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Hosting a chili dinner party can be a fun and delicious way to gather friends and family for a hearty meal. Make your next gathering easy using these great chili dinner ideas, make-ahead tips, decor ideas, and topping recipes. By setting up a chili food bar, you create a customizable experience where guests can build their own bowls of chili with a variety of toppings and sides.

In this blog post, we’ll explore tips and ideas for hosting a chili dinner food bar, including decorations, make-ahead tips, how to set up the food bar, and a range of toppings and sides to complement your chili. Let’s dive in!

chile on fries, chili on hotdogs, chili with cheese on top, bowls of chili toppings

​Why Host A Chili Bar?

Hosting a chili dinner food bar is a fantastic way to bring together friends and family for a memorable and flavorful meal. By offering a range of chili options, toppings, and sides, you give guests the freedom to create their perfect bowl of chili.

Whether it’s game day or a weeknight dinner, a chili food bar will surely be a crowd favorite. Enjoy the classic comfort food, experiment with different flavors, and have a great time with your loved ones!

Chili Dinner Decorations

To set the mood for your chili dinner party, consider decorating the space with a rustic, cozy theme. 

  • A Bandana theme is perfect for a fun chili bar doctor vibe. It’s a festive feel and easy clean up.
  •  Set out on the tables som Mason jars filled with colorful dried chili peppers as centerpieces.
  • Add some festive banners or signs with phrases like “Chili Night” or “Game Day Chili Bar” to enhance the atmosphere.
  • Serve drinks in mason jars with twine wrapped around them with a name tag label. 

Free Printable Chili Bar Labels

chili bar tags

Using labels on a chili bar setup helps guests easily identify and differentiate the different chili options, toppings, sides, and accompaniments, ensuring a smooth and organized self-service experience while also providing important information such as spiciness level or dietary considerations for guests with specific preferences or restrictions. Download your free Chili Bar Tags.

Make-Ahead Party Tips:

Consider making the chili in advance to ease your workload on the day of the party. Both slow cooker and instant pot recipes work well for preparing chili ahead of time. 

After it’s finished cooking, allow the chili to cool. Then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Here is a bonus! Making ahead will allow the seasonings to meld together, producing a more flavorful chili when reheated.

Easy Chili Recipes

Here are a collection of my reader’s favorite chili recipes. 

Classic Beef Chili
This is a great copycat beef chili that is inspired by Texas Roadhouse's classic chli. Make it on your stovetop or assemble it in your slow cooker to infuse great chili spices all day long.
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a bowl of copycat recipe of texas roadhouse chili
Wendy’s Chili Recipe: Copycat
You might think Wendy's has top secret recipes however I am sharing with you an authentic Copycat Wendy's Chili recipe that you can make at home.
There are a few key secrets to making it, just like Wendy's restaurant, that I am going to share with you. This Wendys chili can be made stovetop or mixed up and allowed to simmer in your crockpot all day.
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Wendy's copycat chili in a bowl with cheese and crackers beside it
Vegetarian Chili Recipe
A thick rich soup broth does not have to have meat as its base. This Vegan White Bean Chili is a hearty meal loaded with a variety of beans, fresh corn, and authentic Mexican spice. It's also gluten and dairy-free.
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Hawaiian Zippy’s Copycat Recipe
Zippy's Chili Recipe is an iconic dish of chili that has been well-loved by the people of Hawaii for decades. It's a hearty mix of beef, sausage, beans, and unique spices that provide a range of mouth-watering flavors and textures in every spoonful.
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zippy's chili in a bowl with a scoop of rice on top
Skyline Chili Copycat Recipe
This homemade copycat recipe for authentic tasting Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili will become a quick and easy family favorite. The sweet and savory sauce is spiced with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and garlic, all infused with beef hamburger and tomato sauce.
The chili is served piled high on top of a big plate of spaghetti, then traditionally topped with cheddar cheese, beans, oyster crackers, diced onions, and shredded cheese. It's a delicious recipe your entire family will enjoy.
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Authentic Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili on a plate with cheese and crackers on top
Best Canned Chili: Step-By-Step
Learn how to make the Best Canned Chili with this easy guide. Making your own canned chili recipe is also economical, and you know exactly what is in your chili, with no preservatives or additives.
A warm bowl of chili on a cold evening just makes the day better. You will enjoy it, even more, when all you have to do is open a can of your homemade chili and heat it up. This canned chili is one of my favorite canning recipes that I try to keep on hand year-round.
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canned chili in quart and pint jars
Chicken Chili with Cream Cheese – Butter & Baggage
This Chicken Chili Crock Pot recipe is light, fresh and delicious. Just dump the ingredients into your crockpot so you come home to an easy dinner.
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Chicken Chili with Cream Cheese - Butter & Baggage

Add In Ideas For Chili

One of the great advantages of homemade chili is the ability to customize it according to your preferences. The best chili recipe should contain all your favorite ingredients. Once the basic recipe is ready, you can experiment by adding vegetables and beans. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started with your chili-making journey. Don’t hesitate to let your imagination run wild!

