Cream Cheese Chicken Chili

5 from 1 vote
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This Cream Cheese Chicken Chili is the creamiest, most satisfying chicken chili ever. It is brimming with flavor (just look at the rich color!), and is wonderfully cozy and thick.

The cream cheese chicken chili is in a bowl and is topped with corn kernels, chilies, and cream cheese.

You’ll Love This Creamy Chicken Chili Recipe

Cream cheese chicken chili is a rich and flavorful variation of traditional chili recipes that incorporates cream cheese for added creaminess. Instead of the usual ground beef or pork found in chili con carne, this version uses chicken (usually boneless, skinless chicken breasts) as the main protein.

Cream cheese is added towards the end of the cooking process, melting into the chili and giving it a creamy texture and tangy flavor.

Here’s why I love this particular recipe:

  • The chicken is flavorful and tender: Cooking the chicken breasts whole in the sauce first ensures tender and juicy meat in every bite. Shred chicken at the end to make bite-sized pieces in every spoonful.
  • Thick and creamy: The cream cheese offers a creamy touch that’s tangy, comforting and rich. It thickens the sauce while adding creaminess (vs. heavy cream or sour cream, which would thin it out).
  • White Chili but not bland chili: This chicken chili is seasoned generously and includes tomatoes for extra tang, unlike many white chili recipes that are pale and strictly broth-based.

Here’s What You Need

Cream Cheese Chicken Chili Ingredients

Every ingredient in this chili plays an important role, melding together to create a hearty and flavorful dish.

  • Chicken breasts: The protein-packed star of the dish, providing a tender and juicy texture.
  • Oil (avocado oil): Used to sauté the onions and helps bring out the flavors of the other ingredients.
  • Yellow onion: Adds a sweet depth and foundational flavor to the chili.
  • Garlic: Gives a subtle aromatic kick that complements the spices.
  • Chili powder: The primary seasoning, offering warmth and depth to the chili. It contains ground chillies, ground cumin, oregano, cloves, garlic and other seasonings. Here’s my homemade chili powder recipe. Know the difference between chili powder and cayenne pepper so you don’t choose the wrong spice.
  • Black beans: Provides a source of fiber and a contrasting texture to the creamy sauce and tender chicken.
  • Corn kernels: Adds a hint of sweetness and a pop of color to the dish.
  • Diced tomatoes: Brings moisture and a tangy undertone to the chili.
  • Green chilies: Introduces a mild heat, enhancing the overall flavor profile.
  • Cream cheese: The key to the chili’s creamy consistency and rich taste.
  • Salt and black pepper: Basic seasonings that amplify the flavors of the other ingredients.
  • Cilantro and cheese (for garnish): Add a fresh touch and an extra layer of flavor to the finished dish.
The ingredients for cream cheese chicken chili on a kitchen countertop include chili powder, chicken breasts, onion, garlic, black beans, corn kernels, green chilies, and diced tomatoes.

Variations and Substitutions

Every recipe can be tweaked to fit personal preferences or dietary needs. Here are some alternatives to consider:

  • Protein swap: Substitute chicken with turkey or tofu for a different twist.
  • Beans: Swap black beans with kidney or pinto beans.
  • Heat levels: Adjust the chili powder or opt for mild or spicy green chiles based on your heat tolerance.

Grab These Tools

Before diving in, make sure you’ve got these essential kitchen tools on hand to ensure a smooth cooking experience.

  • Large pot or Dutch oven with a lid: The primary vessel for cooking the chili on the stove top, providing even heat distribution.
  • Stirring spoon: For mixing ingredients and ensuring they cook uniformly.
  • Tongs: Helpful for removing and shredding the chicken breasts.
  • Two forks: Ideal for shredding the cooked chicken breasts.
  • Measuring spoons: Ensures the right amount of each seasoning is used.
  • Knife and cutting board: Necessary for dicing the onions and mincing the garlic.
  • Serving ladle: To serve the chili in bowls.

Now that you’ve got everything prepared, let’s make some comforting Cream Cheese Chicken Chili!

How to Make Cream Cheese Chicken Chili: An Easy Guide

Dive into a bowl of Cream Cheese Chicken Chili, where tender chicken meets a creamy, rich sauce, brimming with beans, corn, and a blend of spices.

How to Prepare the Chili Base:

  • Start by heating your pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, add in the avocado oil.
  • To this, introduce the diced onion along with a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are soft, typically taking around 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili powder, letting them release their aromas for about a minute.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, the oil is heated over medium heat. The diced onion and 1/2 tsp of the salt are added and cooked until soft, about 6 minutes. Garlic and chili powder are added and cooked for another minute, until fragrant.

