White Bean Chicken Chili
The best White Bean Chicken Chili you’ll ever eat! Healthy and flavorful, packed with tender chicken, creamy cannellini beans, and a simple yet irresistible base of salsa verde and green chiles. It’s highly adaptable and unbelievably easy to make in less than 30 minutes. Freezes well, too!
This chili has been on repeat in my house for the last several months, and I fully expect it to remain that way for the foreseeable future. Scratch that, forever. This stuff is real dang delicious, my friends, and it’s satisfying and filling without weighing you down.
Not that you should trust him implicitly, but if you choose to, my husband said it’s the best white chili he’s ever had. And what can I say? I do think the man has good taste. 😉
You’ll Love This Because…
- It’s crazy easy to make. Yet still relies on real ingredients, so you can feel good about getting another home-cooked meal on the table.
- It’s fast. I like to use shredded rotisserie chicken to get this from prep to table in 30 minutes.
- It’s flexible. Dialing up or down the heat level is as simple as choosing a mild, medium, or more spicy salsa verde, and you can easily adjust how thick the chili is by blending more or less of the beans.
- It’s kid- and family-friendly. Got picky eaters? (I do!) Make the chili on the mild side and offer a mix of safe and adventurous toppings for everyone to consider. Few turn down shredded cheese and tortilla strips, avocado and cilantro can be stepping stones for those branching out, and a sliced jalapeno or two adds more heat for the thrill-seekers.
Ingredients & Common Substitutions
Here are a few notes and shopping tips about the ingredients you’ll need to make this chili, as well as possible substitutions:
- Shredded Chicken. Using meat from a rotisserie chicken keeps this recipe quick and easy, and also ensures your meat is tender and flavorful.
- White Beans. Cannellini beans are my go-to for a simple white kidney bean, because they are creamy, hearty, widely available, and economical. Great northern beans and navy beans are good substitutes in this recipe.
- Salsa Verde. Because salsa verde forms the base of the sauce, the heat profile you choose for your salsa will have a major impact on the heat level of the finished chili. I’ve made it with mild salsa verde (store brands from Target and elsewhere) with great results. A batch made with Frontera’s salsa verde was also delicious but with enough heat that the adults had to pace themselves and it was a no-go for kids.
- Green Chiles. One of the small, 4 ounce cans found in the Mexican food aisle. I generally purchase mild diced chiles but if you want more heat, using medium to hot chiles is another good way to add it.
- Sweet or White Onion. Yellow or red onion is a good substitute. It will just have a subtle impact on the finished flavor.
- Fresh Minced Garlic, Ground Cumin, Olive Oil, and Chicken Broth.
What is salsa verde?
Technically, salsa verde can refer to any of four types of green sauces that are served cold or at room temperature, all of which are often used as components in other meals.
In the context of Mexican food, salsa verde is literally a green salsa based on tomatillos and fresh chiles. It can have flavors ranging from deep and smoky to light and tart, depending on what is mixed in, and whether the tomatillos are roasted, grilled, par-boiled, or uncooked.
In case you were wondering, yes, this chili recipe is a great excuse to basically drink salsa for dinner. You’re welcome. 😉
How To Make White Bean Chicken Chili
Making this chili could not be simpler. Here are the basic steps — for detailed directions and cooking times, scroll down to the full recipe below.
- Lightly cook the onion, garlic, green chiles, and cumin in a small amount of olive oil.
- Add broth, beans, and salsa. Bring to a rapid simmer.
- Blend if desired.
- Stir in chicken, warm through.
- Top as desired and serve!
How do you thicken white bean chicken chili?
The simplest way is also the best! The most natural and easy way to thicken this white bean chili is to blend a portion of it after the beans and liquid are added to the pot, but before the chicken goes in. An immersion blender makes this so super simple, but scooping out a portion to blitz in a traditional blender or food processor is pretty quick and easy, as well.
This approach gives you total control over how thick your chili will be. A quick 5 or 10 second blitz will give the chili a light, tortilla soup-like consistency. Keep going even to the point that it’s mostly smooth if you want a thicker bowl.
Bonus: This white chicken chili is naturally dairy-free, and needs no thickeners or additives.
Pro Tip: Want to be sure you still have a good amount of whole white beans in the chili at the end? Reserve 1/2 cup to add after blending, along with the chicken.
What toppings are best for white chicken chili?
Chili fans know that the toppings are often the very best part! Our favorites for these bowls are shredded cheese, tortilla strips, cilantro leaves, and diced avocado. Lime wedges or thinly-sliced jalapeño peppers are fun, as well.
Storage and Freezing
- Storage: Refrigerate any leftover chili in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat as much as you need at a time in the microwave or in a small saucepan.
- Freezing: This white bean chicken chili freezes very well. Transfer to an airtight container, leaving a little room for the liquid to expand when frozen, and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator, or defrost quickly in the microwave on 50% power, stirring frequently. The chili may look slightly separated after it defrosts, but once rewarmed in a saucepan, stirring frequently, it will be perfect.
More Cozy Chilis and Soups You’ll Love
If you love soups and stews with Mexican flavors, try this chipotle black bean tortilla soup next. It’s a terrific vegetarian option and always super satisfying.
If you try this White Bean Chicken Chili, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
White Bean Chicken Chili
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 medium sweet onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 (4 ounce) can green chilis
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 (15 ounce) cans white beans drained and rinsed
- 2 cups (16 ounces) salsa verde
- 2-3 cups shredded cooked chicken
- toppings as desired: shredded cheese, tortilla strips or chips, fresh jalapeno slices, diced avocado, cilantro leaves, sour cream, etc.
- Warm olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook 3-4 minutes, just until softened. Stir in garlic, green chilis, and cumin. Cook 1 minute more, just until fragrant.
- Stir in the chicken broth, beans, and salsa. Increase heat to medium-high until liquid comes to a rapid simmer.
- If you prefer a thick chili, blend part of the mixture at this point — you can either pulse an immersion blender straight in the pot for 5-10 seconds, or scoop out roughly 1 cup of the mixture, blitz in a blender or food processor, and return to the pot. If you prefer a thinner, more soup-like consistency, you can skip this step.
- Add chicken to the pot. Reduce heat back to medium, and let simmer for another 5 minutes, just until chicken is warmed through. Serve big bowls with all your favorite toppings.
- Because salsa verde forms the base of the sauce, the heat profile you choose for your salsa will have a major impact on the heat level of the finished chili. I’ve made it with mild salsa verde (store brands from Target and elsewhere) with great results. A batch made with Frontera’s salsa verde was also delicious but with enough heat that the adults had to pace themselves and it was a no-go for kids.