Creamy White Chicken Chili | The Rising Spoon

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Creamy White Chicken Chili

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Tom Thumb. All opinions are 100% mine.

Craving something warm, cozy & comforting for dinner? Fix a batch of creamy white chicken chili on the stovetop in less than 90 minutes. It's packed with simple, yet hearty ingredients like white beans, shredded chicken, onion, garlic, carrots, bell pepper, and green chiles + a rich & savory broth that will have you scraping your bowl! Serve it with cornbread muffins or tortilla chips for a stick to your ribs meal everyone will love. (gluten-free & grain-free)

Love soups? Make a batch of my spicy zuppa toscana, creamy tomato basil soup & creamy chicken noodle soup next!

Creamy White Chicken Chili

One of my favorite comfort food meals to eat year-round is a huge bowl of white chicken chili topped with plenty of shredded cheese and homemade cornbread on the side. It's super cozy & satisfying. Even better? It's packed with protein and budget-friendly.

I grew up eating a simple version made with canned chicken, sweet corn, great northern beans, green chiles, broth, and dry spices. We didn't even use fresh onion & garlic, just dried onion flakes & garlic powder.

I have a few other versions on the blog (like my summer harvest white chicken chili and slow cooker white chicken chili), both of which are loaded with fresh veggies.

This makes them excellent candidates for healthy freezer meals if you're in the nesting mood & want to batch cook for later. The same goes for my beef & chorizo chili if you're in the mood for a classic tomato-based chili recipe with a bit of heat.

Today's version is richer with more depth of flavor, yet still uses simple ingredients. How did I achieve that?

Instead of adding rotisserie chicken or canned chicken (handy for a variety of chicken recipes), I simmered the veggies & broth with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (this adds extra chicken flavor + nutrients). Then to finish, I stirred in cubes of cream cheese, which gives the chili a thicker yet luxurious texture.

I'm quite partial to this new creamy version, but that's the beauty of this dish - it's super flexible.

  • Don't want to run to the store or trying to stretch your food budget? Use all pantry ingredients.
  • Have the fresh ingredients on hand but need to run some errands? Dump everything in a slow cooker.
  • Want something with more depth of flavor? Make it on the stovetop with fresh veggies, aromatics & chicken.
Ingredients For Making Creamy White Chicken Chili

Main Ingredients For White Chicken Chili

No matter which version you make, don't skip the core ingredients for white chicken chili (also called white bean chili): chicken, white beans, green chiles, and ground cumin.

You should be able to taste the cumin. If not...add a dash or two more until you can. To me, it's the signature flavor of this dish. In fact, if I smell cumin in other recipes, it reminds me of white chicken chili!

The other important ingredient is salt. You'd be surprised how much of a difference salt makes to soups & chili, especially if you think the flavor is a bit muted. I always end up adding more at the end until it tastes "right". My favorites right now are flaky Maldon sea salt & fine Celtic sea salt.

Beyond those main ingredients + some broth & aromatics, there's lots of room for creativity in terms of adding extra veggies, creamy elements, and toppings.

I like to add jalapeno for some heat (ground cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes are also good options), red bell pepper for color & vitamin C, and carrot for extra nutrition and a bit of sweetness.

I often add celery, along with the leaves, but left it out this time. And I also stirred in frozen sweet corn near the end but forgot to include it with the other ingredients in the picture above.

Steps For How to Make Creamy White Chicken Chili

How To Make Creamy White Chicken Chili

Here's a rundown of the basic technique + some extra tips. Once you learn this, you can swap out ingredients to use what's on hand in your pantry, fridge & freezer.

(Sidenote: I've read lots of comments from folks who say they use ground sausage instead of chicken to make this chili. That never occurred to me! I will definitely be trying this in the future.)

