Chili is the ultimate comfort food. But once you’ve prepared this spicy but soul-warming treat, you need something to pair it with. In light of that, here’s an extensive breakdown of what goes with chili. No matter if it’s chili con carne, verde, or vegetarian, one of these foods/drinks will surely make a fine addition to the meal.
Side Dishes to Pair With Chili
A rich and extremely flavorful dish like chili calls for something neutral, such as cornbread, to balance it out. On the other hand, something refreshing, like a salad, could be a good way to contrast the heat.
When it comes to side dishes, here’s what goes with chili:
It is a well-known fact that chili and cornbread go together. This soft, almost melt-in-your-mouth treat will complement your chili perfectly. It will help you quench some of that scorching heat and the intensity of spice, creating a beautiful harmony of flavors.
What’s more, cornbread is quite easy to make, requiring less than 45 minutes in total and only the most basic ingredients. It’s also versatile, allowing you to experiment as much as you want.
Apart from the classic cornbread, you could also try making it with honey and butter or add fresh corn to the mix. If you’re feeling frisky, you could also go with a cheddar bacon jalapeño cornbread for that extra zing.
The options are endless. You can bake your cornbread in a cast-iron skillet or even in a muffin tin to create smaller and more even portions.
For such a hot and spicy dish, it’s always a good idea to serve it with a side of something cold and fresh. And obviously, there’s nothing more reinvigorating than a salad.
One of the best and most popular salads to pair with chili is coleslaw, as it’s creamy and tangy. You can never go wrong with the traditional, Chick-fil-A style coleslaw, but feel free to experiment with other ingredients you have lying around. Just make sure to prepare it beforehand and leave it in the fridge for a while to chill it and let the flavors develop.
Another salad that is fitting for a strong dish like chili is salsa, especially given that they share the same Mexican heritage. Corn and tomato salsa are the usual choices. However, there are many variations to this dish, so do some research and you’ll surely find one that’s to your liking.
Finally, a garden salad is also a good complementary side dish for chili. What’s more, it’s effortless — just chop up some of your favorite greens and veggies, top them with nuts or cheese, and dress them up to add flavor.
If you serve nachos, i.e., tortilla chips, with chili, you’ll add some crunch to it, which is always welcome. That way, you’ll create another dimension to the already sensational chili eating experience.
There are multiple ways you can do that. For one, don’t be afraid to use store-bought tortilla chips. However, making them yourself is quite simple, as well.
It requires little effort and not much more than tortillas and some oil. By DIY-ing your tortilla chips, you’ll get to pick your own spices and the level of toastiness. You can also make them a bit healthier if you opt for baking instead of frying.
Whichever nachos recipe you choose in the end, garnish them with your favorite toppings and voilà — you’ve got yourself a superb side dish for your next chili cookout!
4. Potato Chips
You can also serve chili with a side dish of potato chips. These are incredibly easy to make as well, and you even get to make your own spice mix. In addition, you can choose between the classic deep-frying method or the healthier one, which involves baking or air-frying.
If you don’t have the time to make them from scratch, you can always go with store-bought chips. Don’t worry, nobody will judge you for it!
5. Potato Skins
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Another way to enhance your chili is with crispy baked potato skins. After cooking and baking them, load them with your favorite toppings to give them flavor. Some of the most popular choices include cheddar cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, and scallions, but don’t hesitate to attempt something new and unconventional.
A hearty dish like chili begs for a neutral and understated side dish, such as rice. No matter if it’s sticky or fluffy, it will surely make a fine contrast to your chili. Here’s an idea — put the rice in a bowl and top it with chili to create a synergy of textures and flavors.
If you’d prefer something a tad more interesting than plain white rice, don’t hesitate to give it your own flare. For instance, you can make garlic butter rice or Spanish rice.
You can also opt for other types of rice or add some spices and veggies. Whatever you do, just make sure not to overdo it, as the chili brings enough spice as is.
Drinks to Soothe Your Palate
Of course, no chili cookout would be complete without the proper libation. Here’s what goes with chili and why:
There are many theories as to which type of wine goes best with chili. On the one hand, some say you should pair it with a sweet and fruity red wine, such as sangria. Others, however, claim some acidity will help and counteract the heat, recommending medium to full-bodied wines like cabernet sauvignon and shiraz.
On the other hand, some will tell you red wine doesn’t work with chili, as the combination of these two strong flavors could be overwhelming. If you believe that would be the case with you, it might be better to opt for chilled white wine instead, such as riesling or champagne.
