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White Chicken Chili is a great comforting bean soup packed with flavor, chicken, beans, and veggies. With a thick and delicious chili with just the right amount of kick and your favorite toppings, you know you’re in for a soul-satisfying good meal!
If you’re wondering what goes with white chicken chili, you don’t have to look far. Like most chili recipes, you don’t need fancy sides (or any sides at all) and the dish still feels complete. But, there will be nothing but smiles if you served it with some Perfectly Moist Cornbread or Homemade Breadsticks!
Easy, Creamy White Chicken Chili
When it is cold and blustery outside, there are few recipes that are as cozy and satisfying as a bowl of homemade white chicken chili. And the only thing better than having it for dinner, is having leftovers for lunch the next day!
I love how hearty and comforting a bowl of warm chili can be. Topping this easy white chicken chili recipe with some sour cream, cilantro, avocado, or corn chips can be a fun way of dressing it up, but even as-is, this chili is fantastic and one you will find yourself coming back to again and again!
What is White Chicken Chili?
I'm not entirely sure who started calling this dish a "chili" since it's not like what I typically think of as a traditional chili. White chicken chili is a type of chili that is made with chicken instead of beef. It has no tomatoes and instead uses white beans and green chiles to get its color and flavor.
I think the key to this being considered chili is getting the ratio of broth to beans and meat just right so that it is a bit heartier than a regular soup. Part of the secret is to blend some of the beans and broth together to thicken the chili and give a really wonderful, creamy feel without the heaviness of thickening with flour or cream.
Chili comes from the Spanish “Chile Con Carne” and has been around for hundreds of years, but the more traditional version includes tomatoes and ground beef like my Classic Chili Recipe or my Meaty Mushroom Chili.
White bean chili didn’t come along until much, much later. Early reports show that it started to surface in the late 1980s. Another fun fact is that it was invented in the West, not the south, as one would expect. Despite the backstory, this chili has still been seen as a popular Southwestern dish all over the country, probably because of it's heavy reliance on beans & chilies, which are typical Southwest ingredients.
Ingredients for White Chicken Chili
- Cooked shredded chicken: I love using leftover rotisserie chicken to make this really EASY white chicken chili. But you can cook a couple of chicken breasts or thighs and shred them instead if you don't have a rotisserie chicken available. See the recipe card for further details on how to do this.
- Chicken broth: This is the liquid base of the soup and makes it very flavorful. Stock, vegetable broth, or water and chicken bullion could be used instead.
- White beans: Any white bean will work, although cans of Great Northern or Cannelini bean (drained and rinsed) are my preference.
- Salted butter: This adds a little richness to the base of the soup.
- Olive oil: A healthy oil to help cook the vegetables.
- Onion: When chopping your own, try to make sure your pieces are diced pretty much the same size so they cook evenly.
- Jalapeno: Finely chop after removing the seeds, membranes, and stems. If you like your chili with extra kick, you can always leave in the seeds which will make the chili very spicy!
- Garlic: Minced garlic is an aromatic and helps to add a ton of delicious flavor.
- Green Chiles: Using canned diced green chilies helps to give you less prep work. I prefer the mild ones because I want flavor and not a ton of spice. This is an ingredient I ALWAYS have in my pantry.
- Corn kernels: Fresh or frozen corn kernels are great. They add color, a burst of sweetness, and a small crunch in every bite.
- Lime: The lime juice is a great way to add a citric tanginess and round out the flavors.
- Spices: We need ground cumin, ancho chili powder, dried oregano, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper to really emphasize the great flavors of the Southwest in white chicken chili.
- Sour Cream: You can use sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (personal preference). This will be stirred into the chili at the end to help make it a bit creamier and thicker. Plus, it helps dampen the heat if you get things a little too spicy.
How to Make White Chicken Chili
- Blend beans and broth: Take 1 cup of the beans and place it in the blender with ½ cup of chicken broth. Blend until smooth and then set aside. This is going to go into the chili later to make it thicker and creamier.
