To-die-for Maui Chili

Written by Jeff Kurtz. Posted in Taking Care of Your Life

I can generally take or leave chili. Too many chili recipes are long on habanero-induced heat while lacking any true complexity of flavor. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind a little kick in my food, but I can do without tongue-scalding heat that leaves me gagging and desperately searching for any available liquid to put out the flames. Besides, chili usually contains one of my least favorite food items—beans.

So, when my wife’s sister and her husband invited us to participate in their annual Central Ohio Invitational Chili Cook-off (COICC) a few years ago, we decided we wanted to try something a bit different, something unconventional. I began scouring the internet for unusual chili recipes and happened upon one called Maui Chili, created by Mickey Steinborn, which really piqued my interest.

The primary component of Steinborn’s Maui Chili is chicken, rather than beef, and several of the ingredients intrigued me right away—pineapple, honey, ginger root, and beer. That’s right, beer! Finally a chili recipe I can get on board with! Best of all, from my perspective, not a single bean makes its way into the mix.

The final product is difficult to define. You really have to taste it to appreciate it. But, suffice it to say, Maui Chili is the perfect blend of sweet, hot, and chunky goodness. There’s plenty of kick to it, but the heat never overwhelms the complex mélange of flavors—nor the sampler’s taste buds. Also, its consistency is more thick and pasty than one might expect from a chili. You can literally eat it with a fork.

The original recipe makes 5 gallons of Maui Chili, so we decided to cut it in half. Even at that, we still had plenty for everyone to sample at the COICC as well as enough leftovers to support several consecutive days of feasting at home.

So, with no further ado, here is the rather sizeable list of ingredients for this delectable chili as we prepared it (we made a few modest alterations from the original based on the availability of ingredients):

The last ingredient on the list—the olive oil—should be the first added to the chili pot. Allow it to heat up and then begin adding the other ingredients. We started with the tomato-based ingredients, followed them with the onions and the various herbs and spices, and then added the remaining ingredients in no particular order. Before adding the chicken, we cooked it in a little olive oil and minced garlic in a separate skillet. Total cooking time is about 2½ hours.

You can substitute dry spices and canned pineapple for the fresh ingredients, but in my humble opinion, it was well worth the extra effort to use fresh. Also, if you want to tone down the heat a bit, you can cut back on the cayenne pepper and jalapenos. Just add them to taste.

When it’s time to serve the chili, be sure to put out a bowl of chopped sweet onions and some shredded Monterey Jack cheese for your guests to sprinkle on top of the chili if they so desire. Steinborn also notes that his Maui Chili is good served over steamed rice or pasta.

If you’d like to see the original recipe and read the story behind Mickey Steinborn’s Maui Chili recipe, check out his website at

How did our version of Maui Chili fare at the COICC, where it competed against nine other chili recipes? It won the “Best in Show” and “Best Kick” categories and came in a close second in the “Most Creative” category. So, why am I giving away the recipe for such a crowd-pleasing chili rather than keeping it all to myself?

Well, it’s just too good to keep secret!

Jeff Kurtz is the editor of Healthy Living News.

  • 4 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breast, bite-size chunks
  • 1 bottle of amber-colored beer
  • 4 to 6 ounces water (yep, you read that right—don’t overdo the water!)
  • 3 bell peppers (colors of your choice), cut into large pieces, seeds and pulp removed
  • 2 heads of garlic (can substitute minced garlic)
  • 1½ to 2 Tbs. fresh shredded ginger root
  • 3 sweet onions, chopped in large pieces
  • ½ fresh pineapple, cut into large chunks (we used a whole pre-cored pineapple)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 to 4 jalapeno peppers, chopped, seeds and all
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped (the original recipe calls for lovage, but we couldn’t find any)
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped, leave out the stems
  • 1 cup fresh oregano, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 cup of chili powder, add as you cook
  • 3 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 4 Tbs. cumin, add approx. 1 tsp. at a time
  • 1/8 cup light soy sauce
  • 1½ Tbs. sea salt
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 7 ounces of whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 14 ounces stewed, chopped tomatoes
  • 2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
  • ½ cup honey
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal, added 1 Tbs. at a time to thicken
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil