White Bean Chicken Chili is so easy and versatile. It can be made using dried or canned beans, with fresh, or rotisserie chicken, and of course, as much or as little heat as you desire
How to make - Easy Homemade Spicy White Bean Chicken Chili
As the rains begin to fall, and the world turns dark and stormy, my thoughts turn to warm, comfort foods.
I love that each season seems to have its own menu.
So I did. White Bean Chicken Chili.
Why you should make this recipe
Besides the fact that it's ridiculously delicious?
I have a lot of chilis on my site, including those that are all meat such as Chili Verde and Chili Colorado, or those that include beans and GASP tomatoes, like Beef Chipotle Chili with Beer and 3-Bean Chili con Carne, but those all are red sauced chili, and I wanted to make something different.
White Bean Chicken Chili is different from a "traditional" chili in many ways, but mostly, because it's made with chicken, white beans, and green chili peppers. No chili powder present.
Ingredients for Homemade Spicy White Bean Chicken Chili
- Small White beans - such as Navy or Great Northern White Beans. Stay away from the larger Cannelli and Lima varities.
- Chicken - you can use fresh chicken or rotisserie chicken. But fresh diced chicken is best.
- Poblano Chili - Poblano chili adds a really great flavor to the chili.
- Fire Roasted California Chili - I used canned for convenience, but you can roast your own if you want.
- Fire Roasted Jalapeno Chili - again, I used canned for convenience, but you can roast your own.
- Diced onion - Yellow or white. Best not to use red onion or a sweet onion such as Vidalia.
- Dried spices - cumin, oregano, and garlic powder.
While you can certainly use canned white beans in this recipe, I recommend you start with dried beans.
The first reason is dried beans cook longer which allows them to soak up more of the lovely chili-infused cooking liquid.
Second, dried beans are not previously processed, do not have added salt, AND do not come in a can that may be coated with BPA or Bisphenol - both linked to cancers.
I think the main issue with making beans from dried beans is, almost all recipes tell you that you have to soak the beans overnight and that takes pre-planning. But there are quicker methods as I explain below in soaking methods.
You thicken the chili by pureeing some of the beans and stirring them back into the pot. Just make sure you do this step before adding the chicken, whether you use fresh or previously cooked rotisserie chicken.
Yes, by not using any flour as a thickener the chili is gluten-free.
The amount of heat can be set by the number and types of chilies you use.
Poblano - Poblano peppers are fairly mild but give a good flavor to the chili.
Anaheim - Also fairly mild, but can be hotter than a Poblano. Also called California chile, or New Mexico chile. Hatch chiles can be used also but may skew hotter than Anaheim.
Jalapeno - Jalapeno peppers can range from 3500 to 8000 on the Scoville scale.
If you use canned white beans only cook them in the flavorful broth long enough to give them some flavor. Thirty minutes should do it. And be sure to rinse them well so they aren't adding too much salt to the dish. AND you might need to decrease the amount of liquid, as the beans will not be absorbing any of it.
To Soak or Not to Soak, that is the question.
I think the main issue with making beans from dried beans is, almost all recipes tell you that you have to soak the beans overnight.
And that takes pre-planning. And I don't always pre-plan.
So reach for the can.
Methods to soak dried beans
- The pre-soak method -Yes, pre-soak all night. If you were a good cook and knew your plan for the next day, go ahead and put those dried beans into a bowl and cover them with about 4 inches of water - set aside and let them soak up the liquid. Drain and ready to use. Today's thinking is to soak overnight in the refrigerator to keep them from fermenting and creating gasses.
- The quick soak method - This will do the same as the above method but in about 1 hours time. Place the dried beans into a pot, cover with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, turn off the heat and allow to sit for 1 hour. Once drained the beans are ready to use.
- The I don't have time, I forgot, no-soak method - Yes, the beans will cook. It will just take them longer. So while pre-soaked beans may become tender in 2 - 3 hours, the no soaked beans might take 3 - 4 hours.
So really, soaking the beans is all about the amount of time you have and the amount of preplanning you do.
What kinds of Chilies should I use?
The backbone of good chili, of course, comes from the chilies themselves. In this preparation, since I wasn't using chili powder, I needed to have a good variety of different flavorful chilies.
For convenience, I used canned fire-roasted Anaheim chilies, Ortega™ brand is my choice, along with some fire-roasted jalapeno peppers. If you don't want your chili too hot, you could not use the jalapeno peppers and just add another can of mild fire-roasted Anaheim chilies.
And of course, if you desire, you could roast your own fresh. Probably 3 whole Anaheim and 4-5 jalapeños would be a nice substitute for the canned ones.