- Saute the veggies: In a large dutch oven or in a heavy pot over medium heat, melt the butter and the oil. Add in the onion and jalapeno, sauteing for 3-5 minutes until softened and onions are translucent. Add in the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
- Add most of the remaining ingredients: Add in the pureed beans and broth mixture, the remaining beans, the remaining chicken broth, diced green chilies, corn kernels, lime juice, cumin, ancho chili powder, oregano, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. If you are using raw chicken instead of a precooked rotisserie chicken, this is where you add it and let it simmer until cooked through.
- Simmer, then stir in the rest of the ingredients: Cook for 15-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream, shredded cheese, and cooked chicken (or remove the chicken from the pot and shred it with two forks before returning it to the pot).
- Serve with all your favorite toppings: I like to prep bowls of individual toppings to serve with the pot of soup on the table family style so everyone can top their bowls of chili the way they like it best. Personally, I think it's perfect with a few slices of avocado, a little sour cream, and a lime wedge. But my family loves it with corn chips and extra cheese!
What goes with white chicken chili
Sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, chopped green onion, thinly sliced jalapeno, and/or corn chips all work great as toppings!
For some sides, I like to keep things simple and serve it with some fresh fruit or a fruit salad and a thick piece of cornbread.
Is white chicken chili gluten free?
Yes, this chili recipe is naturally gluten free because none of the ingredients requested should contain gluten and it's not thickened with flour. Double check the ingredients and allergy warning labels just in case.
How to thicken white chicken chili
This chili is naturally thickened through the cooking and preparation process. The biggest contributor is the blended beans in step 1. If you'd like your chili even thicker, remove some of the simmered beans and broth and blend until smooth and add back into the pot.
If you want it even thicker, you could make a simple cornstarch slurry by combining 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cold water, then drizzling this into the chili while stirring to thicken.
How to make white chicken chili in crock pot
To make this white chicken chili recipe in the slow cooker, add everything but the sour cream to the bowl of the crock pot (including raw chicken breasts). You can saute the onions, jalapenos, and garlic before adding, if desired.
Cook on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 3 hours. Remove the chicken and shred. Use a ladle to scoop out some of the beans and broth and place in a blender. Blend until smooth and stir back into the soup with the shredded chicken and the sour cream, then it's ready to serve!
Other Southwestern Style Recipes You'll Enjoy
- Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers
- Grilled Poblano Pepper Southwestern Burger
- Grilled Mexican Street Corn Dip
- Whole Roasted Mexican Chicken
- Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Beef
- Crock Pot Pork Green Chili
- Green Chili Egg Casserole
- Ground Beef Enchiladas
White Chicken Chili
- 3 cups cooked shredded chicken (about 1 ½ pounds chicken)
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 30 ounces Great Northern or Cannelini bean, drained and rinsed
- 1 Tablespoon salted butter
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 2 jalapenos stem, seeds, and membranes removed, then finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 8 ounces mild diced green chilies
- 1 cup corn kernels fresh or frozen
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
- Additional sour cream
- Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Sliced avocado
- Chopped green onion
- Thinly sliced jalapeno
- Corn chips
- Place 1 cup of the beans in a blender with ½ cup of the chicken broth and blend until smooth. Set aside.
- Melt the butter along with the oil in a large dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat.
- Add the onions and jalapeno, then saute until softened and the onions turn translucent, around 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds.
- Add the pureed beans and broth, remaining chicken broth, remaining beans, diced green chilies, corn kernels, lime juice, cumin, ancho chili powder, oregano, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Cook for 15-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat and stir in the sour cream and the shredded, cooked chicken.
- Serve topped with additional sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, chopped green onion, thinly sliced jalapeno, and/or corn chips.
- Leftover rotisserie chicken works great for this recipe. If you don't have cooked chicken already, you can add whole chicken breasts in step 4 above. Let the soup simmer until the chicken is done, then remove the chicken and shred, before adding it back to the soup with the sour cream.
- Slow cooker version: Use raw chicken breasts and add everything but sour cream to the bowl of a slow cooker. I still like to saute the onions, jalapeno, and garlic first in a pan with the butter and olive oil before I add those. Cook on LOW for 5-6 hours or on HIGH for 3 hours. Remove the chicken and shred. Use a ladle to scoop some of the beans and broth into a blender and blend before stirring back into the soup with the shredded chicken and sour cream.
- This soup will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. Or if you plan to make ahead and freeze, don't add the sour cream until after the soup is thawed and heated on the stovetop.