The first time I had white bean and chicken chili, well, it just wasn’t that exceptional. As with so many things, the first impression stuck with me and I refused to consider that it might be better than I remembered. It took a long time to get past my sense that it just didn’t live up to it’s red meat cousin, but I’ve finally come to terms with it and now acknowledge that white beans, chicken and green chilis can not only hold their own, but can even surpass a red chili pot.
For a long time I was intimidated by white chili. You can’t rely on chili powder to make it taste like “chili.” It’s subtler than the red meat variety. There are not tomatoes in this chili. It’s just not easy to hide mistakes in a sea of white beans and chicken, with a little bit of oregano and some green chilis.
And yet, it’s a really simple recipe. I’ve learned that my first experience with this chili was tainted and that, really, there’s nothing to fear here. The flavors come primarily from garlic, cumin, oregano, green chilis and good old fashioned salt and pepper. Top it with a bit of cilantro (if you like) and some cheese and you’re good to go.
Now, if you’re a purist, you will want to start with dry beans. I recommend that you brine them and then slow cook them either in the oven around 250F or in a slow cooker. But, if you are in a hurry this recipe comes out just fine with canned beans. Just make sure you drain and wash them well before adding them to to the pot.
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion (diced)
3 cloves garlic (diced)
3 Tbsp oregano (divided)
3 Tbsp cumin powder (divided)
1/2 tsp ground white pepper (divided)
2 tsp kosher salt (divided)
1 Tbsp garlic powder
3 chicken breasts (about 1.5 lbs) cut into 1/2 inch cubes
64 oz canned white kidney (cannellini) beans
24 oz chicken stock
4 oz green chilis
5 whole cloves
In a 5 quart dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes, then add the diced onion. Saute the onion for 5-7 minutes until translucent. Add 2T oregano, 2T cumin, 1/2 tsp white pepper, and 1 tsp salt and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the cubed chicken and combine with remaining spices. Reduce heat to medium and add chicken and spices to the pan. Saute until nearly cooked through, then add beans, chicken stock, green chilis, and cloves. Reduce heat again to low and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
Garnish with grated cheddar cheese and cilantro.