It’s pretty much subconscious at this point – when the weather turns colder, and the leaves start turning, I start craving bowl after bowl of this white chicken chili.
This is not just any white chicken chili – it is a specifically non-authentic, cheap-thrills-style white chicken chili that my friend Sarah made for us a few years ago, and it might be one of my favorite soups of all time. This chili contains several slices of thick bacon and a full block of cream cheese, and thank you for understanding why this is necessary. It is altogether creamy and smoky and cozy and spicy and just really wonderful in its big-flavorful-ness.
Sarah is the kind of person who knows the importance of chili toppings, and so naturally this white chicken chili is a welcoming canvas for chips, cheese, cilantro or green onions or, hmm, let’s see, EVERYTHING.
I can virtually guarantee that this meal is going to have your people bugging you for the recipe (I texted Sarah for the recipe after she made it for me, and my sister texted me for the recipe after I made it for her… this is just how these things work).
There is some amount of adjusting you can do here – pick the type of beans you like, pick the type of chicken (breasts or thighs) that you like, etc. – but I really do not recommend messing with the bacon or the cream cheese. Both are super essential for the creamy, smoky, Tex-Mex queso type vibe that you’re going to get with this soup.
The number of bowls of this white chicken chili that I’ve eaten on the couch, in front of the TV, loaded with chips and cheese and green onions, after a long day, really just living my best life? It’s too many to count. High and still rising.
This recipe is inspired by the white chicken chili that my friend Sarah made for us a few years ago after our daughter was born. The recipe came to her from a husband’s friend’s co-worker, and she’s made many changes to it which she has now passed on to me. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I crave this hardcore every year in the fall!
Common Questions About This White Chicken Chili
Why isn’t there any salt in this chili?
I didn’t include a salt measurement here, or even a mention of seasoning, because I find that with both the bacon AND the chicken broth, it is plenty salty. But you do you!
Can I switch out the beans?
Definitely! This white chicken chili is great with white beans, navy beans, and red beans. Mix and match as you like! And for a less chunky soup, use just one can of beans.
Do I need to drain the bacon grease?
The overall amount shouldn’t be overwhelming as there is no other oil in this recipe, and the bacon grease will work its way into leftovers nicely with really good flavor. That being said, I often just quickly skim the top if / when I start to see some of the grease pooling. If you want, you can drain off the extra tablespoon or so of grease after you fry the bacon with the onion, garlic, and jalapeño in step two.
White Chicken Chili! One of my favorite soups. Creamy, smoky, cozy, and spicy with BIG flavor and simple ingredients. SO GOOD.
4–5 strips of bacon
1–2jalapeños, ribs and seeds removed
half of ayellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoonschili powder
2 cupschicken broth
two 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes with green chiles (with juices!)
1.25 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs(you can also use chicken breasts – I like it both ways)
one 14-ounce can pinto beans
one 14-ounce can black beans
8 ouncescream cheese
Food processor prep: Pulse the bacon through the food processor until it looks like a chunky paste. Remove bacon and do the same with the onion, garlic, and jalapeño.
Cook bacon and veggies: Add the bacon to a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Once the bacon starts heating up, add the onion, garlic, and jalapeño mix so it all cooks together.
Build the soup: Add spices, broth, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer.
Cook chicken: Add chicken. Bring to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove, cool, and shred.
Tie it all up: Stir in the shredded chicken, beans, and cream cheese. The chili will be THICK, especially as it cools. It’s almost like a dip because, yes, we are monsters. Thin it out with water as you like!
Top and serve: Serve with every good thing under the sun, but mostly tortilla chips, cilantro, green onion, and cheese.