When you’re starving, there’s nothing better than a piping hot, hearty bowl of chili when it’s cold outside, at a summer backyard barbecue--or really, whenever you like! Chili is one of those dishes that leads to a happy, satisfied tummy.
And these days, you don’t even have to be a red meat-eater to enjoy chili. There are all kinds of chili recipes that will suit your needs. For example, there’s turkey chili if you’re watching your weight, or meatless varieties if you’re a vegan.
Although one can eat chili all by itself, many people enjoy a side to accompany it. There are countless possible sides that range from the standards, to unconventional pairings.
Here are 21 recommended sides that pair perfectly with chili. Try out some of them at your next get-together or family dinner, and see which you like best!
All right, let’s get these first two out of the way. The baked potato is one of the tried-and-true companions to chili. It’s really easy to prepare and requires very little ingredients. However, the end result is comforting and satisfying. Just split open the potato, fluff it out a bit with a fork, then scoop a hefty amount of chili on top. It’s so simple, but perfect.
Bread is of course the second most common side for chili. Crostini just means “toast” in Italian, but it sure sounds fancy, doesn’t it? A thick cut of toast is a pretty standard companion to chili that takes almost no time to prepare. Grab a slice, rip a piece off, and use it to scoop up that meaty bean goodness. Or dunk it in the thick sauce instead if you like.
This classic southern side is a fantastic alternative to plain bread. It’s soft, crumbly, and moist. The sweetness of the cornbread accentuates the savory notes of the chili, as it dissolves in the thick sauce.
The beauty of cornbread is that it’s so easily adjustable to your palate. You want to kick the heat up a notch? Mix in some diced jalapenos. Do you want a smoky flavor? Toss in some chopped bacon. Have a gluten allergy? There are gluten-free cornbread recipes available.
If you don’t feel like eating a whole baked potato with your chili, consider potato skins instead. They’re fast and easy to make, and bite-sized. Just spoon a bit of chili on top of the potato skin and enjoy!
PROTIP: If you want to decrease your carb intake, scoop out some potato, but leave enough to maintain its structural integrity. You don’t want it to fall apart trying to scoop up the chili.
A large plate of chili fries is fun to share among friends and family during The Big Game, or at a barbecue. The fries soak up that chili goodness and you get a bite of crispy fry with each saucy bite. Top it off with some shredded cheese and/or sour cream for a gooey snack.
If you want some ideas, check out our list of 25 types of french fries. Just make sure they’re thick enough to hold the chili.
Similar to fries, nachos provide a great base for the chili to rest on. The chips add a welcome crunch to the soft, squishy chili. And while shredded cheese and sour cream are an obvious choice of toppings, you can also include diced veggies like onions, jalapenos, olives, and so on.
If you want a healthier alternative to the classic pairing of chili with baked potato, consider turkey chili with baked sweet potato. Turkey has less saturated fat than beef overall, while sweet potatoes are lower in calories than standard potatoes.
Less fat and calories don’t mean less taste, however. Turkey chili with baked sweet potato is just as flavorful as its traditional counterpart. However, the sweetness from this root vegetable cuts the savory spices from the chili a bit more.
Chili dogs have long been a childhood--and let’s face it, adult--favorite. Is it really surprising? Chili dogs are fun to eat! You’ve got a juicy hot dog blanketed with a generous helping of hearty chili, all held by a warm bun. The fun part is that it’s messy!
Sprinkle some shredded cheese on top and now you have chili cheese dogs. Add some diced onion, jalapeno, or maybe even pickles to kick the flavors up a notch.
- Cheddar Bay Biscuits (AKA Red Lobster biscuits)
Even if you don’t like Red Lobster, I think we can agree that their biscuits are to die for. Just think of that bread basket full of mouth-watering, soft, buttery, cheesy, herb-flavored bread! They are perfect for ripping apart and dunking into a bowl of chili.
While you can just buy a box of prepackaged mix with the Red Lobster label, baking it from scratch would certainly be more rewarding.
It may sound odd to pair shredded cabbage and carrots with ground meat and beans, but it’s actually a classic combination. The sweet creaminess from the coleslaw compliments the savory spices from the chili, and adds a satisfying crunch. In fact, top both on a hot dog and you get the Carolina Style dog, a tasty trio of summer favorites in one bite.