Incorporate the Main Ingredients:

  • Next, bring in the black beans, corn, diced tomatoes (with their juice), and green chilies. Give everything a good stir, ensuring they mix well.
  • Place the whole chicken breasts into this mixture and sprinkle over the remaining salt. Even if things seem a bit dry, trust the process. As the chicken cooks, it will release moisture, enriching the chili.

Cooking, Shredding, and Adding Creaminess:

  • Let your chili come to a boil, and then lower the heat to let it simmer. Occasionally stir to ensure even cooking and to prevent the bottom from burning. After around 15 minutes, the chicken should be thoroughly cooked.
  • Carefully remove the chicken breasts with tongs and place them on a plate. Using two forks, shred them into bite-sized pieces, then reintroduce them into the pot.
  • The final touch is the cream cheese. Add it to the chili, stirring continuously until it completely melts, adding a rich, creamy consistency to the chili.
The chili is brought to a boil, then the heat is reduced, and it's simmered until the chicken is cooked through, which takes about 15 minutes. Using tongs, the chicken is then removed from the chili and transferred to a plate. Afterward, two forks are used to shred the chicken into small pieces before returning it to the pot.

Finishing Touches for your Cream Cheese Chicken Chili:

  • Once everything’s combined and hot, taste and adjust the seasoning if required.
  • Pour the chili into bowls, and if you like, garnish with fresh cilantro and shredded cheese. Enjoy it hot, and if there’s any leftover, refrigerate for up to 3 days.
The cream cheese is added to the chili, and it's stirred until the cream cheese is fully melted and incorporated into the chili. The chili continues to cook for another few minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Afterward, the chili is tasted and seasoned with more salt if needed. It's served hot and can be garnished with chopped fresh cilantro and shredded cheese if desired.

5 Common Mistakes People Make When Making Cream Cheese Chicken Chili

What are 5 common mistakes people make with Cream Cheese Chicken Chili? Here are the most frequent mix-ups to avoid when making Cream Cheese Chicken Chili:

  1. Overcooking the Chicken: It’s essential to monitor the chicken to ensure it remains tender. Overcooking can result in dry, stringy chicken pieces.
  2. Neglecting the Salt: Forgetting to season as you go, especially given the cream cheese, can result in a bland dish. Adjust salt levels before serving.
  3. Not Letting the Cream Cheese Melt Properly: Adding the cream cheese without allowing it to melt and integrate can create a lumpy consistency.
  4. Rushing the Onions: Cooking onions properly is key. If rushed, they may not soften and caramelize as needed, leading to a different flavor base.
Sliced cream cheese over the package wrapper

Cream Cheese Chicken Chili Make Ahead and Storage

Managing leftovers or planning ahead? Here’s how to handle this chili with care:

  • Freezing: You can portion out and freeze this chili for up to 3 months. Make sure it’s completely cooled before transferring to airtight containers.
  • Refrigerating: Store any leftover chili in an airtight container in the fridge. It should stay fresh for up to 3 days.
  • Reheating: When ready to enjoy, reheat on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring occasionally. If it’s too thick, add a splash of chicken broth or water to achieve your desired consistency.
  • Prepping Ingredients: You can dice the onions and garlic ahead of time and store them in separate containers in the fridge for up to 2 days.

What to Serve with Cream Cheese Chicken Chili

Here are some suggestions on what to serve with cream cheese chicken chili:

  • Garnishes: Top with fresh cilantro, a lime wedge, shredded cheddar cheese, minced red onion and perhaps a dollop of sour cream for added richness.
  • Sides: A slice of cornbread or a handful of tortilla chips can be great companions for scooping up this hearty chili.
  • Spice it up: For those who enjoy a bit more heat, offer sliced jalapeños or a bottle of hot sauce on the side.

Want more inspiration? Check out my full guide to What to Eat with Chili from the best appetizers to toppings to side dishes.

The cream cheese chicken chili is in a bowl and is topped with corn kernels, chilies, and cream cheese.

Final Notes, Pro Tips + Science-Based Secrets

Unlock the full potential of your Cream Cheese Chicken Chili with these key takeaways:

  • Salt control: Using unsalted diced tomatoes allows you to control the saltiness, leading to a perfectly seasoned chili every time.
  • The science of creaminess: The cream cheese not only adds a rich texture but also balances the spicy undertones of the chili, offering a complex flavor profile.
  • Onion insights: Cooking onions until they are soft, without rushing, helps in caramelizing them, which brings a natural sweetness to the dish.
  • Chicken texture tip: Keeping chicken breasts whole during the initial cooking ensures they remain juicy; shredding later on helps them absorb the flavors better.
  • Don’t be scared of the chili powder quantity: It maybe sounds like a lot of chili powder in the recipe, but you trust me, right? We have established that with my almost-famous chili con carne recipe . (And just clarifying, we are talking about the North American chili powder blend for making chili, not red chili/chile powder or chilli powder (with two Ls) that’s just straight-up ground cayenne pepper or kashmiri red chillies).

