Chill with Chili

You may think that a big pot of chili is more appropriate for cool winter nights rather than summer. Not so! Chili and chili beans are great any time of the year, and they are a great nutritional source.


Dry beans will keep indefinitely if stored in a cool, dry place, but as time passes, their nutritive value and flavor degrade and cooking times lengthen. Dried beans taste best if boiled after having been soaked for several hours. While the soaking is not strictly necessary, it shortens cooking time and results in more evenly textured beans. In addition, discarding one or more batches of soaking water leaches out hard-to-digest complex sugars that can cause … um, gas. There are several methods including overnight soaking and the power soak method, which is to boil the beans for three minutes, then set them aside for two to four hours, drain, discard the water and proceed with cooking. Dry beans may also be bought pre-cooked and canned.


This is great information but, wow, what parent has time for all this? I'm a chef, but also a parent – and the customers in my home kitchen are really demanding at 6 p.m. I need dinner on the table fast without having to think a day ahead. So, in this recipe, I use canned beans. Yes parents, it's okay to open a can of beans. I do it!


See the recipe below for a fast, fun and a little out-of-the-ordinary chili you can swear you've been cooking since yesterday!


Gigi Gaggero, a mother of two, is a former dean of students at the California Culinary Academy and the founder of Kids Culinary Adventures, which offers cooking classes and summer culinary camps. For more information, visit





White Chicken Chili


  • 1-12 oz. can of Great Northern white beans, drained and washed
  • 1-12 oz. can of pink pinto beans, drained and washed
  • 1-12 oz. can black beans, drained and washed
  • 5-6 cups chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 tablespoon ground dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 large white onions diced small
  • 1-8 oz. can small diced jalapeños or 4 fresh deseeded Serrano chilis, small diced.
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed large, seasoned with salt and white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper or chili powder (It's OK to add more or less depending on how hot you like your chili)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped fine (optional)
  • Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Crushed white tortilla chips
  • Your favorite hot sauce
  • Sour cream (optional)




In a saucepan, heat butter over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and sauté for 10 minutes until onions are transparent. Add chilis. Toss in flour and cook until flour is slightly thick and toasted, about three minutes. Remove from heat.


With a wire whisk, add chicken stock in a slow steady stream, stirring constantly to help remove any lumps in the flour mixture. Return to heat and thicken.


Continue to stir and watch stock thicken up, about three to five minutes. It's OK to add more stock, or less, depending on how thick you like your chili. Once the stock is at desired thickness add chicken, cumin, oregano, garlic salt, white pepper and cayenne or chili powder.


Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 1 to 1- 1/2 hours, until chicken is tender and flavors have had time to get to know each other.


To finish, add beans and stir gently. Taste your masterpiece and adjust the seasoning for heat, flavor and spices. Feel free to add more of your favorite flavors. I like lots of smoke from the cumin, whereas you might like more heat from cayenne.


Serve chili topped with crushed tortilla chips and grated Monterey Jack cheese and fresh cilantro. Don't forget your favorite hot sauce on the side or dollops of sour cream to cool things down!


Serves a family of 4-6