White Chili

My friend Steve-Anna, who has been tempting me with tales of her white chili for years, finally sent me the recipe. It originally comes from the Beyond Parsley, by the Junior League of Kansas City, MO. Both she and I have modified the base recipe. For the version pictured above, I used canelli beans instead of Great Northern which cook up faster than the 3 hours called for in the recipe. Also I’ve added some jalapeno pepper for more heat. The base recipe is tasty, but like most white chilis, a little mild. Steve-Anna’s notes for her modifications and a photo of her chili are at the end of the recipe.

White Chili Recipe

  • Yield: 8-10 servings


  • 1 lb large white beans, soaked overnight in water, drained
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (divided)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 4-ounce cans chopped green chilies
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups diced cooked chicken
  • 3 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, chopped (optional)


1 Combine beans, chicken broth, garlic and half the onions in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are very soft, 3 hours or more. Add additional water (or watered-down broth), if necessary.

2 In a skillet, sauté remaining onions in oil until tender. Add chilies and seasonings and mix thoroughly. Add to bean mixture. Add chicken and continue to simmer 1 hour. Check seasoning, add jalapeno or serrano to level of desired hotness.

3 Serve topped with grated cheese. Garnish with cilantro, chopped fresh tomato, salsa, chopped scallions, and/or guacamole. Serve with fresh warmed flour tortillas or tortilla chips.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

Photo by SA Stephens

Notes from Steve-Anna: I love black-eyed peas, and I don't ever remember to soak the beans overnight, so I use canned. I use 2 cans of black-eyed peas and one can of great northern beans instead of the dried white beans. I also use a large red onion instead of white ones. For the chicken, I saute chicken breasts cut in 1/2" strips in olive oil (1-2 tbsp)...I season the meat with my favorite steak seasoning, D.L. Jardine's. It seems to tenderize the chicken and gives just that extra bit of flavor. While I'm sauteing the chicken, I chop it into smaller, bite-sized pieces before adding to the soup. I'm a little shy on cayenne, so I use a little less than 1/4 tsp.

Never miss a recipe!

Subscribe to Simply Recipes free via email:

Showing 4 of 32 Comments

  • Matthew Conquergood

    I once won a chili cookoff with my white chili recipe which I will not bother you with, here. This recipe is close enough and any good cook will treat any recipe as a general guide only, anyway, modifying to personal tastes as the alchemy ensues. That said, I must agree that most white chili recipes are too mild and the jalapeno pepper is an important addition. If, however, you find it best to serve the chili in a milder format for less spicy savvy guests, might I suggest this serving suggestion from my own table:

    Serve your chili with optional add-ins. A particularly spicy salsa to add heat, and a cooling sour cream. It’ll be a smash hit, I guarantee it. Also, offering crushed tortilla chips is a nice way to thicken the chili up for those who usually add crushed crackers to their red chili.

    By the way, I’m originally from Kansas City, and those gals over at the Junior League are a mild-loving bunch. Try a half teaspoon of white pepper instead of 1/4 tsp red cayenne in your white chili so as not to darken the sauce. ;)

  • knp

    White chili from the Beyond Parsley cookbook is great. If you don’t have the Beyond Parsley cookbook it is a must have.

  • Nicky

    Hi Elise,
    we had “White Chili” for the first time this fall while visiting friends in Colorado. It was soooo good, I had to twist the host’s arm to get the recipe ;) But I haven’t reproduced it yet, maybe I’m a little scared, it won’t live up to my memories…
    Happy 2006 to you and your family!!!

  • jayj

    Here’s the problem: if you’re a true believer, you never want to see the word “mild” anywhere near the word “chili”. But how can you get really hot chili without turning it red or green or whatever color the peppers are? Well, maybe I spent too much time working with chemical engineers, but here’s the answer for chili that’s as hot as you like it and still white:

    The active ingredient in hot peppers is a complex alkaloid called capsaicin. Turns out that capsaicin is very soluble in alcohol, but the red stuff in peppers is not so much. I do what the chemical engineering geeks call an extraction: stir about 2 teaspoons of Dave’s Insanity sauce (www.davesgourmet.com) in about 4 ounces of 151 rum (vodka would work too). Fairly quickly, before the alcohol picks up too much of the red coloring from the sauce, pour it through a coffee filter into a small glass jar. You can repeat the filtering process with a clean filter a couple of times and get down to an almost clear liquid. DO NOT GET THIS STUFF ON YOUR HANDS! I find that just a few drops of this capsaicin extract will turn a crockpot full of boring white chili into something really interesting – without turning it brown or green or red. If you have small kids or curious pets in the house maybe you shouldn’t keep this stuff around – but oh, it hurts so good!

View More Comments / Leave a Comment