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I’m pretty sure that comfort food is a phrase I use often. Here’s one such recipe, born from my heart, an old favorite, duly updated to be more digestible, as well as being delicious! Easy White Bean Chicken Chili can be made with or without dairy. Use your Crock Pot or Instant Pot. This recipe is soaked (easy overnight) for gentle digestion and nutrition.
This recipe reflects our family’s health. We keep getting better and healthier, 98% healed?, and are, therefore, now enjoying the creamy goodness of soaked legumes!
White beans, specifically, are the gentlest of all beans, the easiest to digest. So Easy White Bean Chicken Chili was a natural first-legume recipe to try out on our bodies. We all love it.
CROCK POT for COOKING BEANS
The crock pot/slow cooker is not only a tool of convenience. It is this primarily, yes, and I am SO grateful for the freedom it adds to my kitchen. But when it comes to beans, it is also a tool of precision. Steady, low heat, it turns out, is vital for creating soft, digestible beans.
The Weston A. Price Foundation has done extensive research on the proper way to soak and cook beans. I loved reading about the history of enigmatic legumes and how researchers and native peoples have cracked the nut, so to speak, on removing oligosaccharides from beans. They say about bean cooking temperature, “It is important to avoid boiling beans since this will coagulate their vegetable protein and result in permanently hard, unpalatable beans.”
They’ve dialed in every nuance to help us avoid beans that will give us gas or beans that won’t cook to their proper softness.
I’m going to share those tips here, so we all get cozy, perfect chili.
INSTANT POT for COOKING BEANS
The Instant Pot (or other pressure cooker) also safely cooks beans, and quickly.
To adjust this recipe for your pressure cooker, simply soak rinsed beans (see details below in recipe) in plain water overnight in plenty of water. Rinse again in the morning.
Place beans into insert with ingredients from Step 3 in recipe below, and use the easy “Bean/Chili” button. Adjust the time to 45 minutes.
When the chili is done cooking, allow the pressure to release naturally for 1 hour before covering the steam release opening with a dish towel (as an added safety precaution) and releasing any remaining steam. Press the “Cancel” button and open the lid. Resume recipe with Step 4.
TIPS WHEN COOKING BEANS for OPTIMUM DIGESTION
First, as a bit of a backdrop, here’s why beans are so hard to digest:
The harder beans, such as kidney beans, black beans or navy beans, require more careful treatment, as they contain certain oligosaccharides (large, complex sugars) that can completely confound digestion. Mammals do not produce the enzyme alpha-galactosidase in their digestive tracts, which is necessary to break down these sugars. When consumed, these oligosaccharides reach the lower intestine largely intact, and in the presence of anaerobic bacteria ferment and produce carbon dioxide and methane gases, as well as a good deal of discomfort… (source)
General guidelines for cooking beans:
- To the briefly simmered soak water (see recipe below) add a 6″ (or greater) piece of kombu seaweed. It will not add a fishy flavor but helps to alkalinize the water, breaking down oligosaccharides, adding minerals, elements and B vitamins, as well as adding a hearty umami (savory meat) flavor. Kombu can also be used during the beans’ cooking stage. If so, it will melt into the stew and become an added aid for digestion.
- To increase phytic acid degradation, (read more about phytic acid here), soaking beans overnight is a must.
- Adding just a pinch of baking soda to the soaking and/or cooking water helps to create a soft bean.
- Many sources, even reputable ones, suggest soaking beans in an acid medium overnight. While there are two to three varieties of beans that benefit from this, aciduated soaking water renders white beans hard. Use plain water for soaking overnight.
I hope you enjoy this classic. I have a few variations below, depending on how fast and easy you need the recipe to be, as well as your dietary restrictions. Overall, it has a super quick prep time and is no-fuss and yet has many layers of flavor and creaminess.
- 3 cups white beans dried
- 8 cups water filtered, simmering
- 6 cups bone broth
- 3 lbs. chicken raw, whole boneless thighs, pasture-raised or organic recommended
- 2 cups jack cheese or manchego cheese, grated, grass-fed preferred, reserve a small amount for garnish/topping
- 1 cup heavy cream or coconut cream for dairy-free
- 1 cup sour cream cultured cream/probiotic, optional for a dairy-free version
- 2 bunches green onions , chopped, reserve some for garnish/topping
- 2-3 cans green chilies mild, about 14 ounces total
- 2 T. avocado oil or bacon fat
- 4 cloves fresh garlic crushed or minced
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 2 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- pinch sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
Rinse white beans and place them in a large bowl or pot. Add 8 cups simmering water and soak 18-24 hours. (Add an optional piece of kombu if desired.) During this time, drain beans 2 times, rinsing and adding more water.
Place rinsed, soaked beans into empty crock pot.
Add the following: bone broth, chicken, green onions, green chilies, fat, garlic, spices, sea salt and baking soda. Stir and set heat on low for 8 hours.
After 8 hours, remove 4 cups of flavorful broth, beans, chilies and onions, taking care to leave chicken in pot. Allow this to cool slightly, about 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile use two forks to quickly break up/shred the chicken thighs into bite-size pieces. (They almost fall apart-- very easy business.)
Puree slightly-cooled broth and beans for 50 seconds, until smooth. Add puree back into crock pot. (Always use caution when pureeing hot liquid.)
When ready to serve, add cream and cheese. Stir and serve. Garnish bowls with sour cream, grated cheese and thinly sliced green onion, according to preference.
Variations, including dairy-free
- Leave out all dairy and creamy options at the end. This makes a sublime soup, as is right when it's done cooking! A bit spicy and SOOOO cozy, full of comforting flavors, hearty and satisfying. The fat in the broth is nourishing; and the broth itself is delicious! Highly recommended as soup.
- Omit dairy creams and cheese. But add 1-2 cups coconut cream instead, to taste.
- If you can't have canned green chilies, due to the citric acid that most are canned with, use 3 whole green bell peppers, diced. Use 1 poblano pepper in place of 1 green bell pepper if you like your chili extra spicy. (Use caution when handling spicy peppers, their seeds and membranes. Don't touch your eyes.)
- Pureeing one portion of the beans and broth is optional. It makes the chili thicker and creamy, which I like; but as broth-y soup the dish is faster, easier and fabulous.