Best Ever White Chicken Chili

This chili will overpower your craving for traditional red chili anyday. In fact, it kicks red chili’s behind. Why? Becuase its creamy, but not a “too decadent for a Saturday afternoon” creamy. It’s filling on an autumn/winter day. It makes your entire house (or apartment) smell like something good is about to be eaten. It makes you feel as though snuggling on the couch with a nice bowl of chili watching tv is exactly where you are supposed to be at that moment. The world becomes a perfect place with white chicken chili.

I made this special chili last week, when the temperature was starting to drop. The weather is now back in the upper 50’s-low 60’s, but somehow this chili still sounds amazing. The base is chicken broth and at the end of the recipe you add shredded Monterrey jack cheese- and what the cheese does is magical. It makes the broth rich and silky and adds just the right amount of excess one searches for in a chili, since you would otherwise be prone to missing ground beef normally in a traditional version.

White Chicken Chili  Adapted from Food & Wine

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans Great Northern beans,* drained and rinsed
  • 1 ½ pounds chicken breast
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 4-ounce cans chopped green chiles
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
  • dash red chili pepper flakes
  • 3-5 cups shredded Monterrey jack cheese, plus more for serving
  • Sour cream for serving

How to:

Poach chicken breasts by bringing the broth to a simmer, add chicken and cook over low heat until opaque. Transfer the breasts to a plate to cool, shredding once you are able to handle them. Boil the stock over high heat until reduced to about 2 ½ cups.  You can also poach the chicken breasts in water and start the chili fresh (next paragraph) with 2 ½ cups regular, non-reduced broth. It won’t be as robust a flavor, but I’ve done this and the chili still turns out great. I also add more chicken broth (around 4 cups total) because I like more of a broth base.

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add the canned chiles, garlic, cumin, and cayenne. Stir for about 3-4 minutes. Add the beans, chicken, reduced stock, and 3 cups of the cheese and simmer for 10 minutes. The mixture will become somewhat creamy, but not heavy. Add another cup or two of chicken broth, if desired. Season with salt and pepper. If you want more cheese in your chili, now is the time to add, letting it melt in before serving.

To serve, ladle chili into bowls and top with cheese and sour cream. Serve with tortilla chips.

*If you are using dried Great Northern beans, which is an option, put 2 ½ cups (about 1 lb.) in a large saucepan cover the beans with 2 inches of water and let soak overnight. Drain and return them to the saucepan and add enough water to again cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over moderate heat and simmer until tender, about 1 hour. Drain the beans and they are ready for use!

p.s. I just thought of a nice addition- 1/2 cup of frozen (or fresh) corn kernels when adding the cheese…just a thought/suggestion.

7 Responses to “Best Ever White Chicken Chili”


  1. 1 lindsay November 24, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    i can testify…this IS the best ever white chicken chili! i had the pleasure of being kari’s roommate for several years and sampling her dishes and she makes one mean chicken chili.

  2. 2 Evie August 2, 2013 at 8:16 am

    I had made chicken chili recipes before but when I found this recipe last year it intrigued me so I gave it a try. It really is the best chicken chili I have ever had. My husband who is a regular chili cook off champion even loves it and asks me to make it all of the time (which is saying A LOT). I would say that it is not for anyone trying to lose weight because of the amount of cheese in it but it is amazingly good. If you’re worried about the cheese making it a weird texture don’t. It melts and thickens the broth and just adds a complexity that is lacking in other recipes. As for cooking the chicken in broth first I have tried it both ways and it just seems like a waste of broth to me.

    Thank you for the great recipe.

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  1. 1 Red Chili « Growling Tummy Trackback on November 15, 2010 at 6:05 pm

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