Chilly Monday: Leigh’s White Bean Chicken Chili


Photos © 2011 Curly Girl Design, Inc./Leigh Standley. all rights reserved.

Since the winter seems insistent on being just shy of unbearable and since cold and flu season is upon us, I thought it might be time to bring out the big guns. Now, I love to cook, and cook often, but if you ask Coach what the best thing I make is, I am almost sure he would say it's this. He might be right (I am just pretty proud of myself today aren't I?!)

But seriously, if you need something hearty, delicious and that looks great on the table this is your soup. It is also incredibly good the second day.

My search for the perfect white bean chili began a handful of years ago after having a tiny cup of the creamiest most delicious variety at a family friend's catered party. I tried to get the recipe from the caterer. No dice. I tried to search for it on the internet hoping that some disgruntled ex-employee had plastered the world with it in revenge. Nope. Then I set out to re-create it myself. Though, I knew in my heart the ingredients that were in that thimble full of soup I had fallen in love with were far richer than I could ever bear to use myself, I tried to make a version close enough to honoring that without undermining the healthy qualities inherent to soups and chilies. This is by no means a diet or lite chili, but it is a balanced soup and is in itself a meal.

The bones of this recipe came from a Gourmet chili recipe circa 1996. My one tip when preparing to make this is pretend you are on a cooking show and measure and chop everything in advance. Also, go ahead and combine all of the spices in a small bowl, mix them together and then add them all at once. The other tip is that when re-working this recipe, I tripled the amount of chicken stock used originally, making this a regular chili consistency more appropriate for having a whole bowl instead of a fancy thimble-full. You can play around with the amount of stock you put in to your liking, and also, when re-heating if at any point it has gotten a little thick on you, just re-heat it on the stove with some additional stock. The flavor will still be great.

Leigh’s White Bean Chicken Chili


3  16oz cans (mostly drained) of white navy beans (Canellini)

1 large yellow onion diced  (I find it is best if you stick the whole thing in the food processor and mince the heck out of it… makes the soup creamier and is less emotionally draining than chopping the dang thing)

1 stick butter

¼ cup flour

2 C. chicken broth

1 ¾ C light coconut milk (I use this to keep it dairy-free but you could also use half & half or whole milk here…it does not taste coco-nutty if you use this though)

1 tbs. chili powder

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp salt

1 tsp white pepper

1 4oz. can diced mild green chilies, drained

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped

1 ½ cups frozen roasted corn (kernels) (Trader Joe's sells an AWESOME frozen fire-roasted corn, I use that)



Sour cream

Blue corn chips

Shredded or grated Monterey Jack Cheese

All optional.



In a large pot boil water for chicken breasts. Boil for 10-12 minutes, until cooked. Drain, chop and set aside.

In a skillet cook the onion in 2 tbs. of butter over medium heat until softened. Set aside.

In a large heavy soup pot, melt the rest of the stick of butter (6 tbs) over  lowish heat and whisk in flour. Cook roux, whisking constantly for 3 minutes or so, until the flour is completely incorporated and the mixture turns the color of a manila envelope. It is important to whisk fast and constantly so the mixture does not burn or brown.

Stir in onion and gradually add coconut milk and 1 Cup of the chicken broth, still whisking constantly. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes or until thickened. Stir in spices, add beans, chilies, corn and chicken and cook mixture 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in remaining chicken stock and turn heat down to med/low and cook for 20 minutes.

Garnish with crunched up blue corn chips and a dollop of sour cream or shredded cheese and Enjoy!!

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