  • Black Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • White Beans
  • Make spicy chili by adding in chopped pickled jalapenos link
  • If you like a meaty chili, double the ground meat called for in a recipe.
  • For a hearty chili, substitute ground beef for already cooked leftover beef roast. link
  • To make a leaner chile, substitute the beef for ground turkey.

Setting Up the Chili Bar

Arrange the food bar in a way that allows guests to build their own bowls of chili. 

  • Keep It Warm: Place the main chili options, such as beef chili, white chicken chili, and vegetarian chili, in different slow cookers or Dutch ovens to keep them warm throughout the party. 
  • Arrange Toppings: Set out bowls of toppings, such as shredded cheddar cheese, diced green onions, sour cream, hot sauce, and tortilla chips, along with sides like crackers, corn chips, or soft pretzels. 
  • Bowls and Silverware:  At the beginning of your chili bar, provide bowls of various sizes.Small sampler bowls, deep dish, or large shallow bowls for fries, chips, or baked potatos for topping with chili. Wrap up spoons with napkins tied with twine. This will make it easy for guests to serve themselves.

Build A Plate Of Chili

When serving chili, it’s common to have it in a large bowl with toppings. If you plan on setting up a chili bar, try spicing things up by adding other food options as a foundation for the chili to be served on. Use your creativity!

french fries topped with chili and cheese
  • Air Fryer Crispy Baked Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Sweet potato fries 
  • French fries 
  •  Cheesy potato skins
  • Taco Chips

Favorite Toppings for Chili

 Offer a variety of toppings to suit everyone’s taste preferences. Encourage guests to mix and match toppings for a personalized chili experience. Fill serving bowls with some of these popular topping ideas and place them after the pots of chili. 

bowl of chili with toppings in bowls, sour cream and beans

Classic Chili Toppings

  •  Shredded cheddar cheese
  •  Diced green onions
  • Sour cream
  • Sliced jalapeños, fresh or pickled
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Guacamole
  • Diced green chilis
  • Onion rings 
  • Fried egg
  • Corn

Breads, Crackers, and Chips To Go With Chili

Add Some Heat To Chili

Fill bowls with a few spicy items. Be sure to label them as spicy on your chili bar. 

  • Set out a shaker of red pepper flakes
  • Diced fresh jalapenos
  • Set out a variety of hot sauces
  • Diced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Best Side Dishes to Accompany Chili

To complement the chili, offer a selection of sides that can be the base for building a fantastic plate of chili. These are sure to be crowd favorites. 

What sides go with chili?

corn on cob, tater tots, salad, potatoes, grilled cheese pretzels and more

fresh salad with a tangy dressing adds a refreshing contrast to the rich flavors of the chili. Consider serving a side of cornbread or melted cheese for dipping.

  • Green Jacket Salad: This is an easy and delicious salad made with only a few ingredients and homemade dressing, all tossed in one big bowl.
  • Panera Apple Salad Copycat: The apples are a sweetness that pairs perfectly with a bowl of spicy chili.
  • Grilled Corn In The Husk: This would be an easy make-ahead side. Keep it warm on low in your oven until ready to serve.

Leftover Chili Ideas 

Here is a fun idea, if you have leftover chili after your dinner party, why not send some home with your guests? Prepare single-serving to-go containers and cute labels beforehand to hand out. Your guests will surely appreciate having leftover chili for lunch or a late-night snack.

How To Use Leftover Chili

cheese fries, hot dog, casserole, burritos, tacos chili mac and more

If you have leftover chili from your party, don’t worry! There are plenty of delicious ways to repurpose it.

Use it as a topping for hot dogs, nachos, or chili mac. You can also incorporate leftover chili into stuffed baked potatoes or as a filling for tacos or burritos.

Freeze any remaining chili in an airtight container for future use.

