White Bean Chicken Chili

First posted nearly six years ago, this white bean chicken chili so delicious (as in, it’s one of my favorite soups), I decided not only did it need updated pictures and a few added notes but it deserved a moment in the spotlight again. Poor little thing. Tragically buried and forgotten in the dusty, dark archives that is eight years of blogging.

The recipe, originally from my Aunt Marilyn, is a snap to throw together (we are talking less than 30 minutes, start to finish). I absolutely love this soup. And it has been known to win a chili cook-off or two, just in case you are wondering.

White Bean Chicken Chili

While it is unadorned in the pictures, we usually load our servings (yes, plural, because seconds are not optional) with all sorts of goodness: crushed tortilla chips, avocados, tomatoes, olives, cheese, sour cream. It’s delicious plain Jane or loaded to the max.

I’m so happy to reintroduce this soup to the world. If you’ve made it before, check out the notes in the recipe as I’ve made a few little changes over the years to make it creamier, easier and if possible, even more tasty. And if you haven’t made it, well, you should. Don’t forget to check out all the comments below from others who have made it and reported back (so helpful!).

White Bean Chicken Chili

One Year Ago: Classic Slow Cooker Chili
Two Years Ago: White Texas Sheet Cake
Three Years Ago: Cheesecake Rice Pudding {Plus a Chocolate Version!}

White Bean Chicken Chili

Yield: Serves 4

White Bean Chicken Chili

UPDATE: A single recipe of this soup doesn't make a whole lot - I always double it for our family of seven (five kids, two adults). Of course, it goes a bit further if adding on toppings so keep that in mind. Originally the recipe was posted with mozzarella cheese. It's very yummy that way and occasionally I still use it but for the most part, I've changed to using Monterey Jack for a much creamier and smoother texture. Incidentally cheddar doesn't seem to work well here - it is a bit to greasy and doesn't melt well.

Also, the salsa in this recipe is quite important - use a salsa that has great flavor as it is a key component to the soup. A salsa with a lot of heat is obviously going to make the soup spicy. I like to use a mild or medium salsa (Trader Joe's chunky sals or fire-roasted salsa are two of my favorites). And if you want to change it up a bit, using a green salsa is a wonderful variation. You can probably tell this soup is endlessly adaptable.

Don't forget that leftover, cooked turkey is delicious in this soup. Another note - I often sub celery seed (just 1/4 teaspoon) for the celery salt and then just add additional salt to taste if needed.


  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 (14.5 ounces each) cans Great Northern Beans or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups cooked, diced chicken (or use this skillet method for quick, cooked and shredded chicken)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup salsa (see note above)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese (see note above)
  • Optional toppings (cilantro, olives, tomatoes, sour cream, avocados)


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the remainder of the ingredients, except the cheese. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the soup comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat so the soup is simmering but not vigorously boiling and add the cheese one small handful at a time, stirring to let each addition melt before adding the next.
  3. Give the soup a good stir making sure all the cheese has melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Serve with additional toppings (optional): crushed tortilla chips, olives, sour cream, avocados, cilantro, tomatoes.

Recipe Source: adapted from Aunt Marilyn

83 Responses to White Bean Chicken Chili

  1. Heather and Devin says:

    Hello! First of all, thank you so much for posting all these delicious recipes. I come here weekly for my meal planning! You are fabulous.

    Second, I am going to make this chili this week, but I already have two 14.5 ounce cans of cannellini beans on hand, not great northern. Does it really make a big difference, or am I okay to make it with what I have?

    Thanks so much~


  2. Heather and Devin says:

    Also, I forgot one other question. I have a lot of MILD salsa on hand, but I have a couple of recipes that I want to make that call for MEDIUM salsa. Is it okay to just use the mild salsa and then throw in 1 or 1/2 of a jalapeno to give it the extra kick you’d get with medium salsa? Thanks!

  3. Shauntel says:

    Another hit.

    Does Aunt Marilyn know how much we all love her?

    Yum, yum.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    P.S. For any others who hate touching chicken as much as I do, one large can of chicken (we prefer Tyson’s white, although you can buy the Costco or Sam’s Club brands in bulk, which are also good) works great in this recipe!

