Easy, healthy and totally delicious, this Mexican chicken stew is definitely a great choice for a tasty midweek meal. Full of veggies and with a chilli kick, it really is a deliciously warming recipe. Perfect if you love spicy Mexican food.
For a long time I had been tempted by the idea of making a stew with cocoa or chocolate in it. You might think my experiments with cocoa pasta might have put me off but not at all. After all, I love Mexican flavours and cocoa is often used in savoury Mexican recipes.
This time, my savoury cocoa dish really is savoury and super tasty. There is cocoa (or cacao) in it but basically it's just a great spicy midweek meal with lots of flavour. If you love spicy recipes then I'm sure you'll be happy.
What ingredients are in this Mexican chicken stew?
To make this easy midweek chicken stew you'll need:
- oil - I usually use olive or vegetable oil. Just use your regular cooking oil.
- Red onion - I love the flavour and colour but brown onions are fine too.
- Red chilli peppers - You can use the ones you get in the supermarket. Use more or fewer depending on your tolerance to heat. Green chillies are also fine.
- Red pepper - Or yellow or orange.
- Garlic - I love to use fresh garlic but you can use a garlic paste if you like.
- Chicken - I use boneless breast or thigh meat. Breast will cook a little bit quicker.
- 1 tsp cocoa or cacao - When I first started making this recipe I used cocoa but these days I usually use cacao. Either are fine. If you can get it though, Willie's Cacao which comes in blocks that you can grate into the stew is definitely one I'd recommend and the one I have used in the most recent pictures.
- Spices - cumin and cloves
- Tinned chopped tomatoes
- Spring onions
- Fresh coriander (cilantro) - for garnish and to add freshness and flavour.
How to make this stew?
This stew is really simple to make on the stove top. Just follow the instructions in the recipe card further down this page.
Basically you heat the oil in a saucepan and then add the cloves. Cook them for about 30 seconds before adding the onion and chilli peppers. Stir fry gently and then add the garlic and chopped peppers.
Cook the vegetables down a little then add the chicken. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occassionaly to seal it on all sides. Finally add the cumin, cacao, tinned tomatoes and a little water. Simmer until the stew is ready. Just before serving, stir in the coriander (cilantro) and spring onions.
How can you adapt this Mexican chicken recipe?
I used diced chicken for this as my children prefer smaller pieces of meal when it's in a stew. However, you can use chicken legs or thighs instead. If you do then instead of cooking it on the stove top, you can transfer the dish to the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes after adding all the ingredients.
You can vary the vegetables too. Sweetcorn, aubergine (eggplant) and courgette (zucchini) are all delicious in this.
If you want to make it into a more substantial dish or serve more people then add a tin of black beans or kidney beans as well.
Can you cook it in the slow cooker?
Yes! I often adapt recipes for the slow cooker. If your slow cooker has a saute function then seal the chicken and stir fry the vegetables before adding the tomatoes and leaving to slow cook on a low heat for 4 hours. I have a Crock Pot Turbo Express Multi-Cooker and it works perfecly in it.
If you are really rushed you can just dump everything in, stir and leave to cook on low for 4 hours!
How does cocoa affect the flavour?
The cocoa (or cacao) gives the tomato base for the stew a richer flavour with just a hint of bitterness.
There isn't an obvious chocolate flavour. If you didn't know this spicy chicken stew had cocoa in, you might not even guess. That's great because I suspect that that is what most people want from a savoury cocoa dish. The cocoa adds an extra layer of flavour but not an overpowering hit.
Can you use chocolate instead of cocoa?
If you want to use chocolate then make sure you choose a dark bitter chocolate low in sugar. Grate the chocolate into the stew. If you've never used chocolate or cocoa in a stew before then just add a little bit and taste the sauce before adding a little more.
What to serve with this spicy Mexican stew?
This stew is great with rice, couscous, or even pasta. You can also serve it with baked potatoes or tacos. It's great if you have leftovers as altering the main side dishes makes it feel more like a different meal.
My favourite side to serve with this at the moment is my Mexican lime and coriander (cilantro) rice.
Do you need any toppings?
For an everyday meal I often just serve this Mexican chicken as it is with a little of the reserved coriander sprinkled on top. However, why not make it into a more special dish with some extra Mexican toppings? Diced or sliced avocado is great. A dollop of sour cream is perfect, especially if you've added extra chillies! You can even add a little grated cheese.
By the way, if you like this recipe then do also try my homemade chicken fajitas. They're also great for an easy midweek meal.
Storing and reheating
Store any leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to three days. You can reheat in a saucepan on the hob or in the microwave.
Can you freeze it?
Yes, this spicy chicken stew can be frozen for up to three months. I usually freeze in individual portions so it's easier to defrost and perfect for when not everyone is eating together.
Ideally defrost in the fridge overnight.
Mexican Chicken Stew
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 3 cloves
- 1 red onion chopped
- 1 red chilli pepper sliced
- 1 red pepper sliced
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 450 g chicken diced
- 1 teaspoon cocoa or cacao
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 400 g tin of chopped tomatotes
- 2 spring onions chopped
- 10 g coriander (cilantro) chopped
- Heat a little oil in a sauce pan. Add the cloves first and cook for about 30 seconds.
- Add the onion and chilli pepper and cook until soft. Add the red pepper and crushed garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.
- Add the chicken. Cook until it is sealed on all sides, then stir in the cocoa, cumin and tomatoes. Add a dash of water and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Just before serving, stir in the spring onion and chopped coriander. Or you can just add it all as a garnish.
- Serve with rice or flatbreads.
More Spicy Chicken Recipes
Why not try my chicken and smoked sausage gumbo? or my easy peanut mole with chicken as well? I love spicy chicken recipes and luckily my family do too. If a recipe is too hot I just reduce the heat a little so everyone can enjoy it. If you love spicy chicken too then do check out some of these recipes:
You might also like my Cook Once Eat Twice recipe collection with lots of easy meal ideas that are great for batch cooking.
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Places I've shared this Mexican Chicken Stew
We should Cocoa hosted by Tin and Thyme
This post has been updated in 2022