Click here for the What to Cook recipe index, and scroll to the bottom of this post for guest author Anne Byrn’s white chicken chili recipe.
From Caro: I met Anne when I was speaking to a group of Substack Food Fellows about how I grew What To Cook and created this special community (AKA you guys!). Anne was one of the fellows, and I very quickly realized that she had a LOT more to teach me than I did her! We stayed in touch and discovered that we work with the same literary agency — one little difference: I’ve written ONE cookbook, and she’s written FIFTEEN. She is a mom of three herself, and knows just how important it is to get dinner on the table quickly. I’m so excited to share her recipe for white chicken chili with y’all today — this was a highly requested recipe, and her version looks FAB!
ANNE BYRN is a New York Times-bestselling author based in Nashville, Tennessee. She writes Between the Layers, a conversation about life through the lens of cooking and baking, on Substack. Her 15 books, including American Cake, The Cake Mix Doctor, and Skillet Love, have more than 4 million copies in print. Byrn is a contributor to Food52, Bon Appétit, and The Bitter Southerner. She has been featured in People magazine, The Washington Post, and The New York Times; has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, and The Food Network; and has taught cooking classes across the country.
double header chili recipes
From Caro: Chili on Halloween night has become a family tradition ever since our good friends in Coronado, CA, invited us over for chili before trick or treating nearly 10 years ago. It’s easy to throw together on a busy day (or a few days before!) and can sit over low heat on a burner all night long as people trickle in and out. It’s the perfect Halloween meal. I know lots of you do Halloween chili too!
My mom always serves two types of chili when she has chili parties — a white chicken chili and a beef and bean chili. So I’m giving you the same option. This week, I’m sending you Anne’s white chicken chili with cheesy cornbread muffins. Next week, I’m sending you my ultimate beef chili recipe. I’ll send it a day early, on Saturday, so that you have time to make it before Halloween on Monday if you want to follow our family’s tradition.
the easiest chili ever
From Anne: I really hate to tell people that everyone’s favorite chili recipe of mine is also the easiest to make.
It starts with a pre-roasted chicken and canned white beans, and it’s simmered as long as I have time for. Children in costumes can be running mad through the kitchen, but who cares when you’ve jumpstarted the recipe with canned white beans and pre-cooked chicken?
And then you load avocado, tortilla chips, cilantro, cheese, salsa, you name it, on top. It’s white chili but it’s not all white, getting some festive red or yellow or green from the peppers, so I just call it White Bean Chicken Chili.
I serve it with super-easy corn muffins baked in a mini-muffin pan.
I’ve always been someone who loves the backstory, so I looked into the story behind white chili … as in, when did we trade the cowboy beans for the white beans? White beans are loved around the world, and I’ll be the first to raise my hand for them simmered with olive oil and rosemary. But in chili? It was actually in the 1980s when a California (are we surprised?) chef named Michael Roberts in Los Angles would combine duck and white beans for a Southwestern riff on French cassoulet.
And then food writers jumped on board and saw this new white chili as a much-needed departure from the heavy red meaty stuff. Amen on that.
It was a bit sophisticated, too, which meant you could serve it to guests. Since then, I’ll bet more slow cookers have been filled with white bean chili from Halloween through the Super Bowl than red.
What I love about white bean chicken chili is that it meets me where I am. If I’ve got the time, I cook my own chicken in water to cover with bay leaves, salt, pepper, and onion until tender. And I might soak white dried beans — either Great Northern or navy beans — in water overnight to simmer into chili the next morning.
But most of the time, I don’t think that far in advance. So thank goodness you can throw this recipe together in less than an hour if the chicken is already cooked and the lovely beans come right from the can.
You can even fake that you’ve taken hours to make this chili if you pile it all in a slow cooker and let it slow-cook while you throw a Halloween party. Arrange the toppings in buffet fashion. Prep the slaw ahead. And bake off those little corn muffins ahead, too, then reheat in a warm oven.
Plus the best part of this chili is how it perfumes your house. I don’t think any candle company has created a white bean chicken chili candle yet, so, until they do, we’ll simmer up our own.
white bean chicken chili
Serves 8 to 10
Cook time: ~20 minutes active, ~45 to 50 minutes inactive
Large pot or Dutch oven
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