White Bean Chicken Chili is a comforting crockpot recipe that’s loaded with tender chicken, dried beans, and tangy green chiles, slow cooked all day and topped with your favorite garnishes!
Temps are finally cooling down around these parts. So how to celebrate cool/cold weather after a summer spent topping 100°? Make soup, of course! But not just any soup...a flavorful, hearty White Bean Chicken Chili, chock full of juicy chicken, tender white beans, and green chiles...and garnished with generous amounts of fresh cilantro, crushed tortilla chips, and creamy Monterrey Jack. It's a fiesta for your taste buds, I tell you!
You're just a few ingredients and spices away from a slow cooker full of White Bean Chicken Chili!
- Dried white beans. Either Navy or Great Northern Beans work great in this recipe. And while it's not necessary to soak your dried beans before slow cooking them, you may do so if you wish. Scroll down a few headings for more information..
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. Or you can use a combination of the above. Or, in lieu of boneless, skinless chicken breasts/thighs, you may use an equivalent amount of your favorite bone-in chicken pieces. Just discard any skin or bones when you shred the cooked chicken.
- Minced garlic. You may certainly mince up some fresh garlic, but I find that using jarred minced garlic in crockpot recipes both saves time and ends up tasting the same after hours of slow cooking.
- Canned diced green chiles. You can typically find these in mild, medium, or hot.
- Minced fresh jalapeño. Optional but recommended. Remove and discard the seeds and membranes if you prefer flavor without heat, or leave the seeds and membranes intact (or even increase how many peppers you use) for extra spice.
- Chicken broth. Or stock. I prefer using low-sodium so that I can control the ultimate saltiness of the my white chicken chili.
- Spices. Specifically, cumin, paprika, cayenne (optional), and freshly ground black pepper. You'll also probably need to add a bit of salt (to taste) at the end of the cooking time to help all of the flavors pop.
- Masa + milk. This mixture gets stirred in at the end for creaminess and a fabulously flavorful undertone.
How to Make White Chicken Chili
Just as enticing as this warm, delicious meal is the fact that it takes mere minutes to throw together and then cooks all day in the crockpot. I mean, who wouldn't love coming home from a cold, blustery day to the smell of White Bean Chicken Chili bubbling away in the slow cooker?
- Rinse and drain beans and transfer to a large slow cooker.
- Lay chicken breasts on top of beans. Add garlic, green chiles, and jalapeño.
- Carefully pour chicken broth over ingredients and season with the spices.
- Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or until the beans are completely tender.
- About an hour before serving, remove the chicken to a cutting board and shred.
- Whisk the masa into some warm milk.
- Stir the masa mixture into the crockpot as well as the shredded chicken, adjust the seasonings, and then replace the lid of the slower cooker and cook for one more hour.
- Serve, garnish, and enjoy!
Now a quick word about the suggested garnishes for this dish...don't leave them out! I think that they are crucially important to the final flavors and textures in this Crockpot White Bean Chicken Chili.
At the very least, I highly recommend fresh cilantro, tortilla chips, and grated cheese. These three garnishes take this meal from good to great, and I have sorely missed them the few times I've eaten a bowl of this chili without them...whether it was because I ran out of something or I was just in too much of a hurry to get the extra ingredients out and thought they wouldn't ultimately make that much of a difference. Well, I'm here to tell you that they do.
As for the other garnish ideas I've suggested, such as avocado chunks, salsa, pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, and/or sour cream? Well, they'll take this bowl of comforting goodness from great to over-the-top!
Think of this white chicken chili as a delicious blank canvas and add whatever Mexican/Tex-Mex/southwestern garnishes that make your mouth sing. Just be sure to start with an extra-large bowl. Take my word for it. 😉
(Oh, and instead of crushed tortilla chips, this white chili recipe is also scrumptious with a side of cornbread or corn tortillas!)
Soaking Your Dried Beans
It's not necessary to pre-soak your beans when making this white chicken chili and I honestly never do. However, you may certainly soak your beans if you wish to!
Soaking your beans can reduce their cooking time by a bit (in case you're in a hurry), and it can also make beans easier to digest for some people (think: the less-musical fruit). 😉
If you opt to go the soaking dried beans route, rest assured that it's easy...it just takes a little forethought.
First, rinse the beans and place them in a large bowl. Discard any that are discolored or shriveled. Cover the rinsed beans with a couple inches of cold water, cover the bowl, and allow to sit for 6 hours to overnight. Then simply drain the beans and proceed with the recipe.
Subbing Canned Beans
For a white chicken chili that cooks in about half the time, substitute three (15-ounce) cans of canned white beans (rinsed and drained) for the pound of dried white beans.
However, remember that since canned beans are already cooked, they won't be soaking up a bunch of liquid like dried beans would. So if you make this White Bean Chicken Chili using canned beans, you'll need to simultaneously reduce the chicken broth by a good amount.
