Consider this my SOS call. The heat suddenly isn’t working properly, so it’s currently 52 degrees in this house and dropping. I complained a few posts back about it being chilly outside, but this! This has got me worrying that the otherwise nice week I’ve been having is going to take a drastic turn toward dumpster fire status. You know that feeling when something small goes wrong and you’re like, “Oh no, this is going to wind up a hot mess, isn’t it?” Yup, that feeling is creeping in.
Notice the fact that I keep tossing out words like “hot” and “fire” as if they’re a bad thing. Did I mention the fact that I’m shivering?
On the bright side (see, I can be optimistic), in a far-off land beneath a mountain of blankets, I’ve been daydreaming about warm, comforting dinners like chili. And you know what I realized? That I completely forgot to tell you guys about this Slow Cooker Jamaican Jerk Chicken Chili with Plantain Chips, which I made and devoured weeks ago. For shame, I know. Especially because this chili is waaaay up there on the list of the best things to ever come out of my slow cooker.
I’m going to try to keep this somewhat brief because 1) I’ve got to go try and figure out this whole heat situation before my fingers freeze and fall off, and 2) you’ve got important things to do too, like getting started on this chili ASAP. And trust me, if you like flavor-packed, healthy, set-it-and-forget it types of dinners, you want to get on that second part.
Now, don’t let a quick glance at the ingredients fool you– although the list is slightly long, this recipe is actually very simple. The only reason there appears to be a lot going on is that this recipe is loaded up with spices to give it an authentic Jamaican Jerk flavor. And let’s be real: it’s chili! You can’t have truly good chili without digging deep into your spice cabinet.
Sure, the dish definitely gets some of its Caribbean vibes from the combination of chicken, onions (both green and white, of course), garlic, bell pepper, habanero pepper, tomato, and beans (both kidney and black, we’re going no holds barred here). But the bulk of that spicy, islandy taste? Oh, it comes once we start seasoning, and it comes in strong.
To begin, I use some bottled Jamaican marinade in the base. It might seem like cheating, but it’s the best way to get a jump start on the intricate mix of ingredients typical in Jamaican Jerk recipes without having to scour the grocery store for hours.
Crushed tomato dilutes that marinade, though, so we can’t rely on just that to take us to the tropics. We’ve got to up our flavor game, big time. I add some soy sauce to boost the savoriness, brown sugar for sweetness, and then I stir in salt, thyme, cumin, allspice, black pepper, and cinnamon. Some of that might sound strange —really, cinnamon?– but the warm, earthy spices are critical for giving the chili depth and supplying that powerful Jamaican Jerk flavor without relying too much on the hot peppers. We want this recipe to have a kick, but still be edible for the whole family.
Or not. If you’re a heat freak like I am, feel free to add an extra habanero. ?
Once I’ve got all of the ingredients combined, I place the lid on my slow cooker and try to be productive for the next several hours while the scent of all of those spices fills my house. It’s hard not to just stand by the slow cooker, sniff, and salivate for hours on end, but I valiantly resist the urge. Well, kind of.
To keep myself occupied, I make plantain chips to serve with the chili. All I do is peel some green plantains, use my mandoline to thinly slice it them, fry them until crisp and golden, and then sprinkle them with salt. It just so happens that this all goes on in the kitchen, where I can bask in those lovely Jamaican Jerk aromas. That’s my kind of loophole.
Before you say it, I know that the idea of healthy chili + fried chips seems to be at odds, but the plantains make that crunch factor well worth the little side-splurge. You know, as long as you can stop yourself from eating the whole plate of them before the chili is ready.
Speaking of which, I brought plantain chips along with the Slow Cooker Jamaican Jerk Chicken Chili, the Sweet & Sticky Caribbean Shrimp, the Cheesy Pineapple-Habanero Bacon Dip, and the Rum-Caramelized Banana Berry Nut Crumble to my family’s not-quite-Thanksgiving dinner. Would you guess what the first thing to go was, out of that whole spread? Yup, it was the chips. Nobody could resist the plantain chips.
Don’t get me wrong though, the Slow Cooker Jamaican Jerk Chicken Chili was practically inhaled, too. My grandparents, who had already filled up on appetizers, each took 2 huge bowlfuls. They also laughed at me for worrying that it was too spicy for them. “It’s the good kind of spicy,” said Grandma Sandy, who had never before uttered the words “good” and “spicy” in the same sentence. This is the same woman who told me not to put black pepper in a dish last year because it would be too spicy. And just in case you forgot, this chili has minced habanero pepper in it. And it definitely packs some heat.
Clearly the only logical conclusion is that this chili makes miracles happen. You heard it here first.
But I’m all over the place with my train of thought– I haven’t told you what to do once the slow cooking is finished! Well, honestly, there’s not much. Just shred the chicken (which should be falling apart at the gentlest touch by that point), mix in the lime juice and cilantro, and serve. Yup, that’s it.
I like to serve my Slow Cooker Jamaican Jerk Chicken Chili with Plantain Chips with extra green onion, shredded cheddar cheese, and sliced avocado on top, but you can just serve it as-is if you’d prefer, or get creative with it. No matter how you dish it out, your family is going to love this chili. It’ll keep you all toasty through these cold winter months.
Speaking of which, I need to get moving on that heat issue. So much for keeping this post short right? But there’s just one last thing before I go: Don’t forget to take a picture of your chili and plantain chips and post it to Instagram with the tag #hostthetoast! It’ll make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (most importantly, WARM) to see your pictures of this delicious dinner.
Slow Cooker Jamaican Jerk Chicken Chili with Plantain Chips
Serves: 8 servings
For the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Chili:
- 2 – 2½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
- 8 sprigs green onion, plus more, to top
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 3 bell peppers, diced (I like to use one red, one green, and one yellow)
- 1 habanero pepper, finely minced
- 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans
- 1 (15 ounce) can black beans
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup jamaican jerk marinade
- ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Juice of 3 limes
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- Shredded cheddar cheese, to top
- Sliced avocado, to top
For the Plantain Chips:
- 3 large unripe (green) plantains
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Coarse sea salt
- Combine the chicken, onions, peppers, beans, crushed tomato, garlic, jamaican jerk marinade, soy sauce, salt, brown sugar, thyme, cumin, allspice, black pepper, and cinnamon in a large slow cooker. Stir gently to ensure that the spices are distributed.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4 hours. In the mean time, make the plantain chips.
- Cut off the ends of the plantains and cut shallow, vertical slits in each side of the skin of each plantain. Microwave for 1 minute at 50 percent power. Pull off the peel of each plantain, and then slice into ⅛” thick slices using a mandoline.
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat an inch and a half of oil to 350°F over medium heat. Working in batches, carefully add the plantain slices to the hot oil. Cook until golden brown, turning occasionally, about 4-5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the plantain chips to a paper towel lined plate to drain and cool. Then, sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside until ready to serve.
- When the chili has cooked, remove the lid, stir, and shred the chicken. Then, mix in the lime juice and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.
- Serve warm with additional green onion, shredded cheese, and sliced avocado, if desired.
If you’d like your chili to be very spicy, feel free to add in an extra habanero pepper. Keep in mind that the spiciness of your jamaican jerk marinade will affect the heat level of your chili, and adjust accordingly if necessary. My marinade was relatively mild.
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