Sarah's White Chicken Chili Recipe - Skillful Cook
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Sarah's White Chicken Chili

48 reviews / 4.8 average

White Chicken Chili! One of my favorite soups. Creamy, smoky, cozy, and spicy with BIG flavor and simple ingredients. SO GOOD.

It's pretty much subconscious at this point - when the weather turns colder, and the leaves start turning, I start craving bowl after bowl of this white chicken chili.

This is not just any white chicken chili - it is a specifically non-authentic, cheap-thrills-style white chicken chili that my friend Sarah made for us a few years ago, and it might be one of my favorite soups of all time. This chili contains several slices of thick bacon and a full block of cream cheese, and thank you for understanding why this is necessary. It is altogether creamy and smoky and cozy and spicy and just really wonderful in its big-flavorful-ness.

Sarah is the kind of person who knows the importance of chili toppings, and so naturally this white chicken chili is a welcoming canvas for chips, cheese, cilantro or green onions or, hmm, let's see, EVERYTHING.

Chicken chili with beans and green garnishment.

I can virtually guarantee that this meal is going to have your people bugging you for the recipe (I texted Sarah for the recipe after she made it for me, and my sister texted me for the recipe after I made it for her... this is just how these things work).

Ingredients for a White Chicken Chili laid out on a countertop.

There is some amount of adjusting you can do here - pick the type of beans you like, pick the type of chicken (breasts or thighs) that you like, etc. - but I really do not recommend messing with the bacon or the cream cheese. Both are super essential for the creamy, smoky, Tex-Mex queso type vibe that you're going to get with this soup.

A pot full of white chicken chili with green garnishments.

The number of bowls of this white chicken chili that I've eaten on the couch, in front of the TV, loaded with chips and cheese and green onions, after a long day, really just living my best life? It's too many to count. High and still rising.

I think we all owe Sarah a big virtual hug.

White chicken chili with chips and garnishments.

More Favorite Chili Recipes

Watch How To Make This White Chicken Chili

Click here to see the step-by-step web story instructions for this recipe!

This recipe is inspired by the white chicken chili that my friend Sarah made for us a few years ago after our daughter was born. The recipe came to her from a husband's friend's co-worker, and she's made many changes to it which she has now passed on to me. Maybe it's just nostalgia, but I crave this hardcore every year in the fall!

Common Questions About This White Chicken Chili

Why isn't there any salt in this chili?

I didn’t include a salt measurement here, or even a mention of seasoning, because I find that with both the bacon AND the chicken broth, it is plenty salty. But you do you!

Can I switch out the beans?

Definitely! This white chicken chili is great with white beans, navy beans, and red beans. Mix and match as you like! And for a less chunky soup, use just one can of beans.

Do I need to drain the bacon grease?

The overall amount shouldn’t be overwhelming as there is no other oil in this recipe, and the bacon grease will work its way into leftovers nicely with really good flavor. That being said, I often just quickly skim the top if / when I start to see some of the grease pooling. If you want, you can drain off the extra tablespoon or so of grease after you fry the bacon with the onion, garlic, and jalapeño in step two.

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White chicken chili in a bowl.

Sarah's White Chicken Chili


  • Author: Lindsay
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x

Description

White Chicken Chili! One of my favorite soups. Creamy, smoky, cozy, and spicy with BIG flavor and simple ingredients. SO GOOD.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 4-5 strips of bacon
  • 1-2 jalapeños, ribs and seeds removed
  • half of a yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • two 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes with green chiles (with juices!)
  • 1.25 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (you can also use chicken breasts - I like it both ways)
  • one 14-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • one 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 ounces cream cheese

Instructions

  1. Food processor prep: 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.
  2. Cook bacon and veggies: Add the bacon to a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Once the bacon starts heating up, add the onion, garlic, and jalapeño mix so it all cooks together.
  3. Build the soup: Add spices, broth, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Cook chicken: Add chicken. Bring to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove, cool, and shred.
  5. Tie it all up: Stir in the shredded chicken, beans, and cream cheese.  The chili will be THICK, especially as it cools. It's almost like a dip because, yes, we are monsters. Thin it out with water as you like!
  6. Top and serve: Serve with every good thing under the sun, but mostly tortilla chips, cilantro, green onion, and cheese.

Equipment

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: white chicken chili, chicken chili, creamy chili, comfort food, fall recipe, easy chili recipe, retro chili recipe


One More Thing!

This recipe is part of our collection of magical black bean recipes. Check it out!

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127 Comments

  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    Would rotisserie chicken also work here? Wasn’t sure if cooking the chicken in the soup somehow helped thicken or anything.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      This chili is seriously amazing! I made extra bacon to crumble on the top. Everyone was fighting over the last of it. I used whatever and I had in the pantry, some regular diced tomatoes (again pantry item) and it was so good! Thank you!

