Sunday dinner
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White Chicken Chili done right

This is the most unique chili recipe I cook on a regular basis. White chili generally means that the chili doesn’t have any chili powder or tomatoes in it. Now “white” may translate into “bland” for you, but this chili is anything but bland.*
*I made the mistake of using more peppers than I have in the recipe below for my parents’ super bowl party. Bland…no. Hellfire…yes. Everyone would say how good it tasted, then stop talking, then start gasping for oxygen. So, I cut back on the heat.

Recipe: White Chicken Chili done right


  • 1 lb great northern beans, sorted and rinsed
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 tbsp lard (or 2 pieces bacon) (optional)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt


  • 3-4 lbs bone in chicken pieces (Thighs and/or breasts)
  • salt and pepper


  • 2 tbsp reserved chicken fat (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 jalapenos, diced (or other hot pepper)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp oregano (preferably mexican oregano)
  • 3 – 4oz cans diced green chiles
  • 2 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2 cups reserved bean broth (or water)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper


1. Cook the beans: Put the beans, 8 cups water, onion, and lard or bacon in a large dutch oven (at least 6 quarts), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 2 to 2.5 hours, or until the beans are tender. Add the salt after 1 hour of cooking. Drain the beans, reserving the liquid they were cooking in (it should be about 2-3 cups), and put the beans back in the dutch oven.

2. Cook the chicken: (Here’s a link to the basic process). After you’ve started the beans, liberally salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Preheat oven to 375*F. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the chicken pieces skin side down, and cook until the skin is well browned, about 5-8 minutes. Turn and cook the other side until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. Drain the excess fat out of the pan (reserve for use with the aromatics in the next step), then put the pan in the preheated oven and cook until the chicken is 160*F in breasts, or 170*F in thighs, about 10-20 minutes depending on the size of the pieces. Remove the chicken to a plate, and allow to cool for a few minutes. (Keep any juices and browned bits in the pan for the next step.) Then, remove the skin, pull the chicken off the bones, and shred it.

3. Saute the aromatics: Put the large skillet you cooked the chicken in back over medium heat, and add enough of the reserved chicken fat to give yourself 2 tbsp of fat in the pan. Allow the pan to heat up until the fond in the pan is starting to sizzle, then add the onion, fresh chili pepper, and a pinch of salt, and cook until softened and slightly browned. Add the garlic, coriander and cumin, stir into the onions, and cook, stirring often, until you can smell the garlic, about 1 minute. Add the cans of diced green peppers, and cook until heated through, 2-3 more minutes.

4. Cook the chili: Put the dutch oven with the beans over medium heat, and add the skillet of aromatics, chicken stock, and reserved bean broth. There should be enough liquid to just come up to the top of the beans; if there isn’t, add more chicken stock or bean broth (or water). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and brown sugar, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

*The beans and the chicken can both be made ahead of time. The beans are actually improved by resting overnight. If you have the time, cook them, let them come to room temperature, and refrigerate overnight.
*I often use leftover chicken in this recipe; if you have extra chicken, this is a good way to use it up.
*Also, you can saute or grill boneless, skinless chicken pieces instead of roasting bone-in pieces, but the flavor of the bone-in pieces is better.
*That being said, grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts do give a nice, smoky flavor; they’re just a little bland compared to the bone-in pieces.
*You can also substitute canned beans for the dried beans, and ground turkey if you need a quick recipe. In fact, I’ll be posting the quick weeknight version of this recipe later in the week.

Related posts:
Need a weeknight dinner version of this recipe?  Check out: White Chicken Chili the Easy Way
Ranch Hand Chili
Texas Red Chili

Inspired by:
White chicken chili recipe from Viking

David Tanis, white beans recipe in A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes

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Filed under: Sunday dinner


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.


  1. The bacon in the picture is cooked – but cooking it isn’t necessary. We want the porky, smoky flavor of the bacon in the beans, and we’ll get that even if the bacon is raw, because of the long cooking time.

  2. Will Murray says

    Love your blogs; respect your thoughts on chili. I’m considering a Thanksgiving chili. Naturally I’d like to go with tradition, so, my questions: would your chicken chili recipe survive the transition to turkey chili? If so, what modifications would you suggest? If not, do you know a good turkey chili alternative?

    And just off the wall: Dungeness crab season opens soon in The City. Is there–can there even be–such a dish as Dungeness Crab Chili?

    • Turkey is a fine substitute- it will work with this recipe. (And, sorry, but I don’t have any crab suggestions. )

  3. Michelle Akers says

    Just making sure: You say “sorted and rinsed” on the beans — so, NOT soaked?

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