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chili with beans, peppers, lime and chips
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Chili Dinner Ideas: Easy Party Food Bar Inspiration

Cooking Chili and Prepping Toppings: 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Hosting a chili dinner party can be a fun and delicious way to gather friends and family for a hearty meal. Make your next gathering easy using these great chili dinner ideas, make-ahead tips, decor ideas, and topping recipes. By setting up a chili food bar, you create a customizable experience where guests can build their own bowls of chili with a variety of toppings and sides.  

Note: Be sure to read through the recipe’s post for tips and details about this recipe.

hand showing you to tap on the ingredient to add to your walmart and target list.

Ingredients
 

Chili

  • Chili, Offering a variety of chilis ensures that there's something for everyone, catering to different preferences and dietary needs, whether it's hearty beef chili, spicy vegetarian chili, or creamy white chicken chili.

Mix-In Ideas

Build A Plate Foundation Ideas

  • Baked Potatoes,
  • Sweet Potatoes,
  • Sweet potato fries,
  • French fries,
  • Cheesy potato skins

Chili Toppings

  • Cheese, Shreded sharp, cheddar, pepper jack, or Mexican blend.
  • Onions, Diced green, yellow, or red
  • Sour cream
  • Jalapeños, Dieced fresh or pickled
  • Cilantro
  • Tomatoes, Fresh diced red or green tomatoes
  • Peppers, Diced yellow, green, red, and orange
  • Guacamole
  • Green chilis, Diced
  • Onion rings
  • Fried egg
  • Corn, Yellow or white cernals

Bread Crackers, And Chips

Sauces and Spices

  • Red pepper flakes
  • Jalapenos, Pickled
  • Hot sauces, Set out a variety
  • Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, Diced

Instructions
 

Plan and Prepare:

  • Decide on the date, time, and location for your chili bar party.
  • Determine the number of guests you’ll be hosting and take any dietary restrictions into account.
  • Choose the types of chili you’ll be serving, such as beef chili, white chicken chili, vegetarian chili, or other variations.
  • Make a list of toppings, sides, and beverages you want to offer.
  • Create a shopping list and gather all the necessary ingredients and supplies.

Set Up The Chili Bar

  • Arrange tables or a buffet area where guests can serve themselves.
  • To set the mood for your chili dinner party, consider decorating the space with a rustic, cozy theme. 
  • Set up plates, bowls, utensils, napkins, and serving spoons for guests to use.
  • Arrange the slow cookers, Dutch ovens, or other serving containers for the different chili options.

Prepare The Chili

  • Cook your chosen chili recipes in advance, using your preferred method, such as slow cooker or stovetop.
  • Keep the cooked chili warm in slow cookers or Dutch ovens until serving time. Consider using warming trays or chafing dishes to maintain the temperature.
  • Note: Consider making the chili in advance to ease your workload on the day of the party. After it's finished cooking, allow the chili to cool. Then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Here is a bonus! Making ahead will allow the seasonings to meld together, producing a more flavorful chili when reheated.

Prepare The Toppings and Mix-Ins

  • Fill bowls and containers with toppings and mix-ins ingredients.
  • Label each topping for easy identification.
  • Ensure you have enough serving utensils for each topping.
  • Provide Sides and Accompaniments:

Prepare Side Dishes and Bread

  • Set up a separate area or table for side dishes and bread.

Prepare Beverage Station

  • Create a self-serve beverage station with a variety of drinks, including water, soda, iced tea, lemonade, or even a chili-themed cocktail or mocktail.
  • Provide cups, ice, and any necessary garnishes.
  • Make available a way for guest to mark their cups, such as a Sharpie or name attachment ring.

Lable Chili

  • Use labels or small signs to identify each chili option and its level of spiciness, as well as the various toppings and sides available.
  • Consider creating a small menu board or display to showcase the different chili options and their descriptions.

Instruct Guests

  • Invite your guests to serve themselves and customize their chili bowls with their preferred toppings and sides.
  • Encourage guests to try different combinations and share their favorite creations.

Cleanup

  • Make sure to provide ample trash and recycling bins for easy cleanup.

Leftovers

  • Here is a fun idea, if you have leftover chili after your dinner party, why not send some home with your guests? Prepare single-serving to-go containers and cute labels beforehand to hand out. Your guests will surely appreciate having leftover chili for lunch or a late-night snack.
  • Store any leftover chili and toppings in airtight containers for later use.

Notes

Be sure to visit Intentional Hospitality for great Chili Recipes.
Author: Gina Dickson

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