Speaking of summery sides, how about an ear of smoky, barbecued corn to go with your chili? This isn’t your regular grilled corn, however. This recipe calls for the corn to be slathered in Mexican street corn topping. The charbroiled sweet corn adorned with the tangy, salty topping provides a great contrast to the spicy, rich notes of the chili.
For a healthier alternative to standard potato french fries, try zucchini fries. Although the frying method isn’t so health-conscious (unless you used an air fryer), you’re better off eating zucchini than potatoes because they’re lower in carbohydrates. Use an air fryer or bake these zucchini fries and pair them with our Weight Watchers chili for a relatively guilt-free meal.
Yes, it may sound bizarre but believe it or not, some people have gooey cinnamon rolls with their chili. Apparently it’s a Midwestern tradition that supposedly goes back to 1944 in Iowa. It was even served in school lunches!
Now, how does one eat a sweet pastry with a savory dish? While many people consider the cinnamon rolls as dessert and eat them after the chili, some folks actually dunk the sticky treat into the savory sauce.
How about some more healthy sides for the chili? Roasted vegetables make a great side because their smoky flavor compliments the savory notes from the chili. The beauty of it is that you can use just about any vegetable--yellow and red bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc. Toss a few in your chili bowl, take a bite, and enjoy the smokiness of the meal.
This is one of many salads that would pair well with chili. In fact, just about any salad would, believe it or not! Hearty salads, citrusy salads, salads with creamy dressing--they all work well. Corn-based salads add a little sweetness and southwestern flair, while salads with avocado add a richness to the meal. A simple arugula and vinaigrette provides a light, refreshing break from the heavy chili.
Crispy, sweet onion rings go well with thick chili. Similar to fries and nachos, the rings serve as a crunchy yet soft base for the chili to rest. If the rings are really thick and large, cut them in wedges to scoop up the chili and into your mouth.
PROTIP: Consider using onion strings as a topper for your chili instead of diced raw onions!
You may be thinking--hold on, spaghetti? That’s right. This is another culinary tradition from the Midwest. Cincinnati chili is very different from regular chili mainly in terms of the spices.
While standard, Southwestern chili uses cumin and chili powder, Cincinnati chili uses more Mediterranean spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. There are also no beans mixed in with the ground beef. It’s then served on top of plain spaghetti and topped with shredded cheese and diced onion.
The basic cheese quesadilla is a yummy, gooey side to chili. Imagine taking a slice of that crispy, toasted tortilla with melted cheese in between, and scooping up a hefty portion of meat and beans. It’s another fun snack to share with friends during a get-together.
PROTIP: Stick with plain cheese quesadillas, because one with a protein inside such as beef or chicken may clash with the flavors of the chili.
Grilled cheese is very similar to quesadillas, except you’ve got cheese between two slices of bread instead of tortillas. However, the textures are different when you bite into them of course. Still, the grilled cheese is just as delicious when dunked into the thick chili.
While most people use medium cheddar for their sandwich, try other kinds to see what you like. For example, try gouda for a smoky flavor.
This isn’t so much of a side since it’s mixed in with the chili. Nevertheless, this is a favorite among kids. The cheese and macaroni help temper the spiciness of the chili, making it more palatable for children.
This recipe calls for making the mac and cheese from scratch, but if you’re pressed for time or just don’t feel like it, you can always use a store-bought box.
The blank slate of white rice is a great carb companion to chili. Plain white rice allows for the chili’s flavor to shine through and be the star. At the same time, the rice absorbs the hearty sauce and keeps the chili from being too one-note.
Now if you want a bit of a refreshing take, try a mildly flavored rice, like with lime and cilantro. For something that packs a bigger flavor punch, try Mexican rice.
What to Serve With Chili-21 Simple Sides
- Preheat the oven to 375F, and spray a 9 inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
- In a bowl whisk together the egg, egg white, and brown sugar. Add in the honey, apple sauce, and milk, and mix well.
- Stir in the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Pour it into the nonstick dish and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes.
- Let cool for 10 minutes then cut into 12 squares.