  1. Brown the Chicken Thighs: This renders some of the chicken fat (schmaltz) from the skin, which we 100% want in this recipe. Fat = flavor! It also helps us feel satiated & absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E & K in our veggies. The skin doesn't need to be super crisp in this step since we'll be removing it near the end.
  2. Saute the Veggies: Cook the onion, carrot & sweet bell pepper in the rendered fat until slightly softened. This helps to release some of their aromatic properties & create a base layer for the chili. Don't forget the salt & pepper. It's good to add it in layers to the ingredients so your dish is properly salted by the end.
  3. Stir in the Garlic, Jalapeno & Dry Spices: Cook about a minute or until the garlic is fragrant. This helps to incorporate the spices throughout so they're not just floating on top of the broth.
  4. Add the Canned Green Chiles, Browned Chicken Thighs & Broth: Make sure you have enough broth to fully cover the thighs so they cook properly. If your thighs are large or you add extra ingredients (like more beans or veggies) you'll likely need more broth. In that case, add an extra 1/2 cup at a time until the chicken is submerged. You can use water instead, but you may want to add a bit more salt at the end to compensate.
  5. Cook The Chicken, Then Remove & Shred: Bring the broth to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low so it's at a rapid simmer, then cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. The extra fat & skin on the thighs help to keep the meat moist, and the initial boil + rapid simmer ensures we're cooking everything properly since we're adding raw chicken to the liquid. Once cooked, place the chicken thighs on a cutting board, remove the skin and bones (discard both or save for homemade chicken broth) and shred the meat with two forks.
  6. Add the Beans, Corn & Shredded Chicken: Check the broth for any loose skin or bones (a spider tool or slotted spoon is handy for this), then stir these ingredients into the broth and bring to a simmer again. It'll take a few minutes if you're using frozen corn like I did. At this point, the broth will taste spicer (from the jalapeno) but it will cool off significantly once we add the cream cheese.
  7. Melt the Cream Cheese into the Broth: Add the softened chunks of cream cheese to the broth and stir constantly until it's dissolved & fully incorporated. This will take several minutes if your chunks are larger like mine. You can make it go faster by smashing some of the chunks against the side of the pot.
  8. Serve with Desired Toppings: I always add shredded cheese (such as Colby jack, mozzarella, sharp cheddar, or pepper jack) and sliced green onion. Because I like it spicier, I top my bowl with raw jalapeno slices. Hot sauce would be a great addition, along with chopped cilantro or a squeeze of lime juice. Maybe even thin slices of avocado. So many options!
Creamy White Chicken Chili with Chicken Thighs & Cream Cheese
Creamy White Chicken Chili (Easy Homemade Comfort Food Recipe)

For Extra Flavor Use Air Chilled Chicken

When it comes to buying cuts of chicken from my local grocery stores, my favorite is Air Chilled Chicken. I've had several butchers recommend it to me when I ask them for the freshest & best-tasting option and it always delivers. I used it for my Parmesan Crusted Chicken recipe if you want to take a peek at that.

And since chicken is the star of this chili recipe, I recommend seeking out the best quality you can get while still being affordable, so the Air Chilled Chicken is perfect.

I especially love the Air Chilled Chicken from Open Nature® (featured in this recipe) because it's individually processed in a series of cold chambers with purified air.

The conventional method for processing chicken requires immersing it in a cold-water bath in order to cool it. Because there's no retained water in this air-chilled method, the result is a more intensely flavored chicken and better marinade pick-up.

Those are some pretty awesome benefits, right? Seems like a no-brainer to reach for this when you're cooking for folks who are serious chicken lovers. Every little bit helps. :)

More Info About Open Nature Chicken:

  • No antibiotics EVER
  • 100% vegetarian-fed
  • No added hormones or steroids
  • NOW Air Chilled for more intense flavor

Want to grab some of this chicken for yourself! Of course, you do!

Open Nature offers minimally processed, high-quality products (like this Air Chilled Chicken) for everyone in the family (including plant-based, high protein & gluten-free options), available at a value in the Dallas/Fort Worth area exclusively at Tom Thumb stores.

Note: Live outside the Dallas area? I shopped at Tom Thumb, but you can also find Open Nature Air Chilled Chicken at the Albertsons Companies family of stores, including Albertsons, Safeway, ACME Markets, Jewel-Osco, Randalls, Shaw's Supermarket, Star Market, and Vons.

TIP: Do you live in the Dallas area and don't want to go inside to shop? Tom Thumb also offers Grocery Delivery and DriveUp & Go™ for convenient ways to shop!

Creamy White Chicken Chili with Air Chilled Chicken From Tom Thumb

Common Questions About Creamy White Chicken Chili

Can you freeze it? Yes, but I've only frozen it before any creamy element was added. If you freeze with cream cheese or heavy cream or sour cream already mixed in, you may have separation issues. To avoid this, omit the creamy ingredient and add that when you reheat the frozen leftovers on the stovetop later on.

