Creamy White Bean Chili

published Feb 1, 2024
Dinner Therapist
White Bean Chili Recipe

With a smoky flavor and subtle heat, this cozy chili will make you think it has the richness of meat even though (spoiler) it's totally vegan.


MakesMakes about 8 cups

Prep15 minutes

Cook45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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overhead shot of a bowl of creamy white bean chili topped with herbs and avocado.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Kelli Foster

Dear Dinner Therapist: With two kids and all the extracurricular activities, there’s little to no time to get dinner ready. More importantly, my daughter is a vegetarian by choice, although the rest of the family is not. There’s no way I can prepare two dinners, so she has to eat dinner with meat in it sometimes. I’d like more vegetarian meals with good protein that a kid would like (she’s 11) — ideally ones that can be made ahead, reheat well, and don’t require lots of hands-on time. Thanks! —Dawn

Dawn, you’ll love my creamy white bean chili. It’s the perfect dinner recipe for your family — it checks all the boxes, plus a few others I think you’ll appreciate. Inspired by white chicken chili and my creamy white bean and kale soup, this comforting one-pot plant-based dinner is packed with protein. It has thick-cut bell pepper, celery, and onion, along with the warm, smoky flavors we associate with white chili. 

The incredibly creamy texture totally comes from the beans (you’ll use a whopping four cans). Bonus: You won’t find a drop of dairy in this chili. Some of the beans break down a little during cooking, but mainly the creaminess comes from puréeing some of the beans, broth, and sautéed vegetables, then stirring it back into the pot. This white bean chili is wholesome, satisfying for all eaters, and easy to make. 

Why White Bean Chili Is the Perfect Make-Ahead Meal

For a family with varied diets, white bean chili hits the mark on many fronts.

  • It can be made in advance, keeps well, and reheats easily. (Plus, it freezes very well!) 
  • It’s naturally vegan and gluten-free.
  • Prep is no more than 15 minutes all-in. You can even chop the veggies a day in advance, if it helps. 
  • Once the chili is going on the stovetop it doesn’t require much attention from you — just give it a stir once in a while.
  • Everyone can top their chili how they like. For example, if some eaters feel like dinner isn’t complete without meat, try including shredded chicken as a topping.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Kelli Foster

Key Ingredients in White Bean Chili

  • Canned white beans. We’re leaning on the convenience of canned beans for this recipe. Any variety of white beans will work here. I personally love using a couple of varieties that differ in size (like cannellini beans and navy beans) for a more interesting texture.
  • Canned diced green chiles. No need to drain the chiles, as everything gets tossed into the pot for maximum flavor. Just be sure to read the label and to make sure you’re not grabbing spicy chiles (unless, of course, you want that). I speak from experience, and it was a very unexpected surprise.
  • Bell pepper. The recipe calls for green bell pepper, which is a common ingredient in white chicken chili. If you really have a strong feeling against green bell pepper, other bell pepper varieties will work just fine.
  • Low-sodium broth. If making a vegetarian chili isn’t a priority for you, take your pick between chicken or vegetable broth. 
  • Lime. Once the chili comes off the heat, you’ll squeeze the juice from a whole lime into the pot. Definitely don’t skip this part. Lime juice adds a pop of acidity that really rounds out the chili and brightens the flavor.

If You’re Making White Bean Chili, a Few Tips

  • Add meat at the end, if you want to. This chili is vegetarian (vegan, if you don’t top it with sour cream or Greek yogurt), but there’s always the option to mix in some meat (like shredded chicken made in a slow cooker, rotisserie chicken, or browned ground beef) at the end, either into individual bowls or the pot. 
  • If you like spicy foods, add more heat. The recipe calls for just 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, which adds a little warmth. For a chili with a kick, you can double the chili powder and/or consider using spicy canned chiles. And of course, there’s always the option to add hot sauce with the toppings.
  • Double the recipe. If you really want to make the most of your time, make a double batch and freeze the extras for future dinners or lunches. This chili reheats very well. 

Dinner Therapist is my column dedicated to solving your dilemmas around the most important — but, let’s be honest, sometimes most dreaded — meal of the day. Prepping dinner night after night can be so hard. Here, I deliver practical and hopefully fun advice to make cooking less complicated and more enjoyable. Follow along for all the recipes. Got your own dinner struggles? We want to hear from you! Fill out this super-quick form for your chance to be featured in an upcoming column.

White Bean Chili Recipe

With a smoky flavor and subtle heat, this cozy chili will make you think it has the richness of meat even though (spoiler) it's totally vegan.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes

Makes Makes about 8 cups

Serves 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    large yellow onion

  • 2

    medium stalks celery

  • 1

    medium green bell pepper

  • 3

    cloves garlic

  • 4

    (about 15-ounce) cans white beans

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1

    (4-ounce) can diced green chiles (do not drain)

  • 1 tablespoon

    ground cumin

  • 2 teaspoons

    dried oregano

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    chili powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1

    (32-ounce) box low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (about 4 cups)

  • 1 cup

    fresh or frozen corn kernels (do not thaw)

  • 1

    medium lime

For serving (optional):

  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt

  • Diced avocado

  • Sliced scallions

  • Fresh cilantro leaves


  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same large bowl as you complete it: Dice 1 large yellow onion (about 2 cups). Thinly slice 2 medium celery stalks (about 3/4 cup). Trim and dice 1 medium green bell pepper (about 1 cup). Mince 3 garlic cloves.

  2. Drain and rinse 4 (about 15-ounce) cans white beans.

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion mixture and cook until the onions are translucent, 5 to 8 minutes. Add 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles (do not drain), 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  4. Add the white beans and 1 (32-ounce) box low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the flavors meld and the liquid is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.

  5. Transfer about 2 cups of the chili into a blender. Blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. Return to the pot. Simmer until the chili is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add 1 cup corn kernels and stir to combine.

  6. Remove from the heat. Add the juice from 1 medium lime (about 2 tablespoons) and stir to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Serve with desired toppings.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.