The Season's Best White Bean Chili

Fall, In Season, Tailgating, Winter
on September 12, 2013
White Bean Chicken Chili
Denise Woodward

Once Fall hits, I snuggle into comfort-food zone, and begin thinking of chili dishes, soups and stews. The best thing about these dishes is how versatile you can get with the ingredients—especially chili.

Normally in our home, my husband Lenny starts the season off with a hearty and somewhat traditional red chili dish. It is full of what you would typically find in a chili recipe; lots of ground beef, fiery chili peppers and rich kidney beans topped with mass amounts of sour cream and cheese. I, on the other hand, much prefer the following lighter version made with chicken and white beans. The toppings are beautifully fresh and simple—green onions, cilantro, creamy avocado and fresh lime wedges.

Depending on your schedule and mood, the recipe can be brought together quickly or allowed to sit and stew for hours. If you’re in a pinch, use canned beans but if you’ve got time to let a big pot of chili simmer, opt for dried white beans. No need to get fussy on which type of white beans to use—whatever is in the pantry will likely be a fit. I have made the chili with small white navy beans and great northern beans and both have worked perfectly. When working with dried beans, let them soak overnight (in the refrigerator), and precook for 30—45 minutes or until tender.

If you forget to pop dried beans in the fridge the night before, no worries, here’s a quick tip for using dried beans without a 24 hour presoak:

When it comes to choosing poultry for this chili, never substitute with ground or white chicken as it can be a bit dry or flavorless. Instead, meaty chicken thighs are always the way to go—they have much more flavor, which will add depth to the chili’s broth. Plus thighs are extremely budget friendly, especially when you purchase them with the bone and skin on.

Like the toppings, the seasoning in this recipe isn’t overly involved—just a little yellow onion, Mexican oregano, cumin, coriander and two types of chilies. Sweet Guajillo chili and smoky and spicy Chipotle are my top picks as the two create a nice balance. The seasonings will give you enough heat to remember the dish by, but you if prefer slapped-in-the-face chili heat, then up the amount of Chipotle pepper to your liking. And do keep in mind, the flavor of this recipe gets only better by sitting a few hours (or even overnight) before serving. It is great as a leftover too—if there is any left at all.

For more from Denise Woodward, visit her prolific and delicious blog Chez Us