Soups Tex-Mex

White chicken poblano chili

White chicken poblano chili | Homesick Texan

When I was working in Midtown Manhattan at a magazine, I used to visit a small Mexican joint for lunch. The food was good for a quick meal but it was decidedly not Tex-Mex, as it specialized in burritos and served two chilis that were both made with beans.

The beef one was the usual ground meat, kidney bean, and tomato affair that people in the Northeast like to pass off as chili. I tried it once and that was more than enough, as it was not only absent any chile peppers but the ingredients that were included had little flavor. If anything, the chili skewed more sweet than spicy. I was not a fan.

The other chili was a white chili. Since I am a chili purist, I’ve always thought that white chili was a silly name. If the stew isn’t made with dried red chile peppers and beef, how can you call it chili? Indeed, white chili is typically a chicken based soup made with green chiles and white beans. It’s not a bad combination, but it’s not Texas chili. No matter, the white chili at this particular restaurant was excellent, and naming issues aside, I ordered a bowl of it at least once a week.

White chicken poblano chili | Homesick Texan

As is typical of the white chili genre, the stew was made with chicken, green chiles, and white beans. After being slowly cooked for hours, it turned into a rich thick concoction that would keep me warm on cold days. I’d top it with cilantro and a dollop of salsa and be in white chili bliss.

While I haven’t worked near that burrito place in quite some time, when the weather was getting nippier the other day I recalled that white chicken chili. I’ve never made one myself and I thought it could be interesting to try. And just as I began my research, Robb Walsh’s new book The Chili Cookbook arrived.

Now, I’m sure Robb doesn’t need much introduction around here, but if you’re not familiar with him he’s written some wonderful books on Texan cuisine, such as The Tex-Mex Cookbook and The Legends of Texas Barbecue. His new book, as the title implies, is all about chili. While normally he tends to keep his focus primarily on Texas, in this book he goes beyond the state’s borders and explores regional chili styles from around the world—everything from Hungarian goulash to Cincinnati’s Greek-inspired chili.

White chili, which he says originally hails from the Midwest, also makes an appearance. There are two white chili recipes but the one that interested me the most was a slowly cooked stew made with dried (as opposed to canned) Great Northern beans and a whole chicken. A large number of roasted Poblano and jalapaeño chiles, spices, and aromatics were added as well. It was just what I was craving.

As is my wont, I did make some changes to his original recipe. First, because my store was out of whole chickens, I bought chicken thighs instead—a fine substitution, as I prefer dark meat. I also increased the number of chiles he recommended and threw in some cilantro, as well. The beans ended up taking longer than expected to cook, so I increased the cooking time. And the original recipe called for a bit of milk to be added at the end, but after making two batches with the milk I found that it was just as good without, and that serving the chili with sour cream was plenty of dairy for me.

White chicken poblano chili | Homesick Texan

Since you’re starting from scratch, this white chicken and poblano chili does take some time, but the results are worth it as you end up with a soulful, savory stew. Of course, if you’re a Texan-chili purist like myself, you may argue if this is chili or not. I wouldn’t let that stop you from making it, however, as no matter what you call it I think you’ll agree that this is a hearty, rewarding dish perfect for crisp autumn days.

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White chicken poblano chili | Homesick Texan
5 from 1 vote

White chicken Poblano chili

Servings 8
Author Adapted by Lisa Fain from The Chili Cookbook by Robb Walsh


  • 1 pound Great Northern beans
  • 2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 8 Poblano chiles
  • 3 pounds chicken thighs, with skin and bone
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 jalapeño chiles, seeded and diced
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons masa harina
  • Sour cream, for serving
  • Sliced limes, for serving


  1. Cover the dried beans with 2 inches of water and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Soak for at least 8 hours. Once soaked, drain and rinse before cooking.

  2. Roast the Poblano chiles under the broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place the chiles in a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close it tight and let the chiles steam for 20 minutes. After the chiles have steamed, remove from the bag and rub off the skin. Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles and dice all the chiles but one. For the final chile, cut into thin strips for garnishing.

  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot, cover the chicken thighs with 1 inch of water, Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the chicken from the pot, placing it in a large bowl. Strain the broth. You want to have 10 cups, but if you don’t just add enough water to make up the difference.

  4. Rinse out the pot and return it to the stove. On low heat, melt the butter, add the onion and jalapeños and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Add to the pot the soaked beans, diced Poblano chiles, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, cilantro (if using), and reserved 10 cups of broth. If the liquid doesn’t cover the beans by 1 inch, add more water until it does.

