The Coziest Light White Chicken Chili

January 25, 2019
34 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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  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.

  • Hunny Badger
    Hunny Badger
  • Margie
  • Kay
  • Jason Frank
    Jason Frank

25 Reviews

Kay February 3, 2024
I cooked about 1.5 pounds of chicken breast in the liquid and put a pound back in once shredded, will use the leftovers for smth else. No jalapeños and about a tsp of chili powder instead of cayenne, super good. Served with sour cream extra lime and cilantro
Jason F. December 6, 2023
So, you say you want 3 full chicken breasts, which seems like way too much. A full chicken breast is made up of 2 halves. Each half is usually considered a portion. So, you want enough chicken to feed 6 people? It doesn't seem like that ratio is correct for the rest of the ingredients, and perhaps you meant to say 3 half chicken breasts?
Kelchili October 3, 2023
I love very much this recipe. I growing also chilis, so I will try it very soon. :) This is my garden:
Kelchili October 3, 2023
I love very much this recipe. I growing also chilis, so I will try it very soon. :) This is my garden:
megan C. March 1, 2023
LOVE THIS RECIPE. This is in my regular rotation, as the nutrition facts are so so good. I typically increase the amount of chicken and carrots, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Be careful with jalepenos! I typically put both in, but once i ruined a batch of chili due to the spiciness. worth the risk, imo
Hunny B. February 7, 2023
All I can say is WOW! Ahhhmazin! Hubby is still raving about it!
Only modifications: minced large garlic clove and halved the salt. Perfection.
Next time will use 2 large breasts instead of 3, but its packs a lot of protein if you're counting macros
Margie February 5, 2023
This is delicious. First time making a non tomato based chili. Much lighter and the flavors worked wonderfully together. After reading some reviews, I used two large chicken breasts, and they were just the right amount. Because of family preference, I used one jalapeño and mild green chilis - it was the perfect heat for us. Also used lime juice rather than lemon. At end, I had cut up avocado and sour cream on the table, that people could add which were a great addition. Also had crusty sourdough bread to sop up what was left in the bowl. Yummm. This gets 5 stars ⭐️ from us. Thank you,
[email protected] February 4, 2023
Terrific recipe, I’ve made it twice and love this as an alternative to regular chili. Only subs were lime for lemon, and I added a poblano pepper in addition to one jalapeño. Just wonderful ! Also I cooked the chicken in my 3 qt instapot by pressure steaming. Comes out very tender and easily shreddable. And the steam water is basically light chicken broth in case you are short on broth. Enjoy !
happygrrl January 29, 2023
Loved this recipe. A true taste of Santa Fe… brought back visions of New Mexico. So good!
JoAnn January 28, 2023
Loved this recipe. I wasn't sure about the serving size and whether it would be enough for four people, but it was. The flavors were outstanding. Thank you! Will definitely make again.
Shines January 26, 2023
I’ve plenty of more involved, slow-cooked white chilis - and the simplicity, ease, and clarity of flavors in this one beats them all by leaps and bounds. My only mod was to use lime instead of lemon. A definite keeper.
Marcene A. January 22, 2023
When I read the recipe, I didn't think it would be very good and noticed it had no garlic. However, because Food 52 always comes through, I tried it. I used a jar of Hatch chilis (from Costco), black beans, Great Northern beans and Meyer lemon as that's what I had on hand. Shredding the chicken definitely thickened the soup, and I used a mini-food processor for the fresh jalapeños and carrots. It was absolutely out of this world! My husband has talked about it for two days, and he has exquisite taste when it comes to food. Thanks for a very forgiving recipe that gets even better the second day!!!
Nancy D. January 21, 2023
Haven't made it yet, but I will allow alot more than the 5 min that is the supposed prep time! (Sounds yummy! Top with a dollop of Mexican sour cream?)
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?
W J. January 22, 2023
Search for slow cooker white chicken chili and you will find many recipes
Basically it will go something like this:
Brown chicken or not and add to slow cooker
Top with cumin, cayenne (if using), salt, pepper, and butter.
Add onion, carrot, beans, chilies, and chicken broth
Note: reduce chicken broth to ~3 cups as less evaporation will occur in the slow cooker.
Cover and cook on low for 8 hours
Remove chicken to a plate and shred (easily done in a stand mixer, btw)
Return shredded chicken to slow cooker
Add scallions, lemon/lime juice, adjust seasoning.
Add sour cream, cream cheese, and/or 1/2&1/2, if desired.
Cover and cook on high 15 minutes
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.