White Bean and Chicken Chili

Did you hear George Saunders‘s advice to graduates? His 2013 convocation speech is available here.

You should read it. (Daily, really.)

Saunders’s theory is that your life is a “gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving.” Knowing this, he recommends that we: “Hurry up.  Speed it along.” Specifically, he says to: “Start right now. . . . [and] err in the direction of kindness.”

That’s a good approach to life, isn’t it? To always err in the direction of love. In the direction of appreciation. In the direction of patience and understanding. Because as you warm someone else’s heart, you’ll warm yours, too.

Speaking a little more literally, this White Bean & Chicken Chili will really warm ya this fall!

White Bean & Chicken Chili

Serves 6 to 8

When it’s cold outside, not much sounds better than a warm bowl of chili. This recipe provides a welcome variation to the usual beef-and-pinto bean combo. Even better, you don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen to enjoy this dish!  For one thing, the precooked Rotisserie chicken makes things quick and easy.  And, although I use dried beans, you could use canned beans in a pinch. For the peppers, I suggest New Mexico Hatch, but a mix of poblanos and jalapeños would work just as well. Best of all, instead of weighing you down like some chili can, this version is light and refreshing, similar to a soothing Mexican soup. 


1/2 lb. dried navy beans, picked over

3 teaspoons salt, plus more for seasoning

3 to 6 New Mexico Hatch Green Chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded (depending on desired heat) and finely chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Juice of 2 limes

1/2 cup sour cream

Meat from 1 cooked Rotisserie chicken, shredded (about 3 to 4 cups) **Secret tip: For extra smokey flavor, use a whole smoked chicken from your local BBQ restaurant!**

2 to 4 cups water or liquid from the pot of beans

For Garnish: sour cream; grated cheese; avocado chunks; cilantro leaves; lime wedges; pickled jalapeños


Rinse the beans.  Place in a crock pot and cover with 3 inches water. Cook, covered, on high for 4 hours. When beans are almost done cooking, season with 2 teaspoons salt and stir.

Heat butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Season with salt. Add garlic; sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add chicken broth, cumin, coriander, lime juice, and 1/2 cup sour cream; stir to combine.

Add beans (drained) and shredded chicken; stir gently to combine. Add about 1/2 of the chopped peppers; stir to combine.  Taste; add additional peppers (depending on desired heat).

Add water (or liquid from the pot of beans), 1 cup at a time, until it is as soupy as you like.  Taste and season with salt as needed. Simmer over medium-low heat until chili is warmed through and flavors are combined, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Serve in individual bowls and garnish as desired.

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