.
So you cook 30 minutes if the chicken is frozen? But you also cook it 30 minutes if you’re doing it fresh in the instant pot?
Correct. You can also do 20 minutes, it will be enough. Either time works, 30 minutes produces more flavorful chili.
This is an amazing recipe as written in the crockpot. I often make this as a last minute decision so stovetop and we’re 2 people. I make a 1/2 batch (full amount of red hot sauce). The only comment I have for a few folks who’ve mentioned about stovetop is I’ve found I need to add some liquid.For the 1/2 batch, I add about 3/4 – 1 cup of liquid (low or no sodium chicken or veg broth or just water). Also I take the chicken out at 30-ish minutes (will vary depending on the thickness of your chicken) and let it cool a bit, shred, then add it back in at the end as directed.
So glad you enjoy the recipe and thanks for sharing!
Excellent and Super Easy. I freeze up 3 or 4 of these at a time and put straight from frozen into the Instant Pot. So quick. I’ve also frozen several and then given them to people who are in a busy time of life.
SO HAPPY WITH THIS CHILI!!
So glad you enjoy it! Freezer meals are the best!
I’m a dabbler in freezer meals to date, but this is one of my favorites. I’ve made it fresh and also as a freezer meal. I’ve been too scared to do straight from frozen (it’s so big!), but have thawed and it has worked great. Thank you!
So glad you are enjoying it!
Is the cooking time with fresh or thawed chicken the same as the freezer meal version? Is it 30 minutes for both? I would assume it would take longer to cook from frozen. I am pretty new to the instant pot so what do I know 🙂
Same cook time, your Instant Pot will just take longer to come to pressure from frozen.
If I wanted to half the recipe, how long should I cook it for in the instant pot?
Cook time would be the same.
I have a question for when you are doing a meal prep and put it in the freezer. Its okay to put everything frozen right there in the instant pot after? Then just put the unfrozen tomatoes on top? Im just checking because everything I have normally done with the IP is swimming in some kind of fluid or stock or something in the beginning.
Yes this one works fine this way! You can freeze the tomatoes too, just make sure they are on the top (not bottom) when you put it in the Instant Pot. Just follow the directions listed and we can’t wait to hear how it goes!
How long do left overs last in the fridge thanks
Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days or Freeze: Fully cook, cool completely and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Delicious!! Thank you!
Fantastic! Glad you enjoyed the recipe!