  4. Melanie says:

    Heather and Devine Irvine – it’s funny you asked about the cannellini beans because that’s what this recipe originally called for but I only ever have great northern beans so that is what I use – so in answer to your question, yes, the cannellini beans would work great! Also on the mild salsa question, you may think the mild salsa gives it enough flavor but if you like things a bit spicier than by all means use the mild salsa and add a jalapeno. That sounds delicious, actually!

  5. Melanie says:

    Shauntel – I always tell my Aunt Marilyn how much commenters and readers compliment her so I’ll definitely pass along your praise. I’d be lost without her recipes, that’s for sure! Thanks for the tip on the chicken and I’m so glad you liked this; thanks for letting me know!

  6. Melanie C. says:

    I made this for dinner last night and it was delicious!!! the only thing I did differently was I threw in a 4 oz. can of diced green chilies when the onion was cooking, just because I had it in the pantry!
    we served the bowls topped with crunched up tortilla chips, and diced avocado. big green salad on the side with ‘margarita’ dressing (fresh lime juice/cumin/cilantro/honey/EVOO)
    thanks for all your great recipes! I made Zephyr pancakes for dinner last week!

  7. grace says:

    beans, meat, and spice make for a wonderful bowl of chili no matter what you use. great idea for leftovers!

  8. teresa says:

    oh yummy! this looks like a wonderful way to use up all that turkey! i hope you had a great thanksgiving!

  9. ARLENE says:

    Looks delicious. If I hadn’t used up all my leftover turkey in my empanadas, I’d have tried it. Next time.

  10. Marisa says:

    This sounds like such a fabulous way to use up that extra bit of turkey. I agree with you that I love turkey sandwiched between homemade rolls. Amazingly this year that’s about as far as the turkey stretched so I’ll have to use chicken for this recipe. I bet your Aunt Marilyn is so flattered by all of her recipes that are on your site and all the praise :-)!

  11. Leslie says:

    I never seem to have turkey leftover…everyone picks and picks at them throughout the day!
    But this soup does sound like a wonderful use for them

  12. Candace@craftysisters-nc says:

    Thanks so much for all the yummy Thanksgiving recipes. I made your stuffing (no stovetop this year) and everyone loved it! I used artisan Labrea bread. It was so good! I also made pumpkin roll… and pumpkin bars! I would be lost without all your recipes! I am spreading the word of how great you are!!!

  13. Stephanie says:

    This was delicious and almost too simple! Our turkey was smoked which added some great flavor to this chili. Thanks for the recipe!

  14. Peregos says:

    I making this for dinner. Thank you! I am turkey sandwiched out. Cheers!

  15. Melanie says:

    Melanie C. – way to make this a gourmet meal (your margarita salad dressing sounds awesome). I’m so glad you liked the soup!

  16. Melanie says:

    Candace – thanks for your comment! I’m glad that the recipes you’ve tried have worked out for you. Thanks so much for letting me know.

  17. Melanie says:

    Stephanie – I agree, this soup is really, really simple. I bet it was divine with smoked turkey – yum!

  18. Shantai says:

    just made it and yummy!! added diced celery and used my homemade salsa from this summer… hubby loved it:) Ate it with some homemade Lion House bread… bring on the snow!!

  19. Jessie says:

    I just tried this on Monday night and it was fantastic!!! Thank you for sharing!!!

  20. Melanie says:

    Shantai – oh, I bet this was delicious with homemade salsa and celery. Way to go on all the homemade (salsa, bread!). Awesome.

  21. Melanie says:

    Jessie – thanks for letting me know you liked this! I’m glad it was fantastic for you.

  22. Catherine says:

    I made this and my husband raved! I have a few other white chili recipes, but he liked this better than the others, and it’s SO much simpler! Definitely a keeper!

  23. Melanie says:

    Catherine – so glad you and your husband liked this! Thanks so much for letting me know.

  24. Angela says:

    I want to try this recipe. Have made chili over & over the past few years who love it but I cant eat it because it gives me bad heartburn. let me also say im so glad you dont say “stoup” arg! LOL

  25. Melanie C. says:

    Hey Melanie!
    just wanted to tell you how much I LOVE this chili! it really is yummy, and comes together so fast. I made it after Thanksgiving using leftover turkey, and I made it last night using chicken breast.
    one thing I do is I add a can of Ro-tel to it, just for a little spice, and I serve the bowls topped with diced tomato and avocado.

