I know that honor and prestige have been awarded to people all across the country for having the best chili.
And I know that chili is traditionally made with ground beef and kidney beans… and that this slow cooker white chicken chili doesn’t have ground beef or kidney beans… and doesn’t even remotely look close to a traditional bowl of chili.
But let me tell you this: this white chicken chili is hands down the BEST chili I’ve ever had IN MY ENTIRE LIFE and it will beat the pants off of that other kind of chili any day of the week.
That’s a lot of smack talk about chili, especially coming from someone who has never entered a chili cook off LET ALONE ever been to one.
But I do know this: when you go to bed and wake up dreaming of a chili you made for dinner one night, you know you’ve got something worth sharing.
This recipe has been evolving in my head over time. The first version was from Bread and Wine and a far cry from what you see here, but it was still a delicious basic chili recipe calling for 4 ingredients: white beans, chicken stock, diced chicken and salsa.
Version #2 was for a friend of mine after she had baby #3 and all I did was add onions and garlic. Definitely nothing fancy, but I knew we were headed in the right direction when she asked me for the recipe.
Things got a bit glamorous with version #3, where I added corn, contemplated diced green chilies and modified the whole thing to work for a slow cooker.
That version was really, really good, and I didn’t think I could top it. Shoot, I didn’t think I needed to! But Mr. Crumbs suggested adding more vegetables.
And when your husband – the former picky eater who lived on hot pockets, Coke and Doritos in college – suggests to add more vegetables, you listen!
This idea let to version #4 which now sits before your eyes and will forever be labeled in my book as the best chili on the planet.
Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili
So what exactly makes this chili so good? Let’s talk about it…
All good chilis must have beans in my book, and this recipe uses great northern beans. You could use any white bean, but I already buy these for my Northern Beans and Ham Soup and I like the mild, smooth flavor.
Half the beans are whole, the other half are pureed (or squished really good if you’re like me and don’t have a kitchen appliance that will puree). The pureed/squished beans provide that thicker sauce so it will stand up against tortilla chips for scooping.
You don’t have to puree/squish half the beans if you don’t want to, but you’ll end up with more of a soup instead.
Squish the beans. You won’t regret it.
Salsa Verde (green salsa) and Diced Green Chilis
Diced green chilis first made their appearance in version #2, but I thought the chili still needed some oomph. Some kick that I couldn’t quite place my finger on other than adding salsa verde. So I did, and it was amazing.
If you can’t find salsa verde locally, you can make your own. You can also add additional spices with the diced green chilis – maybe some cumin with oregano and cilantro or a hefty dose of taco seasoning. I didn’t try that method, so proceed at your own risk and let us know in the comments if you come up with something amazing.
I’m sure I’m breaking some sort of rule in the chili cook-off rule book by adding cream cheese to this white chicken chili, but it’s a game changer and what puts it over the top in my book. It makes the thicker sauce just SO creamy!
And before you think chili shouldn’t be creamy, make this recipe. It’ll change your mind forever.
Chips and Sour Cream and Cheese and Avocado and Cilantro
These ingredients are optional, unless you too are addicted to tortilla chips and in that case, it’s a must.
And if you’re using tortilla chips to bribe your kids to eat beans too, your secret is safe with me.
- 3 cups cooked great northern beans, divided (how to cook and de-gas beans from scratch)
- ½ onion, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-2 cups homemade chicken stock
- 1 cup salsa verde
- 1 4oz can diced green chilis
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp oregano
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
- 8 oz cream cheese, cubed
- 1-2 carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 celery rib, diced (about ½ cup)
- 1 zucchini, diced (about 1 cup)
- 2 cups frozen corn
- 2 cups cooked shredded chicken* (we used leftovers from a whole roasted chicken)
- tortilla chips (optional, for serving)
- sour cream (optional, for serving)
- cheddar cheese, shredded (optional, for serving)
- avocado, diced (optional, for serving)
- cilantro, chopped (optional, for serving)
- lime, cut into wedges (optional, for serving)
- Measure 1½ cups cooked beans into the slow cooker and mash until they mostly resemble a puree. You can use a blender or a food processor to do this if you'd like.
- Add onions, garlic, 1 cup of chicken stock and salsa verde and stir well.
- Add all the remaining ingredients except chicken.
- Note: Add the crushed red pepper at this time if you're using. I'd suggest omitting if your family is sensitive to spicy foods, as the chilies and salsa provide enough kick on their own.
- Cook chili on low for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally and adding chicken about 1 hour before serving to warm through.
- If the chili is too thick for your liking, add up to 1 cup of chicken stock. Note that the chili will thicken as it cools and will be noticeably thicker the next day.
- Serve with optional tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese, diced avocado and chopped cilantro as desired.
Note: Even though this is a slow cooker recipe, you can make it in your Instant Pot with these simple tips!
- beans: $1.00
- onion: $0.13
- garlic: $0.30
- chicken stock: FREE
- salsa verde: $1.00
- diced green chilies: $0.50
- spices: $0.07
- cream cheese: $1.00
- carrots: $0.20
- celery: $0.10
- zucchini: $0.50
- corn: $1.00
- chicken: $1.66
Total Cost for Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili is $7.46.