Friday, October 13, 2023

Creamy White Bean Chicken Chili with Cream Cheese

Looking for the best chili recipe without tomatoes? You’ll love this easy creamy white chicken chili. Prep it in only 20 minutes in one pot on your stovetop. It has a super flavorful, rich broth and is packed with simple ingredients like tender chicken, white beans, green chiles, cream cheese, and plenty of hearty vegetables to keep you full. Pile on the toppings and serve with cornbread or tortilla chips for a warm & comforting meal. Give this a try and it’ll soon be a family favorite! (gluten-free & grain-free)

Love soups? Make a batch of my Italian sausage & potato soup, creamy tomato basil soup & creamy chicken noodle soup next!

Creamy White Chicken Chili

One of my favorite comfort food meals to eat during the fall, winter & spring months 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 made with cheap ingredients.

I grew up in the Midwest 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've made white chicken chili oodles of times since then, so I've perfected several variations and today's creamy version is my richest & most flavorful to date.  

Note: If you need a game day or Superbowl chili to fix that will have everyone scraping their bowls, today's recipe is an excellent choice; however, my award-winning beef and chorizo chili (classic tomato-based with a bit of heat & tons of flavor) and harvest white bean chicken chili (healthy, loaded with vegetables, lighter & made with rotisserie chicken) are fabulous options. 

Homemade chicken tortilla soup is another great option and only takes 15 minutes to prep with simple ingredients!

I've made all of them for my extended family during football season, so take your pick based on what sounds good to you now.  

Tips For Flavorful White Chicken Chili

If you want to make the best white chicken chili with more depth of flavor, follow these tips:

1. Don't Skimp on the Fat. (Fat = Flavor)

When you start out the recipe by browning bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, this renders the fat and creates schmaltz (chicken fat). You then cook the vegetables & aromatics in the fat to soften them and then simmer everything in chicken broth, which infuses every bite with a ton of chicken flavor + extra nutrients.

If you're using leftover chicken (or rotisserie chicken) instead, you'll want to use plenty of cooking fat or oil to start the white chicken chili. If I don't have schmaltz on hand, my favorite is bacon grease or salted butter. I try to always keep a small jar of bacon grease in my fridge for soups, stews & chili. Avocado oil or olive oil are also good options, they're just not as rich. 

2. Add Plenty of Ground Cumin

I've seen other recipes with barely any cumin added and as a life-long fan of white chicken chili, that's just not right! 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! You should be able to taste the cumin in the broth. If not...add a dash or two more until you can. 

3. Use a Good Chili Powder

Cumin is definitely the main spice in this recipe, but using a good quality chili powder makes a difference to the overall flavor in pretty much any chili recipe.

 Instead of buying a generic "chili powder" from the store that's just a blend of ground chiles, garlic, onion & salt, I prefer to buy a jar or packet that comes from one type of chile. I find the flavor much stronger and I can always add more garlic and onion on my own.

My favorite right now is Ancho Chile Powder. This is just dried, ground-up poblano peppers! This chile powder is slightly darker and has a mild to medium heat. It's easy to find at most grocery stores, so I hope you try it!

3. Salt Throughout The Cooking Process (Not Just The End)

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 add a bit of salt (about 1-2 teaspoons) at the beginning when I brown the chicken and saute the vegetables & aromatics.

Then I add more at the end until it tastes "right" to my tastebuds. I typically use low-sodium chicken broth (or stock) and so I'm adding at least a tablespoon of salt to my soups & chili. My favorites right now are flaky Maldon sea salt & fine Celtic sea salt.

4. Add a Creamy Ingredient To Finish (Or Directly Into Each Bowl)

This gives the white bean chicken chili a richer, more luxurious creamy texture and taste. It also adds more fat, which as I explained above does bump up the flavor. 

In this recipe, I finished the chili with cubed softened cream cheese, but you could easily substitute whipping cream, sour cream, or creme fraiche instead.

