White Chili

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Do you like white chili? If you are not familiar with it, it’s sort of the calmer, nicer cousin of a Texas chili. No frantically looking for something to put out the flames from a beef and habanero fest. White chili is made with white beans, chicken (sometimes pork), and mild green chiles.

(That said, if you must, must have scorching heat in your chili, there are ways to do that while still keeping the chili white. Read through the comments for some ideas.)

White Chili

Personally I love the flavors of mild Anaheim or hatch green chiles with chicken, white beans, and Monterey jack cheese. It’s like a stew version of my favorite chicken burrito. Great with tortilla chips and your favorite taco toppings.

This chili comes together easily! You can use either canned or dry beans. Dry beans will add a couple hours of cooking time, but it’s almost all hands off time and the flavor of the beans is terrific.

If you use canned beans, pick a good brand. I like Bush’s cannelli beans. S&W has decent flavor too. Some of the organic, low salt canned beans brands are some of the most bland tasting beans ever sold. If you use those, you’ll need to add more salt than you would expect.

Like so many stews, this chili is even better the next day when the flavors have had more chance to meld. The chili will last several days in the fridge. Enjoy!

White Chili Recipe

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Dry bean cooking time time: 2 hours
  • Yield: 4-5 servings

If you are starting with dry beans and want even more flavor, cook them in about 7 cups of chicken stock and then when done, use the stock that the beans haven't absorbed as a base for the chili.

Ingredients

  • 2 -15-ounce cans white beans, drained OR 1/2 pound dry white beans
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 clove garlic, minced, about 1 teaspoon
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 4-ounce cans chopped green chilies
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (can use breast meat, but thighs will work better), trimmed of excess fat and diced into 1/2 to 3/4-inch pieces
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

If cooking dry beans:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 bay leaf

Method

1 If using dry beans, cook them first: Place the beans in a medium pot and cover with a couple inches of hot water, about 2 quarts. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 chopped garlic clove, and one bay leaf. Heat on high to bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to very low to maintain a low simmer.

Cook for 2 to 3 hours or until the beans are cooked through and tender (note that cannelli beans will cook faster than navy beans, and older dry beans will take longer to cook than newer). Drain.

2 Sauté onions, garlic, spices: In a large thick-bottomed pot, sauté onions in olive oil on medium high heat until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, cloves, and cayenne and cook a minute more. Add the green chiles and dried oregano. Add the minced jalapeño or serrano chile if using.

3 Add chicken, chicken stock, bring to simmer: Add the chicken and chicken stock. Increase the heat to high, bring to a simmer, lower the heat to low, cover and maintain the simmer for 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

4 Add cooked beans, continue to simmer: Add the drained cooked beans and cook for 15 minutes more. Taste for seasonings and add more salt to taste. Depending on how salty your chicken stock and beans are, you may need to add a teaspoon or more.

5 Serve with toppings and tortillas or chips: 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.

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This recipe and method have been updated. First published in December 2005.

Links:

Turkey White Chili here on Simply Recipes, a great chili recipe for leftover holiday roast turkey

Chili con Carne with cubed chuck roast and kidney beans, a classic!

White Chicken Poblano Chili from Homesick Texan

White Chili

Showing 4 of 26 Comments

  • Richard Easbey

    I made this today, with only a couple minor modifications; I had a green and a red bell pepper that I needed to use up so I chopped them up and added them to the sautéed onions, and I used 3 cans of chilies. FABULOUS. Very flavorful and everyone loved it. Oh, and I deep fried some corn tortilla strips to add on top with the cheese.

  • Bill

    Excellent! Used the Jalapeno. Great flavor. Might make it with pork instead of chicken and white hominy instead of beans, next time.

  • Mel

    Is the cheese just a topping or do you mix it in?

  • Beth Maier

    Made this last night. Loved the seasoned broth! I would either add twice the broth and spice or cut the meat and beans in half. Soup version would work better for me since the broth was the highlight.

  • Vanessa

    Really love this white chili recipe! I added a chopped carrot & celery stalk to the onions sauté. Also, when it came time to add the chopped chicken, I moved the veggies to the sides of the pan & added a tsp of olive to the middle and dropped the chicken in, let it cook there 5 minutes – then gently stirred & turned over & let the chicken continue cooking a few minutes more. Finally, I added the chicken broth etc., as directed. Such a great winter dish, quick to throw together if using canned beans. I think using broth versus stock is best in this case. I didn’t need to add any more salt.

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