The Best White Chili With Chicken Recipe

Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Why It Works

  • Roasting the chilies until blackened then using the skin to flavor the broth base for the soup lends deep, rich smoky flavors to the final dish.
  • Soaking beans in salted water helps keep them tender as they cook.
  • Chicken is poached just until cooked through before being shredded and stirred back into the soup to keep it moist.
  • A healthy handful of shredded cheese enriches the stew.

To be frank, I'm not 100% certain where this dish of tender chicken and white beans bound in a creamy, fresh green-chili sauce topped with shredded cheese comes from. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the recipe actually originated on the back of a wrapper from a can chopped green chilies. But our version is better than that. Much, much better. Tender, creamy, spicy, and bright, this is the stuff even a dyed-in-the-wool chile con carne traditionalist will dip their finger into when they think nobody is watching.

Note: This recipe can be made with canned beans in place of soaked. Use 4 (15 ounce) cans of drained, rinsed cannelini beans. Start from step 2 and reduce simmering time in step 4 to 30 minutes.

Recipe Facts



Active: 75 mins
Total: 10 hrs 15 mins
Serves: 6 to 8 servings

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  • 1 pound dried small white (Navy) beans, Great Northern beans, or cannellini beans (see note)

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 fresh poblano chiles

  • 4 fresh Anaheim or Hatch chiles

  • 2 jalapeño chiles

  • 1 medium onion, peeled, trimmed, and split in halt from top to bottom

  • 8 medium cloves garlic

  • 1 whole pickled jalapeño pepper, plus 2 tablespoons pickling liquid from the can

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

  • 1 quart homemade or store-bought low sodium chicken stock

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed

  • 4 breast boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds)

  • 1 pound shredded pepper Jack cheese, divided

  • 2 tablespoons fresh juice from 2 limes, plus 1 lime cut into wedges for serving

  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves, divided

  • 4 to 6 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced


  1. Cover beans with 1 gallon (4 quarts) water. Add 1/4 cup salt and stir until dissolved. Cover and let rest at room temperature at least 8 hours and up to 24. Drain and rinse beans.

  2. Adjust broiler rack to 8 inches below broiler element and preheat broiler to high. Place poblanos, Anaheims, jalapeños, onion, and garlic on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Toss with one tablespoon oil using your hands to coat. Season with salt. Place under broiler and broil, turning peppers and rearranging vegetables occasionally, until peppers are blackened on all sides and skins are wrinkled all over, 15 to 20 minutes total. Gather up foil and form a sealed pouch. Let chilies rest for 5 minutes.

  3. Place chilies and chicken stock in a large bowl. Peel chilies under the chicken stock, leaving skins and seeds behind. Transfer chili flesh to the cup of a hand blender or a standing blender. Add broiled onion, broiled garlic, and the canned jalapeño (do not add jalapeño pickling liquid). Blend until a smooth purée is formed. Set aside.

  4. Heat remaining oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add cumin and coriander and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chili purée and cook, stirring, until incorporated. Strain chicken stock into pot, pressing on skins and seeds to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard skins and seeds.

  5. Add soaked beans and chicken breasts to pot, adding water as necessary until beans and chicken are fully submerged. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken breasts register 150°F on an instant read thermometer, about 15 minutes.

  6. Transfer chicken breasts to a bowl and let rest. Continue simmering broth and beans until beans are fully tender, about 1 hour total. Remove 1 1/2 cups of beans and their liquid and transfer to a standing blender or the work cup of an immersion blender. Blend until completely smooth. Stir back into pot.

  7. Shred chicken into bite-sized pieces and stir back into stew. Stir in half of cheese until melted. Stir in jalapeño pickling liquid, lime juice, and half of cilantro. Season to taste with salt.

  8. Serve immediately with extra shredded cheese, lime wedges, cilantro, and scallions.

Special equipment

Dutch oven, hand blender or standing blender

This Recipe Appears In

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
673 Calories
27g Fat
42g Carbs
65g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 673
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 27g 35%
Saturated Fat 13g 63%
Cholesterol 147mg 49%
Sodium 1235mg 54%
Total Carbohydrate 42g 15%
Dietary Fiber 11g 38%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 65g
Vitamin C 23mg 115%
Calcium 630mg 48%
Iron 9mg 50%
Potassium 1637mg 35%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)