    SO delicious! thanks for all the great recipes!!

  26. Melanie says:

    Melanie C. – this is one of our favorite soups, too…and I love your additions. Yum!

  27. Pat says:

    Great chili, it had a rich flavor and a nice texture! Hope to try the chicken bread braid soon!

  28. Melanie says:

    Hi Pat – glad you liked this!

  29. Stephanie says:

    I made this chili again except I used leftover ham from Easter instead of Turkey from Thanksgiving – still a divine soup! You just have to cut down on the celery salt (to 1/4 tsp) since the ham contributes gobs of sodium. This recipe is a great base for any variation you want to try. Thanks!

  30. Mel says:

    Stephanie – oh, what a great idea to use ham! I haven’t ever tried that and love the suggestion. Thank you!

  31. dana says:

    Loved the chili! So Easy and fast. Thank you for the great recipe. It was hard to dump in those beans undrained…I just like draining and rinsing them first. Have you ever made this and drained the beans? Does it make that much of a difference?

    • Mel says:

      Dana – it’s funny you posted this comment because I just made this recipe last week and since I mostly have it memorized, I rinsed and drained the beans, forgetting that this recipe omits that step. You know what? It tasted great and obviously wasn’t a huge difference because I just barely remembered I made that change after seeing your comment. My point is that you could easily rinse and drain the beans and have a great result. The point in not draining them is to thicken the broth a bit but I think from now on, I’ll probably rinse and drain them, too. I’m off to edit the recipe.

  32. Megan H. says:

    ok so this white bean soup sounds yummy too! I usually make the creamy white chili. Im afraid a little to try this one because the creamy white chili is usually my go to white bean soup recipe.. i kinda feel like Im cheating on it! :/

  33. juliann says:

    my husband gave this an a+ which is his highest compliment. He kept talking about it while he was eating it too. So he thanks you. I used mexican blend reduced fat cheese because it was all I had and it came out great. I will try it the proper way next time. I ate leftovers today and I have to say I think I liked it more today then yesterday……The flavors had a chance to meld more. I dont think it has replaced the creamy chicken chili recipe you posted which is my all time favorite but this is a very good variation

  34. Mandi says:

    I made this tonight and while my family seemed to really enjoy it, I had issues with the cheese. Maybe I used the wrong kind of mozz. (not a high enough fat content) but the cheese was super gummy and the chicken stuck together and was chewy w/ all of the cheese on it. I added the cheese slowly, a tbsp at a time but it didn’t cooperate w/ me at all. I loved the flavors of everything and would love to make it again. Do you have any suggestions to help me fix the cheese issues I had?

    Thanks Mel. And once again, I love your recipes. Your recipe index is now my go-to for family meals. :)

    • Mel says:

      Hi Mandi – I’m not sure why you had issues with the cheese – that’s a bummer! The cheese definitely coats the chicken in a creamy layer but when I make it, the chicken doesn’t get really chewy because of it – at least that I can recall, since it has been a month or so since I made this last. Perhaps try cutting the cheese amount in half and see how that goes. Usually when I make it, I throw it all in and stir it around until it is all combined. Sorry I can’t be of more help!

  35. Stephanie says:

    I made this tonight because I knew it would come together quickly. It tasted great! I subbed with ingredients I had on hand: Monterrey Jack for the mozzarella and cannellini beans and small white beans for the Great Northerns. The bean substitutions worked out perfectly, as the small beans broke apart and made the chili thick, while the cannellinis kept their shape and texture. Served with corn muffins, it was a nice comfort meal for a rainy night. Thanks for sharing!

  36. Erin says:

    I made this tonight for my family and my one year old daughter loved it! It was a little salty, and I did not add any extra salt to it. Should I cut down the celery salt next time?

  37. Mel says:

    Hi Erin – either that or use a low-sodium chicken broth…that could be the culprit of saltiness.

  38. Rachel Russell says:

    Was SO GOOD- family raved- even picky kids. Only had mild salsa- so added a jalapeno as recomended above- was fab and not too hot. Mel- you are rocking our dinner table lately- high 5’s all around. Made with best corn bread/honey butter which was gorgeous.

  39. Kayla Bias says:

    I made this last night and it was hit! It tasted so good and the best part was it was so easy to fix. I substituted the mozzarella cheese for Monterey jack because that’s what I had and it did fine. Great recipes and I can’t wait to try more!

