Chili is undeniably delicious and remains an incredibly popular dish. There are countless recipes, styles, and no shortage of opinions about the right way to make chili. Should it include beans or not? If so, what type of beans? Are they in the chili or on top? What about spices?
Then there are all the conversations about what you do with your chili. After all, it’s hearty enough to be a meal in its own right and can also be served as a side dish or on top of dishes like hot dogs.
Today, we’re interested in what to serve with chili. These side dishes are fantastic ways to balance out the flavor and heartiness of chili, giving you a more well-rounded meal.
There’s no single best answer (despite what cornbread advocates would have you believe). Instead, the ideal side will be influenced by your personal preferences and the style of the meal you’re serving. For example, you might serve a side salad for a formal dinner that features chili, but look for something like cornbread or bread sticks for chili on game day.
What To Serve With Chili (14 Stunning Side Dishes!)
Cornbread is the most famous side for chili, one that people turn to repeatedly. That’s not surprising, given that cornbread has a mild and slightly sweet flavor. This and the side’s crumbly texture is a natural complement to the spiciness of chili.
Besides that, cornbread is such a classic that most of us have a few favorite recipes to call on. There are also plenty of ways to vary up the recipe and make it much more exciting. Some dishes even combine chili and cornbread together, highlighting the perfection of the flavor profile.
Easy Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins
These Easy Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins are a nice step away from traditional cornbread. The muffins rely on familiar ingredients, including yellow enriched cornmeal, self rising flour, buttermilk, eggs, and baking powder.
Of course, it’s the cheddar and jalapenos that really make the muffins stand out. The benefit of the cheese goes without saying. Who can deny how well cheese and chili work together? The spicy hit from the jalapenos is fantastic too, making your meal even more exciting.
Potatoes, In Any Form Imaginable
Honestly, we could make an entire list of different potato-based recipes that pair well with chili. That’s because the mild flavor and starchiness of potatoes always works well with chili, regardless of how those potatoes are served.
Baked potatoes and baked potato skins are particularly good options, ones you’ll see featured time and time again. Baked potatoes work well because they are so mild. You can even ladle chili over them and eat the dish that way. Potato skins typically offer more flavor and can be dipped in your chili instead, but are just as delicious.
Of course, those are just two options. There are many other ways to prepare potatoes, including mashing them and making fries. You can easily run with your favorite style of potato or family recipe.
Loaded Sweet Potato Skins
Why go with simple baked potatoes when you can make something as exciting as these Loaded BBQ Sweet Potato Skins? These actually rely on sweet potatoes, which gives them an interesting color and helps with the flavor profile.
But, the sweet potatoes are only part of the story. The recipe also includes pulled pork, BBQ sauce, and sour cream. Those ingredients kick the side up to the next level, making it a side you’ll truly never forget.
Like cornbread and potatoes, breadsticks are a starchy side. They’re also practical, as you can dip them directly in your chili. Starchy sides are useful anyway, given that chili is a rich meal that’s high in protein.
There are plenty of ways to approach this side. You could just focus on plain breadsticks, which would allow the flavor of your chili to truly shine. Or, you might try a more complex recipe, such as cheesy breadsticks or even garlic breadsticks.
Keto Chaffle Garlic Cheesy Bread Sticks
These Keto Chaffle Garlic Cheesy Bread Sticks look like a side that might go with pizza, yet they’re also excellent with chili. They’re perfect if you’re trying not to load up on carbs, as each stick contains just 0.7 grams of carbs.
The sticks are so low in carbs because they’re not really bread sticks at all. They use a keto bread substitute recipe instead, one that relies mostly on egg, cheese, almond flour, and seasonings. Those ingredients give you excellent tasting treats that will certainly go with your chili.
Carbs aren’t your only option for a chili side. You can also turn to a fresh salad, which helps to balance out the heaviness of your chili. After all, chili is an intense dish with rich flavors. Sometimes you want something much lighter to contrast it and a salad is perfect in that role.
What type of salad? Well, anything goes. You might turn to a simple lettuce salad, perhaps one that relies on fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. Or, you might try for something less common, like a watermelon, endive, and fig salad.
There aren’t any wrong answers. The salad you choose simply depends on your own preferences.
Butternut Squash & Pear Salad With Tahini Dressing
This Butternut Squash & Pear Salad with Tahini Dressing proves how exciting and unusual salad can be. While it still relies on greens, butternut squash is one of the main ingredients in the salad.
