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This black and white bean chilli makes the most of leftovers

Ann Maloney

THE WASHINGTON POST – What are the benefits of cooking at home on a regular basis? We all know that you can save money if you shop thoughtfully and have better control over what goes into your food.

But the reason I am most grateful that I got comfortable in the kitchen at an early age is that it has provided me with the security of knowing I can feed myself in a thrifty, tasty way.

That’s because one of the side benefits of cooking regularly is that you get more at ease with making food on the fly.

After preparing recipe after recipe, you can look in the pantry, scan the refrigerator and see that this plus this plus this could equal something mighty good.

That’s how this black and white bean chicken chilli was born.

I first made it when I had chilli on the brain. I’d read through many of the recipes in actor Brian Baumgartner’s Seriously Good Chili Cookbook and talked with the actor made famous by the sitcom, The Office, before writing about and testing his Chili and another recipe in the book, Chili Pasta Casserole.

Black and white bean chicken chilli. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

A couple of weeks later, I roasted a chicken, which we enjoyed, but the next day I wondered what I could make with the leftovers that would make the chicken seem like a whole other dish. In the pantry, I spied cannellini and black beans.

From reading so many chilli recipes, I knew I could get good flavour from a blend of smoked paprika, ground cumin and chilli powder, which I had on hand.

With the leftover chicken, an onion, some garlic and pickled jalapeños, I had this hot bowl of chilli on the table in about 40 minutes.

We ate it with what we had on hand: pickled jalapeños on top and a few charred corn tortillas.

It was a thrifty and nourishing meal that was also satisfying and delicious. To create this recipe, I remade it, measuring each ingredient and subbing the pickled jalapeños for fresh.

I also gussied it up a bit more by topping it with fresh avocado slices, cilantro leaves, pico de gallo and crunchy corn chips.

I decided it was a keeper, and so I’m sharing it with you.

If you’ve ever learned to knit a sweater, play an instrument or mastered a sport, you’ve already experienced what it’s like to go from stumbling and apprehensive to confident and at ease with a new skill. It’s that way with cooking.

I still have a lot to learn and I can always get better, but it has become almost second nature to me.


To make this dish vegan, switch to vegetable broth and substitute pressed, cubed tofu for the chicken. Or, simply add more beans in place of the chicken.

If using beans cooked at home, use a total of three cups of beans.

NOTES: Don’t have any leftover chicken? To poach the chicken in a multicooker, add half a cup of lightly salted chicken broth or water, a couple of bay leaves, if you like, and the chicken.

Lock the lid in place, set the pressure release knob to sealing, select PRESSURE at the high setting, and set the cook time to 15 minutes. Once the cooking cycle is finished, press CANCEL and release the pressure manually by moving the pressure-release handle to venting, covering your hand with a towel or oven mitt.

Never put your hands or face near the vent when releasing steam. The temperature of the meat should read at least 165 degrees when checked with a thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken.

To poach the chicken on the stovetop, cut the chicken parts in half or thirds crosswise, depending on how large the pieces are.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the chicken, one cup lightly salted water and a couple of bay leaves, if desired. Stir once or twice and slowly bring to barely a simmer – do not let the water come to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover and gently cook for about 15 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the chicken.


– Two tablespoons olive oil
– One large white or yellow onion, chopped
– Two jalapeños, stemmed, seeded and chopped
– Two large cloves garlic, chopped
– One-and-a-half teaspoons smoked paprika
– One teaspoon ground cumin
– Half teaspoon chilli powder
– Quarter teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed
– Two cups no-salt-added chicken broth, plus more as needed
– One can no-salt-added white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
– One pound boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cooked and shredded (see NOTES)
– One can no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
– Avocado slices, pico de gallo or salsa, fresh or pickled jalapeño slices, fresh cilantro, and/or tortilla chips, for serving (optional)


In a medium pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until it simmers. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are translucent and starting to brown, about five minutes.

Add the jalapeños and cook, stirring, until softened, another two minutes, then add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about one more minute.

Add the paprika, cumin, chilli powder and salt, stir to combine, and cook for one more minute. Don’t be concerned if the vegetables start to stick a bit, but adjust the heat if they begin to burn.

Add the broth and stir, scraping up any brown bits. Add half of the white beans, stir and bring to a simmer, so that there are bubbles around the edge of the pot.

Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens, about five minutes.

Use an immersion (stick) blender to puree the mixture until smooth. (You also can puree the mixture in a heatproof blender: To prevent splatters, be careful to not fill it more than halfway, remove the centre ring from the lid, and hold a kitchen towel over the opening as you blend.)

Return the pot to medium heat, add the chicken and the remaining white beans and the black beans, and stir to combine.

Simmer for about three minutes; then taste, adding more salt to taste and more broth to thin if desired.

Ladle the chili into bowls and serve hot with your choice of toppings, such as avocado slices, pico de gallo or salsa, fresh or pickled jalapeño slices, fresh cilantro leaves, and/or tortilla chips.

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