White Chili - Turkey, Chicken, Garbonzo and Barley

I've been making white chili for about 15 years or so now. The original recipe came from a Gourmet Magazine "You Asked for It" request. It got transferred onto a little scrap of paper that I used to use to have a concise version of recipes, so I could line up five or six of them at a time while cooking. Over the years it got crumpled, stained and waterlogged - and now it's time to transfer the recipe, in my own variation, to the blog so it can be more safely preserved. Here's the original scrap.

We last made this on New Year's Day, served with fresh bread, of course. Here's my version of the recipe, which is very close to the original, updated to highlight a couple key flavors.

White Chili with Barley and Garbanzo Beans
1 1/2 - 2C Onion, chopped (1 large)
2 T Garlic, chopped
2 T Olive oil
2 lb boneless chicken thighs, chopped into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces
2 T cumin
1 lb ground turkey

1-2 Jalapeno's, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 C Barley
2 - 1 lb cans of garbanzo beans (aka chick peas), drained and rinse in a sieve
6 C Chicken or Turkey stock. A rich homemade stock is very beneficial in this recipe
2 t marjoram
1 t savory
Salt and white pepper to taste
2 T Arrowroot or cornstarch
1/2 C water

3-5 Scallions, chopped
1 C Monterrey Jack, grated
Fresh Bread

  1. In a large dutch oven or stock pot, soften onion and garlic over medium heat, approximately 5 minutes
  2. Saute chicken thighs over medium high heat until cooked through. Remove chicken and vegetables. Drain excess fat if necessary.
  3. Saute ground turkey with cumin until cooked through. If necessary, drain excess fat.
  4. Return chicken and vegetables to pot.
  5. Add jalapeno's, barley, beans, stock and herbs. Bring to a boil and simmer 45 minutes.
  6. Combine starch and water in a small bowl. Add to pot and simmer 5 minutes to thicken. Adjust S&P.
  7. Serve piping hot in bowls, topped with scallions and cheese and a chunk of fresh bread.

What makes this recipe work?

First - it's not just turkey or chicken in a traditional chili configuration. Rather, it is truly a white and yellow dish, with flecks of green from herbs and jalapeno. It's in the chili family, but is a standalone, unique entry into the chili category.

Next, it's not spicy or sharp tasting. Though there is jalapeno (quantity to your taste, of course), and a little bit of cumin, again, it departs from traditional chili flavorings. The tiny amount of herb and the important contribution from a good, preferably homemade, stock is what imparts a unique flavor.

Third, the interesting combination of barley and garbanzo beans. There are not a lot of barley based dishes out there, especially ones that are not an ethnic staple of some sort. Though, I do have a wonderful recipe that includes milk-roasted corn, barley and leek, topped with shrimp. I'll have to pull that one out again soon - it's great.

Finally, like any good chili, it is both very filling and improves with age. The dish is slightly improved on day two, and we often make a batch and a half, or double batch to ensure plenty of leftovers. It also freezes relatively well, but needs an extra shot of pepper and herb if frozen.



Anonymous said...

This is a family tradition, but I lost my recipe. Thanks a million. I'm preparing it for a very large crowd. How many does the recipe serve? And if you freeze it. do you add extra herbs. etc before or after?

Debi Fluckiger said...

We have a Boy Scout chili cook off coming up. This recipe sounds workable for an 11 year old that is pretty good in the kitchen. We may not be able to precook the day before. Do you have any hints or additions to help it if we don't have the luxury of letting it age over night?

Also, we need to make enough to serve 20 people. Will this recipe do that? And if not, how many does it serve, please?

Brenda Smoak said...

Oh, thank you so much! This is my favorite recipe and I lost it. So glad you posted it!

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