How trial and error pays off big with award-winning chili recipe

  • The award-winning recipe for Buffalo Chicken Chili was born out of perseverance and a will to get it right.

    The award-winning recipe for Buffalo Chicken Chili was born out of perseverance and a will to get it right. Courtesy of Biz Velatini

Posted9/2/2020 6:00 AM

I want to tell you the story of how my Buffalo Chicken Chili became a grand prize winner in a "best crockpot recipe in America" contest and how it made my life a bit sweeter.

It was the fall of 2013 when I entered the contest. At that time, my late husband had been sick for months, unable to work, and I was working two jobs to support our family.


I never complained. I did what needed to be done. But working two jobs made my cooking time nearly nonexistent, so on the weekends, I would batch cook so it would at least taste as if we were eating home-cooked meals later in the week, even if I wasn't cooking in my kitchen every night, which is what I love to do.

With batch-cooking recipes on my mind, I remembered a recipe I created for the Super Bowl and shared in 2010 in my blog. I promised the people in my office I would bring in chili for the group. Here's a fun fact, though: Whenever my husband and I had tried to make chili, we ended up with soup! As life shows you sometimes, you need to try and try again until you get it just right, and that's how my Buffalo Chicken Chili was born.

A couple of months after bringing in my chili, a friend at a work event sent me a link for a recipe contest. Hmmm. It called for "the best crockpot recipe in America."

I knew I had to enter my Buffalo Chicken Chili. Since I posted the recipe in 2010 (and now fast forward 10 years), scores of people have entered this recipe in their office, neighborhood or family cook-offs and won, and I thought to myself "if all those people are winning with my recipe, I should win with it, too!"

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Only one tiny problem. I'd never cooked it in a crockpot. That didn't stop me. The recipe posted here is for cooking on your stovetop and I've also included the crockpot instructions.

After entering the contest, the waiting began. It was a national contest, and the first recipe contest I'd ever entered, so I had no idea what to expect. A couple of months after I entered the contest, I got an email that said I'd made the Top 10. Of how many? Who knew? I just knew that I had a one in 10 chance of winning $10,000.

The organizers planned on making all 10 chili recipes, then doing a taste test and blind ballot to pick the winner. I was told on Dec. 2, 2013, (yes, I still remember the date) that I would get a call by 5 p.m. if I won. I was working both jobs that day, and I clocked out at 5 p.m. to drive to my next job at a restaurant.

I told everyone in my office, "any minute now, I am going to be a thousandaire!" But the call didn't come.

I didn't get out of the parking lot before my phone rang and I learned I was the grand prize winner. I immediately pulled back into the parking lot, ran into the office and told everyone I won $10,000!


I called my husband right away, and he was so happy for me.

Because I got that check, I was able to quit my second job and spend, unknowingly to me at the time, the last several months of my husband's life with him. The world works in mysterious ways.

So give this chili a try. It's sure to be a hit. I don't add salt because I feel the Buffalo sauce has enough, but taste it after it simmers for a while. I don't think this is overly spicy, but I love spicy stuff. You can start with cup of Buffalo sauce and 2-3 tablespoons chili powder and add more to your taste.

Until next time -- be well, be fearless, have hope.

• My Bizzy Kitchen runs once a month in Food. Follow Biz Velatini on her blog at, on Instagram at and Facebook at

Buffalo Chicken Chili is a delicious mix of spices and perseverance.
Buffalo Chicken Chili is a delicious mix of spices and perseverance. - Courtesy of Biz Velatini
Buffalo Chicken Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 2 pounds of ground chicken

2 large carrots

3 stalks celery

1 large red pepper

5 cloves of garlic

5 tablespoons of chili powder

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon paprika

cup Frank's Hot Sauce

2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce

1 (15-ounce) diced tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) black beans, drained

1 (15-ounce) chili beans in sauce (do not drain)

Salt and pepper to taste

Crumbled blue cheese for garnish

Ranch dressing for garnish

Diced celery for garnish

Put chicken breasts in food processor to grind up -- if you can find ground chicken breast, you can use that instead. Heat oil and add ground chicken and cook about 10 minutes on medium heat until no longer pink. Rinse out processor and add carrots, celery, garlic and red pepper and puree. Add to chicken mixture and cook about 5 minutes until veggies start to soften.

Next add the rest of the ingredients, put pot on stove and simmer, uncovered, for one hour.

Garnish with crumbled blue cheese, diced celery and a tiny bit of ranch dressing. It will taste like you are eating chicken wings but in chili form.

For crockpot cooking: Follow the same instructions except don't precook the chicken. Put all the ground and pureed ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours.

Serves 6 to 8

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