Other ingredients include pomegranate, dried cranberries, goat cheese, and walnuts, plus a delicious tahini dressing. Overall, this combination of ingredients creates a salad that is certain to impress.
A Delicious Sandwich
What about serving a sandwich with chili? The combo works surprisingly well, as you end up with some interesting flavors and vegetables, plus starch from the bread.
Then there’s the flexibility. You can basically serve any type of sandwich with chili, including one that’s meat heavy or one that focuses on vegetables instead. Peanut butter sandwiches are surprisingly popular here too. Somehow the salty and savory nature of the peanut butter complements the intensity of your chili.
There’s also the bread to think about. You might focus on regular white bread here or perhaps something more interesting, like sourdough or whole grain bread. Then there are low carb options, including cloud bread. These can be used to make some surprisingly delicious salads.
French Onion Grilled Cheese
Why not step away from traditional sandwiches and try this French Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwich instead? They live up to the name too, as the flavor profile is surprisingly similar to French onion soup.
I mean, we’ve already established that cheese pairs extremely well with chili – as does bread. So, why not combine both of these into a single delicious side? You could even dip the grilled cheese sandwich directly in chili.
The recipe here is more complex than regular grilled cheese, partly because you’re caramelizing onions. There is even some wine in the recipe, which makes the flavor profile interesting – and perfect for a special dinner.
Have you ever served chili with rice? The idea will either sound very strange or very familiar, depending on where you live. The practice is especially popular in Hawaii, where chili is often served alongside white rice.
And, honestly, doing so makes sense. White rice is carb heavy and doesn’t have much flavor. That makes it perfect with chili, much like breadsticks are.
While white rice is the traditional approach here, it’s hardly your only option. You could turn to any other type of rice dish, including one that offers plenty of flavor. Why not experiment?
Extra Vegetable Fried Rice
This Extra Vegetable Fried Rice is a great example of how interesting fried rice can be. Plus, because the recipe is packed with vegetables, it’s much healthier than just serving plain white rice with your chili.
The recipe relies on rice, eggs, plenty of seasoning ingredients, and green onions, plus whatever vegetables you want to feature. These should be cut into small pieces so that they cook quickly. However, the type of vegetables you use is really up to you.
Even if you use completely different vegetables than those in the image, the fried rice should still taste amazing.
Strange as it may sound, cinnamon rolls can actually be served alongside chili. More than that – cinnamon rolls and chili are a common pairing in some parts of the country.
The combination is thought to have started in cafeterias back in the 1960s and are still remembered fondly by students from that era. There’s even a degree of logic to pairing, as the carbs and sweetness from the cinnamon rolls nicely offset the savory intensity of your chili.
However, unlike cornbread, you probably won’t be dipping your cinnamon rolls in chili. Many people simply have a bite or two of their cinnamon roll after a few mouthfuls of chili. Or, you might eat the chili first and have the cinnamon roll for dessert.
Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls
If you’re going to try the cinnamon rolls and chili style, why not go all out with Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls? This recipe ups the ante by including blueberry filling within the rolls themselves, then adding a blueberry cream cheese frosting on the top.
The most complicated part of this recipe is that it calls for homemade blueberry jam (all instructions are included). The homemade jam would improve these rolls, but it isn’t essential. You could easily make the recipe using store-bought blueberry jam instead.
Coleslaw is fantastic with chili, as it is cooling and creamy. It helps to balance out the intensity of your chili, especially as you have an amazing balance between a warm main and a cool side.
Plus, coleslaw is a pretty easy dish to make at home. You probably have most of the ingredients you need, including some type of vinegar, cabbage, mayo, carrots, and the like. It doesn’t matter if you’re missing an ingredient or two either, as there are plenty of ways to mix up your coleslaw.
Speaking of exciting versions of coleslaw, what do you think of this Hawaiian Coleslaw recipe? It still uses many traditional coleslaw ingredients, but also adds pineapple, cilantro, and black sesame seeds into the mix.
The pineapple is particularly interesting, as it makes the dish a little like a fruit salad. You can even make your carrots into heart shapes like Erin has done in the image. Doing so makes the dish even more impressive for serving it to guests.
Quesadillas can be simple, relying mostly on a corn tortilla and plenty of melted cheese. However, there are also plenty of more complex versions, ones with plenty of fillings, such as vegetables, meat, or perhaps beans.
The cheese and tortilla combo makes these sides especially good for chili, either eaten separately or dipped straight into your chili. Plus, with so many variations, finding a version that works for you should be easy.
