We are making the chili bar of our dreams today!
Without sounding like a brat, I’m sort of the self-proclaimed queen of the chili bar. I LOVE making chili bars.
I made one for Max’s first birthday party. We made one for Halloween that year too. I have a chili bar menu in my book and I am absolutely obsessed because they are the BEST idea for a party.
And here’s why!
YOU BARELY HAVE TO MAKE A THING!
Okay, that’s kind of a lie. A bit dramatic. You have to make the chili.
However, you don’t have to make it that day. Or even the day before. My goal when it comes to a chili bar is making and freezing the chili ahead of time (or even making it the night before in the slow cooker) and just prepping my toppings and possible sides the morning of. Just some chopping and throwing ingredients in bowls and you’re GOOD.
Unless you want to do cornbread or something wild, it’s not a ton of hands on work. Or should I say: it seems like a lot of work to your guests, but it’s actually sort of easy if you prep ahead.
Since having kids, my life has changed drastically and I have to prep all the things. It’s the key to success. I have an amazing holiday guide coming for you soon just on this topic!
But back to the chili bar.
I might have put flaming hot cheetos and tater tots in my favorite MacKenzie-Childs bowls so you know that this is going to be good.
A few years ago on Halloween, I had the chili bar all set up and ready to go. Then Lacy showed up with hot dogs and buns and changed the game. I mean, what a fabulous idea! If someone doesn’t want a bowl of chili, they can make a chili dog with all the insane toppings.
My chili bar tradition has spiraled from there. I always do chips and I always do queso too. Both are a fabulous topping for a bowl of chili but both can also be used to make chili cheese nachos. I mean…
Then we have the tater tots. I told you earlier this week that we’d be walking down tater tot lane and boy are we ever. You can make chili cheese totchos or top your bowl of chili with a tater tot or two!
If you’re really feeling adventurous, you could bake some russet or sweet potatoes and give the option for stuffed potatoes. I think that is an amazing idea too.
I like to do two chilis. Sometimes it’s a red and a white version. Sometimes it’s a beef and a chicken version. Sometimes is a bean and a nonbean version. Sometimes it’s a meaty and a vegan version!
People like options. You can make both chilis ahead of time, even prepare one for dinner one night the week before and have a bowl before freezing the rest.
Of course, you can always do just one chili too. If you’re not having a huge party, one slow cooker full of chili should suffice.
My chili recipes here in the photo? One is the white chicken roasted corn chili from The Pretty Dish! I made the entire thing in the slow cooker and just used rotisserie chicken. The other one is a brand new chili recipe that I LOVE and will be sharing on Monday. OMG, just wait. It’s so insanely delicious.
I’m including a straight up OBNOXIOUS list of chili toppings and accessories for you to party with. You obviously don’t have to use all of them. But I wanted to make a huge list of everything I’ve ever set out for a chili bar, so you can pick and choose what you’d like.
Biggest takeaway: don’t forget the cheese. Melty queso is life.
My Favorite Way to Set Up a Chili Bar
toppings, sides & accessories
- cornbread (I have multiple versions in The Pretty Dish!)
- tortilla chips
- flaming hot cheetos
- tater tots
- queso dip in a little slow cooker
- freshly grated cheese (monterey jack, cheddar, havarti)
- crumbled feta cheese or queso fresco
- pico de gallo
- sliced cherry tomatoes
- sliced radishes
- pickled onions
- sliced green onions
- diced red onion
- sliced jalapeno peppers
- chopped chives
- chopped avocado
- fresh cilantro
- lime wedges for spritzing
Whether you’re doing one chili or multiples, I suggest making them a few days ahead of time and freezing them. The night before, stick the containers in the fridge and the morning of, dump it in the slow cooker! Another option is to make the chili the night before and let it cook all night. The night before, you can also chop a lot of your ingredients and grate you cheeses, place them in small ziplock bags or bowls covered with plastic wrap and store them in the fridge.
If you go the queso right, I suggest getting one of the smaller slow cookers or using a fondue pot to keep it hot! I find the slow cooker option works best.
Right before your party, assemble your toppings. If you’re have a ton of guests, I suggest using heavy duty disposable bowls! Put everyone out on a table, starting with the chili so people can move through a chili assembly line. It’s perfect! I always place the chips and the hot dogs near the chili too.
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Now you’re all set until Spring!
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