Easy 6-Ingredient White Chicken Chili

This easy white chicken chili recipe is a home cook’s answer to fast food. With canned beans, it can be on the table in no time. It will take a bit longer to cook using dry beans, but that’s my preference if time allows, as it’s so budget friendly. It’s the perfect recipe for busy days!

If you’re hankering for another budget-friendly fast meal, try my lentil sausage soup.

blue bowl with white chicken chili, garnished with 2 slices of jalapeno pepper.

It’s been one of those months. Lots to do, not enough hours in the day. Several weeks ago on my way home from a long day of errands and meetings and plate spinning, I ran through all of the options in my fridge for a fast dinner. Short of setting a plate full of random fruits and vegetables on the table, I was coming up with zero. I’d had it, I was spent, I gave up.

I stopped at the local grocery store intending to grab something – anything – that could hit the table in a hurry. A fast idea for dinner. I scanned the shelves and the frozen food section for something that would pass for real food, ready to go. If you’re a label reader or at all concerned about excessive packaging—as I am—you know the impossibility of this task.

Easy Chicken Chili Recipe

I came home with canned white beans, thinking I’d make up a white bean chicken chili recipe.

Using canned beans instead of dry beans was my foray into “fast food.” (If you use canned beans, look for the Eden Organic brand. Their cans are BPA free.)

We had a good laugh about me and my fast dinner ideas. We also had an excellent dinner.

This chicken chili came together from nothing and while it hit the table a little bit later than I’d intended, it was worth the wait. The family, they raved and it’s become a go-to recipe here in my household. You know it’s a winner when your mom asks for the recipe! 

While traditional chili recipes have a tomato base, this recipe results in a flavorful meal with a light, creamy base. 

chopped onion and jalapeno on a cutting board.


White beans You can use navy beans, cannelloni beans, or great northern beans, canned or dry. Navy beans are smaller and tend to cook a tad bit faster. Use your Instant Pot to cook the dry beans in a hurry. If you use dry beans, measure the cooked beans and add chicken stock to the recipe.

Chicken Legs or thighs are the most budget-friendly choices, if you’re buying chicken parts. Skinless chicken breasts will work just fine, as will using a whole chicken (the least expensive option of all). If you’re in a hurry and succumb to ease, a rotisserie chicken is another option. 

Peppers — Any green chilis will work for this chili recipe, depending on how much heat you like. If you don’t like your meals spicy, go with mild peppers. If you like a little spice, by all means choose a hotter pepper. Jalapeno peppers are readily available. Shishito peppers are a bit milder. No fresh peppers on hand? Add a can of mild green chiles.

Onion — You can use any kind of bulb onion you have on hand — white, yellow, or red. 

Oil You’ll need just a little bit of oil for sautéing. I typically use olive oil or avocado oil, but use what you have on hand.

cooked chicken, showing the process of shredding.

Making this White Bean Chili

Start by sautéing the onions and green chile peppers until they’re soft. 

Once the veggies are soft, add the chicken to the pot. Cook the chicken until it’s done, then remove the chicken from the pot and shred it. Return the shredded chicken to the pot along with the canned (or cooked) beans.

If you opt to use a whole chicken, cook it separately, then add the shredded meat along with the beans and simmer for half an hour or so.


This easy recipe is perfect served simply, but you can chop some fresh cilantro or green onion if you like, add a dollop of sour cream, or a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Serve with tortilla chips and salsa verde. My son likes extra hot sauce on the side. 

Storing Leftovers

This wholesome meal is one of those that’s even better the next day! Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. 

blue bowl with white chicken chili, garnished with 2 slices of jalapeno pepper.

★ Did you make this white bean chicken chili recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below! ★

blue bowl with white chicken chili, garnished with 2 slices of jalapeno pepper.

