Momma-Knows-Best Chicken Chili

For years now, my mom has been making a white chili instead of the heartier red chili as a family comfort food during colder months. Aside from comfort, it's also been an easy go-to dish to feed a large gathering, and since Mom and I have been hosting annual Oscar parties for over a decade, mom's chicken chili has always been a welcome respite from the February cold.

Since I moved to New York, I started my own east coast Oscar party tradition. My first year hosting alone, I was craving mom's cornbread and a bowl of chicken chili; and when the pot was empty at the end of the night, I realized it was needed more than ever since I was now in a place that gets legitimately cold.

There are two tricks to this chili, the first is time. The longer it sits and simmers, the more flavor you'll get out of it.

The second trick is: Fritos. It may sound strange, but they are not to be forgotten. Unless of course there's a corn or gluten allergy and in that case, my sincere apologies to your taste buds.

Legend has it that Dad could not resist eating just ordinary chicken chili and loaded his bowl with the usual suspect toppings: cheese, sour cream, salsa, and green onions and as he was walking down the line he poured a bunch of Fritos from the snack cupboard on top of his chili. They became an instant hit, as he persuaded a bunch of guests to do the same, and crunchy, salty Fritos fast became the cornerstone of our chicken chili repertoire. Some eat it with Fritos on the bottom, others with Fritos on top so they don't lose their crunch; all of us have different ways of dressing this white chili, so feel free to find your own way.


Prep Time: ~20-25 mins

Cook Time: 3+ hours

Serves: 8-10 hungry people, but can always be adjusted for a smaller group. (For example, I only had four people and I used: 2 chicken breasts, 3 regular cans of beans, 1 small onion, 3 garlic cloves, 2 bouillons and 1 can of chiles.)


6 Large chicken breasts (thawed, or fresh) 

(Tasteful Tip: You can use already cooked chicken, lessening the prep time by about 20 minutes)

1 large can/box of chicken broth (regular or low sodium)

2-4 chicken bouillon cubes

1 large can great Northern beans (drained)

3 regular cans of Navy beans (drained)

1 large white or yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 small cans (4oz. each) mild green chiles

4 Tb. cooking oil

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. ground red pepper

Additional Toppings (Optional)

  • Sour Cream
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Chopped Scallions/Green Onions
  • Fritos Corn Chips
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole/Sliced Avocado


Boil chicken breasts in the broth with bouillon cubes for about 15-20 minutes until plump. To check for doneness, cut chicken open and check that there is no more pink/raw flesh inside. Once cooked, take chicken out of the saved broth and let it cool in a bowl for a few minutes until you can shred with your hands.

Stick shredded chicken back in the broth. If you have a large stock pot please use it now for the rest of the ingredients or transfer everything to a crock pot. (I use a crock pot so I can leave it alone.)

Heat oil in a frying pan until hot. Add the onions, garlic, and chiles and saute until onions are translucent and tender but not burned. Add these ingredients to your large pot.

Add the drained beans and the spices.

Heat to boiling and then turn down to low and cook for at least three hours. (*For use in crock pot, I cooked it on high for one hour, then on low for 3 hours.)

Serve immediately with additional toppings of your choice.

Tasteful Tips:

* For an added treat, you can serve in bread bowls, but I found that letting your guests add their own toppings and serving alongside cornbread works too!

** You can stick leftovers in the fridge for up to a week to reheat on the stove or microwave but it also freezes well, just leave out the extra toppings while freezing and thaw before reheating to bring up the temperature evenly.