Make it quick: white chicken and kale chili

Make it quick: white chicken and kale chili

A large pot of chili is a no-brainer on a cold January day, but during resolution season, it can be difficult to prepare comfort food in a healthier way. This Kale Chili White Chicken is hearty yet light and doesn’t rely on extra fat for a creamy texture. The secret is in the beans! Rather than leaving the beans whole in the recipe, we mash them and rely on the released starch to thicken the broth, much like a potato thickens soup. It’s an added bonus that cannellini beans are packed with nutrients like protein, fiber, and antioxidants.

Our grocery store shortcuts this month are classic staples: roast chicken and bagged veggies. Of course, you can make your own kale and grill your own chicken, but when we’re already struggling to get back to routines after the holidays, any time savings will reduce stress at home!

Chili is actually a very simple stew that comes together quickly. The trick here is to closely follow the cooking method to create a depth of flavor that lets you know the pot has been cooking slowly all day. Make sure you follow the directions in order, rather than pouring in all the ingredients at once. We are working step by step to create layers of flavor that cannot be developed if everything is put into the pot at the same time!

The first step in building a great flavor base coat is to “bloom” our dried spices in hot oil, which will open them up to release extra flavor. This spice paste can burn quickly, so be sure to listen to your nose. Once the mixture becomes very fragrant, go ahead and add the onion and garlic, or be ready to remove the pot from the heat if you’re not ready to move on to the next step.

Following the instructional method is also important to preserve the integrity of the ingredients. We’ll add our kale early, which will remove some of the bitterness, and add our chicken and cilantro last. This will keep the chicken from overcooking and drying out and will ensure that the cilantro doesn’t spoil too much.

I recommend using a wooden spoon for this recipe as it will often scrape the bottom and sides of the pan to pick up and incorporate the dark bits that collect inside the pot. These dark chunks contain such a deep flavor that it is important to capture them all. No flavor left!

While this base recipe is delicious and won’t break your purposes, you can decorate your chili to your family’s taste. If you like chili on the creamier side, feel free to add cheese or sour cream. If you want it to be thicker, try adding the crushed tortilla chips. Do you like it spicy? Do your best with jalapenos and hot sauce!


By: Christy Bray Graves



For the chili

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 – 15 oz. can of cannellini beans *, drained and rinsed
  • 1 – 15 oz. can of green chili enchilada sauce
  • 2 – 4 oz. cans Hatch green chilies, diced Save $
  • 1 – 32 oz. chicken broth box
  • 2 cups prepared kale **
  • 1 roast chicken
  • ┬╝ cup coriander leaves, chopped (optional)


  • Grated cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Jalapenos
  • Sour cream
  • Tortilla strips
  • Hot sauce


  1. In the bottom of a large pot or pot, drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil. The stove burner should not light yet. Add cumin, oregano, chili powder, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper if using. Use a wooden spoon to stir and coat the spices with oil.
  2. Turn the heat to medium-high and allow the spiced oil to heat up, 1 to 3 minutes or until the spice paste is very shiny and fragrant. Don’t let the spices burn in the hot oil! If you’re not ready to move on to the next step adding onions and garlic, be sure to remove the pot from the heat.
  3. To the seasoned oil, add the chopped onions and minced garlic. Stir to coat the onions in the oil and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the onion is soft, stirring frequently. If the bottom of the pan becomes too dry, add a little more olive oil or splash with water and use the wooden spoon to scrape up the dry bits from the bottom of the pot.
  4. While the garlic and onion are cooking, use a fork or potato masher to mash the cannellini beans. Once the onions are soft, add the mashed bean paste. ***
  5. Add the enchilada sauce, green chilies, and kale, stir to combine. ****
  6. Slowly pour in the entire box of chicken broth, stirring to combine as you go, making sure to use the wooden spoon to scrape down the pot where flavor has built up on the bottom and sides.
  7. Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom and sides of the pot.
  8. While the chili is simmering, remove the meat from the rotisserie chicken and cut into small pieces.
  9. Once the pot has simmered for 20 minutes, turn off the heat and add the chicken and cilantro, if using. Stir to combine and make sure the chicken is piping hot.
  10. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. (If the chili isn’t thick enough, try adding some crushed tortilla chips, but make sure you don’t add any more salt.) Serve, decorate and enjoy!


* You can substitute any white beans; Navy beans or large northern beans work well too.

** Prepared and chopped kale can be found with bagged vegetables in the produce department of the grocery store.

*** Shredded bean paste is what will give your chili a thicker and creamier texture without adding any additional fat.

**** The kale is hearty enough to add at the beginning of cooking, the cilantro is not. Add the kale before bringing the bot to a boil and some of the bitterness will come out of the kale. If you add the cilantro at this point, it will break down too much.

As a wife and mother of three young children, I often consider myself a “chaos coordinator” teacher. Between running our family business, Chapel Hill Toffee, managing our home, and balancing busy schedules, I love creating quick and simple recipes that I know my family will enjoy, and my kids will actually eat!

My recipes are more of a guide than a perfect plan. I always encourage you to use what you have on hand and make substitutions to your liking. I invite you to share your own ideas, questions, and final products with us on Facebook and Instagram by tagging @christybgraves and @wchlchapelboro. does not charge subscription fees. You can support local journalism and our mission to serve the community. Contribute Today – Every Dollar Matters.

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