Easy White Bean Chicken Chili Recipe

This easy white chicken chili recipe is a home cook's answer to fast food. With canned beans, it can be on the table in no time, but dry beans make it more budget friendly.
4.91 from 10 votes
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Kris Bordessa


  • 2 medium onions chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 mildly spicy peppers sliced*
  • 6 chicken thighs or legs (preferably organic)
  • 75 oz great northern beans (5 cans OR 8 cups cooked small white beans plus 2 cups chicken broth)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper


  • In a stock pot, saute onions and peppers on medium heat for 5-10 minutes.
    2 medium onions, 6 mildly spicy peppers, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Add chicken parts and cover the pot. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, turning chicken occasionally. Remove chicken from pot and shred with two forks.
    6 chicken thighs or legs
  • Return shredded chicken to pot along with canned beans (undrained), salt, and pepper. If you opt to use dry beans, cook them then add 8 cups of beans along with 2 cups of chicken stock.
    75 oz great northern beans, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon pepper
  • Continue to cook over low heat for another 10 to 30 minutes (or an hour, if you've got time or you're trying to squeeze in chores).


  • *My peppers were from the garden, a plant given to me by a friend; I don't know the variety. We call them Jeannie peppers. They're pretty mild; I put seeds and all in the pot. Hotter peppers? Remove the seeds and use fewer or go for broke. Your call.
  • You can use cannellini beans instead of the great Northern beans; they're a bit heartier. Navy beans would be fine, too!
  • If you'd prefer, substitute one pound of ground chicken or ground turkey for the chicken parts.
  • Hot tip: Double the amount of chicken, holding the extra out once it's shredded. Voila! Chicken for lunches.
  • *If you use canned beans, look for the Eden Organic brand. Their cans are BPA free


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 740kcal | Carbohydrates: 83g | Protein: 49g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 111mg | Sodium: 487mg | Potassium: 1820mg | Fiber: 26g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 523IU | Vitamin C: 72mg | Calcium: 267mg | Iron: 9mg
Did you make this recipe?Mention @attainablesustainable or tag #attainablesustainable!
Originally published in August 2013; this post has been updated.

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About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. Read more about Kris and how she got started with this site here. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

13 comments… add one
  • Dona Clements Jan 4, 2020 @ 4:29

    From a Texan who grew up on beef and Southern cooking: White Chicken Chili is God’s gift to nutrition. It has ALL the great things – flavor, ease and convenience, nutrient density, fiber, fat balance, cardiovascular benefits, and on and on – without the digestive distress and antisocial effects of traditional beef chili. I heard angels singing when I discovered this dish, and it’s become one of my most regular go-to recipes. I use organic canned cannellini beans for their texture and convenience. Thanks for sharing this recipe. It’s just the BEST!

  • Michelle Mar 24, 2018 @ 21:50

    So easy to make and super yummy! Great dinner idea.

  • marcie Nov 14, 2016 @ 10:15

    I would make this with a rotisserie chicken from my market.. and some chicken broth… sound REALLY easy then!! Go for a lazy cooking day

  • crafty_cristy Feb 6, 2014 @ 3:10

    We’ve had to stop eating hamburger meat. At $3.99/lb it’s not worth it. But my kids want chili, so I think I’ll make this tonight. And about the beans… A few years ago, I started making a big batch of dried beans every Monday. It lasts through the whole week, feeding the hubs his lunches, and one family meal per week. It’s been a wonderful addition to our lives and has cut down (but not eliminated) the amount of canned beans I buy. 

    • Kris Bordessa Feb 6, 2014 @ 7:39

      I make extra beans, too, and keep them in the freezer for future dinners.

  • Jeanine Barone Sep 5, 2013 @ 5:22

    I love the idea of a quick and healthy recipe. Great that you use olive oil in the recipe, too.

  • merr Aug 29, 2013 @ 4:10

    I have family that would like this dish. I also think it could be made vegetarian, with the addition of another veggie or bean variety or two.

  • Jennifer Aug 28, 2013 @ 22:20

    Total yum. Totally making this soon!!!

  • Alexandra Aug 28, 2013 @ 7:41

    I don’t associate chili and chicken. Will have to try it.

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 28, 2013 @ 12:37

      Really, it is SO good.

  • Jane Boursaw Aug 28, 2013 @ 5:34

    It sounds yummy and healthy, and looks utterly gorgeous.

  • Living Large Aug 28, 2013 @ 1:57

    Hmm, I’m vegetarian, but I’m wondering if this might work without the meat? It sounds delicious.

  • Sheryl Aug 27, 2013 @ 15:19

    Ooh, I think I could go for this! I don’t eat meat, so I’ve always felt left out from chili-eating. This sounds perfect now that the colder weather (sob) is coming.

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