Thursday, 10 March 2016

White Chicken Chili in a Bread Bowl

The day old buns, the frozen pinto beans, a slice of bacon, a lime and some chicken thighs turned into this delicious white chicken chili, that I served in bread bowls. It was a nice change from the usual tomato based chili, but still had the spiciness I associate with chili, as well as the sweetness of the corn.

Making the bread bowls is simple, and adds a fun touch to the meal, but my  buns were on the small side, so everyone had to go back for seconds, and in some cases thirds! The bonus of being able to eat your bowl, that has soaked up all the flavours of the chili makes up for this minor inconvenience!

I used the inside of the buns as a thickener for the chili, so nothing went to waste. 

To make the bread bowl, pre-heat the oven to 325F and have a baking sheet ready.

Use a small sharp knife and cut a lid in the top of your buns, removing it and then gently pulling out the soft bread from the inside of the bun.

Make sure to leave at least 1cm around the side so your bowl is able to hold your chili long enough for you to eat it.

Place the bowls and lids onto the baking sheet and place in the oven to dry out and crisp up.

Keep an eye on them; they should take about 20 minutes. You are looking for them to be dried out and crunchy.

Remove from the oven and allow them to cool while you make the chili.

In a shallow dish, combine:

Juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons of avocado oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of salt and black pepper


12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Make sure the chicken is well coated with the marinade, and leave it for 30 minutes.

Break the reserved bread into small pieces, and soak it in some chicken stock.

I had:

2 cups bread
1 cup chicken stock

This will be the thickener for the chili.

In a deep sided pan, sear the chicken on all sides. No oil is needed, because of the avocado oil in the marinade.

Remove the chicken and set aside.


1 slice of bacon

Add this to the pan and cook until it starts to crisp.

With the heat on medium, add:

1 medium onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced

Cook until the onion starts to soften, stirring often.

Add the seared chicken back to the pan.

Add enough chicken stock to the pan to almost cover the chicken. I used :

3 cups

Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the chicken can easily be shredded, about 45 - 60 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot, and using two forks, shred it. Add the chicken back to the pot.


1 cup corn kernels
1 cup pinto beans

Stir the soaked bread into the chili, a little bit at a time, until the chili has reached the desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To serve, place a bread bowl into a shallow bowl, and fill it with chili. Top with grated cheese, diced avocado and sour cream.

  • This chili can be made using leftover cooked chicken...shred it and make the broth by adding the marinade spices to the onions and garlic instead of to the chicken.
  • You could make this with ground chicken or turkey; turkey legs (they will take longer to cook) or pork.
  • I used ancho chili powder, but I think that chipotle chilies in adobo sauce would add heat and smokiness to the dish. You could also use dried chipotle, or canned green chilies.
  • Avocado oil is not essential, I like the flavour it adds, but olive oil or vegetable oil are good substitutions.
  • If you do not want to use the bread to thicken your chili, add less chicken stock and allow the liquid to reduce if needed. 
  • Freeze the bread for another use, or turn it into bead crumbs or bread pudding.
  • To make the bread bowl you need to have crusty bread or buns, such as sourdough, French or Calabrese, in order to have a sturdy enough bowl. Other serving options (other than straight into a bowl) include in a tortilla shell bowl or taco shells.
  • The bacon is optional; I used it because it was in the fridge for some strange reason. It added some smokiness and saltiness.
  • I would like to add red peppers the next time I make this. It will add colour and another dimension of flavour.
  • If you like cilantro, chop some up and add it just before serving.
  • The type of bean ypou add is up to you...I had pinto beans in the freezer. Since this is a white chili, I would personally stay with white, pinto, cannellini, white kidney or romano.
  • The chili can be made a couple of days ahead, it can also be frozen.

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