FAQs About Cream Cheese Chicken Chili

Just skimming through? Here are some quick answers to the commonly asked questions.

What do you put in chili to make it taste good?

Spices such as cumin, chili powder, and fresh herbs, along with tomatoes, onions, and lots of garlic enhance the flavor. If it tastes underseasoned, add more chili powder, salt, and/or a splash of soy sauce (which adds umami flavor as well as salt, but can’t be detected).

Can I use fresh tomatoes instead of canned ones?

Sure! Just chop them up and make sure to adjust the liquid and seasoning as needed, as fresh tomatoes might have different water content.

Does sour cream thicken chili?

Sour cream can add creaminess to chili, but it’s not a primary thickening agent. If added in large quantities, it may slightly thicken the chili.

Why do people put sour cream on chili?

Sour cream adds a tangy and creamy element, balancing out the spices and heat of the chili.

Can I use a different type of meat for this chili?

Absolutely! While chicken offers a specific flavor and texture, ground turkey or beef can also work well.

What can I replace cream cheese with?

If you’re not a fan of cream cheese, you can try using half-and-half or heavy cream for a creamy texture. Adjust the quantity based on desired thickness.

How can I make my chili spicier?

Add more chili powder, include some jalapeños, or even try a splash of hot sauce.

Is it possible to make this chili in a slow cooker?

Yes! Just make sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly, usually 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.

Why is my chili too thick or thin?

If it’s too thick, a splash of chicken broth can help. If it’s too thin, letting it simmer a bit longer can reduce and thicken it.

Other Favorite Mexican Recipes

Here are some of my most popular Mexican recipes you’re going to want to try next:

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5 from 1 vote

Cream Cheese Chicken Chili

Try this Cream Cheese Chicken Chili and prepare to fall in love with the rich flavor and creamy, thick texture. It's so cozy and satisfying!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 6


  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons oil I use avocado oil
  • 1 ½ cups diced onion from one medium
  • 3 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic 3 large cloves
  • 5 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 15-oz can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups corn kernels fresh or frozen
  • 1 14-ozcan unsalted diced tomatoes undrained
  • 1 4-oz can chopped green chilies undrained
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
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  • In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and 1/2 tsp of the salt; cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and chili powder and cook another minute, until fragrant.
  • Add the black beans, corn, diced tomatoes (undrained), diced green chilies to the pot. Stir well to combine all the ingredients, then add the whole chicken breasts along with remaining salt.  It will look dry, but don’t be tempted to add water (which will dilute the flavor). The chicken will release flavorful liquid as it cooks.
  • Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer (stirring occasionally to prevent scorching), until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  • Using tongs, remove the chicken from the chili and transfer to a plate. Use two forks to shred it apart into small pieces, then return it to the pot.
  • Add the cream cheese to the chili. Stir until the cream cheese is melted and fully incorporated into the chili. Continue cooking for another few minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
  • Taste the chili and season with more salt if needed.



*I tested this recipe using unsalted diced tomatoes. If using regular diced tomatoes, use a little less salt to start, and add more to taste at the end. 
The chicken releases plenty of moisture as it cooks, and the cream cheese at the end melts to add more sauce as well. Trust me on the quantity of liquids, this chili is thick and satisfying and so gorgeously concentrated with flavor. If you prefer a soupier chili, add 1 cup of chicken broth with the diced tomatoes.  
Leaving the chicken breasts whole ensures that they stay plump and juicy. If you cut small pieces of chicken while raw, it’ll dry out before the chili simmers long enough to be flavorful.
The chili powder called for is the North American chili powder spice blend for making chili, not Indian or other Asian red chili powder or chilli powder (with two Ls) that’s just straight-up ground cayenne pepper or kashmiri red chillies.
In the video, I added the chicken back before adding the cream cheese but I recommend adding the cream cheese first and letting it melt through. This prevents drying out the chicken or stirring it into threads.
If at the end the chili seems too thick for your liking, you can add a splash of chicken broth.


Calories: 271kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 38mg | Sodium: 1532mg | Potassium: 318mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 2510IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 73mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe Rating

1 Comment

  1. Beth says:

    5 stars
    This is a new family favorite chili recipe! I’ve never had cream cheese in chili before and it is so good. Thick, creamy and delicious.