White Chili Rescue

A text message from my daughter flashed on the phone screen.  “Dinner at 6 at the Harmons.”  Glancing at the clock, I saw that it was already 1:15 and I had completely forgotten about the dinner with several other families that was scheduled for that evening.  We were supposed to bring chili and that was usually an all-day simmering affair. 

There were no cooked pinto beans waiting in the refrigerator.  No browned hamburger efficiently frozen in a little baggie.  After a full morning of lessons and phone calls I wasn’t up for a cooking marathon.  What was a girl to do?                Go to Plan B:
1.     Took stock of what was available:  frozen chicken breasts, tortilla chips and grated cheese. 
2.     Called husband and found that he was willing to run a quick errand on his way home to pick up navy beans and sour cream.
3.     Partially thawed the chicken breasts in the microwave, then got them into the crock pot pronto.
4.     Greeted husband gratefully and started sorting beans.
5.     Cooked the beans for a couple of hours.
6.     Okay, so I forgot to tell him to get the green chilies so that was an extra errand.  Bless his heart.  He drove me to the store and I ran in.  Literally.
7.     Combined the rest of the ingredients.
8.     Loaded the van with food and kids and enjoyed the evening!
9.     Wrote a blog post admitting my inefficiency and forgetfulness.
10. Was grateful that White Chili rescued me from serving canned chili at a potluck.
It’s funny how sometimes the way things work out is actually better than the original plan.  I hadn’t made White Chili in a long time and everyone loved it.  It added nice variety to the potluck meal to have two kinds of chili.  This version was super-easy to make and didn’t take as much time and effort as regular chili.
Ready for the recipe? 
White Chili
3-4 cooked, chopped chicken breasts (cook these in the crockpot on high a few hours, along with 2 cups of chicken boullion/water; pull apart with two forks)
2 lbs. dried navy beans
1 can green chilies (the larger small can, if that makes sense)
1 TBS cumin
sour cream
grated cheese
tortilla chips
How to cook beans:  Sort the beans and discard stones, dirt and rotten-looking beans.  Put into a colander and rinse and drain.  Put in a dutch-oven type large stovetop pan, and fill with water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  If desired, add a chunk of ham or ham bone for flavor.  If not using ham, add a tablespoon of shortening or butter or bacon fat to soften beans.  Navy beans are usually fully cooked in less than two hours.  Add water as necessary, and stir and scrape the pan occasionally to release the starch and thicken the liquid.  When the beans are nearly done, salt to taste.
When the chicken and beans are cooked, combine them in a large oval crockpot.  Stir in the can of green chilies and the cumin.  Adjust the cumin to taste.  Let simmer in crockpot on High for at least 30 minutes, or on Low longer. 
Serve with sour cream, grated cheese and tortilla chips.  Like all chili, this tastes even better the second day.
Note:  if you’re not feeding the multitudes like me, you could halve the ingredients with one pound of beans, a couple of chicken breasts, and the smaller can of green chilies.  (Hint:  if you want to make it even easier, buy canned navy beans and canned chicken!)
Sooner or later, it happens to all of us.  We forget an event or an appointment, or we’re not prepared for something we agreed to do.  Rather than get stressed out or overwhelmed, focus on a solution, like chicken instead of beef.  Roll with it.  You might find that your rescue turns out better than you thought it could!


  1. This sounds good… and simple and easy!  I like a can of white hominy in my white chili, as well as cilantro–but I know a lot of people don’t like the flavor of cilantro.  I will have to try this sometime!

  2. Do I forget? Honey, I am in menopause, absolutely do I forget. That’s why I love my “To Do” lists. We were invited for supper on a Friday evening. I was fairly new to our town and we didn’t get many invites out, so I still don’t know how I forgot this invitation. We mustered up some simple supper as we were not feeling like cooking. After we ate we got the call, the group was wondering where we were? I felt just sick, we hopped in the car and zoomed over there, and I literally crawled on my hands & knees begging for forgiveness. 
    Now I can hardly wait to try your recipe. Loved your article sooo much. Hugs

  3. Louiselah says:

    I am making this for  a party today!  Easy and few ingredients.. and already had them. except not enough beans.. I have a question.  Do you keep the bean water?  I am using a 5qt. dutch oven.. filled with water and 2 bags of beans.  and will keep adding water.. so when the beans are soft I assume I put bean water and all in the crockpot with the chicken and chilles and spices.  Looking forward to dinner!

    1. Anonymous says:

      Yes, pour the beans and juice in the crock pot. Enjoy your dinner!

  4. Finally remembered to add this to my menu! Can’t wait to try it next week! You have peeked my interest about your “all day” regular chili though…do you have a recipe to share? Thanks, Kim

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      I haven’t shared one because my chili isn’t blog-worthy, lol, but I will probably post it when it’s chili weather again!

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