  5. Bring the pot to a boil and then turn the heat down to low. Partially cover the pot and gently simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

  6. While the beans are simmering, when the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and shred the chicken. You should have about 4 cups. Refrigerate the shredded chicken until it’s time to add to the chili.

  7. After 1 1/2 hours, test the beans. Are they softened? If so, add the chicken and then cook uncovered for 30 more minutes or until the chicken is warm and the chili has reduced.

  8. After 30 minutes, scoop out 1/4 cup of the liquid and mix it with the masa harina until well blended. Stir this back into the pot along with the reserved thin Poblano chile strips, and continue to cook for 15 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt if needed. Serve warm topped with sour cream and cilantro with limes on the side.

  9. In the event that your beans are not softened after 1 1/2 hours, continue to cook until they are softened, then proceed with the recipe.

  10. If you want to use a slow cooker, add everything to the pot, including the shredded chicken, and cook on low for 8 hours. (You will only want to use 8 cups of liquid, however). Thirty minutes before it’s done remove the lid from the slow cooker, scoop out 1/4 cup of the liquid and mix it with the masa harina until well blended. Stir this back into the pot along with the thin Poblano chile strips, and continue to cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

  1. Sounds excellent. If one were to vegetarianize it by subbing in potatoes for the chicken, would you need to change any other part of the recipe?

    Love your work, by the way. I've probably made 15 of your recipes by now, and several have become household staples.

  2. Lisa Fain

    Derek–Thank you for the kind words, I'm so pleased that you're enjoying some of my recipes! While I haven't tried this, I'd cook the beans with vegetable stock or water until tender, then add the potatoes and cook until they're ready, about 30-45 minutes.

  3. anotherfoodieblogger

    I'm a Pacific Northwest/Texan blend kind of gal. I put beans in my chili now, but not when I go down to visit. Your chicken white bean chili sounds so delicious! I've made a variation of white chicken chili where you just blend in store-bought corn tortillas with spices instead of masa harina. Food for thought! 🙂 ~Kathryn

  4. Katie C.

    I'm a homesick Texan living in Romania (and I found your blog several years ago just after moving to NYC!). I'm a longtime fan, and we make your carnitas recipe religiously! Anyway, I used to have the exact same response whenever I heard about "white chili" – "That can't be Texan… and it really sounds weird!" But I made my first pot of it this fall (albeit with a McCormick seasoning packet sent by my parents) and was really pleasantly surprised! When we get back to the states and have access to all these ingredients, I'll be excited to give your from-scratch version a try! Thanks!

  5. TexasDeb

    This looks delicious! Very similar to a recipe a friend and I concocted years ago based upon one her brother used in his Mexican food restaurant in Colorado. We ended up calling it a "stew" rather than argue terminology at the table.

    Like you, I always found a dollop of sour cream (or crema) was all the dairy needed. We serve our version with warm flour tortillas to sop up every drop from the bowl. Can't wait for the weather to get chilly enough here in Texas to give yours a try!

  6. Anonymous

    Lisa- The link to Robb's book is broken.

  7. Anna C,

    Chicken and beans I like very much, so I think I'll have a try at this white chili. What kind of european beans would be a good substitute for the great northern?

  8. THoey1963

    This sounds delicious. I'll have to save the recipe off as it is still too damn hot here in Texas for any kind of chili or stew. Cool front coming this weekend. Meaning it will only get up into the 80's…

  9. Lisa Fain

    Kathryn–Great idea! Thank you for sharing!

  10. Lisa Fain

    Katie–It's is good, isn't it? And I hope you enjoy making it upon your return.

  11. Lisa Fain

    TexasDeb–Warm flour tortillas are an excellent accompaniment! And hope y'all get some cool weather soon.

  12. Lisa Fain

    Anon–Thanks for letting me know. It's fixed now.

  13. Lisa Fain

    Anna C.–Well, I'm not sure what's available where you are, but any sort of medium to large oval bean would work. Do you have kidney, pinto, or cannellini beans? Those would all be fine.

  14. Lisa Fain

    THoey–If it's 80 degrees in Texas it's time to put on a jacket!

  15. goingnuts2

    This sounds great. I make a recipe really similar, but I never thought of using masa to help thicken. Thanks!! Love your blog.

  16. Lisa Fain

    goingnuts2–You're welcome! Masa harina makes a great thickener for beef chili, too.

