White Chili

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.

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


  • 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


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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  • David

    I grilled corn on the cob, nice and roasted, then cut the corn into this recipe. I also grilled the chicken before adding it to the pot. Both added a good grilled, smokey flavor.

  • Colleen Scholz

    If you haven’t tried white chili, you have to try it! I have made it before, but lost my recipe. It’s absolutely delicious and so quick to make too. We have peppers from the garden , so I used some of them instead of so much canned peppers. Love it. Thanks for the recipe.

  • 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?

    • Elise

      Hi Mel, just a topping, though you could mix it in if you wanted to.

  • 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.

  • Caria

    I noticed that you cooked the dry beans in a separate pot. Why not everyone in one pot instead of two pots?

  • Vicky

    I made this today and loved it. I mixed about 1C of Maza Flour w/broth of the chili to thicken, didn’t really thicken but added extra flavor. Absolutely delicious! First time I’ve made White Chili of any kind. I told my mother about this since it is also “wheat free” since she has celiac disease. Great recipe, love spicy so added extra red pepper. Some salt too. Deeeelish!

  • Gomez

    Great recipe, used fresh anaheim and poblanos instead of canned. Burned off skins with a torch.
    Diced a red Jalapeno and added it at the end for a little color. Thanks for the recipe!!!

  • jack hooper

    White chili peppers would give some strong taste. I like your recipe.

  • Annarose

    I was very picky as a child, but I loved the white chili my mother made. When I went off to college back in 2005, I wanted the chili recipe, but my mom misplaced it so e-mailed me this recipe instead. I’ve been making it every couple of months ever since! It was the first dish that I cooked for my husband shortly after we met and he still loves it. I’ve tried both variations and made it with canned beans a couple of times. It always turns out great. I used to make it exactly like the recipe states, but I’ve since acquired a crock pot so I prefer to just chuck everything in at the beginning and slow cooking it all day. Delicious and effortless! Thanks so much for this family favorite :o)

  • bill

    The only thing missing in this “White Chile” recipe is some White Chile Peppers! White Habeneros would add heat and keep it white.

  • Brenda

    I have made this chili and instead of using the green chilis and jalapenos, I used a half can of Ro-tel for the heat(I liquify the Ro-Tel so there are no chunks). I also add fresh cilantro , sour cream, cheddar and avocado chunks before serving–YUMMY!!!

  • Jessica

    To keep the sauce white, here are some alternative ideas.
    Using white pepper is a great idea instead of using the cayenne pepper powder. But I like a little more kick so the last 30 minutes I add a pinch of red pepper flakes; it adds the heat and also the red flecks of color in the white sauce look very appetizing. To keep the green color out with the green chilies I buy fresh ones and sauté them on the side and add those the last 45 min. I use a crockpot to cook the soup in and add the different ingredients at different times. It’s great if you have the time to be home and do this all day. I start with the beans in chicken broth with the garlic, white pepper and oregano. I don’t use cloves, personally I hate them. I season the chicken with garlic powder, (or you can buy all purpose seasoning from the Mexican food aisle) onion powder, white pepper and a small pinch of cumin. Then I add the chicken to the crock pot for a couple hours. Then I sauté the onions and green chiles and drain them and add them. Then I will add the red pepper flakes. And about 5 minutes before I am ready to dish up, I like to take a few roma tomatoes and de-seed them and dice em up and add that to the bowls or to the entire pot. And to serve with it, I make pepper jack quesidillas. YUMMY

  • cp

    Hi, I made this tonight and it was pretty good. I made it a little too spicy for me, but my husband liked it. I squeezed fresh lime on the top before putting the cheese, and I think that really made the dish. Oh, and a blob of sour cream on top is great for cooling the “heat” down.

  • ms bd fox

    Hey guys remember the other white meat. PORK. I put grilled pork steaks in mine. Way better than chicken. Lot more tasty.

  • kim

    I always cook white chili. We usually top the chilli with sour cream and salsa.

  • Renee Aldrich

    I add white corn and sometimes white hominy. For a filler, if it comes out a little soupy, I add some cubed and peeled red potatoes.
    Yummmm. I liked the idea of the tortillas on top. Will try it.

  • Jon

    Try marinating the chicken you use for this recipe in tequila, lime juice garlic and cayenne for a few hours before hand.

  • RC

    For a bit of a crunch texture to the chili, take some flour tortillas, cut them into strips and deep fry them till crisp….ladle soup into bowls, add a dollop of sour cream and throw some crispy tortilla strips on top with some green onions…a nice touch

    • Brian

      I cheat and use the original sized Fritos (not the scoops). You have to eat them quick or they get soggy – or add them only a few at a time as you work your way through the bowl.

  • Jamie

    HOLY COW THIS WAS GOOD! Not only did this taste just perfect, but the presentation was beautiful. We put a dollop of sour cream, and guacamole on top of the monterey jack cheese and then sprinkled green onions and crushed tortilla chips on top. I also nestled a lime wedge on the side. Beautiful and superb. Thank you Elise! This was the recipe I was looking for.

  • kelly jeanie

    Elise, we just had this tonight. It was so good! The tomatoes and cheese on top were excellent. My husband had to add some hot sauce to his, but I thought it was perfect. My 10 month-old son liked the beans, he enjoys spicy things. I forgot all about adding the jalapeno, which I may do next time for my husband’s sake, but I thought it was perfectly spicy for me. Can’t wait to try it with tortilla chips, and it’s going to make great leftovers. Thanks so much!

  • 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!

    • Elise

      What a great idea Jayj, thanks! BTW, I would recommend wearing plastic or latex gloves when handling something as hot as this. I’ve been burned by chilis and it’s no fun.

  • 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. ;)