To those, I started with about a cup and a half of diced poblano peppers.
What should I use for the chicken?
I chose fresh chicken breast that I cut into a ½ inch dice. To me, this was a perfect choice.
However - You could also use cooked chicken, either from a purchased or homemade rotisserie chicken, or left-over chicken. Just be sure to remove all the skin; shred or dice, as you prefer.
Step by Step Instructions
Using FRESH Chilies and Dried Beans
- Soak the beans using your preferred method
- Roast, seed and chop the chilies
- Dice the onions and poblano chilies
- Heat oil in a large Dutch oven and add the onions and peppers, saute over medium-low heat until softened
- Add your diced roasted chilies
- Drain the beans and add to the pot along with the chicken stock and spices
- Cook over medium-low heat, partially covered, for 2 - 3 hours or until the beans are tender
- Blend a portion of the beans, up to half of them, in a blender or using an immersion blender
- Stir in the chicken, either fresh diced chicken breast or left-over rotisserie chicken cut or torn into bite sized pieces
- Cook for a half an hour or until the chicken is cook through and has absorb some of the chilie flavors
- Taste and adjust seasoning, add water if the chili seems to thick.
- Serve and enjoy
If making with canned beans and canned chilies
- Dice the onion and poblano chili
- In a Dutch oven or other pot, (see cooking methods) heat the oil over medium-low heat, saute until tender
- Add the canned chilies, dice them if you did not buy them already diced
- Add the chicken stock and spices and simmer, for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
- Add the drained canned beans and simmer 30 minutes
- Remove up to half the mixture and blend it in a blender or use an immersion blender - return to the pot.
- Add the diced chicken or rotisserie chicken cut or torn into bite sized pieces and simmer 30 minutes to cook the chicken and allow it to absorb some of the chilie flavor
- Taste and adjust seasonings, add water if the chili seems to thick
- Serve and enjoy
Different ways to cook Spicy White Bean Chicken Chili
Cooking methods galore
- You can make this recipe as stated.
- You can make this recipe in your crock-pot or slow-cooker. Follow your cooker's instructions for making beans and/or chili and adjust the ingredients. If making it in the crock-pot, I wouldn't bother sautéing the onions and peppers, unless you have a browning element in your cooker. Also, cook the beans and then add the chicken, if raw, during the last hour, adjusting the heat to high.
- You can make this recipe in your pressure multi-cooking quick slow cooker, also known as an Instant Pot. Same as above, just quicker. Your beans, even if un-soaked will take about an hour to cook tender, then release the pressure, puree the beans as instructed, then add the chicken. You won't need to cook on pressure again, just bring to a simmer and go for the 15 additional minutes.
As I said, you can make it with pre-soaked, or un-soaked beans.
You can make it with raw or cooked chicken.
It's all just a matter of time.
This chili is perfect when served with some Scallion Corn Muffins.
This post was originally published in November 2016. It has been updated to be more informative and easier to follow.
Easy Homemade Spicy White Bean Chicken Chili
- 1 pound dry small white beans or 3 15-ounce cans white beans
- 1 ½ cups diced onion 1 large
- 1 cup seeded and diced fresh poblano chili about 2 medium, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- 1 7-ounce can diced fire-roasted chilis (such as ™Ortega brand) or 4 roasted seeded California chilies
- 1 4-ounce can diced fire-roasted jalapeno (such as ™Ortega brand)* or 3 - 4 roasted seeded jalapeno peppers
- 1 quart homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons cumin powder or to taste
- 2 teaspoons crushed dried oregano preferably Mexican, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt to taste
- 1 pound cubed chicken breast, diced into a small dice or 2 - 3 cups rotisserie chicken torn or cut into bite sized pieces
- Water as needed
- Optional Ingredients
- Sour Cream
- Shredded Jack cheese
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- *The jalapeno pepper add heat if you don't want it too hot, add a small can of roasted mild peppers in their place
- Soak the beans, or don't. See the making of for more information on the benefits or lack thereof for soaking beans.
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat; add the onions and raw poblano pepper; cook, stirring often until softened - about 5 minutes. Add the cans of peppers, along with the drained beans, chicken stock, and spices.
- If using dried beans, cook, partially covered, for 2 - 3 hours, or until the beans are tender. If using canned beans, cook 30 minutes, to allow the beans to absorb some of the flavors.
- Once the beans are tender, either take half of them and blend them in your blender or use an immersion blender to pulse part of the beans - but not all of them. Stir in the chicken pieces - cook, about 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Adjust the liquid (it may be quite thick at this point) with water. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve in warmed bowls with optional ingredients, as desired.