  17. Anonymous

    Oh yum! Fingers crossed my poblanos grow well and crop well so I can make this! (Can't get fresh poblanos here in AU.)

  18. Michelle

    You and I are on the same chili page. Up in northern Michigan, chili should just be banned. I tried one chili that tasted like they used stewed tomatoes with no seasoning. Another local restaurant puts celery in their chili. I was planning on making a green chili stew similar to this recipe this weekend. The major difference being the addition of tomatillos in mine. Last weekend, I found the tomatillos to be plentiful at the farmers market along with jalapeños and poblanos.

    I am not so sure about Robb Walsh crediting this white chili to the Midwest. Growing up in Iowa and visiting surrounding states I never saw such a chili. Maybe he considers Oklahoma midwest!

  19. Anonymous

    Since I cannot eat bean & we generally make our chili without them, can I substitute tomatillos for the beans? Any other ideas would be helpful.

  20. Lisa Fain

    Anon–My fingers are crossed for you, too!

  21. Lisa Fain

    Michelle–Tomatillos are an excellent addition!

  22. Lisa Fain

    Anon–If you make it without the beans, it would probably still taste good. And you can definitely add tomatillos but I don't think they're a substitution for the beans, as the beans add body and protein to the stew, and the tomatillos wouldn't.

  23. I love the sound of this recipe and look forward to trying it. I am a big fan of beans in general but I always leave out the salt until they are cooked through because, years ago, I read in the Brilliant Bean cookbook that the "cell walls become less soluble in a salted or acidic environment."

  24. Lisa Fain

    Jack–You should always cook to your preference! That said, I used to not salt my beans before cooking but I do now and find that they don't take longer but also taste much better.

  25. Anonymous

    Great stuff, white "chili!" Discovered it quite by accident a few years ago after cooking a turkey breast in the crockpot. What remained in the pot looked like soup base, or something, begging not to be thrown out. After grinding the onions, carrots and celery left in the crockpot from the turkey with an immersion blender, added a bunch of yellow tomatoes, more chopped onions and plenty of green chiles, cooked it a bit and added back some chopped, cooked turkey. It was delicious. Must have added some cumin and garlic as well.


  26. I was intimidated at the thought of roasting the chiles. But I put on my big boy pants and had at it. The end result was outstanding! This will definitely go into the rotation.

  27. I made this last Saturday for our monthly game night/potluck supper group. It was a huge success and I'm the real winner because I had enough left for one more meal. While I did follow the recipe implicitly, I can see using canned products/roterrisse chicken for a fast version.

  28. Kathi Malin

    I have this simmering on the stove now….and plan on serving it on Friday night with your Cheddar jalapeño biscuits. Can't wait to eat!

  29. Anonymous

    How spicy do the seven poblanos and the two jalapenos make the chili?

    Say on a scale of 1 to 10?

  30. Lisa Fain

    Pete–That sounds wonderful!

  31. Lisa Fain

    Wallly–Terrific! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

    Julie–Using a rotisserie chicken would definitely be a great short cut. So glad y'all liked it!

    Kathi–Hey lady! Hope you're doing well. Sounds like you have quite the feast planned. Enjoy!

  32. Lisa Fain

    Anon–Well, heat is pretty subjective based on several factors, such as the heat level of your chiles and what your usual tolerance may be. I didn't find this spicy at all, especially since I removed the seeds from the chiles. My grandma, however, may have thought it was super hot! Let's just say it's a 5.

  33. Anonymous

    Sounds delicious. Been looking for a green chili recipe that isn't just fake posole! I think I'll try it with ground chicken in the slow cooker.

  34. Veronica

    Thank you, we enjoyed this for dinner tonight and it was delicious!

  35. gypsytoo

    In your crockpot directions you say to toss everything in and cook for 8 hours. Are the beans soaked but not cooked at this point, or already cooked? This sounds delicious – and I want to make sure that the beans are edible! I have your cookbooks – and your recipes have never steered me wrong!

  36. Lisa Fain


    Veronica–I'm so glad y'all liked it!

  37. Lisa Fain

    gypsytoo–Thank you for the kind words! Yes, the beans should be soaked but not cooked. Basically, do this: soak the beans, cook the chicken and shred it, cook the onions, jalapeño, and garlic, then throw everything into the slow cooker as per the recipe. Please holler if you have any more questions!

