Ghostly Chili

Ghostly chili is ghoulishly good.

Ghostly Chili

A chill wind crisps the fall air at sunset. Darkness falls. Floors creak. A slow cooker heats up a heap of chili. Stomachs growl like chains dragging across a floor. A ghostly good aroma haunts your house.

Kids don’t seem themselves. The neighborhood is oddly lit and strangely active. Someone knocks upon your door….  It’s Halloween, the witching hour. Will it be trick or will it be treat? Give them something good to eat!

No tricks—if you’re serving this chicken-based chili on Halloween, it’ll be a treat. Ghostly chili works especially well around this holiday, but it is filling and delicious throughout fall and winter. A trio of beans delivers great daily fiber. 

Years ago I was looking for Halloween party food ideas and ran across a chicken chili recipe in a Southern Living magazine. That version, by Harriet Carroll of Dallas, Texas, was the inspiration for my ghostly chili, so named for the ghostly white ingredients that go into it.

Back then my Florida neighborhood was filled with children and families trick or treating, and I created a hauntingly good destination for trick or treaters, with props, lights, sounds, and—always—I handed out treats in costume.

One year ghosts haunted our home and a witch answered the front door. Another time a mad scientist emerged while strange noises emanated behind an imposing curtain. Yet another a foggy graveyard was a gauntlet for getting your treat from a vampire. Our “spooky house” was on the must-visit list. It was so much fun!

My Tennessee neighborhood is very quiet, with nary a trick or treater. Perhaps that’s because barely a mile from our neighborhood and just down from the local elementary school, a church throws a fabulous trunk or treat on Halloween.

Their event includes bouncy houses, face painting and decorated vehicle trunks decorated with tons of fabulous treats. Even hot dogs and apple cider are to be had. We attended with our foster children two years running and had a wonderful time. This year will seem strangely quiet, but the house will smell good and our stomachs will be full,  because I’m making ghostly chili.   

What’s your Halloween style? Quiet times in? Trick or treating with kids? Parties? Community event? Do you live somewhere that Halloween is not observed? Drop a line in the comments … I’d love to hear from you.

My recipe calls for pre-prepared chicken and chicken stock. Making stock fresh and chopping the chicken up adds about 45 minutes or so to prep time. To keep things easy, I usually use store bought canned chiles and frozen white corn niblets along with pre-cooked beans (sometimes I use canned beans). There is no need to defrost frozen ingredients, but if you have a lot of frozen items it will add a little to cook time.

For a vegetarian version, increase beans or add a plant-based protein, eliminate chicken and use vegetable stock . Use low or no sodium ingredients and add an Italian style salt-substitute for a lower sodium version. This chili freezes well, although I rarely do so because it does not last long at our house.

I cook on low in a crock pot for at least 4 hours before serving. You can cook on low on stove top in a dutch oven or other heavy pan for about two hours, stirring occasionally.

Prep Time:  About 30 minutes, not including cook time

Yields: About 11 cups


2  large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or chopped (about 4 cups)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced

2 C cooked Navy beans (drained)

2 C cooked Northern beans (drained)

2 C cooked cannelloni beans (drained)

2 C white corn kernels, drained (yellow also ok) 

9 oz chopped green chiles

1 tsp coarse ground salt

1 tsp ground pepper

1-2 tsp ground cumin, to taste

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

2 1/2 C chicken stock  


Shred or chop chicken and place in large slow cooker, such as a Crock Pot. 

Chop onion and mince garlic; add to pot. 

Add drained and rinsed beans into pot.

Add white corn and green chilies to pot. 

Add seasonings and chicken stock.

Stir ingredients well and cover pot. 

Best cooked on low setting but will tolerate faster cooking on high. Can also be cooked on stovetop on medium to heat then on low setting to simmer, stirring occasionally.  

Making ghostly chili at a glance.
Making ghostly chili at a glance.

Serving Suggestions

Serve warm with desired toppings. Shredded monterrey jack, sour cream, and onion work well. Combines well with a salad and bread.

One thought on “Ghostly Chili

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