Can I fix this in a slow cooker or crock-pot? Yes, but it won't be quite as rich & flavorful without the browned chicken thighs & sauteed veggies. You could of course start it on the stove, then transfer it to the crock-pot, but you may not want the extra dirty dishes. Here's how to make it without the stove:

  • Remove the skin & bones from the thighs (or just use boneless skinless chicken thighs from the start), place them on the bottom of the slow cooker, cover with all the dry spices, chopped veggies, canned ingredients, and broth. Basically everything except for the cream cheese. You can wait to add the beans & corn until near the end if you prefer them more firm, but I don't mind them softer.
  • Cook on HIGH for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. I have not tested this on the low setting so I'm not sure about the cooking time required.
  • Remove the chicken, shred the meat, and add it back to the slow cooker, along with the cubed softened cream cheese.
  • Place the lid back on and cook an additional 15-30 minutes to melt the cream cheese, stirring occasionally. Once it's all melted you're ready to serve!
Easy Creamy White Chicken Chili Recipe

More Comfort Food Recipes To Try:

creamy white chicken chili, white bean chili, easy, how to make
main dishes
Yield: 6 servings
Author: Elaina Newton - The Rising Spoon
Creamy White Chicken Chili

Creamy White Chicken Chili

Prep time: 20 MinCook time: 1 HourTotal time: 1 H & 20 M


  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of cooking oil (I used avocado oil)
  • 2 lbs. of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (I used Open Nature Air Chilled chicken thighs)
  • 1 tablespoon of sea salt or kosher salt, divided (plus extra to taste at the end)
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled & diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored & diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled & finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of ancho chile powder
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeds removed & diced
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 (4 oz) cans of diced green chiles (hot or mild)
  • 4 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 (15 oz) cans of white beans (like great northern beans), drained and rinsed
  • 8-10 oz of frozen sweet corn
  • 8 oz of full-fat cream cheese, cubed & softened
Toppings (Optional):
  • shredded cheese
  • sliced green onion
  • sliced raw jalapeno


  1. Measure the cooking oil into a large pot set to medium-high heat. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and rub with 1 teaspoon of cooking oil. Mix together 1 teaspoon of salt & 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper and sprinkle over both sides of the thighs. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken and cook for 3-5 minutes on the first side (or until lightly browned), then flip and cook 3 minutes on the second side. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.
  2. Add the onion, carrot & bell pepper, 2 teaspoons of salt & 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper to the pot (there should be a good amount of rendered chicken fat in the bottom - leave that in) and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the jalapeno, garlic, cumin, oregano, and chile powder. Stir and cook 1 minute, or until the garlic is fragrant.
  3. Dump in the green chiles, place the browned chicken thighs on top, then pour in the chicken broth. The chicken should be completely covered with liquid, if not add more broth or water 1/2 cup at a time until submerged.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low (you want to keep it at a rapid simmer), cover with a lid, and cook for 30 minutes, or until the chicken thighs are no longer pink. Use tongs to remove all the chicken and set aside on a cutting board. Cool for a minute, remove and discard the skin, bones & any fatty pieces, and shred the meat with two forks.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to check the broth for any loose skin or bones, then taste for salt and pepper (I almost always add another teaspoon or so). Add the beans, corn, and shredded chicken to the pot, stir well and bring to a simmer.
  6. Reduce the heat to low, add the softened cream cheese chunks, and stir gently until it's dissolved & full incorporated (this will take 5 minutes or more). Ladle into bowls while hot and add desired toppings such as shredded cheese & green onion. Serve with buttered cornbread muffins or tortilla chips for dunking.


For a spicier chili, add a second jalapeno, hot green chiles, and/or 1/2 teaspoon (or more) of cayenne pepper before simmering. For a milder chili, omit the fresh jalapeno, use mild green chiles, and use 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper instead. For a slow cooker option and freezing instructions, scroll up to the commonly asked questions section above.
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Created using The Recipes Generator

Adapted from my summer harvest white chicken chili and inspired by the kitchn's how to make the best chicken noodle soup & the chunky chef's slow cooker creamy white chicken chili

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MEDICAL DISCLOSURE: The information included on this website is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions expressed here are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for your own situation or if you have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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