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    Could this possibly be made in the Instant Pot…maybe adding the cream cheese after it is done?? Has anyone tried it?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Try sauteeing the onion and jalapeño in the IP and then add all ingredients except the cream cheese with the tomato’s/chiles on top (don’t stir, tomatoes will cause a burn notification sometimes if they’re on the bottom) and do high pressure for 10 min and quick release. Add blocked cream cheese and stir. Should work!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      We haven’t tested the chili using any substitutions for the cream cheese, so we can’t say for sure. If looking for a dairy-free option, coconut milk or cream, or cashew cream might be good options.

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        I’m using Greek yogurt for a substitute, so I think a vegan alternative to Greek yogurt would work just fine (it’s worth a try). I was also thinking maybe a really thick cashew or nut cream could work.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      We haven’t tried a cream cheese substitute in this soup, so we can’t say for sure. We think coconut cream or milk would work just fine as long you’re okay with the coconut flavor coming through. We’d love to hear back if you give it a try!

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    Love this recipe! Had some last of the season peppers I added to the food processor and finished with some smoked gouda…perfect for q cool Monday night and will be lunch for a few days for sure! Thanks!

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    Made this tonight and LOVED it! I’m trying to eat mostly plant-based food, so I left out the chicken and added cooked vegan “chicken” at the end. I also added a few drops of liquid smoke to make up for the absence of the bacon, though I sampled the chili before adding the liquid smoke and it was fantastic even without it! This will definitely be in my dinner rotation this winter!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Love the liquid smoke substitute for bacon! Glad you enjoyed the recipe, Jill!

    2. Skillful Cook Logo

      Jill…I am planning on making this vegan as well. Which vegan chicken did you use?

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love that the same blog that persuades people to love tofu understands chili w cream cheese and bacon….food is such a pure pleasure! Thx for this recipe and your beautiful words.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      We haven’t tried substituting with yogurt, but we think full fat Greek yogurt could be a good option!

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    If you don’t have a food processor can you just dice up all of the ingredients instead?

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    This was tasty. I made admendments for my guy who doesn’t like cumin, so I added some minced cilantro stems to the veggies.
    The processing of the bacon and veggies into a paste-like consistency is new to me and will be added to my cooking repertoire. What a brilliant way to make a base of flavor.
    Thank you! I will be making this again.

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    Made this for dinner tonight. It’s so good! This is definitely a recipe I will be keeping in my soup/chili rotation.

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    Made this for dinner tonight and everyone deemed it a winner! So quick, easy, and super tasty. I’ve been looking for a go-to chili recipe, and this is it. The bacon really brings it next level.

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    This was so delicious. I made a few substitutions (type of beans/tomatoes) and it worked just fine. The bacon puts it over the top, and it definitely is a bit queso-y. Will make again for sure!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Queso-y is how we like to describe it too 🙂 So glad you like the recipe, Sydney!

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    This was absolutely fantastic! I only had one can of tomatoes so I threw in a jar of salsa as well and it came out so well. Husband and stepson went back for thirds! Definitely making again.

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    I made this last night – and we polished off the leftovers tonight!

    I used ground turkey breast instead of chicken (I browned it in a separate pan and then added it to the soup). Otherwise, I followed the recipe (two jalapeños).

    This was delicious. The boyfriend said it was “one of the best things I had ever made” – so high praise because I think I’ve made him lots of good meals. I highly recommend the recipe. I would warn that it takes more prep time, but it’s still very doable on a weeknight. I will be making this again soon.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      So happy you both enjoyed the chili, Sarah! Great to know that ground turkey works well in the recipe!

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    We had this tonight and it was delicious! We are vegetarian so I used extra beans, including pinto beans made fresh in the instant pot. Instead of bacon I threw in several chopped chipotles in adobo sauce!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Great idea using chipotles for a smoky substitute! So glad you liked the recipe, Karli!

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    So so tasty! Just finished the leftovers the following day and I’ve already told 3 friends about this recipe. Thank you for sharing. It’s so delicious

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    This was so yummy! I love that it tastes like it’s been simmering away all day but I could make it in the half hour before dinnertime. So good. I used slightly more broth than it calls for so it would stretch a little further and be a little thinner (a bit easier for my little kids to eat) but besides that we followed the recipe exactly and it was just awesome! We’ll make it again for sure.

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    Yum!! The bacon addition was 👏. We went dairy on dairy and topped with cheese and sour cream. Also tortilla chips. I think Fritos would be amazing.

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    I wasn’t feeling like eating meat last night so I made this without the bacon and chicken and added some corn. I also used lowfat cream cheese and it was so dreamy. I will definitely try it with the meat sometime but this was perfection on a rainy Sunday night! Thanks!