White (Bean) Chili

It’s really cold. The low last night in Boston was -4.

Growing up, a cold spell meant it was time for my dad’s chili–one of the only things he ever really cooked, aside from slicing the bacon for breakfast. I don’t think Mom trusted him with much else! There was once an incident with some vegetable soup she asked him to make… Nowadays, he does help more in the kitchen, but I think it took some time for her to forgive his gluey vegetable soup.

Anyway, I’ve always LOVED chili–but I don’t get all into the antics about whether it’s just beans or just meat or both. And, I’m pretty sure the real chili-fanatics would scoff at the idea of this white chili–chili made from white beans, with shredded chicken breast.

But, like I said, I love chili, and I love trying new recipes so when I first heard that white chili was a thing, I got excited! And then I didn’t really follow the traditional recipe for white chili. I broke the white chili rules–I added tomatoes and chili powder. So this is my take on white chili. It’s not really white…but I’m not clever enough to make up a new name, so I’ll just throw in a paranthetical (Bean) so all the haters know I’m not trying to pretend this is true white chili.

White (Bean) Chili


  • 1 pound, white northern beans, soaked overnight or all day while you’re at work
  • 2 medium, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium onion, peeled but left whole
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 15oz can of diced tomatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • cilantro


1. In a large soup pot, add the beans with enough water to cover. Add the whole peeled onion, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and bring to a boil. Cover slightly and adjust the heat so that the beans boil steadily (sligtly above a simmer).


2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Trim any fat off the chicken breasts. Coat the chicken with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 30-35 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

3. After the beans have been cooking for about half an hour, season with salt and pepper and cook until the beans are soft but not falling apart (another 25-30 minutes). Add water to cover the beans as necessary.

4. Once the chicken is done, let it cool and then shred it.

4. Remove the whole onion from the beans. Reserve 1.5 cups of the bean liquid (you’ll slowly add this back in as the chili cooks with its seasonings).

5.  Add the chopped onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, red pepper flakes, chili powder, and can of diced tomatoes. Stir well and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the chicken. Bring to a simmer and cook another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the 1.5 cups of bean liquid a little at a time as necessary to keep a thick chili consistency (during the course of simmering 30 minutes, I ended up adding the whole 1.5 cups of reserved bean liquid).

Before chicken.
Before simmering.
After chicken.
After simmering. I love how the color changes.

6. Serve and garnish with chopped cilantro and a dab of nonfat Greek yogurt (no cholesterol!). You could eat this with a some crusty bread, tortilla chips, or oyster crackers.

Note: There’s not much in the way of vegetables in this chili. You could throw in some baby spinach, kale, or chard (emphasis on baby–so that it’s tender and fast-cooking) at the end and let it wilt into the chili. I opted to leave the recipe as is and had an appetizer of roasted broccoli–gotta have those green veggies!

Bundle up,



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