Ina Garten Adds This 1 Unexpected Ingredient to Her Barefoot Contessa Chili Recipe

Ina Garten’s chili recipe is a simple and hearty meal that features one surprising ingredient you don’t typically find in the dish. Find out why the Barefoot Contessa includes this unexpected herb.

Ina Garten attends the Food Network's rooftop birthday party at Pier 92 on October 13, 2018 in New York City
Ina Garten | Noam Galai/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Ina Garten adds a surprising herb to her chili

One dish that often gets a lot of love in the colder months is chili, but finding the perfect recipe can be a challenge. The Barefoot Contessa’s chili recipe delivers a twist on the classic, with a swap of chicken for ground beef and the addition of one unexpected ingredient.

Garten adds a generous amount of basil to the recipe, which enhances the flavor and replaces the traditional cilantro, which she says she hates.

During an episode of Barefoot Contessa, where she demonstrated making her chili recipe, Garten explained why she swaps basil in place of the expected cilantro. “So most chili has cilantro in it but I personally hate cilantro so I’m going to put basil in instead. Gives it great flavor,” she explained.

An editor for The Kitchn gave Garten’s unique chili recipe a go and called the addition of basil “unexpected,” but recommended not skimping on the herb. “Adding fresh basil to the chili may sound odd, but it was a serious game-changer,” they wrote. “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.”

RELATED: Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten’s Charcuterie Cheese Board Is Simple and Elegant

Ina Garten’s chicken chili recipe

Garten’s chicken chili recipe is anything but traditional, but is hearty and satisfying.


  • 8 cups chopped yellow onions (6 onions)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for chicken
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic (8 cloves)
  • 4 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
  • 4 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for chicken
  • 4 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh basil leaves
  • 8 split chicken breasts, bone-in, skin on
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Toppings: chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar, tomatoes, sour cream

Begin by cooking the onions in oil for 10 minutes over medium heat, adding garlic and cooking it for an additional minute, followed by the peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Garten uses a food processor to pulse the canned tomatoes until chopped, then adds them to the pot with the basil. Cook the chili uncovered, simmering for 30 minutes, and stirring occasionally.

Garten prepares the chicken by cooking it in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven. She rubs the chicken breasts with olive oil and adds a sprinkle of salt and pepper, placing them on a baking sheet to roast for 35 to 40 minutes. “I found it’s so much better roasting it than it is to boil it,” she explains.

After chopping the chicken into chunks, Garten adds it to the chili, simmering the mixture for 20 minutes.

Serve the chili in bowls with desired toppings, such as cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, onions, and chips.