This is not what I would call an authentic chili recipe. It’s more of a Tex-Mex concoction that melts in your mouth like it’s heaven. Why? Because anything with cream cheese will do that.
In the past, the meat lover in me would have never stood for chili that wasn’t loaded with beef and sausage. And to replace the meat with chicken would have just been absurd, or so I thought. It wasn’t for me… that is, until I ran across a completely different kind of chicken chili recipe and started playing around with the ingredients until it became PERFECTION.
This super cozy, creamy, smoky and slightly spicy chili has become one of my favorite fall and winter dishes of all time!
It could be because, let’s be honest, it really isn’t completely meatless. It’s loaded with slices of bacon that give it a smoky flavor.
The secret to putting bacon in this chili is to disguise its texture and spread the taste around by pulsing it in the food processor until it becomes a thick chunky cream.
Follow that up by chopping garlic, onion and jalapeño peppers in the food processor as well.
Then begin to build up the chili by starting with a sofrito. Basically that just means sautéing the veggies, except in this case with the bacon. This becomes the base of the soup.
When it’s nice and translucent, you can begin to add the spices, cumin and ancho chili powder. Then you add the broth and tomatoes.
Next up, cook the chicken. You can either add it to the pot in chunks, remove it once it's cooked and shred it. Or you can sauté it in butter in a separate pan, shred and add it to the pot.
After the shredded chicken is in, everything can be tied together by adding the cream cheese and beans.
Of course the toppings are your personal choice… but I’m here to tell you that this white chili is best with scallions, cilantro, cheese, peppers and sour cream. Sometimes I like to add an avocado and tortilla chips.
And if carbs aren’t an issue, I also suggest crusty sourdough bread!
white chicken chili
There are so many varieties of white chicken chili out there, but this smoky, zesty and creamy one is going to become your favorite! It contains just the right amount of savory spice and it's so easy to make. This is just a guide. You may make adjustments by adding salt to taste, although the bacon already contains salt. This recipe calls for chicken thighs, but feel free to substitute chicken breasts. I like the white, navy or pinto beans but you can also use kidney or black beans if you prefer. If you do, make sure you drain and rinse them so they don't change the color of the chili. Most importantly, don't skimp on the bacon or cream cheese, as those ingredients are what makes this dish out of this world!
1 lb sliced bacon
2 jalapeños, seeds removed
1 yellow onion
6 cloves garlic
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp ancho chili powder
2 cups chicken broth
2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 tbs butter (if cooking chicken separately)
1 to 1.5 lbs chicken thighs
1 14-oz can pinto beans
1 14-oz can white or navy beans
8 oz cream cheese
Pulse the bacon through the food processor until it looks like a chunky paste. Remove bacon and do the same with the onion, garlic, and jalapeño.
Add the bacon to a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. After 5 minutes add the onion, garlic, and jalapeño so it all cooks together as a sofrito. Be sure to constantly stir so the bacon doesn't stick to the pan. Add spices, broth, and tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
Cook the chicken by adding the chunks to the soup in a low simmer. Cook for 15 minutes and remove, cool and shred. Another option is to cook the chicken in butter in a pan separately, remove, cool and shred.
Mix the ingredients. Stir in the shredded chicken, beans, and cream cheese. You can make it as thick or as thin as you like by adding water. Put on your toppings and eat immediately!
You can make this chili with leftover shredded turkey, add an extra can of beans for more protein, and for a spicier chili, try using the hot variety of green chiles, and/or add some diced jalapeno.
This recipe is great to make ahead of time, and reheats very well and it also freezes beautifully.