  40. […] White Bean Chicken (or Turkey) Chili. white beans are delicious and incredible to say the least ! add some chicken and enjoy eating well. […]

  41. Angela says:

    This saved the day yesterday! What a simple and tasty way to finish off our turkey leftovers. Everyone in my family ate it. Enough said. Thanks for your sense of humor and great recipes. :)

  42. Nicole says:

    I made this the other day and good thing it is so versatile because my brain was totally out to lunch. Long story short I used a can of pinto beans, a can of kidney beans, added celery since I didn’t have celery salt, jack cheese since I didn’t have mozzarella, and cumin since it started turning into a Mexican dish :) I plan to make it again and follow the recipe, but it turned out great, Holden was ready to eat it again the next night. Recipes like this are great for me because while they may be kind of basic for more experienced cooks, they give a great outline for other similar soups, and help me be a better cook myself. Loved how quick it was, thanks!

  43. Jennifer Smith says:

    Just yum. 73rd time I have made this. Just yum!

  44. […] White Bean Turkey Chili […]

  45. kelly says:

    Tell Aunt Marilyn that this soup rocks! I wish I had made a double batch!

  46. Annalisa says:

    I made this last weekend and it was fantastic! I was looking for something that would come together faster than my regular white chili recipe, and this did not disappoint! Loved the addition of the mozzarella cheese, too. I used baby butter beans and it was so so good!! Thanks, Mel, for all your wonderful recipes!

  47. Christina says:

    Just made this using our leftover Turkey from Easter dinner. It was delicious. The cheese really made it incredible. Thanks.

  48. Marie says:

    Made this with leftover Thanksgiving turkey – yum…I doubled the recipe and the four cans of beans were too much for my family. I made a couple of mods – added more turkey stock and added some cumin and cayenne to warm it – it was quite yummy!

  49. Kelly says:

    Does this reheat well? I am thinking of making it for a new mom

  50. Jackie says:

    I was just dreaming of this chili while making breakfast this morning. First day we have that isn’t in the 80s, I’m making it!

  51. Kay says:

    White Bean Chili and corn muffins – our favorite cold weather meal! Thanks for re-posting. I want to say that using Mexican Oregano makes a difference (in all south-of-the-border recipes) and is preferred. We love our WBC “Southwest Style” so we add a can of green chilis too. For deeper flavor I saute the chicken in Mexican chili powder first. We actually use chicken-style seitan to make it a scrumptious high-protein vegetarian meal, and add that in the last 10 min. of cooking. And this recipe freezes well!

  52. Kate Pru says:

    Oh, this is one of our favs from your blog! (Love all of your Aunt Marilyn’s recipes!) We make it at *least* once a month, and there have been times it’s always in the fridge. SO easy and delish.

    Question: How do you keep your cheese from globbing up? I usually add a lot less cheese because it all melts together and I end up with globs of it. Any tips? I’m not sure what exactly the temperature should be when adding the cheese (boiling? simmering?). Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Kate, glad you love this one. I added some new notes to the recipe but over the years I’ve started using Monterey Jack cheese instead of mozzarella for a creamier texture.

    • Alice E says:

      In general always keep the temperature below boiling when adding cheese. Just under a simmer is best in my experience. I frequently turn off the heat and let the cheese melt with the residual heat. It also helps if the cheese is grated or in very small chunks. The finer it is grated the easier it will melt. It can also help to add the cheese in stages, so that the first melts and blends before you add more.

      • Kate Pru says:

        Thanks Mel & Alice! I will try turning down/off the heat and see how that works. I usually used bagged shredded cheese – maybe I will try grating some off the block next time, too. Thanks!

        • Mel says:

          Ah, yes, I should have asked you that Kate…preshredded cheese is coated with a powdery substance that makes it not melt as well as freshly grated so that can definitely cause clumping or texture issues.

  53. Teresa R. says:

    I am such a fan of your creamy white chili that I really don’t know if I will ever love another white chili. I fix it almost every week in the cooler months. I will give this recipe a try because I trust your opinion, plus your recipes have never let me down!

  54. Paige says:

    I love all the tips and adaptations you gave for this! Trader Joe’s salsa is one of our favorites too so we’ll definitely have to make this after our next trip to TJ’s


  55. Leah says:

    I can attest to how delicious this is. I have made it several times and most recently this summer when the family was away for a boys’ trip, while I was having my own staycation. It was great with all the ingredients that I already had on hand.

