There is something really satisfying about cooking a nice pot of chili. As much as I love traditional red chili with tomatoes and chili powder, I also love a good white one with white beans and lots of cumin. Mine is full of vegetables and has a nice smoky flavor from the bacon. I love having my boys gather at the counter and help measure out all of the vegetables.–Jenny Flake


This white bean and chicken chili, though hardly a traditional chili, can be embellished with whatever chili fixin’s you like. A squeeze of lime. A flurry of diced avocado. A dollop of sour cream. A handful of tortilla chips. It’s quite a lot soupier, a little smokier, and, in some ways, subtler than most chilis. It’s a soupy Tex-Mex stew, actually, though we daren’t call it such because we can’t recall ever seeing bacon in a recipe for any Mexican soup. But you get the idea.

A yellow Dutch oven filled with white bean and chicken chili, topped with pieces of bacon.

White Bean and Chicken Chili

4.92 / 12 votes
This white bean and chicken chili, a Mexican-inspired meal that’s made with smoky bacon, onions, carrots, celery, peppers, and spices, is hearty, healthy, and completely doable on a weeknight.
David Leite
Servings6 servings
Calories389 kcal
Prep Time35 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time1 hour


  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 6 ounces pearl onions, peeled, or 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup peeled, shredded carrots, (optional)
  • 1/2 cup diced celery, (optional)
  • 1 Anaheim, poblano, or jalapeño chile pepper, seeded and finely diced, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • Two (15-ounce) cans white beans (any kind), drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • Fry the bacon in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat, turning once or twice, until browned and crisp. Move the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve 3 tablespoons of drippings in the pot.
  • When the bacon has cooled enough to handle, crumble it into pretty small pieces.
  • Heat the reserved bacon drippings over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, if using, and chile pepper and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  • Add the crumbled bacon, stock or broth, chicken, beans, cilantro, cumin, salt, and pepper to the pot and stir to combine. (If you fancy a thicker, more chili-like chili than chili-like stew, mash some of the beans with the back of a fork prior to adding them to the pot.) Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes before serving.
The Picky Palate Cookbook

Adapted From

The Picky Palate Cookbook

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 389 kcalCarbohydrates: 29 gProtein: 26 gFat: 19 gSaturated Fat: 6 gMonounsaturated Fat: 8 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 60 mgSodium: 1082 mgFiber: 7 gSugar: 3 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe © 2012 Jenny Flake. Photo © 2012 Matt Armendariz. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This was such a quick, satisfying dinner. I never think to make chili when I’m trying to repurpose what’s left of a roasted chicken. However, 2 cups shredded chicken (which really isn’t much) was stretched into another meal that was entirely unrecognizable from the day before.

Since the chicken is already cooked, the whole dish comes together quickly yet tastes like something that has cooked for hours. I served this with corn bread (also a recipe from LC) and some sautéed kale and collard greens. This will definitely be served again.

I’m truly surprised at how good this white bean and chicken chili is. Being your average, middle-aged, retired, blue-collar guy, I should be predisposed to not even consider white chili. Ignoring this recipe would’ve been a mistake. Something told me that with a half-pound of bacon, this was a winner.

It took about 20 or so minutes to prepare and another 30 minutes on the stove. I grated baby carrots and used pearl onions from a jar, which saved some time. Overall, this chili was VERY satisfying and I’m certain will be even better when I reheat it for lunch tomorrow…if I can wait that long.

This recipe produces a really good chili. The bacon is a great addition, adding smokiness, saltiness, and overall depth of flavor. Even though this chili recipe produces a dish resembling more of a soup, it’s perfect for a chilly evening.

While putting this recipe together is simple, it does take some time, especially if using the vegetables. This isn’t a dish you want to cook after work or a long day running errands. With all the yummy flavors going on, this chili needs no toppings of any kind. However, some tortilla chips, cheese, and/or sour cream would probably send this chili over the top. Notes: Be sure to really crumble the bacon to a small minced size. If the bacon pieces are a larger chop, they can get chewy as they simmer.