If you want to keep the whole pot of chili dairy-free, you can add the creamy element to each bowl instead. In that case, a big dollop of sour cream or a pile of shredded cheese is a great option.

5. Load Up On Toppings

I worked hard to make the chili itself extra flavorful, but half the fun of eating any chili recipe is piling each bowl with plenty of toppings. 

My favorite toppings for white chicken chili are shredded cheese and sliced green onion. I always add them no matter what. I typically use cheddar cheese, pepper jack cheese, low-moisture mozzarella cheese, or monterey jack cheese.

Because I like it spicier, I'll often top my bowls with raw jalapeno slices. Other popular toppings are sour cream, chopped cilantro, and sliced ripe avocado

For this creamy version, adding a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice helps cut through the fat and balance the flavors. You can serve the soup with lime wedges so each person can add it to their bowl. 

Ingredients For Making Creamy White Chicken Chili

Ingredients For Creamy White Chicken Chili

If you're wondering what to put in white chicken chili, here's all of the main ingredients:
  • Cooking Oil: I typically use olive oil, avocado oil, or bacon grease (the latter will add the most flavor)
  • Chicken Thighs: You want bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. The fat, bone & skin add a TON of flavor to the base of the chili as you simmer it. Even better? They cost a lot less than chicken breasts and are way more forgiving in recipes!
  • Salt & Pepper: So basic, yet so vital to making the best chili and soup recipes. I mention it high up on the list here because you'll be adding it a few times at the beginning to make sure the chili is seasoned properly (not just at the end). 
  • Onion: I typically use yellow onions, but sweet or Vidalia would be great options. 
  • Red Bell Pepper: This is my favorite type of sweet bell pepper to use in recipes as I love the color and high vitamin C content; however, orange and yellow bell peppers can be used, too. Not green - that's just weird. 
  • Carrots: This adds a subtle sweetness + pop of color to the chili and makes it more filling and nutritious. 
  • Ground Cumin: This is one of the main ingredients of white chicken chili, so don't skip it! It gives the dish its signature flavor. 
  • Dried Oregano: This adds fragrance & extra flavor to the chili. It's one of those subtle ingredients that can make a difference in the final dish. 
  • Ancho Chile Powder: This is just dried & ground poblano chiles. It has a deeper color & much better flavor than typical chili powder. If you can find ancho chile powder, I highly recommend grabbing a bottle or packet. It'll take your chili recipes from good to excellent!
  • Jalapeno or Poblano Pepper: This adds a pop of heat to the chili, which is then toned down once you add the creamy element. For a slightly spicier version, use fresh jalapenos. For a milder chili, use poblano peppers. You'll want to remove the seeds from whichever one you use. 
  • Garlic: I prefer to use fresh garlic (and lots of it) so it has a more pronounced flavor. If you only have garlic powder or granulated garlic on hand, I'd use at least 2 teaspoons. 
  • Chicken Broth: I'll either use cartons of low-sodium broth from the store or my own homemade chicken bone broth that I've made in the crock-pot (this tastes much better).
  • Diced Green Chiles (Canned or Jarred): This is another key ingredient for white chicken chili. You can find inexpensive (4 oz) or (7 oz) cans of diced green chiles at almost any grocery store. They're usually under 2 bucks a can. I always have a few on hand for recipes like this. Some places sell bigger jars of it (about the size of spaghetti sauce) so that's another option if you don't mind freezing the leftovers or using it up in other recipes.
  • Canned White Beans: My favorite type of bean to use for white chicken chili are great northern beans, but navy beans (the smallest of the three) and cannellini beans (the biggest of the three) are great options. If you're in a pinch and just grabbing stuff from your pantry, pinto beans will work as a substitute, although I don't find them as creamy. 
  • Sweet Corn: I prefer to use frozen sweet corn since it has a sweeter flavor and firmer texture, but you can also use (drained) canned corn or even fresh corn if that's what you have on hand. Yes, I did forget to include the corn in the ingredients picture but it's in the final dish. 
  • Cream Cheese: I use the full-fat kind in a rectangular package, but you can also opt for Neufchâtel cheese if you want something similar with less fat. Make sure to pull it out of the fridge at the beginning so it can soften by the time you cube it and add it to the chili (this will help it melt faster). 