  56. Divya says:

    Hi Mel

    Thank you for sharing your recipes. How would you do a slow cooker version of this soup?

  57. Jenna says:

    This is a family favorite! Yes, it was posted long ago but it has not been forgotten at our house. I just made it earlier this week. Even my pickest eater loves it and we always eat it without toppings…had not even thought of toppings since it is so yummy. Thank you!! 😉

  58. ashley w says:

    Will this freeze well?

  59. Mimsie says:

    Oh, this looks delicious. I plan to take it to a potluck this weekend. Love your recipes, and recommend your site all the time. Thanks!

  60. Barb says:

    You know another recipe that deserves another moment in the spotlight? The cheesey broccoli rice casserole. That is SUCH a flavorful dish, and I have totally stopped using Cream of Yuk soups. In my early bride days, I did use the velveeta and cr. of chix soup version, and we survived, but I made this again last nite and it is gone. I put cubes of ham in it, and substituted evaporated milk for the half and half, to cut calories.

  61. Tanya G says:

    Hi Mel, I wanted to serve this soup to some company and was wondering if you’d recommend some sort of bread to go along with it. Does this even need bread?

    • Mel says:

      Bread is great with this! Although you may not need it if you serve it with the toppings. Cornbread or a dinner roll would be yummy, though.

  62. Sheila says:

    One of our very favorites! This is so good and a lot lighter than the one I had that called for sour and heavy cream.

  63. Cinda Atherton says:

    I made this for a crowd for conference weekend. Everybody loved it! I put it together early Sunday morning and let it simmer gently all day–super easy. I used pace medium picante sauce and a combination of monterey jack and mozzerella cheese. Next time I’ll try some other brand of sauce just for fun. Thanks!

  64. Katie says:

    Super yummo! I added 4 cups of chicken broth because I like it a bit more soupy. Thanks for the awesome recipe! :)

  65. Lela Pike says:

    I just found this Recipe site and all sound delicious. I plan to make some of this White Bean Chicken Chili soon! My son will love it, he has been telling me to make some for a while and I wasn’t sure about it and had not found the right recipe. So here goes, this week I have to try this! Thanks for the great sounding recipe and for all the comments. Also I would love to find a good Apple Turnover Recipe or Apple Fritters with plenty of Apples in them. I buy them at the Apple Orchard Sweet Shop and can’t find hardly any pieces of Apples in them, (since Apples are their Business and plentiful, I don’t understand it, so I will try making my own.) Hopefully my easy Best Ever Cinnamon Roll Recipe will work and add plenty of Apples. Gingerbread Old Fashioned is also a Recipe I would like, tried some but not like my Mothers from an old, old cookbook that someone else took from her kitchen. It called for a pinch of this and that…so fun to read the recipes. Some were delicious, and it was probably from the 30’s or 40’s…My Mom and Dad were married in 1934 and she always used her cookbook to be accurate with picture perfect Pies, Cakes and Desserts and that wonderful Gingerbread. My family were farmers and we all were taught to help grow the foods, prepare them to eat and help preserve them for the Winter months. We always had 3 meals a day, balanced and with Pies or Cake for Dessert. My Daddy was a lucky man to have a woman like our Mother and he was always working on the farm to prepare for the next phase of the farm work. They are Gone but Never Forgotten.

  66. Ruth says:

    Mel, I am so glad that you reposted this recipe……that I had forgotten about. I prepared the chili today for the first time for my husband and me, and it truly delivered. It was crazy good and so easy to put together. Our tummies are so happy! Thank you for generously sharing your wonderful recipes with world.

  67. Shelly says:

    This soup is SO good, and seriously so easy to make!! Thank you, Mel!

  68. Beth says:

    Threw this together after a very busy day; it was quick to make and delicious! Thanks!

  69. Bess says:

    I loved this and 3 of our 4 kids actually ate it. A miracle at our house when we are trying a new food. This will definitely be added to our rotation. Thanks so much.

  70. Bunny says:

    I made this chili last night. It was great!!
    I used Paul Newman’s brand medium salsa and left out the celery salt which I didn’t have. It was salty enough from the salsa and cheese. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!!

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