And according to science, it might be a good idea to opt for a wine with high alcohol content. It will act as a solvent for all the spice from the peppers.
Given the heavy heat and intensity of the chili, you need something light to create balance. In terms of cocktails, that means going with something simple and mild. And what goes with chili better than another iconic Mexican staple — Margarita?
Likewise, a Paloma could also be a good choice, given that it has a similar feel to Margarita. However, it doesn’t contain triple sec, but rather grapefruit soda. This additional zesty citrus punch could play off of the chili’s abundant umami flavor nicely.
Furthermore, you can consider making a Presbyterian — a simple but refreshing cocktail made with scotch or bourbon, club soda, and ginger ale.
Some of the other cocktails that pair well with chili include:
• Kentucky Lemonade
• Bay Breeze
• Watermelon Agua Fresca
• Cranberry Champagne
• Strawberry Mojito
Even if you’re not much of a drinker and don’t handle alcohol well, you can still enjoy cocktails with chili by making their “virgin,” i.e., non-alcoholic counterparts.
There is something comforting about cracking a cold one while you feast on chili. For one, it’s refreshing. Moreover, its tangy citrus notes go hand in hand with the chili’s rich and beefy umami flavor, especially if it also has some sweetness to it.
Most people will recommend you go with an American stout, as it’s smooth and won’t overpower your senses when combined with chili. Some even say that you should pair it with a milk stout, as that could apparently reduce your pain perception. Thus, if you’re having a hard time handling the spiciness of chili, a milk stout could be worth trying.
You can even add beer to the chili while cooking it to add depth and excitement to the flavor. The bitterness from the beer will evaporate, leaving behind only the delicious hoppy aroma.
Desserts to Serve Afterward
After you’ve had a big bowl of red, you need a dessert that will do it justice and satisfy your sweet tooth. Here’s what goes with chili, or more precisely, after chili:
10. Apple Strudel
A piece of apple strudel will provide you with the ultimate comfort after the burst of spice and flavor that is chili. This traditional Viennese dessert is known for its flaky and buttery crust, powdered exterior, as well as its boozy cinnamon apple and raisin filling. The addition of rum really takes the flavor to the next level.
If you want to take it to the next level, consider adding almonds or pecans to the filling of your apple strudel. You can also make it with filo pastry instead of the conventional dough. Moreover, you can create smaller individual apple strudels, similar to pies from McDonald’s — a perfect on-the-go sweet treat.
11. Cinnamon Bread
Sweet, soft, spicy… A slice of cinnamon bread could be an excellent way to round off your chili meal. Apart from being undeniably delicious, cinnamon bread is versatile, to say the least. There are many variations you can explore.
For one, you can always go with the standard cinnamon raisin bread loaf; there’s no going wrong with that. Secondly, in what is a more popular choice among home chefs, you can make cinnamon swirl bread. This version is also much more visually appealing.
And of course, this list couldn’t be complete without the mention of cinnamon rolls. Soft and fluffy on the inside and slathered with icing on the outside, cinnamon buns will make anyone’s mouth water.
12. Lemon Bars
You’ll surely enjoy the soft, buttery, and tart lemon bars after eating a lot of spicy food. This recipe is incredibly easy to make and takes less than an hour of time in total. In addition, you most likely already have all the ingredients in your house, so there’s no need to take a trip to the supermarket for this one.
A side of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream could be a great and simple way to garnish your lemon bars.
13. Lemon Yogurt Parfait
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After having chili, your mouth will be a tad sore from all the heat and spiciness. In that case, a lemon yogurt parfait will have a soothing effect that you’ll surely appreciate. Pro tip — let it chill in the fridge for a while so it’s nice and cold when you serve it.
Aside from providing relief and being absolutely delicious, this dessert can easily look fancy and expensive if you put in some effort into the decoration.
14. Chocolate Lava Cake
Chocolate molten lava cake is the epitome of opulence. With the oozing chocolate ganache when you slice into it and intensely rich flavor, lava cake is a dessert fit for a king. It is the absolute best way to follow up any entrée, not just chili.
Much like with the lemon bars, you can serve this dessert with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Also, consider garnishing it with strawberries or raspberries.
So, what goes with chili? The truth is, everybody’s tastes are different. What might be a good pairing for one person doesn’t have to the liking of others. However, with so many options to choose from, you’re bound to find a combo that works for you.
Once you’ve cooked your chili to perfection, just pair it with one of the drinks, sides, or desserts from our list of what goes with chili — and your Mexican fiesta can commence!