How Do You Thicken Up White Chicken Chili?

Do you have one of those favorite tasting recipes that you keep in your back pocket and can make with your eyes closed? Well, this is mine! I don’t know about you, but I favor savory foods over sweet foods. This chili is easy to make and full of great flavor! It has smoky Cumin, fresh and crisp Cilantro, and juicy chicken all mixed together in a creamy broth. It’s a nice break from the usual ground beef or even ground turkey chili with a tomato sauce base. But, it cooks differently than the kind of chili that takes 8 hours to cook in a crock pot. Without it cooking down all day, the question arises: How do you thicken up white chicken chili?

I’ve got the answer for you! Plus, I’ll share my cooking tips that I’ve learned after years of making this dish.

What’s the Difference between Chicken Chili and Beef Chili?

White Chicken Chili is called white because of the type of beans that you use in it. Navy beans are light colored and have the same taste as kidney beans, but just a little milder. They’re great with chicken because chicken is also mild tasting and they complement each other well.

Ground beef chili is typically more bold in its flavor profile and uses dark kidney beans. These beans have more flavor and so does the beef so they go well together and the colors match so to speak.

Besides the different beans, the bases of the chili are different. Ground beef chili uses an acidic tomato base, usually consisting of diced tomatoes rather than tomato sauce. The acidity balances out the strong beef flavor and cooks down to create a thick sauce when mixed with the kidney beans.

Chicken chili, on the other hand, uses a base of chicken broth. There are no tomatoes in chicken chili. Plus, it doesn’t cook for nearly as long as beef chili. You can’t really call something chili if it is sitting in a liquid broth. You might as well call it chicken soup! So, how do you thicken up white chicken chili?

How do you thicken up white chicken chili?

When I make white chicken chili, I use flour as a thickener. Some people use corn starch, but I prefer the taste and consistency of the flour. Here’s why. When you are browning your chicken breasts in olive oil in a large, metal pot on medium high heat, it leaves a lot of great crunchy brown bits at the bottom. These are vital to your chili’s texture and flavor! Just be mindful not to cook on too high a heat because you’ll end up with black bits, which are not appetizing.

When do you add flour to the chicken chili?

After you have removed your cooked chicken breasts from the pot to rest on a plate, lower the heat to medium and add your chopped onions, garlic, and jalapenos. The combination of these veggies really go good together and add to that southwest taste that we’re going for here! Add your cumin and oregano on top of the veggies.

After they have cooked for a few minutes, THEN you add 2 tablespoons of flour on top of these veggies. This gives you a chance to cook the flour a bit to get a richer taste at the end. It will stick to the bottom of the pan but that’s perfectly fine. Cook like this for 1-2 minutes.

Next, you’ll pour in 3 cups of high quality chicken broth. The better quality the broth, the better your chili will be. Careful though, the pan is really hot and the steam at first may be super hot. I’ve almost burned myself several times when initially pouring the broth in a hot pot.

Add salt and pepper now to your taste preference. Don’t add too much. You can always add more later when you taste it. For now, just add a standard amount for cooking.

everything is in, now what?

Stir everything together and let it come up in temperature as you cut up your chicken on a cutting board into bite size pieces. Next, add the chicken and the yummy chicken sauce from the plate they were sitting on (important for flavor!) into the pot. Add some chopped cilantro and turn down the heat to low.

Simmer like this with the lid off for about 30 minutes. Your house is smelling amazing right about now!

You’ll notice that your chili is not thick at first, but give the flour time to do its magic! Cooking down the chili with the lid off is helping to evaporate some of the liquid of the broth, but leaving behind all that great flavor! Your chili will also darken a little as it cooks, which is also a good thing. That means that water is evaporating.

How will I know when it is done?

After about 30-40 minutes, give it a taste and see if you need to add more salt and pepper. Also, check the thickness of your chili by looking at how it coats your spoon. If there is no lingering coating on your spoon when you pull it out of the chili, it has not cooked down enough.

Give it another 15-20 minutes and try again. The consistency should be a little lighter than gravy.

Go ahead and remove the pot from heat and let the chili cool for at least 30 minutes. Why?? Don’t skip this step for two reasons. One, it lets the flavors meld together even more. Two, the chili sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.

Does White Bean Chicken Chili taste good the next day?

Yes! Yes! and YES!! I prefer my chicken chili the next day. Do you know why? The flavors get even more time to come together. Chicken chili is good in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container. After that, the chicken just doesn’t taste fresh enough in my opinion.

What toppings are good on chicken chili?

If you’re going for a traditional southwest taste, top with sour cream, cheddar cheese, sliced jalapenos, and chopped cilantro. If you’re going for more of a fresh, California-style chili, top it with cut avocados, diced tomatoes, and green onions. Or, try your own combination!

Chicken chili lends itself well to almost any topping because of its mild flavor. Just like chicken can be served in many ways, chicken chili can be topped in many ways! But one thing’s for sure… no matter what toppings you choose, your first bite will be so satisfying!


1. What is Best to Thicken Chili?

  • Cornstarch Slurry: Mix cornstarch with cold water in a 1:2 ratio. Stir into chili and simmer.
  • Flour Roux: Combine equal parts flour and butter. Cook until golden, then blend into chili.
  • Masa Harina: A traditional thickener, add a few tablespoons to your chili and stir well.
  • Arrowroot Powder: Similar to cornstarch, use for a gluten-free option.
  • Pureed Beans: Mash or puree some beans from the chili for a natural thickener.

2. How do You Thicken Chili in a Slow Cooker?

  • Add a Thickener: Stir in a cornstarch slurry or flour roux during the last 30 minutes.
  • Reduce Liquid: Remove the lid for the last hour to allow excess liquid to evaporate.
  • Blend Ingredients: Scoop out some beans and veggies, puree, and stir back in.

3. What Can I Add to Chili to Make it More Soupy?

  • Broth: Add chicken or vegetable broth for a flavor boost.
  • Tomato Sauce: For a richer, more tomatoey base.
  • Water: Simple and effective, but may dilute flavors.
  • Beer: Adds a unique flavor dimension, opt for lighter varieties.

4. Why is My White Chicken Chili Not Thick?

  • Excess Liquid: Too much broth or water can make it soupy.
  • Cooking Time: Needs sufficient simmering time for ingredients to break down and thicken.
  • Ingredient Ratio: Too few beans or vegetables in proportion to the liquid.

5. How Much Cornstarch to Thicken White Chicken Chili?

  • Standard Rule: Start with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of cold water for every 2 cups of chili.
  • Adjust to Preference: Add more slurry in small increments if thicker consistency is desired.
  • Simmer After Adding: Let the chili simmer for a few minutes after adding the slurry to achieve the right thickness.
Thickening AgentAmount for 2 cups of ChiliGluten-FreeFlavor Impact
Cornstarch1 tbsp mixed with 2 tbsp waterYesMinimal
Flour Roux2 tbsp (equal parts flour and butter)NoSlight
Masa Harina2-3 tbspYesNoticeable
Arrowroot Powder1 tbsp mixed with 2 tbsp waterYesMinimal
Pureed Beans1/2 cup mashed beansYesSubstantial

I hope you enjoyed some of my tips for making great chicken chili. I hope you’ll try it tonight! If you do, please comment about your experience making this dish! And, please share this recipe and article, and check out our other delicious and easy meals!

white bean chicken chili

Course: DinnerCuisine: SouthernDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time



Creamy Navy beans, tender chicken, smoky cumin, and bright cilantro make this dish oh so comforting and delicious!


  • 3 chicken breasts, patted dry with a paper towel

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 4 scallions, chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

  • 3 cups chicken broth

  • 2 tablespoons cumin

  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano

  • 2 tablespoons flour

  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Brown chicken in heated oil in large, metal pot over medium high heat for 5-6 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pot and set aside.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add onions, jalapeno, and garlic to the pot and cook in all the leftover chicken bits for about 3 minutes. Add oregano and cumin. Stir.
  • Add 2 tablespoons flour to the pot on top of the cooked onions, garlic, and jalapeno. Cook for a minute. Then, add chicken broth. Stir. Add salt and pepper.
  • Cut up chicken into bite sized pieces and put back into the pot in the liquid. Add cilantro and reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool 30 minutes before serving. Add toppings and enjoy!


  • For toppings, add sour cream, cheddar cheese, sliced jalapeno, and cilantro. Avocado tastes great as a topping, too!

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