White Chicken Chili

Chili is one of those foods (kinda like chocolate chip cookies), for which everyone has their own definition of perfect. For me, this white chicken version is my absolute perfect chili. I mean, I love a good regular “red” chili, too, but I feel like regular chili requires lots of toppings to make it spectacular. I usually put taco chili on top of noodles, and then top it with avocado, chopped onion, sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream, and a handful of crushed saltines. It’s delicious, but a lot of work! With white chicken chili, no toppings are necessary. It is creamy and flavorful all on its own. It’s absolutely wonderful. This is my perfect chili.

White Chicken Chili

Why is it called white chili?

What most people think of as “chili” is red, thanks to a tomato base, red meat, and darker beans (if you use them—people have strong opinions on whether beans have any place in a traditional chili!). But this white chicken chili recipe is, well, almost white. There’s no tomato to tint it red, and the chicken, white beans, and milk keep everything light in color.

What ingredients do I need to make this white chicken chili recipe?

My favorite way to make white chili is 100% from scratch—I boil a whole chicken to make the broth and the meat for the chili, plus I cook the beans from dry. It means this dish takes a few hours to put together, but the flavor is out-of-this-world amazing if you go about it that way.

You’ll need:

  • A whole chicken. Yep, you’re just going to drop the whole chicken in the soup pot with some water at first—that will give you the chicken broth and the meat for the chili!
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Diced mild green chiles
  • Jalapeño pepper
  • Great Northern or navy beans. Cannellini beans will work as well.
  • Spices: Ground cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper
  • Whole-fat coconut milk or whole cow’s milk
  • Fresh cilantro and tortilla chips for serving
White Chicken Chili

I don’t want to wait that long for chili—how can I speed things up?

If you’re just putzing around the house on a Sunday afternoon, making this white chicken chili really doesn’t take all that much hands-on time. Just a few stirs here and there while you go about your business. But if you want something faster, try our Instant Pot version of this chili! It has all the same flavors, but in a fraction of the time.

What should I serve with this white chicken chili recipe?

For some reason, we always serve white chicken chili with tortilla chips for dipping, which is a departure from the cornbread we usually serve alongside red beef chili. Either would work, but I love using crunchy tortilla chips to scoop up the creamy, delicious chicken chili. I add a little dusting of freshly minced cilantro to the top of the chili to add a bit of color, scoop out a handful of tortilla chips, and dinner is served.

White Chicken Chili

What do I do with the leftovers?

Store any chili leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. Reheat over medium-low on the stove until warmed through. You can also spoon some into a bowl, cover it loosely with a paper towel, and microwave to reheat the chili.

This chili also lends itself well to freezing! Portion some white chili into a freezer-safe container, making sure to leave some space at the top in case the soup expands as it freezes. Freeze without the lid on—once the chili is frozen solid, label the lid and seal the container. Eat within 4-6 months. Thaw the soup overnight in the refrigerator before heating on the stove or in the microwave.


White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili

Yield: 8 servings
Cook Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

Warm up with this flavorful, hearty white chicken chili recipe. Made with chicken, white beans, and flavorful spices, this dish is perfect for a cozy night.

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman


  • 1 whole chicken
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans diced mild green chiles
  • 1 jalapeño, diced, seeds and membranes removed
  • 1 pound dried Great Northern or Navy beans
  • 3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 14-ounce can whole fat coconut milk OR 2 cups whole cow's milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Shredded cilantro and tortilla chips for serving


  1. Place the chicken in a large Dutch oven or soup pot, cover with water, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes.
  2. Remove chicken from the water, and let cool to touch. Once cool, remove meat from the bones and shred.
  3. Meanwhile, add the onion, garlic, chiles, jalapeño, dried beans, cumin, and chili powder to the chicken cooking water.
  4. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and simmer for about 90 minutes, or until the beans are tender.
  5. With 20 minutes left in the bean cooking time, add in the shredded chicken, milk, salt, and pepper. Serve topped with cilantro and tortilla chips.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 413Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 71mgSodium: 184mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 7gSugar: 1gProtein: 29g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

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  1. This looks so tasty!
    Have you ever considered adding a “Pin it” option to your recipes? I used to have the browser button but it somehow disappeared and I’m too much of a ludite to figure out how to get it back, haha. So I’m limited to re-pinning or things that have the “pin-it” option. I would pin a gazillion of your recipes if I could!! 🙂

  2. Mmm this looks so very delicious! I’ll bet people are surprised at how tasty it is (as the correlation between fiery red and tastiness is a tough one for people to get around when it comes to chili). Using the boiled chicken water must give this dish so much flavour!

  3. This looks delicious! One quick question though, do you not have to worry about fat from the broth not being skimmed off? Or does that just add to the flavor and not worry about it? I’m very much a beginner but did recently make broth and I skimmed the fat off like the instructions said on that recipe…just curious.

      1. Well okay then! 🙂 I’ll give it a go. Like I said, beginner so I read the instructions and follow the rules. One of these days I’ll start breaking them when I get a little more comfortable. HA! I’ll leave it on this time—making the soup on Friday!

  4. Just wanted to say that I received your new cookbook in the mail last week and LOVE it!!! It is a beautiful book and I can’t wait to get started on making some of those awesome recipes!!!