I loved everything about this white bean and chicken chili. It’s quick and easy and a fantastic one-pot meal. Perfect for a work night.

I cooked my chicken ahead of time and made homemade broth at the same time. This chili has the perfect balance of seasonings and flavorings. I used peeled pearl onions from a jar since they were much cheaper than the ones you had to peel yourself. I used an Anaheim chile since that’s what my store had from the choices given. I used chicken thighs for the meat and cannellini beans for the white beans.

This one was just as good reheated the next day. The bacon took a little longer to crisp up in the Dutch oven than it would have in the oven or a frying pan but I’m not complaining since I only had one pot to wash after I’d eaten. I loved the addition of shredded carrot and the cilantro gave the chili a nice brightness. I’ll definitely be making this one again. I ate mine with some crackers.

There’s a nice big smoky flavor in this pot of chili and for me, the recipe bridges the gap between winter comfort and spring’s lighter fare. Poblano peppers were exactly the right choice. They add just enough heat and go really well with the beans and bacon.

Don’t be afraid to use a high-quality rotisserie chicken if making this recipe midweek, or better yet save this recipe for a Monday and use the weekend’s leftovers. Wear gloves when handling poblano peppers. They still contain essential oils that don’t wash off easily and are painful if you touch your eyes.

Don’t exceed the cooking time; the beans are already cooked. The goal is to just get everything up to temperature. Do buy very good bacon smoked your favorite way.

This was a very hearty soup that’s great for cooler weather. It was also very eye-appealing. I loved the flavor of the chicken and bacon together.

The poblano pepper was mild and I like a kick, so a hotter pepper would add a little needed heat. I liked the small size of the onion, carrot, celery, and poblano and the beans and chicken gave the soup a little chunkiness. The cumin added some “chili” flavor and the cilantro topped it off with its freshness.

I cooked the bacon but it didn’t yield enough drippings so I added a little olive oil to sauté the veggies. It really didn’t have enough broth to support the veggies, cannellini beans, chicken, and bacon. I’d add more broth next time, at least 2 cups, maybe more. I’d add the bacon to the bowl of soup just before ladling it into bowls as otherwise, it gets soft and soggy by the time you reach the bottom of the bowl—especially not good for leftovers, in my texture book.

This would also be good with a thicker base. Spin 1/2 to 2/3 of the veggie and bean mixture in a blender, add it back to the broth, and add the chicken and cilantro. Add some cream if you want, but it probably wouldn’t be necessary. Top with bacon and more cilantro. This would give it a creamy texture but would still maintain some of the “bite and chunkiness” of it. This is a winner!

Such a wonderful take on chili. I liked the addition of the bacon to this otherwise traditional chicken chili. I opted to use the carrots and celery and thought that they added a nice flavor (and upped the veggie factor). One thing that I’ll probably do next time I make this is to add a little more cumin to up the “chili” flavor.

This is a delicious and light chili, unlike any I’ve ever tasted (I’m accustomed to red chilis). The shredded carrots were a nice touch, though I think I’ll use more of them next time I make this. I used dried rather than canned beans and recommend this change.

It took more than 15 minutes to get the vegetables tender, and I was using chopped onions, rather than pearl, which I imagine would’ve taken even longer (I didn’t even consider using pearl onions because I thought the size would throw off the balance of the dish and also be difficult to eat using just a spoon). I thought 1 teaspoon cumin was just a little too subtle, so I added about 1/2 teaspoon more.

This is a well-balanced, smoky chicken chili that offers plenty of flavor. This will appeal to both young and old and can be made to the desired spiciness level simply by changing the chile pepper used.

I had a busy day ahead. Lots of driving, dropping off, picking up, etc. I also had guests for dinner. I thought this would be the perfect something that was quick, delicious, and hearty on a chilly winter’s eve. The ingredients were mostly all things I have on hand. It came together in a flash and tasted like it’d cooked all day. My guests thought I was a star! It was great with the little bits of crispy bacon, the big chunks of chicken, and the bowl full of white beans and broth.

