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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Overcooking the Chicken: It’s essential to monitor the chicken to ensure it remains tender. Overcooking can result in dry, stringy chicken pieces.
- 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.
- Not Letting the Cream Cheese Melt Properly: Adding the cream cheese without allowing it to melt and integrate can create a lumpy consistency.
- Rushing the Onions: Cooking onions properly is key. If rushed, they may not soften and caramelize as needed, leading to a different flavor base.
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.
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.
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).
Sure! Just chop them up and make sure to adjust the liquid and seasoning as needed, as fresh tomatoes might have different water content.
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.
Sour cream adds a tangy and creamy element, balancing out the spices and heat of the chili.
Absolutely! While chicken offers a specific flavor and texture, ground turkey or beef can also work well.
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.
Add more chili powder, include some jalapeños, or even try a splash of hot sauce.
Yes! Just make sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly, usually 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.
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:
- Spicy Fish Tacos: Perfect for those craving a flavorful fish taco.
- Crispy Baked Chicken Tacos: Offers a delightful crunchy twist on the classic taco.
- Chicken Street Tacos: Capture the essence of Mexican street food, especially when topped with a drizzle of Cilantro Lime Crema.
- Baja Fish Tacos: A coastal favorite, known for its crispy fish filling and tangy white sauce.
- Chili con Carne: A rich and hearty meat stew spiced with chili and other flavors.
- Ultimate Ground Beef Tacos: Brimming with authentic flavors, thanks to a mix of fresh ingredients and a special blend of spices.
Cream Cheese Chicken Chili
- 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
- 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.
Last Updated on November 22, 2023 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD