Chili is a comforting dish to serve in the winter and, if you make it correctly, it can be quite healthy, too. While chili is usually made with beef and tomatoes, today’s recipe is made with chicken and no tomatoes at all.
Instead, green chili peppers, navy beans, and chicken broth combine to form a white chicken chili that’s out of this world – and full of nutrients to boot.
Did You Know?
- This recipe for white chicken chili is rich in healthy ingredients like chicken, garlic, cumin, bone broth, and oregano
- Choose pasture-raised organic chicken, not concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) chicken, for this recipe to protect its health value
Pasture-Raised Organic Chicken Is a Surprisingly Healthy Food
Many people believe chicken is a healthier alternative to beef due to its lower saturated fat content – but its low levels of saturated fat are not what makes chicken good for you (saturated fat is actually quite healthy and so is grass-fed beef, but that’s besides the point).
Chicken is an excellent source of protein, B vitamins, selenium, phosphorus, and choline. It provides all B vitamins along with a surprisingly varied number of additional nutrients.
Chicken also contains a natural amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it less sticky so you can expel it more easily. As reported by the George Mateljan Foundation:
“Chicken is perhaps best known for its high protein content, but it is a food that actually provides broad nutrient support… Included… are plentiful amounts of sulfur-containing amino acids like cysteine and methionine, as well as branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) that are important for support of cardiac and skeletal muscle.
All B vitamins are present in chicken meat… In terms of minerals, chicken is richest in selenium… Zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron are also provided by this food.”
As with most foods, the source of your chicken matters. I strongly encourage you to avoid chicken from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and instead choose food sourced from local farms that are raising chickens the right way. The chickens should be allowed outside and they should be able to roam and eat insects and other natural foods.
Three Top Reasons to Avoid CAFO Chicken
Chicken from CAFOs is typically much cheaper than organic, pasture-raised chicken, but its low cost comes at a steep price. The hidden costs of inexpensive CAFO chicken can be divided into three categories:1
- Ethical costs: Research has shown that chickens are not only quite smart, but they experience suffering just as animals higher up in the food chain—including you.
"Chickens have nervous systems similar to ours, and when we do things to them that are likely to hurt a sensitive creature, they show behavioral and physiological responses that are like ours.
When stressed or bored, chickens show what scientists call 'stereotypical behavior,' or repeated futile movements, like caged animals who pace back and forth," The Cornucopia Institute wrote.
- Environmental costs: CAFOs are notorious for producing massive amounts of offensive waste that disturbs and pollutes the local ecosystem. Residents living near CAFOs often battle nauseating odors and infestations of flies, rats, mice, intestinal parasites, and other disturbing health effects. As stated by Cornucopia:
"Tyson produces chicken cheaply because it passes many costs on to others. Some of the cost is paid by people who can't enjoy being outside in their yard because of the flies and have to keep their windows shut because of the stench.
Some is paid by kids who can't swim in the local streams. Some is paid by those who have to buy bottled water because their drinking water is polluted. Some is paid by people who want to be able to enjoy a natural environment with all its beauty and rich biological diversity.
These costs are, in the terms used by economists, 'externalities' because the people who pay them are external to the transaction between the producer and the purchaser...
In theory, to eliminate this market failure, Tyson should fully compensate everyone adversely affected by its pollution. Then its chicken would no longer be so cheap."
- Human health costs: Besides the health ramifications suffered by those who happen to live near a CAFO and are exposed to the environmental contamination caused by these factory farms, cheap CAFO chicken and eggs are also taking a hidden toll on your health when you eat them.
This is in part because their nutrition is inherently inferior… in part because they're contaminated with antibiotics and fed genetically modified feed… and in part because they raise your risk of contracting a foodborne illness.
White Chicken Chili Is Packed with Flavor and Nutrients
Enough about the importance of finding high-quality, sustainable, and humanely raised chicken… and on to what makes this particular white chicken chili recipe so phenomenal. Aside from chicken, it also contains:
Chicken or Bone Broth
I encourage you to make your own homemade bone broth to use as a base for your chicken chili. Bone broth contains valuable minerals in a form your body can easily absorb and use, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur chondroitin, glucosamine, and a variety of trace minerals.
The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid. It attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion. You can find a recipe to make chicken bone broth here.
Studies have demonstrated more than 150 beneficial health effects of garlic, including reducing your risk for heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, and various cancers such as brain, lung, and prostate cancer.
Garlic also has immune-boosting properties and is a triple threat against infections, offering antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.
Green Chili Peppers
Chili peppers are one of the main sources of capsaicin, which has been shown to activate cell receptors in your intestinal lining, creating a reaction that lowers the risk of tumors.
Capsaicin may help fight obesity by decreasing calorie intake, shrinking fat tissue, and lowering blood fat levels, as well as fight fat buildup by triggering beneficial protein changes in your body. Capsaicin also has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and may help alleviate pain.
Cumin is useful for digestion and energy production, and may improve glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. The spice has a long history of medicinal use, and has also been found to enhance memory and provide potent anti-stress benefits.
Oregano contains vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, vitamin B6, calcium, and potassium. It also has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal effects, and may kill MRSA, listeria, and other pathogens. In fact, oregano has one of the highest antioxidant activity ratings, with 42 times the antioxidant punch of apples.
The recipe for this fabulous white chicken chili follows.2 And did I mention you can make it in a slow cooker? This means you can enjoy a homemade, from-scratch meal for dinner -- even if you’ve only got a few minutes in the morning to prepare it. Enjoy!
Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili3
- 1 ½ to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or a mix
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 6 whole green chili peppers, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons natural salt
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups bone broth or chicken stock
- 1.5 cups cooked cannellini or navy beans
- 1 cup frozen or fresh corn
- To serve: shredded raw Monterey Jack cheese, lime wedges, chopped cilantro, raw sour cream, and hot sauce
- Combine the chicken, onions, celery, green chili peppers, garlic, cumin, 1 ½ teaspoons of salt, coriander, oregano, and bay leaf in a 6-quart (or larger) slow cooker. Stir to make sure the spices coat everything, and nestle the chicken into the vegetables. Pour the chicken stock over top, covering the chicken and vegetables by an inch or so.
- Place the lid on the slow cooker. Cook for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low. (It's fine to cook for 8 hours on low, if needed, but the chicken tends to fall apart a bit more when you shred after cooking, rather than staying in pieces.)
- About 30 minutes before the end of cooking, remove the lid of the slow cooker and add the beans and corn. Taste and add another ½ teaspoon of salt or other seasonings as desired. Add the lid back on and cook for the remaining time.
- Lift the chicken from the slow cooker and shred it into large, bite-sized pieces with two forks. Stir the chicken back into the chili and remove the bay leaf.
- Serve with shredded cheese, wedges of lime, chopped cilantro, and sour cream.
Sources and References