White Bean and Chicken Chili

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.

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

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 sorta 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.–Renee Schettler Rossi

White Bean and Chicken Chili

  • Quick Glance
  • (5)
  • 35 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 6
4.8/5 - 5 reviews
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Fry the bacon in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat, turning once or twice, until browned and crisp. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve 3 tablespoons 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. Originally published April 16, 2013.

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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.


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  1. I made this soup and it was wonderful. Then I made it again with Hatch green chilies and a chopped serrano and it was even better.

    The third time I made it I switched out the canned beans for some Mayo coba beans that I made before and had in the freezer. There’s nothing wrong with canned beans, but making the beans from scratch is cheaper, healthier, and tastier. And they freeze well.


    1. Thanks, Bkhuna. We so appreciate you sharing your variations on the recipe with us!

  2. This chili boasts of well-rounded flavors that play off of each other. The cilantro, garlic, bacon, chile pepper, and cumin make a great combination that really arouses the senses. My entire family loved it and it was a meal in and of itself, which is what a mother loves! I used 1 small chopped onion, as I always keep a bunch on hand, added fresh grated carrots, and also chose to include the celery. I thought the cooking times noted were great because the celery added a bit of crunch but was still cooked through. Without these veggies I don’t think the chili would be quite as fulfilling. One suggestion I have is to include a note on the process of roasting and removing the membrane of the chile pepper in case someone doesn’t know how. This also adds time to the process, which is important to account for, and people don’t have to leave your Web site to find out how to do it. I’d also mention the importance of not letting your bare hands touch the pepper. I think this would be best with dark chicken meat.

  3. This is a regular for us (I think it’s my son’s favorite food after pizza) and a great use for whatever meat is left from a roast chicken plus the stock I’ve made from said bird. I use lots of onion, carrot, and celery, and serve it with corn bread. Since I add the bacon at the very end, right before I take the pot to the table, I typically save prep time by using some of my bacon grease stash for the vegetables while cooking the bacon in the oven. The only thing that makes this soup/chili even better is using turkey in place of the chicken — it’s a great day-after-Thanksgiving dinner!

  4. Fabulous recipe! This was my first attempt at chicken chili and the family was practically licking the bottom of the pot. I did make a few little tweaks to use what I had on hand. First, I dumped everything in a crockpot and let it simmer on low for six hours. No bacon, but I do keep a jar of rendered peppered bacon grease in my fridge for emergencies. I kept all the veggies and beans true to the recipe; used store-bought rotissarie chicken breast meat and homemade broth. Instead of the seasoning in the recipe, I used about a tablespoon or two of Penzey’s Chili 3000 Seasoning Mix and a poblano pepper and a small gypsy pepper for spice. Delicious!! I think this will be a regular winter favorite.

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