  38. gypsytoo

    Thanks for the clarification. Just finished eating this, and it was DELICIOUS! Had to make only one modification in that we can only use boneless skinless breast. Added a tsp. each of onion and garlic powder to the poaching liquid to put in a bit of flavor to it. As always, thanks for another keeper for the files!

  39. Lisa Fain

    Gypsytoo–So glad y'all enjoyed it!

  40. I came across this recipe when trying to figure out dinner for the night. I didn't have time to soak the beans, so I went with cans of great northern and garbanzo beans. I cooked everything on high in the crockpot for ~3.5 hours. It came out great!

    I made a few other changes:
    x Bloomed 1 T cumin seeds with onion and jalapeno. I later added about 1/2 T ground cumin to the crockpot. We like cumin.
    x Cooked chicken thighs in cast iron until just done, took off most of big pieces of fat, made slices in thighs, then put whole in crockpot (I hoped the bones would help with flavor development).
    x I did not have stock from cooking the chicken, so I put a cup of water in the pan with the drippings and used 1/2 C leftover stock for my liquids.
    x Added 1/2 t oregano, which might not have done anything at all

    I had far less liquid than was called for, but I wasn't cooking beans and I only had it simmering/crockpotting for a short amount of time, so I didn't think it was needed.

    I ate mine on top of a bowl of greens and leftover roasted vegetables. It was excellent! I'm looking forward to leftovers.

  41. Glenna

    I’m excited to try this recipe. Is there a good substitute for the masa? I love your style Lisa!!

    • Lisa Fain

      Glenna–Thank you for the kind words! If you don’t have masa, you could use substitute finely crushed tortilla chips or just eliminate that step.

  42. June 18, 2018
    Native Texan here. I luv, luv pablano peppers and I Love your website, recipes, “phood” photos, and experiences that go with each of them. Thanks for your efforts to put it all together for us to enjoy! I agree with you 100 ++% that chili or “bowl of red,” without beef and some form or dried chiles is not chili (beans added is also very questionable.) That being said, I also agree with a some of your other commenters, that this wonderful recipe should not have the name chili attached to it, but something like “soup” would be more fitting. I like the name, “Chicken Pablano Ragout”. And yes, you can use that without any further permission from me <; ). Even though growing up in the Panhandle of Texas, then after college, a few short years just east of Austin, Tx., then onward to Houston, Spring, Conroe, and Montgomery, Tx. I never heard the term of "ragout" used to describe any recipe with Texan origin. So that may even be risqué. Just a suggestion…..Anyway, I tried some chili at the local Wendy's, and it totally fits the description of that Northeast chili concoction you described. (Sorry Dave and Wendy) but the truth hurts. As for some other matters, always mayo or MW on hotdogs and hamburgers, instead of mustard, or a least, half and half of each; mustard on sausage links and corn dogs – OK. And never instant grits, never low fat or no fat cheese (including cream cheese); Full fat, please. Cold beer with crawfish, and margaritas with everything else!! Ahhhh, take comfort in knowing it will soon be Hatch green chili harvest soon. Start making room for them in the freezer now, to last through the winter 'till next season. And Lisa, if you can't find any this year in NY, just let me know where to send them, and I'll send you a big ol' Texas size, green pile of them.

    • Lisa Fain

      Hi Karen–I like your style and thank you for the name suggestion! Here’s to the joys of Texas cooking, preferably served with a cold beverage!

  43. Speaking of traditional Texas chili, when I first moved to Austin, I got stuck bringing Chili to a potluck at work. I did a lot of research and came up with a fabulous version of Texas Red–diced beef, lots of dried and rehydrated chiles. Absolutely the real deal. When I proudly carried in my crock pot of authentic stuff, everyone looked at me kind of blankly–before gobbling up every drop. Turns out, many Austinites just make Yankee chili with ground beef, tomatoes, and beans. My DIL, a Dallas native, loves my Texas Red. I like this white chili version, too and I’ve made it half a dozen times since you first posted it. It reminds me more of posole than chili–sub chicken for pork, white beans for hominy. In any case, it’s delicious.

    • Lisa Fain

      Janet–Love your chili anecdote. As someone who grew up with chili being made with cubed beef, it always surprises me as well how many use ground beef. There’s no comparison! And swapping out the beans for posole (or even just adding them to this) would be delicious. Thanks for giving me the idea.

  44. Finally got a cold front in Texas. Making this for the Astros games!!!

    Thanks for the great recipes!

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