Simmering chicken in chocolate milk sounds strange. Turns out, it’s delicious

Ann Maloney

THE WASHINGTON POST – Ever read a recipe and think to yourself: This could be a delicious discovery, or it could be a disaster?

When I saw Tyler Kord’s Spicy Chocolate Milk-Simmered Chicken in Food 52 Dynamite Chicken (Ten Speed Press, 2019), I took one of those cocked-eyebrow pauses.

It is so simple – combine chocolate milk, jalapeños, chili powder and chicken in a skillet and simmer – that I knew it would be easy. I just wondered if there was enough there to create any complexity of flavour.

No one wants a plate of sweet, mushy chicken.

Still, I’m always on the lookout for a fresh approach to chicken. I cook with it often and, apparently, so do you, because poultry recipes draw lots of eyes and emails from readers. Often, I fall back on slight variations of tried-and-true recipes with onions, garlic, citrus and olive oil.

Spicy Chocolate Milk-Simmered Chicken. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

I knew I had to test this recipe to see if it lived up to Kord’s description in the cookbook: “This chicken may just be one of the most interesting and weird-good things you will make from a cookbook.”

I wasn’t worried about the combination of flavours because, as Kord noted: “Chicken and chilli and chocolate have a long and beautiful history in the form of mole, from the state of Puebla, Mexico.”

(I know you have had mole, and this is no mole – the complex, celebrated Mexican sauce that is made with traditional techniques and beloved flavours that vary from family to family and region to region.)

The flavour combination sounded promising. Another thing the dish had going for it: I have marinated and poached chicken in dairy and turned out juicy, flavourful pieces.

So, I made it and I knew it was good even before I tasted it.

As soon as my dining partner dug in, I got that little moment of silence – first bite, second bite and then eye contact with little nods of approval.

I love that moment. I wait for that moment – whether I’m cooking for two, as I am so often right now – or a table full of friends.

Don’t you?

My one caveat is to buy or make good-quality, full-fat chocolate milk for the cup used in the recipe. The better the chocolate, the better the sauce. The bone-in, skin-on thighs add richness to the sauce as well, but you could use other pieces.

Kord recommends serving the chicken with sauteed zucchini and a grain, such as quinoa. Those two mild sides balance the rich, rich sauce. I served it with farro, and that was terrific. It could be good with boiled potatoes or with long-grain rice as well.

If you have chocolate chicken left over, Kord recommends stuffing some in a corn tortilla or using the chicken to fill out a savoury pie.


Active: 15 minutes | Total: 50 minutes

Four servings

Storage Notes: Store chicken, zucchini and grain in separate containers in the refrigerator for up to three days.


For the chicken

One cup whole chocolate milk

Two tablespoons chili powder

Two jalapeños

Two teaspoons kosher salt

Four bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

For the zucchini

Two teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Two zucchinis, sliced half-inch thick

Half teaspoon kosher salt

Two garlic cloves, minced

Cooked grain, such as faro, quinoa or rice, for serving

Cilantro, for garnish (optional)


In a saucepan, stir together the chocolate milk, chilli powder, jalapeños and two teaspoons of the salt until combined. Add the chicken thighs, bone side down. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the chicken is tender, for 35 to 40 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, in a large saute pan over high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the zucchini and the half teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini begins to caramelise and soften but does not turn to mush, five to seven minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Remove from the heat and keep warm until ready to serve.

Serve the chicken and zucchini warm over cooked grains, garnished with cilantro, if using.


Calories: 451; Total Fat: 30g; Saturated Fat: 9g; Cholesterol: 169mg; Sodium: 1245mg; Carbohydrates: 12g; Dietary Fibre: 3g; Sugars: 6g; Protein: 34g.