The Coziest Light White Chicken Chili

January 25, 2019
13 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves about 4 or 5
Author Notes

White chicken chili, how I love you. You're deeply flavorful. Brothy, yet hearty. You're subtly creamy without being nap-inducing. You come together quickly—and mainly from a handful of pantry staples. Best of all, you scarcely need adornment, but you let me cover you with all sorts of tangy, crispy, complementary handfuls anyway: crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, grated Monterey Jack, and hot sauce. And you always cheer me on when I go back for a second—or third—bowl. —Ella Quittner

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: 9 Delicious Chili Recipes—Including One That's *Juuust* Right For You. —The Editors

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt for seasoning chicken breasts, plus 1 teaspoon, plus more as needed
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (whole)
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
  • 2 jalapeños, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped white part of scallion, plus 1/2 cup finely chopped light green and dark green part of scallion
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth (homemade or boxed)
  • 2 (4-ounce) cans fire-roasted diced green chiles
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed
  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
In This Recipe
  1. Season the chicken breasts all over with about 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large Dutch oven or stock pot over a medium flame a few minutes until melted and foaming. Add the chicken breasts and brown on one side. Flip, and brown on second side. Remove the chicken breasts with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Turn the flame down to low and add the remaining butter. Heat until it begins to foam. Add the onion, jalapeños, white part of the scallion, carrot (if using), and 1 teaspoon of salt to the pot, and sauté about 5 to 6 minutes until the onion pieces are golden and starting to brown around the edges.
  4. Make a well in the center and add the cumin and cayenne pepper. Sauté for 30 seconds, then pour in the chicken broth and use it to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the diced green chiles, lemon juice, beans, and the browned chicken breasts. Cover and bring to a rolling simmer, then cook uncovered (still at a rolling simmer) about 20 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by roughly one-quarter and the chicken can be easily shredded with two forks.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to skim off the film that’s collected at the top of the broth. Remove the chicken breasts to a separate large bowl, and shred with two forks, then return the shredded chicken to the pot. Stir in most of the 1/2 cup finely chopped scallion greens, reserving a few tablespoons for garnish, and remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed with additional salt and lemon juice.
  6. Serve while hot, garnished to your liking.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Hana Asbrink
    Hana Asbrink
  • Ella Quittner
    Ella Quittner
  • ks.grand
  • Ameliatah

11 Reviews

ks.grand May 17, 2022
I really like this recipe! I used lime juice instead of lemon and it really added a nice amount of flavor! Next time I would add a little more seasoning than written, but that’s just my preference. I also didn’t skim the foam off at the end so it made my chili a thicker consistency than pictured, so that’s something I’ll keep doing. Would definitely make again!
Ameliatah January 6, 2022
I loved this recipe. Chili doesn't always need the tomatoes. Don't skip the carrots- I know they are optional but they really round out the dish. The only big change I made was adding the tiniest dollop of cream cheese- this was only to mellow out the extra cayenne I accidentally added in. I think the lemon squeeze is the cherry on top.
jophine13 November 4, 2021
This is a change from the usual chili recipes. No tomatoes.
Lula M. March 14, 2021
Surprised by lack of tomato in this recipe... Uhm... Why no tomato? Would adding ruin? It's what I associate with chills I guess...
Deb R. October 11, 2020
Made this last night. It was stellar! I ended up having too much chicken after shredding (slightly misread this for 3 lbs vs 3 breasts), but kept it in and added a can of light beer for more liquid as I didn't have any more broth. Also, didn't have Cayenne so went with Chili Pepper. And I didn't want to waste any lemon juice that I squeezed - so added a touch more. Love this recipe!...thank you Ella Q!
Jessica D. November 15, 2019
How would you suggest modifying the recipe for a slow cooker?
Wulfstan February 25, 2019
I found myself having to leave half the chicken out after shredding. Seems like 3 whole breasts is far too much.
Fran G. January 30, 2019
In the directions under number 4 it states to add lemon juice
However, this is not listed as one of the ingredients.
How much is needed in this recipe?
Ella Q. January 30, 2019
Hi Fran,

Thanks so much for flagging that! It was an accidental omission—I've added it to the ingredient list. (1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed)

Hana A. January 29, 2019
As my daughter likes to say to me about any dish she likes: "This is not delicious. This is MORE than delicious." Try this recipe if you're a white chicken chili fan. You will love it.

BTW, since I have heat-intolerant people in my midst, I sauteed the jalapenos separately and added them on top of the mild WCC as a garnish.
Ella Q. January 29, 2019
Thank you Hana and Lana!!! So glad you enjoyed. :)