I did leave out the celery but found the broth to my liking with just the carrots, onions, and garlic for the base. I think I’d do it with more cilantro next time, as I found it kind of disappeared, plus salt and pepper to taste instead of measured. Other than that, the perfect meal.

This is a nice bowl of white chili. It’s easy to prepare (especially when using premade broth and cooked chicken). The recipe can easily be adjusted to your taste by adding more chile or cumin, which I did.

I used 2 poblano chiles, charred and peeled. Even so, the chili wasn’t spicy at all. Next time I’d use some extra jalapeños to add a bit more heat. I used homemade broth, but I don’t think there’d be a big difference in taste if store-bought chicken stock was used. One teaspoon of cumin isn’t enough. Adjusting the seasoning, I added 2 more teaspoons of cumin and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. I served some lime with the chili; it tasted better with the lime.

This chili had a delicious aroma and a wonderful smoky taste from the bacon. I agree, as a Texan by birth, it wasn’t the chili I knew in Texas. However, it had a delicious flavor. The chili was really chunky with all the vegetables. It was more of a Mexican soup than chili, but that may be my Texas heritage.

I used 1 medium onion, chopped, instead of the pearl onions. Also, I didn’t use the shredded carrot. We enjoyed the chili with cornbread and will definitely make it again. The kitchen smelled so good!

This is a terrific version of white chicken chili. The creamy white beans and the bacon made me go back for seconds. It’s also very quick to make, given a couple of substitutions (instead of pearl onions and shredded carrots, I cut up a yellow onion and two carrots cut into 1/4-inch dice). Rotisserie chicken would work fine here, too, if you don’t happen to have cooked chicken on hand.

Considering I recently made a triple batch of traditional chili for a ski trip to Lake Tahoe, I was pleasantly surprised that my family was so excited to taste this recipe. It must’ve been the wafting irresistible aroma of fresh cilantro, Niman Ranch applewood smoked bacon, cumin, and sautéed mirepoix that was impossible to ignore. Interestingly, it reminded my two teens of the borracho bean soup at their favorite Mexican restaurant in Texas, Pappasitos.

This recipe is a snap to make. One could use chicken made ahead of time, or from a large batch made at another time and frozen, or utilize a nicely roasted supermarket chicken. I typically make soups and stews the day prior to serving to allow the flavors to develop. However, I must say this recipe was tasty just after preparation and even better on day 2, today. I prepared the recipe as written and do think the recipe can be improved with more flavoring. Personally, I’d add more poblano pepper, cumin, garlic, and have half the onion be a red onion for coloring. I’d also serve it with a garnish of fresh cilantro and a lemon or lime wedge.

I really loved this chili. The bacon added such a great flavor. I used about 3/4 cup onion and all the vegetables called for in the recipe. I was skeptical that it only needed 15 minutes of simmering time, but it was pretty flavorful at that point. We could’ve probably eaten then, but I let it go another 15 because I still had cornbread baking, and it tasted even better later.

I used just under a pound of boneless chicken thighs for my shredded chicken, which I’d cooked in a pan while cooking the vegetables. If I don’t have leftover chicken again in the future, I think I’d just add browned chicken (thighs or tenderloins) to the broth and extend the simmer time to further enhance the chili (and shred the meat after it was done cooking). Will definitely make it again!

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I just made this and it is delicious! I used corona beans that I had in the freezer; skipped carrots/celery; and used a small onion (instead of pearl onions) and 2 seeded jalapenos. My bacon was salty so I hardly had to add any salt. Thanks for this recipe!

  2. 5 stars
    This chicken chili recipe is so good! Usually I find chicken chili recipes kind of bland, but this one was not. I loved the addition of the bacon. I did end up using more chicken to stretch the dish a little bit, but flavors were very harmonious and it was very satisfying. I definitely want this to become a weekday staple.