If you are wondering what to eat with chili, it’s all here! Chili makes a filling meal on its own, but many people like to serve it with side dishes, breads, and finger foods when tailgating, watching the big game, hosting a chili cook-off, or party.
Typically when we think of a warm bowl of homemade chili, we envision beef, mixed with a spicy tomato sauce and beans. The wonderful thing about a chili recipe, though, is just how versatile it is!
Not only can you change out the proteins, but also vary the cooking method. Traditionalists may prefer to cook it on the stove-top, but a using slow cooker is ideal for a busy weeknight, while instant pot white chicken chili makes a meal fast!
There are also more unconventional flavors and ingredients, which always seems to do well at chili-cook offs. Award-winning buffalo chicken chili has had many blue ribbons, along with chicken chorizo chili. If you really want to wow your guests, try cincinnati chili with Mediterranean-inspired spices.
Best chili toppings
Besides coming up with the best dishes to serve with chili, it’s just as important to provide plenty of versatile toppings. This is how you bring a bowl of chili to the next level. Plus, party guests can put their on unique spin on every serving!
- For a crunchy texture, try tortilla chips, saltine crackers, Fritos, or oyster crackers
- Sour cream
- Crispy bacon
- Avocado or guacamole
- Green onions
- Shredded cheese
- Sliced jalapenos
- Hot sauce or chili pepper flakes
Best Side dishes and finger foods to serve with chili
After you’ve made your favorite chili recipe, it’s time to decide on what you came here for – what to eat with chili! Depending on your event and tastes, you may want to go simple, such as cornbread or breadsticks, or make it a heartier menu with sandwiches and plenty of finger foods.
This is most commonly served with chili because you can never go wrong with a classic! The slightly sweet corn taste compliments chilis’ spiciness. Plus, it is heavenly crumbled on top to scoop up with the beef and kidney beans.
To play off the essence of chili, add some diced chilies or jalapenos to the batter and sprinkle cheese on top before baking. You can also add everyone’s favorite accompaniment, bacon, by making a bacon cornbread!
2. Potato skins
I’m always looking for an excuse to indulge in potato skins, and chili night is an ideal reason! They are a great make-ahead side dish and can be warmed in the oven when ready to serve.
Plus, a lot of potato skin toppings, like sour cream, cheese, bacon, green onions, are also classic chili toppings. This is a meal kids and adults can rally behind to fix up any style!
3. Baked potatoes
Baked potatoes are an excellent side dish because, once again, all the chili toppings can be used as potato toppings as well. They also hold well if made ahead of time for party prep. Wrap the potatoes in foil and keep in a cooler or bread warming drawer for a few hours.
If you’d like to make the baked potato part of the main entree, consider making chili stuffed potatoes, similar to buffalo chicken baked potatoes. Season the flesh with butter, salt, and pepper, then top with chili, cheese, and sour cream.
A common theme when deciding what to eat with chili is something dunkable! Use breadsticks for a classic soup, salad, bread combo. Alternatively, make a sliceable bread to smother with golden melted butter.
Just like potato skins, you can repurpose some of those chili toppings and serve tacos along it. If you want to change up the protein or flavor, consider buffalo chicken tacos or blackened fish tacos.
You can also keep it classic with sweet and spicy tacos or simplify the meal with walking taco casserole recipe. With the crossover of ingredients, this is great for saving money when preparing for parties.
6. Cinnamon rolls
Really! Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! This is a chili side dish I’ve came to learn of recently and it always gets the same reaction – what?!
This combination is actually pretty common, going back to midwestern school lunches in the 60’s. Then it made its way to chili cook-off contests and community fundraisers.
You may be wondering how to enjoy a cinnamon roll with chili? The answer – many ways! Save it for dessert after the meal, rip it up pieces to spoon up with the chili, alternate between sweet and spicy bites, or place in the bottom of the bowl and pour the chili on top.
If you want to make something a little less labor-intensive than homemade cinnamon rolls, try mix and bake gluten-free cinnamon bread!
Fresh greens are great for a lighter, crisp side dish to pair with a filling meal, like chili. It can be as simple as a fresh green salad, make-ahead chickpea avocado salad, or something that compliments chili season, such as Harvest Salad, with apples, blue cheese, and candied pecans.
Just like another american comfort food favorite, baked mac and cheese, you can never have enough gooey, creamy cheese! This family-favorite recipe can be made with any type of melting cheese, such as cheddar, pepper jack, colby jack, or havarti.
If the chili is particularly spicy, you many want to use a more mild flavored cheese, such as cheddar. However, if ultimate spice is what you are after, kick it up with pepper jack!
The sky is really the limit with what kind of nachos to make. Make vegetarian nachos with beans to compliment the chili without competing with the flavors. However, if you made a beef chili, you may also switch up the protein for variety, such as chicken or pork nachos.
If planning for a crowd, assemble the nacho platters ahead of time on baking sheets. When ready to serve, pop the trays in the oven and serve immediately with all the fixings ready to go!
10. hot dogs
For a kid-friendly meal, I like to serve hot dogs alongside chili, so guests have a milder dish to choose from. Adults enjoy them either as a side dish or make popular chili dogs, like these Mexican Hot Dogs.
Like grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas enhance an ideal chili and cheese combo! If spice is your thing, there are plenty of cheeses to choose from, like habanero cheddar, sriracha cheese, or pepper jack.
If you have any leftover chili ingredients, like beans, peppers, onions, or meat, throw that between the tortillas for a hearty meal!
12. jalapeno poppers
Jalapeno poppers and chili are the definition of game day heaven! Fresh jalapenos are sliced and hollowed out with the seeds removed. This eliminates some of the spice and also makes the perfect shell to hold a cream cheese, cheddar filling.
Sprinkle the poppers with bread crumbs or wrap with bacon before baking to take this finger food over the top!
13. french fries
Another versatile dish to serve with chili! Make loaded fries by topping with chili, cheese, and toppings, similar to Irish Nachos. Or if you like to dip, use the chili as a hearty dunking sauce. Don’t forget the side dish of sour cream.
Classic french fries are made best with russet potatoes, but if you love sweet potatoes, give sweet potato fries a try. It makes an ideal flavor unison of sweet and spicy!
If you are tailgating, watching a game, or socializing at a chili cook-off, a bowl of chili goes hand-in-hand with a nice cold beer. However, there are many other libations to be enjoyed!
Personally, I love a nice spicy jalapeno margarita with a salted rim. The spice isn’t overwhelming and is perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the drink. If you are looking to save on calories, give these light and fresh skinny margaritas a try!
If you are making margaritas for a crowd, it can’t get any easier than limeade margaritas. They can easily be adapted into a spicy version, made in a pitcher, or transformed into frozen margaritas!
don’t forget desserts!
Don’t forget about the perfect ending to a meal! Something lighter like frozen fruit salad or old fashioned jello salad balances out the spiciness. However, if you are hosting a party and want something a little more decadent consider homemade brownies, sheet cake, apple cheesecake bars, or scotcheroos.
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