You Won’t Believe What’s In This Chicken Dish

Chocolate milk is one of the main ingredients in this chicken dish. How wild is that?
Chocolate milk is one of the main ingredients in this chicken dish. How wild is that?

Yes, chocolate milk.

This recipe is pure crazy.

And it’s mind-boggling good.

“Spicy Chocolate Milk-Simmered Chicken” is one of those dishes that sounds so far-fetched and weird that you can’t help but be drawn to it. At least for curiosity’s sake.

Braising pork, veal or chicken in milk has a long tradition in Italian cuisine, where it not only helps tenderize the meat but creates its own velvety sauce.

But chocolate milk?

It actually does the same. And when combined with chiles, makes for an almost mole-like sauce.

This unusual recipe is from the new “Food52 Dynamite Chicken: 60 Never-Boring Recipes for Your Favorite Bird” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. The 60 recipes were created by Tyler Kord, chef-owner of No. 7 Restaurant in Brooklyn and the author of the fun, irreverent cookbook, “A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches” (Clarkson Potter).

Just when you thought you’d seen every iteration of a chicken recipe, Kord comes through to surprise you with new temptations such as “Grilled Chicken with Pickled Blueberry Salad,” “Chicken Meatloaf with Peppery Glaze & Cabbage Slaw,” “Parmesan-Sake Grilled Chicken,” and “Dangerously Crispy-Spatchcocked Chicken” (in which the chicken skin is coated with cornstarch to get it extra crisp).

This is what it looks like after cooking.
This is what it looks like after cooking.

This chocolate-milk chicken dish is super easy. Just put chicken thighs in a saucepan or Dutch oven with the chocolate milk, chili powder, jalapenos, and salt. The recipe states to cook for 35 to 40 minutes. But it took almost an hour for my chicken to be cooked through. So just be aware of that.

I also found that the amount of chocolate milk didn’t cover the chicken thighs completely, so I ended up flipping the pieces over a couple times during the cooking process to make sure the thighs cooked evenly. Because the recipe doesn’t instruct to cover the pan, I ended up adding a splash more chocolate milk 3/4 of the way through the cooking time because too much of it had evaporated. I noted those changes in the recipe below.

Sauteed zucchini and quinoa make fine accompaniments. Or you could pull the cooked chicken off the bones and stuff into tortillas with the braising sauce, as Kord suggests for another option.

The chicken emerges juicy and tender, with a sauce that’s earthy and spicy like mole, but with a milkier, sweeter taste. It definitely doesn’t taste like chocolate milk any more. The halved jalapenos that cook with the chicken are a treat. Their heat is nullified, leaving behind a distinct grassy presence.

Yup, chocolate milk and chicken sure sound like two ingredients that should never meet.

But when they do, they sure do get along wonderfully.

Freak out and amaze your friends -- all at the same time.
Freak out and amaze your friends — all at the same time.

Spicy Chocolate Milk-Simmered Chicken

(Serves 4)

1 cup full-fat chocolate milk, plus more as needed

2 tablespoons chili powder (preferably one made from ancho chiles)

2 jalapenos, stemmed and split length-wise

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 1 1/2 pounds

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds

2 garlic cloves, minced

Cooked quinoa, for serving

In a saucepan, combine chocolate milk, chili powder, jalapenos, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and the chicken thighs. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 40 minutes to 1 hour, or until the chicken is very tender. Note: Because the milk doesn’t cover the chicken, you may want to flip the pieces at least twice during the cooking time to make sure they cook evenly. If the milk mixture looks like it’s evaporating too much, add a splash more of chocolate milk to the pot, and continue cooking.

While the chicken is cooking, add the oil to a large saute pan over high heat. When the oil just starts to smoke, add the zucchini and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is caramelized and soft, though not so soft that it’s turning to mush. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until the garlic starts to caramelize a little.

Serve the chicken and zucchini over cooked quinoa.

Adapted from “Food52 Dynamite Chicken” by Tyler Kord

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  • never would’ve thought of this in a million years!

  • Making this tonight — the whole house smells delicious!!!

  • You know those ludicrous comments on food blogs where someone writes “Had high hopes for this recipe. Sounded great. Followed directions exactly, but didn’t happen to have any chicken on hand so I subbed in bananas. Allergic to chili powder, but love York peppermint patties so threw in some mint to compliment the chocolate. Not a hit with the family. Terrible recipe! Will not make again.”? This is not one of those reviews!

    OK, sure…so I only had one jalapeno…and the zucchini I thought I had on hand turned out to be cucumbers (baked cucumbers FTW!) …and I didn’t want to waste the remainder of a larger package of chicken thighs, so I sort of doubled (Translation: eyeballed more milk and chili powder) the sauce…and low-salt for us, so no salt…and I totally missed your remark about not covering the pan, so pondered whether I should do so & ended up covering it for first half… (so far, so good) About half-way through when I lifted the lid to check on progress of chicken doneness, it seemed to be going well, but the sauce was still very soupy (doh, of course since I’d had it covered) and seemed really lacking in flavor. Oh, did I mention that, since we never eat the skin anyway & don’t need the extra fat, I had skinned the thighs before cooking? (Hmmm, but wait, Carroll — it adds flavor!) Oh well. Although this would definitely be a first, not ALL of Carolyn’s recipes can be winners, right? Decided to leave the lid off to let the sauce thicken up a bit & kept checking (chicken coming along nicely, but I ended up cutting some pieces off the bone to be sure the pink insides disappeared) Finally got around to tasting a small nibble with some of the now-perfectly-thickening sauce. Wowza! Boy howdy did that stuff ever turn tasty in a hurry!!! Reducing the sauce made all the difference. Bits of chicken sort of stuck to the bottom of the pan and browned up a bit and the flavors were incredible. You sure can’t tell it’s chocolate, but there’s an indefinable nuance of flavor I’ve never even experienced with mole. We never missed the salt, and that single jalapeno made things plenty spicy for my “East-Coast-Transplant only been in California for 50-years-now spice wuss” palate. Will definitely be making this again — like tomorrow night for our “Born-in-California & loves all things Jalapeno” kid and some visiting friends! Thanks for yet another fabulous addition to my culinary repertoire, Carolyn. You sure do know how to pick the good ones!

  • Carroll: You crack me up with your wit, and impress me to no end with your resourcefulness! 😉 So glad you enjoyed this unique recipe. And I hope your “Jalapeno kid” and friends love it, too.

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