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.

  1. Brown the Chicken Thighs: This renders out the chicken fat (schmaltz), which adds lots of flavor and makes the recipe more satisfying. 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 (or your preferred cooking oil) 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 here.
  3. Stir in the Garlic, Jalapeno & Ground Spices: Cook for 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 or poblano) 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 and sliced green onion. Because I like it spicier, I sometimes top my bowl with raw jalapeno slices. Other good options are a big dollop of sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro, a big squeeze of fresh lime juice, and sliced avocado. 
How to Make The Best White Chicken Chili with Chicken Thighs & Cream Cheese

What to Eat with White Chicken Chili

My favorite thing to serve with white chicken chili so it's a well-rounded dinner is either cornbread, cornbread muffins, or tortilla chips

Nine times out of ten, it's cornbread muffins for me. It's what I grew up with, so the pairing seems natural. I either make a slightly sweet Southern-inspired version with honey in the batter or a savory version with masa harina + bacon grease.

Tortilla chips are delicious with chili and certainly require less prep, but I usually save them for chicken enchilada soup or chicken tortilla soup. Do what works for you! 

Creamy White Chicken Chili (Easy Homemade Comfort Food Recipe)

Freezing, Leftovers & Reheating Tips

Can you freeze white chicken chili? 

Yes, it freezes just as well as any soup or regular tomato-based chili. However, if you're making a creamy version you may have slight separation issues when reheating depending on what ingredient was added. Cream cheese and heavy cream are usually fine, but sometimes milk with less fat (like 2%, 1% & skim) and even sour cream can cause separation. It will still taste yummy, though! If this bothers you, simply add the creamy element directly to eat bowl.

How long does chicken chili keep in the fridge

As long as your chicken and any creamy elements are fresh, can be kept for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. If you're using leftover cooked chicken that's been sitting in the fridge for a few days, you'll want to eat up or transfer your leftover chili to the freezer within 3 days.

What's the best way to store white chicken chili?

Once it's cooled to room temperature, I usually stick the whole pot right in the fridge. This works well if you have enough space and plan on eating leftovers for at least one more night. Just make sure it's covered with a lid, foil, or saran wrap.

For freezing, I recommend portioning it into an airtight container to prevent freezer burn. I like quart or gallon-sized ziplock freezer bags since you can lay them flat to save space and the thinner portions make it faster to reheat on the stove or in the microwave. 

Another good option is Souper Cubes, which are square silicone trays that are meant for freezing soup in 1 or 2-cup portions (great for meal prep). 

Easy Recipe For Creamy White Chicken Chili
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 (like avocado oil or olive oil)
  • 2 lbs. of bone-in, skin-on 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 or poblano pepper, 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, navy beans, or cannellini 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 & fully 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 canned green chiles, and use 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper instead.
Did you make this recipe?
Tag @therisingspoon on instagram and hashtag it #therisingspoon
Created using The Recipes Generator

If you love easy white chicken chili but are looking for a recipe that's packed with flavor, give this stove top meal a try! It uses chicken thighs instead of breasts, which makes the broth richer and the meat more tender. To make it even better, there's cubed cream cheese added at the end so it's extra creamy. Feel free to swap that with heavy whipping cream or sour cream if you want. Fix this all fall & winter long when you want a hearty comfort food meal that will make the whole family happy!

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

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. However, I ONLY recommend helpful products that I myself would use.

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.

This was originally published as a sponsored post in 2020 but has since been edited and updated.

No comments

Post a Comment

Blogger Template Created by pipdig
Customized and Tweaked with Love by The Lady Gadget
Back to Top