I would start with 4 cups of broth and then add more from there as you deem necessary.
To Thicken Your White Chili
If you prefer a thicker White Bean Chicken Chili, use an immersion blender to puree some (but not all) of the beans, after the chili is cooked and before the shredded chicken is stirred back in.
Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free
This white chili recipe is naturally gluten-free, as long as you ensure that your masa and spices are GF.
And to easily make it dairy-free, simply swap the whole milk for your favorite unsweetened, dairy-free milk, and leave off any dairy toppings (such as cheese and sour cream).
So whether your definition of cold weather is 60° (*raising hand*) or -10°, this Crockpot White Bean Chicken Chili is the definition of a meal that will warm your heart (and your toes)! It's a family favorite around our house, and I hope it becomes one at your house, too. 🙂
More Comforting Bean Soups
- Slow Cooker Ham & Bean Soup
- Easy White Bean, Kale, & Sausage Soup
- Slow Cooker Chicken Black Bean Soup
- Slow Cooker White Bean Cajun Soup
Crockpot White Bean Chicken Chili
- 1 pound dried white beans, Navy or Great Northern
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic, fresh or (refrigerated) jarred
- 2 (4-ounce) cans mild diced green chiles
- 1 jalapeño, diced (OPTIONAL)
- 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons masa, OR fine corn meal
- 1 cup whole milk, warmed
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Crushed tortilla chips
- Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- Chunks of avocado
- Sour cream
- Pico de gallo
- Pickled jalapeños
- Rinse and drain beans and place in the bottom of a large (7- to 8-quart) slow cooker. Lay chicken breasts on top, and add garlic, green chiles, and jalapeño (if using) to the slow cooker. Carefully pour chicken broth over ingredients, and season with cumin, paprika, cayenne (if using), and black pepper. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or until beans are tender.
- An hour before serving, remove chicken to a plate or cutting board. Mix masa into warm milk, stir mixture into white chili, and replace lid of slower cooker. In the meantime, cut chicken into large chunks and shred it with two forks. Add chicken back to the white chili and taste for seasoning, adding salt and adjusting spices as necessary. Cover and continue to cook for one more hour.
- Before serving, garnish with a generous amount of cilantro, crushed tortilla chips, and shredded cheese, plus whatever other toppings appeal to you. Leftovers may be covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen (in a freezer-safe bag or container) for up to 3 months.
- The weight of chicken pieces varies, but when I make this recipe with chicken breasts, I typically use 3 large chicken breasts or 4 smaller ones. If they're super jumbo chicken breasts, I may only use 2. It also somewhat depends on how much chicken you prefer in your chili.
- In lieu of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs, you may use an equivalent amount of your favorite bone-in chicken pieces, which can better retain moisture when slow cooked for a long period of time. Just discard any skin or bones when you remove the chicken to shred it.
- Make this white chili as spicy or as mild as you wish by increasing or omitting the jalapeño and/or cayenne pepper. If you just want the flavor of a fresh jalapeño without the heat, remove the seeds and membranes before finely dicing it and adding it to the crock pot.
- For a thicker texture, you may use an immersion blender to puree a portion of the cooked beans, after the chicken has been removed for shredding and before it's stirred back in.
- If you don't have any masa on hand, you may sub finely ground cornmeal instead. I do not recommend skipping this ingredient as it adds noticeable depth of flavor to the recipe.
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Post originally published on October 18, 2013, and updated on March 17, 2020, and November 11, 2022.
Mmmm! I love coming home to soups ready to go in the slow cooker, and this one was no exception. It was so easy and so delicious, thank you!
The most delicious white chili! Thank you for making it as a crockpot recipe, it was so easy to make!
Thanks for this wonderful, easy recipe. It's so simple yet comforting and hearty. Can't wait to make it on repeat this winter!
Do the beans need to be soaked overnight in advance?
No, it's not necessary. 🙂 Of course, you can soak the beans if you wish, but that will probably reduce the overall cooking time by a bit.
I am so glad I saw this post because I had been looking for a crockpot white bean chili recipe! I love my regular chili, but I wanted something that was easy to make and I had tons of chicken to use. Great recipe!
I have a question, why is my juice in my white chicken chili dark.? Shouldn’t it be lighter? The spices made it dark I know, but the juice doesn’t look like your chili,
Samantha at Five Heart Home
Hi Jenny! The broth will look darker than my pics until you add the milk/masa mixture. Not sure if that helps, but I wouldn't worry about it too much as long as it tastes good! 😉
The combination of the ground cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper could all make the color of your broth a little darker. Another tip: if you're short on time or don't have all of the spices needed for the recipe, a purchased packaged of white chili mix specifically for making chili w/chicken works perfectly. McCormick has a very good spice package for making white (chicken) chili. I also use the McCormick spice package for making red chili. There are a few other packaged chili spice mixes available. In a pinch I'll use Pioneer's packaged chicken chili spice mix, as well as their packaged red chili spice mix.