This Greek Quesadilla isn’t a traditional recipe at all. There are still tortillas and cheese, but this time we’re looking at flour tortillas, mozzarella cheese, and feta cheese.
The other ingredients are even more unusual, including additions like olives, sun dried tomatoes, dill, spinach, and tzatziki sauce. While the sauce has a decent ingredients list, it shouldn’t actually take too long to prepare. This sauce also makes the quesadillas really stand out, especially when served alongside chili.
You might even scoop some of the sauce on your chili directly as a topping. Unusual or not, the combination of flavors could just taste amazing.
We can’t forget about garlic bread, can we? It’s another starchy side that helps to sop up the chili sauce and counter the heat from your chili. Besides, there’s always something amazing about garlic. Somehow it makes everything taste much better.
You could also experiment with smaller servings, such as garlic knots or tiny garlic rolls. These give you the same flavor profile, in a form that’s easy to dunk into your chili. You could even add extra ingredients like cheese, bacon, chives, or something else.
Cheesy Garlic Crack Bread
This Cheesy Garlic Crack Bread is an example of how you can vary garlic bread to create a truly fascinating side. This one uses a pre-baked loaf of bread that you make cracks in and shove full of cheese and spring onions.
Despite being simple to make, the bread is incredibly delicious. It’s one of those recipes that you can come back to time and time again. Marie offers many variations as part of the recipe, like making the bread spicy, adding mustard, or adding dried herbs.
Fruit isn’t a particularly common side for chili, yet it works extremely well. The fresh and juicy pieces of fruit contrast the spices and richness of your chili.
Of course, you’re not likely to dip your fresh fruit in the chili directly. You might have a bite of one and a bite of the other or perhaps eat your entire plate of chili first, then your fruit.
The simplest approach would be to simply serve a piece of fruit alongside your chili. Or, why not make an entire fruit salad? Doing so would give a more varied side, with different flavors and textures.
Honey Lime Basil Peach Fruit Salad
Speaking of fruit salads, there’s this Honey Lime Basil Peach Fruit Salad. It features some amazing ingredients, including fresh peaches, pomegranate arils, blueberries, and blackberries.
Basil leaves are used to give the salad a little pep, along with a little honey and lime juice. All in all, this is a salad you won’t soon forget – one that works well with countless meals, including chili.
We’ve already been talking about cheesy carb-based sides, so the addition of grits shouldn’t be a surprise. The trick is to find a good recipe, one where the grits are packed with flavor and are also deliciously creamy.
Grits are worth a try even if you’re not a fan of them. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the right recipe, one that steps you through every aspect of the process.
Southern Spicy Tomato-Cheese Grits
These Southern Spicy Tomato-Cheese Grits are a great example of what you can do with grits. They rely on tomatoes, chiles, cheese, bacon, and grits, which makes them much more delicious than your regular plain grits.
All of these flavors easily complement chili, so you’re onto a winner. However, this combo is best reserved for a sit down meal, as you’re dealing with two meals in bowls, rather than just one.
Hot dogs are normally seen as the star of the show, but they can make a pretty decent side dish as well. Why not serve them with chili? The flavors go together perfectly – so much so that many people scoop chili on top of their hot dogs.
The size and shape of hot dogs are also perfect for dipping into your chili. You could even do this with a chili dog that’s loaded with toppings – although doing so would make quite a mess of your dinner.
Caramelized Onion Hot Dogs
Like the French onion grilled cheese we mentioned earlier, these Caramelized Onion Hot Dogs highlight the flavor of French onion soup, just in an entirely new way.
The ingredients list includes some typical hot dog ingredients, plus onions, butter, and gruyere cheese. Honestly, once you’ve tried these, you might never want regular hot dogs again.
The only limitation is that these hot dogs are best reserved for weekend dinners rather than weeknight ones. The focus on caramelized onions means that the hot dogs take longer than normal to prepare. Still… they’re well worth the effort.
Fry bread is a Native American dish, one that was developed around the time that America was colonized. The bread’s history makes it controversial, but many people do eat it regularly.
For those who enjoy fry bread, it makes an excellent chili side. It’s also nice if you just want something a little different. Much of the appeal comes from how the outside of the bread remains crispy and crunchy, while the inside is tender instead.
Native American Fry Bread
This Native American Fry Bread is a great place to begin. The bread itself just relies on flour, baking powder, salt, and warm water, plus some vegetable oil for frying. You probably have all these ingredients on hand already.
The linked recipe also includes details for making taco meat to go on top of the fry bread – but you won’t need this if you’re serving the fry bread with chili.