Food & Drink

Bebop Chicken Chili

Makes 4 to 6 servings

A hearty crowd-pleaser, inspired by the jazz pioneer Charlie Parker

Photo: Beatriz da Costa

Fans of the great Charlie Parker know that great chili is synonymous with the birth of bebop. It was during a 1939 jam session at Dan Wall’s Chili House in Harlem that Parker hit the upper chord improvisation that many credit as the lightning bolt moment that became bebop. In honor of Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, Minton’s in Harlem makes its chili with chicken. It’s a great game-day meal for a crowd, but it also works as a family meal. —From BETWEEN HARLEM AND HEAVEN


    • 1 tbsp. olive oil

    • 1 large onion, diced

    • 2 tsps. kosher salt, or more to taste

    • 2 tbsps. minced garlic

    • 2 red bell peppers, diced

    • 1 poblano pepper, diced

    • 1½ lbs. ground chicken

    • ¼ tsp. ground cayenne

    • ½ tsp. chili powder

    • ½ tsp. garlic powder

    • ½ tsp. onion powder

    • 1 tsp. dried oregano

    • 1 tsp. dried thyme

    • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

    • 2 tbsps. dark brown sugar

    • 1 bay leaf

    • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

    • 1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes

    • 2 cups chicken stock

    • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste


  1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven and add the onion when the oil begins to shimmer. Sprinkle with ½ tsp. of the salt and sauté for about 3 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, bell peppers, and poblano and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

  2. Once the vegetables are soft, add the chicken and spread it out in an even layer on the bottom of the pot. Stir to crumble the chicken as it cooks.

  3. Once the chicken begins to turn opaque, after about 3 minutes, add the spices, herbs, and the remaining 1½ tsps. salt. Stir to coat and toast the spices and cook for about 3 minutes.

  4. Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium and cover the pot. Simmer the chili to let the flavors meld and the sauce thicken, about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn’t burn.

  5. Season to taste. Let cool and store in an airtight nonreactive container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, if you’re not serving it immediately.

  6. Kitchen Tip: Some dishes taste better the next day. Making and storing the chili a day in advance gives the flavors a chance to meld and blend together to develop a more complex quality.

Excerpted from BETWEEN HARLEM AND HEAVEN by JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls. Copyright © 2018. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved.