slow cooker chicken and white bean chili

This recipe for slow cooker chicken and white bean chili with cannelini beans, tomatoes and broccoli rabe is a great comfort dinner meal for winter!

It’s really hard to believe that just a week ago, we were buried under two+ feet of snow. It’s warmed up considerably here, and our winter wonderland has almost completely disappeared. Our snowman was the hardest hit — he’s spent the last few days looking like the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow. We’re a sinister household.

On the blog today and in my heart, though, it’s still winter, with all of its cozy sweaters and warming soups. During Snowzilla, I spent two days making a chicken and white bean chili with broccoli rabe and all sorts of other good stuff. This might sound extremely elementary to the expert cook, but I recently switched from using canned beans all of the time to taking the extra step of soaking dried beans and cooking them myself. Do you do that? It makes such a huge difference in the flavor and texture. Now that I’m doing that, canned beans taste mushy and salty to me.


But, before I get to the recipe, I have to share some photos of the snow from last week. Snow brings out the kid in me. I can’t help it. Growing up in the South, whenever it snowed I scraped together the few flakes that would fall from the sky to make a single snowball and would sled on snow-sprinkled asphalt. Having real snow — and a lot of it — well, I kind of geek out about it.

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chicken chili-2859

chicken chili-2776

chicken chili-2797

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See?  So pretty! So much of it!

broccoli rabe

Back to the chicken and white bean chili. Because I didn’t want to have to stand over the stove all day, my trusty slow cooker came in handy not just once, but twice while making this recipe. The first time was to make my cannelini (white) beans. After soaking the dried white beans for about an hour, I tossed them into my slow cooker and blasted them with water, bay leaf, oregano and salt for about 2 hours on high heat. The beans came out a little al dente, which is what I wanted because I knew they’d continue to simmer on low with the rest of my chili ingredients.

To be perfectly honest here, I made this chili over two days. The beans simmered in the slow cooker the day before, and then I refrigerated them overnight before simmering the chili in the slow cooker the next day. I think this is a better division of time than to try to do it all in one day, but you could of course always shortcut this by just buying canned white beans. They’ll work perfectly fine.

This recipe for slow cooker chicken and white bean chili with cannelini beans, tomatoes and broccoli rabe is a great comfort dinner meal for winter!

As for inspiration recipes, I found all sorts of wild variations on how people make their chicken chili. Some recipes suggested using ground chicken. Other recipes omitted tomatoes entirely. Some used corn starch as thickener, and still others suggested chopping up chard. In the end, I followed none of those recipes. We had chicken thighs and broccoli rabe, so that’s what I used. I love tomatoes, so I threw a can in.

chicken-chili-2

When dinnertime rolled around, I called out to Ge Ge, our resident food critic. When it comes to meals, no one is more discerning than his five-year-old palate. I set a steaming bowl of the white bean chicken chili in front of him, surrounded him with a choice of toppings and stepped back, breath bated. He sighed and inhaled deeply, looked into the bowl, and decisively plunked his spoon into the chili.

This recipe for slow cooker chicken and white bean chili with cannelini beans, tomatoes and broccoli rabe is a great comfort dinner meal for winter!

“No toppings?” I asked him.

“Not yet, Ma. I have to taste what it’s like first before I add new things.”

He took a small, careful bite. He closed his eyes, which is usually a very good sign.

“Oh Mom, this is SO good.”

I heaved a sign of relief as he turned to the chopped avocado, shredded aged cheddar and sour cream, heaping piles into his bowl. Then he turned to the hubby.

“Dad, I think you need to pour a glass of wine for Mommy. She deserves it.”

I wish I was making this stuff up.

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slow cooker chicken and white bean chili

Time8 hrs 20 mins
CourseMain Course
CuisineAmerican
Servings6
.

Ingredients

  • For the beans:
  • 1 lb dried cannelini beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • note: you can skip this step with 2 cans of canned cannelini beans
  • For the chili:
  • 4 bone-in (skinless chicken thighs)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups 32 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (coarsely ground in a spice grinder)
  • 4 cups broccoli rabe (tough stems removed and roughly chopped)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: chopped cilantro (shredded cheese, avocado and sour cream for toppings)

Instructions

  • Make the beans: pour the rinsed beans into a medium mixing bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for about 1-2 hours until water is absorbed into the beans (the skin on the beans will look a little wrinkly). Drain the beans and put in a slow cooker. Cover with 4 cups water, bay leaf, oregano and salt and cook on high for 2 hours. Taste the beans — they should be slightly al dente but cooked through (not sandy or gritty tasting). Remove the beans from the slow cooker, throw out the bay leaf and drain the beans. Set aside.
  • Make the chili: in your stovetop-safe slow cooker insert or a heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Place the chicken thighs into the skillet/slow cooker insert, bone-side up, and brown the chicken thighs on all sides (about 1-2 minutes per side). Remove the chicken thighs and put on a plate.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add diced onion and garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes, then add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue sauteing the onion mixture until the onions are soft and translucent, about 7-8 minutes. Add the flour and stir to combine (the mixture will be clumpy, but that’s okay.
  • Transfer the onion mixture to your slow cooker. Slowly pour in the chicken broth, stirring continuously to mix together the onion mixture and the broth. Add the diced tomatoes and chicken thighs, pushing the chicken thighs down into the broth to make sure it’s fully covered.
  • Add 3 cups of the cannelini beans (if you’re using canned beans, reserve one cup of cannelini beans). Cover the slow cooker and set the slow cooker to cook on low for 8 hours.
  • About an hour before serving (and with about an hour to go on the slow cooker), remove the chicken thighs from the slow cooker and set on a plate to cool slightly. Mash (or puree in a food processor) the reserved cannelini beans (if using canned; otherwise, use about a cup of the cooked dried cannelini beans). Add the mashed/pureed beans along with the broccoli rabe back to the slow cooker and stir to incorporate. Shred the meat from the chicken thighs with two forks and return the chicken meat to the slow cooker. Cover and cook for the remaining hour, making sure that the rabe is sufficiently tender before serving.
  • Serve immediately with suggested toppings.
This recipe for slow cooker chicken and white bean chili with cannelini beans, tomatoes and broccoli rabe is a great comfort dinner meal for winter!

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About me

I’m Ann, a mom / wife / lawyer / certified culinary enthusiast. I share recipes, travel guides and home life tips while living overseas. Currently based in São Paulo, Brazil.

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