I could not WAIT to try this recipe and it didn't disappoint. White chicken chili perfection!
I've had this pinned for at least a year and finally gave it a try today. I used thawed chicken, not frozen. However, 8 hours later, my chicken isn't quite done and the beans are still pretty hard ? Pretty disappointed as its dinner time and my family is hungry and I'm not sure how much longer it's going to take. It looks and smells delicious though. I possibly would throw in a can of beans later in cooking rather than using dried.
Samantha at Five Heart Home
Hi Stephanie! I'm really sorry to hear of your disappointing experience with this recipe. This is one of my family's favorite recipes and I'd love to help you figure out what went wrong, so I'll try to troubleshoot here. It's definitely true that different slow cookers can take different lengths of time to cook recipes, which is why this recipe states the cooking time as 8 to 10 hours (or even longer, if the beans still aren't soft). There are a lot of factors at work with slow cooker recipes. The age of your slow cooker is one...newer model slow cookers run a lot hotter than older ones, so meat typically takes longer to cook and beans take longer to soften in older slow cookers. Also, the age of dried beans can be a definite factor in how long they take to soften. Old beans that have been in the pantry since last winter (or even beans that were recently purchased from the grocery store but were stored in a warehouse for a long time before that) can take significantly longer to cook than new, fresh dried beans (which I explain more thoroughly in another bean recipe post HERE >>> https://www.fivehearthome.com/2014/10/02/slow-cooker-charro-beans/). However, if your chicken is still not quite done at the 8-hour mark, I suspect that you simply have a cooler running slow cooker. I have a couple of new slow cookers that completely cook boneless chicken breasts in 3 to 4 hours on low, but my old slow cooker takes quite a bit longer. Also, I'm not sure if you were frequently checking for doneness as dinnertime neared, but every time you open the lid of the slow cooker, that can add 30 minutes to an hour of cooking time. Again, I'm really sorry that this recipe ended up taking longer than you expected, and I hope that your family is able to enjoy it once it's done. 🙂
I love this chili recipe. It's easy and one of the best. I've made it both ways using thawed or frozen chicken. I do have to cook the chili a little longer if using fresh beans (not canned) and/or frozen chicken. I haven't had any problem with the chicken being done. If fresh beans are still hard, add a little more broth and let the chili cook another two hours on high. Whenever I use fresh beans I let them in cool water for about one hour before adding them to the pot. This eliminates fresh beans from being too firm at the end of normal cooking times. NOTE: The three beans this recipe calls for are firm to begin with. Canned beans like the ones asked for in this recipe are a little firm, never soft or mushy. Fresh beans will always be little firm when cooked thru. You never want mushy beans in chili.
I'll share a similar experience I had cooking a pork butt roast a few weeks ago. I cooked my nine pound pork roast in my crock pot the required eight hours. It smelled good. It smelled done. At the final 30 minute mark I opened the lid on the crock pot and panicked. I first noticed the roast hadn't cooked down like it usually does, it was cool to the touch and not cooked thru. I really panicked when I tried putting the fork into the roast and it wouldn't go in easily. After a few minutes of trying to figure out what I did wrong, or maybe my relatively new crock pot stopped working, I discovered I had been cooking the roast on medium the entire 7-1/2 hours, not on high like the directions called for. Not knowing exactly what to do next, I added a little more of the sauce I made for topping the shredded pork, added more broth, put the lid on, snapped it down and turned the thermostat on the crock pot to high. I cooked the roast another four hours. At 9:00 pm I lifted the lid. I was delightfully surprised to find the roast was thoroughly cooked and easy to shred. I've not made a mistake like this in the 55 years I've been cooking. I scolded myself for not paying attention, and vowed to always double check everything. I tell my story to let you know no matter how long you've been cooking, or how careful we are, mistakes happen. Fortunately, most cooking errors can be remedied if we don't give up, if we laugh a little, pick up the pieces and start again. Life goes on.
This was delicious! And a great way to warm up -- it's in the 40s and rainy here today.
Love, love, love this amazing chili! My boys request it all fall and winter!
This looks so yummy. I can't wait to try it but I have one question. Do you use dry beans or canned?
Samantha at Five Heart Home
Hi Monique! You use dried beans. Hope you enjoy! 🙂
This white chicken chili was a great alternate to regular red chili. Yum!
I LOVE a good slow cooker recipe and I'm always on the look out for delicious slow cooker recipes - this was fantastic!!
This recipe now has a spot on our weekly soup and sandwich night.
My co-worker makes this for the office about once per year. I think it's high time I made some and kept it all to myself! I mean, myself and my family. 😉
Samantha at Five Heart Home
Ha, Cindee! I agree...you definitely need to make a big vat of this white chili all for
youyour family! 😉 Thanks for stopping by!