Lesley's Famous White Chicken Chili

Football is almost officially over - one of my favorite times of the year, not only for enjoying the sport and times spent with friends at tailgates and game parties (plus a few beers...), but also because of all of the tasty "football food" associated with a Saturday or Sunday. From ribs and burgers on the BBQ, to chips and salsa with a beverage of choice in hand - there is something so laid back and relaxed about the "season" of football, but it is also to be said about the comfort food we enjoy at the same time. With friends coming over yesterday for some Sunday afternoon fun watching football, I knew what I had to make.

A few years back, my Mom was a guest at a Sunday football "get together", and one of her best friends had made white chicken chili. The following morning, I got an earful about just how "amazing" this chili was, and that she had the recipe for me. I had never even heard of a version of chili described as "white", as I was more accustomed to traditional red, meaty chilis full of different beans and herbs and spices. But, this "new" chili was intriguing, so I thought I would give it a try...

...and now, it virtually is the only chili I enjoy making, and eating.

Full of white beans, chicken, sour cream, onions, garlic, and spices - this white chili is hands down my go-to recipe for any group get together. It's been a hit (and repeated request) at tailgates for USC games, so many times in fact that this chili simply became known as "Lesley's Famous Chili". 


(note: this chili is best made at least one day ahead to let the flavors develop. It can be frozen up to 6 months. It also doubles and triples extremely well, but 1 times this recipe is plenty for 6-8 people, especially if there is other food involved!)
  • 1 pound bag dried white beans (such as great northern), rinsed
  • 6 C chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2-3 large chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cooked, and cubed (about 4 C)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (7oz) Ortega whole chilis, seeded and chopped
  • 4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 C sour cream
  • 1C shredded Monterey jack cheese
First, in a large stock pot, combine the beans and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook the beans until extremely tender, about 1 1/2 hours. (Make sure to simmer, NOT boil, the beans as they will break down and too much liquid will evaporate.) This will take a bit of time, but the flavor infused into the beans is worth it in the end.

Next, in a large saute pan, heat up some olive oil and add your onions with some salt and pepper and "sweat" them (no browning) for about 10 minutes or until they look slightly translucent.

Meanwhile, time to chop up the garlic - yes, that is a lot of garlic, but the flavors mellow out during the entire cooking process.

Add the garlic, cumin, oregano, and chiles to the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until all of the ingredients are mixed together well.

Next, add the cooked chicken to the onion mixture (my trick: preheat oven to 350F, season chicken with a little salt, pepper, and drizzle with olive oil, bake for 20 minutes and allow to cool before cubing).

When the beans are ready, add the onion-chicken mixture to the beans with the sour cream and cheese. Bring chili to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

My preference is to cool the chili down by removing from heat, and chill in the refrigerator overnight, but you can serve it immediately. When ready, I like to serve with a little queso fresco and a dash of ancho chile powder and ground cumin.

And, once again, this chili was an absolute party hit - even after plenty of grilled sausage, sliders, and 7 layer dip. Bowl after bowl was consumed, with a few beers to help wash it all down, leaving my friends happy and full after a wonderful Sunday. 


  1. Yum...would it be worth trying without the chicken for those of us who don't eat meat of any kind?

  2. Looks delicious, just in time for the super bowl. You site looks great...

  3. cinty - yes, you could make without the chicken, but I would add more beans, onions/chiles or perhaps try some corn?

    Marna, thank you! And yes, right in time for the Super Bowl :)

  4. Can't wait to try this not only for Super Bowl but for our movie night with 6 couples who get together every other month to watch some great flick and eat some terrific food.

    I think the green garnish on this white chile adds to the presentation!

    Thanks a million.


    so so good.

    Adding this one to my repertoire.

  6. I'm making this tonight!! :)