Lighten up with white chicken chili

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2008

A bowl of chili is a wintertime hit that's usually red all over - red meat, red beans and red sauce.

Dave Williams / Wichita Eagle
Dave Williams / Wichita Eagle

White chicken chili can be a delicious alternative. Gourmet magazine's version got glowing reviews from readers who tried it, but that recipe holds lots of fat and calories.

It's not the chicken's fault. A pound of cooked chicken breast meat contains 736 calories and 16 fat grams, while a pound of cooked 80 percent lean ground beef has 1,216 calories and 80 grams of fat. And the navy beans in this chili are a calorie bargain that put plenty of protein and fiber into the pot.

But the white sauce is filled with half and half, flour, sour cream and an entire stick of butter. That combination of ingredients would cause many healthy eaters to leave Gourmet's chili out in the cold.

In fact, each cup of Gourmet's chili contains 553 calories and 31.3 fat grams. If you ate a 10-piece order of Wendy's fried chicken nuggets with barbecue sauce instead, you'd save 48 calories and 1.3 fat grams.

I wanted to try to slim down this soup, and I began by slashing the amount of butter, cutting 76 calories and 8.6 fat grams from each serving. Next, I added a little more chicken broth and less half and half, saving 56 calories and 4 fat grams per bowl. I also chose cheese made with 2 percent milk as well as light sour cream and reduced the amounts to lighten this chili up a little more.

I tossed in some fresh cilantro and a pinch of red pepper flakes to enhance the flavor without fat.

To cut the cooking time for this recipe, I used canned beans instead of dried and chicken that was already cooked.

If this chili is too spicy for your taste, you can stir in fewer green chiles or just leave them out.

My alterations to this recipe reduce the calories by 50 percent and trim the fat by 69 percent.

You can have a cup of my white chicken chili for 273 calories and 9.8 fat grams.

White chicken chili

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup chopped onion

2 4-ounce cans of diced green chiles

2 cups chicken broth (low-sodium, if desired)

2 16-ounce cans of navy beans, rinsed and drained

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

4 cups cooked and chopped chicken breast

½ teaspoon hot sauce

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon oregano

½ teaspoon white pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

½ cup light sour cream

½ cup half and half

½ cup Mexican-blend cheese made with 2 percent milk, finely shredded

In a heavy stockpot, cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter over moderate heat until the onion is softened.

Add the green chiles, chicken broth, beans, garlic, chicken, hot sauce, cumin, oregano, cilantro, white pepper and red pepper flakes. Bring mixture to a boil and gently simmer for about 20 minutes to combine flavors.

Remove the stockpot from the heat and stir in the light sour cream and half and half until mixture is smooth and well-blended.

Sprinkle one tablespoon of shredded cheese over each bowl just before serving.

Makes 8 1-cup servings.

Per 1-cup serving: 273 calories, 9.8 grams of fat, 75mg cholesterol, 644mg sodium, 28 protein grams, 19 carb grams, 6.8 fiber grams.

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