Saturday, March 3, 2012

Recipe: Blackened Chicken White Bean Chili

A bowl of blackened chicken white bean chili

Blackened chicken white bean chili is easy to make, and is the most delicious chili I've ever tasted. This recipe is a slight adaptation of a blackened halibut chili recipe I came up with when I was a cook for an adventure lodge in Alaska. Chicken, pork, or fish are great, and you could also make it with shrimp and/or scallops.

I don't think I've ever served this chili without having people ask for the recipe. Bon Appetit magazine also expressed interest in this recipe back at the lodge, although as far as I know they never printed it.

It's an amazing chili, and goes great with cole slaw and cast iron skillet corn bread. If you're serving a crowd, I think it's a nice touch to serve this white chili along with a traditional red chili.

This recipe serves 6-8 people.


  • 4 large chicken breasts (roughly 1.5 pounds), cubed
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chicken base (paste)
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 4 - 15 oz cans great northern beans
  • 48 ounces (1 1/2 quarts) chicken broth
  • 12 ounces grated monterey jack cheese
  • 32 ounces (1 quart) sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt to taste, roughly 1 teaspoon


Begin by adding the chicken broth to a large enameled cast iron dutch oven (or a regular dutch oven if you don't have enameled). Drain the liquid from the great northern beans, and add them to the broth. Gently bring the broth and beans to a boil over medium-high heat.

Blackening seasoned chicken cubes in a cast iron skillet
In the meantime, heat a medium cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. While the skillet is heating up, cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes, and then cover the cubed chicken with the chicken base paste. If you don't have paste-style chicken base, you can simply reduce 2 cups of chicken broth... and use the concentrated results (about 2 tablespoons).

Season the chicken with the cumin and chili powder, and mix things around to evenly coat all of the chicken.

When the skillet is hot (smoke rolling off), add oil, and then toss in the cubed chicken. Blacken the chicken for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until just cooked through. You will likely need to turn down the heat to medium-low to avoid burning, but the idea is to get some nice blackening on those cubes. The blackening helps lock in the seasoning, and also adds a unique flavor to the chili.

Caramelizing the onions
Once cooked through, set the chicken aside in a covered bowl. Saute the diced onions in the same skillet. Add oil if need be, and adjust the heat as necessary to avoid burning. Saute the onion until it is deeply caramelized.

Because there are leftover seasonings in the skillet from the chicken, the onions will look much darker than they ordinarily would. Make sure you don't under-cook them. They should be soft and sweet... which will probably take 15 minutes with regular stirring. Taste them!

Once the onion is caramelized, add about a cup of broth from the dutch oven to help lift the fond that has developed in the skillet. Stir things around for 2-3 minutes, and then add the caramelized onions and liquid from the skillet back into the dutch oven with the beans.

Speaking of the broth in the dutch oven... whenever it begins to gently boil, begin slowly incorporating the shredded jack cheese. Only add a half a cup or so of cheese at a time, and stir it in until it has completely melted into the liquid. Be patient! If you rush this step, you'll end up with gobs of cheese on the bottom of your chili. It'll still taste great, but won't be velvety-smooth like it's supposed to be.

Keep careful tabs on the burner heat while you incorporate the cheese. The chili should be boiling gently during this process.

Once you've incorporated all the cheese, begin incorporating the sour cream. Again, add roughly 1/2 cup at a time. The sour cream doesn't need to melt like the cheese, but it still needs time to heat up and dissolve into the liquid. Don't rush!

Once you've incorporated all the cheese and sour cream, add the chicken and the garlic powder. Add salt to taste. If you like, you can add some heat with a good smokey hot sauce (Uncle Brutha's is the best). You can also add heat with cayenne pepper. If you use cayenne pepper, begin adding it to the broth at the beginning since it takes a while for the heat to come out of the dried, ground pepper.

Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve immediately!


  1. I've been on a bean bender lately, and Great Northerns are becoming a favorite. I'm going to try this.

  2. I seem to be on a permanent bean bender... Let me know how it goes!


  3. I made this chili for the guys last night and it was a hit. In fact, my son said, "This would make a good camping meal," which is his highest compliment. We like things really spicy here, so next time I might try chili de arbol instead of the dried New Mexico I used.

  4. I made this over the weekend - absolutely delicious! Thanks Derek!

  5. Thanks for reporting back Kirby and Karyn! Wow, camping meal, that is indeed a coveted response. ; - )


  6. Love this recipe.... but do you use the entire can of beans and liquid or do you drain?

    1. Hi Claire,

      Glad you like it! I do drain the beans (though it wouldn't be a sin not to). Hope that helps!



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