White Chicken Chili

Family-FriendlySouthwesternGluten-FreeChili

This easy White Chicken Chili is like a milder, calmer cousin to Texas beef chili. Make it with canned or dry beans, and add extra chili peppers for more heat if you like! Keeps well and freezes well.

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.)

How to make white chicken chili

The Ingredients for White Chicken 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.

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.

Favorite Additions to This Chili

We’ve received some great suggestions from readers who have made this recipes over the years. Here are a few:

  • Top with avocado, sour cream, or both
  • Add corn kernels (especially good if grilled)
  • Add chopped green or red bell peppers
  • Add hominy for a posole-style chili
  • Use pre-cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken for an even faster soup

Also, try our pressure cooker version: Instant Pot White Chicken Chili.

White bean chicken chili in a serving bowl with chips

What to Serve with White Chicken Chili

Top this hearty soup with cilantro, chopped fresh tomato, salsa, chopped scallions, and/or guacamole, and serve with a side of warm flour tortillas or tortilla chips.

Storing and Freezing White Chicken Chili

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.

To freeze, cool the chili completed then transfer to freezer containers or bags. Freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the fridge and reheat gently in the microwave or on the stovetop.

More great chili recipes

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Updated December 31, 2019 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle. No changes to the original recipe. First published December 2005.

White Chicken Chili Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Dry bean cooking 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 tablespoon extra virgin 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 jalapeño 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 with seasonings: 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 and stock, and simmer: Add the chicken and chicken stock. Increase the heat to high, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and maintain the simmer for 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

4 Add cooked beans: 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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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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44 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Becky

    Yum! Sheltering in place for COVID-19 and made this with ready-made chicken. I follwed the recipe using two cans of northern beans. We topped it with fresh cilantro, avacado, sharp cheddar (all I have on hand), a dollop of low calorie sour cream, and some hand crushed corn chips. I had a second bowl. For those wondering, you get 4-5 cups of soup depending how much chicken/beans you add. Best chicken chili—a keeper!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Julia

    Excellent !!!

  3. Bill Talley

    I absolutely LOVE this recipe. It’s cheap and easy to make and everyone I’ve fed it to has loved it as much as I do. I do tend to tweak recipes to my liking over time, but I’ve made this 4 or 5 times with no desire to change a thing.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Kelly

    This recipe is really easy to make and tastes really good.

    One thing I did different, was I placed whole chicken pieces in the broth and cooked them for 20 minutes. I pulled them out, shredded them and placed them back in when the beans go in to cook.

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (1)
  5. Cynthia Hugghins

    It was absolutely wonderful! I made it to take to a gathering and it was very well received ❤️

    xxxxxyyyyy

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White bean chicken chili in a serving bowl with chipsWhite Chicken Chili