Sara Moulton’s White Chili Gratin With Tortilla Crust (Renee Comet/For the Washington Post; styling by Bonnie S. Benwick)

When we first moved into New York’s Chelsea neighborhood 35 years ago, it was largely Latino, boasting a wealth of burrito and taco establishments where a good meal was easy to grab when I was just too pooped to cook.

One of our favorite spots offered a filling we especially loved: white chicken chili. All we had known previously was the red kind. Here is my adaptation, gussied up a bit for family dinner with a crispy-tortilla-and-cheese topping.

As I developed this recipe, I tried both cubed turkey and ground turkey. It turns out that the latter picks up more flavor and moisture. Also, it’s much easier to find at the supermarket than ground chicken, which is why ground turkey’s my first choice.

When it comes to which parts of the bird to use, you’re welcome to go with all white meat (a leaner option), all dark meat (much richer) or a mix. Another way to keep it light is to opt for low-fat sour cream or yogurt and low-fat cheddar cheese.

The tortillas are baked, not fried, which is already the lighter way to roll.

Given the relative richness of this chili, you’ll want to keep the side dishes simple and light: roasted vegetables or sauteed greens (baby spinach or kale) along with a slimmer-than-traditional coleslaw made of shredded cabbage, carrots and red pepper dressed with a lime vinaigrette.

One of the charms of this dish is that you can make it well ahead of time. In fact, it will actually taste even better then because the flavors will have had more time to develop. At the appointed hour, heat the chili on top of the stove, sprinkle it with the toasted tortillas and grated cheese, and finish it in the oven.


6 to 8 servings (makes about 8 cups)

1 cup finely chopped onion  

¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for brushing the tortillas

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 pounds ground turkey or chicken (white meat, dark meat or a mix)

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin 

1/4 to ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper  

½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

Four 6-inch corn tortillas  

¼ cup flour

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup dry white wine (may substitute additional chicken broth)

29 ounces canned hominy (may substitute two 15- or 15½ -ounce cans cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed)

One 4- or 5-ounce can chopped green chilies (may substitute ½ cup diced, peeled, roasted poblano peppers)  

⅔ cup sour cream or plain yogurt

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice or more as needed, plus lime wedges, for serving

2 ounces coarsely shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Chopped fresh cilantro or cilantro leaves, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the onion and oil in a large skillet over medium heat; cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Increase the heat to high; add the ground turkey or chicken, the chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper (to taste) and the ½ teaspoon of salt; cook for about 6 minutes, breaking up the meat, or until it is no longer pink.

While the meat is cooking, brush one side of each tortilla lightly with oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Arrange the tortillas in one layer on a baking sheet. Bake (middle rack) until lightly browned and crisp, about 12 minutes. Let cool, then use a rolling pin to crush them into coarse crumbs. Leave the oven on.

Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium, then add the flour; cook for 3 minutes, stirring. Pour in the broth and wine in a stream, stirring. Once the mixture starts bubbling, stir in the hominy and green chilies. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the sour cream or yogurt, lime juice (to taste) and season lightly with salt; once the chili mixture begins to bubble again, sprinkle the tortilla crumbs evenly over the surface, followed by the cheese. Bake (middle rack) for 6 to 8 minutes, or just until the cheese has melted.

Serve each portion topped with cilantro, a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, if using, and lime wedges on the side.

Moulton is the host of “Sara’s Weeknight Meals,” a public television show now in its sixth season. She writes a weekly column for the Associated Press and is the author of four cookbooks, including, most recently, “Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better.