Creamy White Chicken Chili

White chicken chili with toppings

White chicken chili with toppings

Every summer growing up, my family would take a trip up north to stay with family friends at their lake house. It was a long drive and we would arrive hungry for a home cooked meal, slightly stir-crazy from the trip, and just in time to watch the sun dip down into the lake. One year after arriving, we sat on the back deck and watched the sun set while eating bowls of white chicken chili. I’m not sure if it was the setting, the company, or the soup itself, but ever since that summer night, I have craved this soup on a regular basis. Over the years, I’ve tried probably dozens of different recipes in an attempt to recreate that vacation chicken chili, but never got it quite right until I found this recipe from Sarah Carey (love her!). It seemed like it would be the chicken chili I had fantasized about for years, so I decided to try it for a Sunday Soup Night last winter.

The recipe was so quick and easy to make and it smelled amazing simmering away on the stove. I was sure that I had succeeded in making my vacation white chicken chili until taking my obligatory post-cooking first bite which is when I realized that the poblano peppers I had put in the soup must have been the all-time spiciest in the world. My eyes watered, my face turned red, I wouldn’t be surprised if there had been steam coming out of my ears. It was inedibly spicy. Unwilling to waste so much soup (and of course, needing my fix of white chicken chili), I threw in a lot of rice and a lot of cream, hoping to lessen the spiciness.

Big pot of white chicken chili

This resulted in – dare I say it – my favorite white chicken chili ever! It’s filling from the rice and beans, has all the flavors of a classic white chicken chili, is rich, creamy, and just spicy enough. My very favorite thing though? The toppings! I love soup toppings and this chili is the perfect base for so many – red onion, green onion, tomato, cilantro, sour cream, monterrey cheese, tortilla chips, avocado, lime, jalapeño. This makes it customizable and great for company.

Now to find a lake house to eat it at while watching a sunset…

White chicken chili with toppings

Creamy White Chicken Chili

  • Servings: 6-8
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  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 pound poblano pepper (about 2 large peppers), seeds removed and diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 3 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup masa harina
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • toppings of choice (avocado, red onion, green onion, tomato, cilantro, tortilla chips, monterrey jack cheese, sour cream, lime wedges, jalapeño)


  1. Add the olive oil to a large pot over medium-high heat. Pat chicken thighs dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown the thighs in batches in the pot, being careful not to overcrowd. Cook 3-4 minutes per side and remove from pot.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the diced poblano pepper and onion. Scrape up all the browned chicken bits from the bottom of the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until onions have softened and are slightly translucent. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and rice to the pot and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute more, until the rice is slightly toasted and the spices are fragrant. Add the canned green chiles, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and chicken thighs and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes, partially covered.
  3. Remove chicken thighs to a cutting board and shred into bite-size pieces. In a small bowl, whisk together the masa harina and 1 cup hot cooking liquid to make a slurry. Add the slurry back to the pot along with the beans, the heavy cream, and the chicken. Stir to combine and cook 5 minutes more, until chili is heated through and has thickened slightly. Serve with your favorite toppings.

Masa harina can be found in the Latin American section of your grocery store.

Adapted from Sarah Carey


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