Our Favorite White Chicken Chili
White chicken chili is pure comfort food. The base is perfectly spiced, creamy, and filled with tender shredded chicken, white beans, green chilies, and corn. Jump to the White Chicken Chili Recipe
What is the difference between white chili and regular chili?
Regular chili has a rich base of red chilies or chili powder and tomato, while white chili has green chilies. Please look at our Texas red chili and our favorite homemade chili with beans as examples of red chili. We use canned Hatch green chilies, white beans, and chicken in this chili recipe. It tastes quite different from red chili but is just as delicious!
How to Make the Best White Bean Chicken Chili
White bean chicken chili is pure comfort food. The base is perfectly spiced, creamy, and filled with tender shredded chicken, white beans, green chilies, and corn. We do not use dairy to make this chili and don’t think it needs it as it just muddies the flavor. It is best left for serving. You can always add a handful of shredded cheese and sour cream to your bowl, as we did in our photos.
The true star of this chili is green chilies. Both Adam and I love green chilies. So we’ll take them fresh, sautéed, roasted, and canned. Canned green chilies are what make this white chicken chili so tasty. We use three 4-ounce cans (I love the Hatch brand).
I tried this recipe with fewer cans and wasn’t happy with the flavor, so even though three cans seems overkill, do it. It’s better this way. You can buy mild or hot canned green chilies. The one you choose is up to how spicy you enjoy your food. I typically purchase mild and add spice with cayenne pepper or chipotle powder.
This chili is simple to make. First, cook onion, garlic, and spices, then add broth, canned green chilies, and the chicken. I use chicken thighs since they are more tender, but chicken breast will work. Gently simmer the chicken in the broth until cooked, then remove it and shred. (This is the same method as our recipe for tender shredded chicken.)
Keep the chicken on your work surface for a minute, and then stir in white beans — we add two cans. Now steal about a cup of the chili — beans, broth, and all. Place that cup of chili into a blender and blend until smooth. This puree is the secret to making creamy white chili!
When the puree is back in the pot, stir in the chicken, and some corn; frozen is fine. Finish with fresh lime, cilantro, and for an extra kick of corn flavor, some masa harina (or a corn tortilla that’s chopped).
Our White Chili Spice Blend
When making chili, the spice blend takes it from okay to outstanding. Looking at this homemade chili recipe, you can see our favorite spice blend for red chili. The spices for this white chili are similar but tweaked slightly so that the spices don’t overpower the chicken:
- Fresh onion and garlic (we use 6 cloves!)
- Ground cumin
- Onion powder (fresh onion and onion powder create the best flavor)
- Dried oregano (use Mexican oregano if you can find it)
- Salt and cayenne pepper (or ground chipotle powder)
In addition to the spice blend, we call on fresh lime juice and fresh cilantro to make the flavor of the chili pop. It’s delicious!
How do you thicken white chicken chili?
We love making this chili creamy and thick. No brothy soups here.
We thicken this chili two ways. First, we stir masa harina or chopped corn tortillas into the chili a minute or two before serving. These add a lovely corn flavor to the chili and thicken the sauce slightly.
Because we love this white chili to be on the thicker side but don’t want to add too many more ingredients or dairy, just after removing the chicken, we blend about one cup of the broth and beans. Then we stir the bean puree into the chili, which gives the chili more texture.
Our Favorite White Chicken Chili
White chicken chili is pure comfort food. The base is perfectly spiced, creamy, and filled with tender shredded chicken, white beans, green chilies, and corn. We do not use dairy to make this chili and don’t think it needs it as it just muddies the flavor. We also find that leaving out the dairy makes this white chicken chili a bit healthier. It is best left for serving. You can always add a handful of shredded cheese and sour cream to your bowl, as we did in our photos.
You Will Need
2 tablespoons butter or oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, minced, about 2 tablespoons
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cumin
1 ¼ teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or chipotle powder, optional for heat
2 cups low sodium chicken stock, see our chicken stock recipe
3 (4-ounce) cans mild chopped green chilies
1 ¼ pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breast
2 (15-ounce) cans white beans like great northern beans or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
1 tablespoon masa harina or 1 to 2 small corn tortillas torn into small pieces, optional
1/2 small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1 lime, juiced, plus more to taste
Scallions, sour cream, avocado, shredded cheese for serving
Heat the butter or oil in a large pot (like a Dutch oven). Stir in the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the garlic, ground cumin, onion powder, oregano, salt, and cayenne pepper. After one minute, pour in the chicken stock and diced green chilies with their juices.
Bring the broth to a simmer, then submerge the chicken into it. Adjust the heat so that the broth is gently simmering around the chicken. Partially cover the pot with its lid and cook until the chicken is cooked through and tender; 25 to 30 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a clean work surface and allow it to cool enough so that you can shred it. Use two forks to shred the chicken into smaller pieces.
Adjust the broth to a low simmer and stir in the beans. Use a measuring cup or jug to steal about one cup of beans and broth from the pot, and then pour it into a blender. Blend into a smooth puree.
Pour the blended beans back into the pot. Add the shredded chicken and corn, then stir everything together and allow it to reheat.
Mix the tablespoon of masa with three tablespoons of water into a smooth paste, and then stir into the chili. If you are using corn tortillas instead of masa paste, tear the tortillas into small pieces and then stir into the chili. After a minute or so, the tortillas will disintegrate into the chili.
Taste the chili and then adjust with salt, pepper, or cayenne pepper.
Take the chili off the heat, and then serve with fresh lime, cilantro, and any other chili toppings you love.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- Buying canned green chilies: You can buy mild and hot canned green chilies. The one you choose is up to how spicy you enjoy your food. I typically purchase mild and add spice with cayenne pepper or chipotle powder. I love to purchase the Hatch brand.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values. We used 1/2 teaspoon of salt in our calculations and assumed a generous serving (about 1/4 of the pot).