Set up your very own chili bar for a family night to remember!
From cornbread and bacon to more unusual additions like cocoa and espresso, these chili bar toppings are sure to impress.
Even though it’s delicious on its own, chili toppings are what really turn chili into a complete meal!
Nothing beats a steaming bowl of chili to warm you up on a chilly night. One spoonful is all it takes to satisfy your heart, body, and soul!
Everyone has their own take on the best chili ever. But if you’re looking for ways to up your game even further, you have come to the right place.
Today, I’m featuring 25 toppings to make your chili even more comforting than ever. I’ll give you a myriad of choices, from the good old classics to innovative alternatives!
Whether you use just one or a combo of these toppings, you can turn your chili from so-so to soup-tastic.
1. Lime Wedge
Love chili, but can’t stand spicy food? Lime juice is the perfect solution.
Its acidity helps balance out the heat from the chili, reducing the spiciness to a more tolerant level. One to two lime wedges will do the trick.
2. Greek Yogurt
Give your chili a punch of creamy and tangy with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
Sure, you can’t go wrong with sour cream, but if you’re looking for a lighter option that will give you the same result, this is the way to go.
Add a smoky and earthy twist to your chili by adding a bit of whiskey. The liquor is commonly used in stews and barbecue sauces, so it only makes sense to use it in chili, too!
You can pour whiskey straight into the chili, or let it reduce in a separate pot to enhance its flavor further.
Or, you can also marinate meat in the whiskey for 1 to 2 days, and add to chili for a more warming flavor.
Can’t get enough of spicy food? Add more peppers! Chipotle and dried ancho peppers both make a fantastic option.
If you want something less hot, opt for Anaheim peppers.
This might be a surprise to you, but adding cocoa to chili is actually a classic technique. Yup, cocoa powder is not only a dessert ingredient!
You see, chili peppers and chocolate are both indigenous to Central America and Mexico, and they’re often combined to create delicious dishes.
Just a touch of unsweetened cocoa gives a deeper, richer flavor to chili. Dark and semi-sweet chocolate work, too!
6. Tortilla Chips
No chili bar is complete without tortilla chips!
I personally love to dip my chips in chili. Especially if I have some Tostitos Scoops on hand. They make the perfect little dunking chips.
But you can also crunch them up in your chili as well. I love the extra added “crunch” in each bite.
Just like cocoa powder, espresso or coffee also enhances the flavors of chili, making it taste even better, bolder, and extra special.
The combination of coffee, chili, and beans creates deep, earthy, and smoky flavors that you never thought existed!
You could even add a shot of Javy coffee cold brew!
8. Shredded Cheese
You can never go wrong with the classics. Cheese is a fundamental and well-loved chili topping, and for good reason.
A good amount of cheese does wonders for chili! Apart from the mild tangy and salty flavors cheese brings, it also makes chili thicker and creamier.
Add some cheddar, parmesan, monterey jack, havarti, and even some queso to your chili bar!
9. Soy Sauce
Give your chili an Asian flair with soy sauce! Its flavor adds a rich, umami taste to chili and other soups and stews.
Soy sauce is a common seasoning used in Asian cooking. The deep, golden brown liquid adds saltiness and brings out flavors in meats.
Just a few tablespoons can take your chili to a whole other level of awesome! It brings such complex flavors that you can’t get in any other spice or seasoning.
Want a sweet and spicy chili? A few tablespoons of honey is all you need to add. The sweetness of honey goes so well with tomatoes, chiles, and the other spices that go into the dish.
It may be a simple addition, but it creates such a beautiful, complex flavor combination. You can end there, or take it up a notch by adding cocoa powder as well.
Trust me, it’s so good you may want to enter that sweet chili in local competitions!
Here’s another chili bar topping that never disappoints! Salsa adds a sweet, tangy, and refreshing contrast to the creamy and heavy dish.
Not only is it a fantastic addition, it’s also easy to make. Just blend tomatoes, onions, and your choice of spices in a food processor, and voila!
But of course, if you don’t have the time, you can always rely on salsa in a jar.
If you like a crunchy addition to chili, croutons make an excellent option. They may be French in nature, but who says you can’t use them to enhance a southern dish?
Making croutons is a breeze! Just slice stale bread into cubes, coat it in olive oil or butter, season with salt, and bake until toasted.
13. Coconut Milk
Add coconut milk to your chili bar for a tasty Asian flair. The creaminess gives chili such a luscious consistency.
Sure, you can get that creaminess from other kinds of milk, too, but that wonderful coconut flavor makes it so unique. Plus, it will also make your kitchen smell heavenly!
Guacamole is another chili bar staple that you definitely don’t want to skip. Avocados add such a unique richness that you won’t get from any other ingredient.
Guac is healthy, to boot! There is no added guilt with this chili topping.
That lovely green hue also adds a pop of color to the dish. Plus, it’s super easy to whip up. Just mash together avocados, minced onions, cilantro, tomatoes, lime juice, salt, and pepper!
Coke in chili? It definitely works. Cola enhances the flavor of chili the same way cocoa powder and coffee do.
Just one can of cola is all you need! The sweetness of cola complements the flavors of the spices that go into chili.
Together, they give you a rich and complex flavor that will surely knock your socks off.
Another excellent ingredient that adds a nice kick to chili is hot sauce. Tabasco is a great option, but to me, nothing beats sriracha!
This bright red hot sauce isn’t only spicy, but mildly sweet and tangy as well. Its combined flavors enhance chili significantly!
Just a quarter to half a cup of Sriracha will do wonders to your pot of chili.
Want a fresh riff on a classic? Add olives for a Mediterranean twist!
The salty and earthy flavors of olives contrast the rich and creamy chili beautifully.
Add a tropical flair to your chili with ripe mangoes. Chili has never been this good!
Adding fruit to savory dishes is not uncommon in Asian cuisines. It might seem strange, but the flavor contrast is mind-blowing!
The bright and juicy mangoes not only add sweetness to the rich chili, but they also give it a lovely pop of color.
19. Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar may also seem like an unlikely addition, but once again, the combination works.
Just like lime wedges, balsamic vinegar adds acidity to chili, which helps neutralize the spiciness of the dish.
But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean your chili will be bland! In fact, one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar will enhance and brighten the flavors of chili.
20. Bacon Crumbles
Make your chili bar even more lip-smackingly delicious with bacon crumbles!
Sure, your chili is already loaded with meat. But you really can’t go wrong with more. Especially bacon! Crisp, smoky, and savory, it adds flavor and texture to chili.
Chorizo is a terrific chili addition for meat-lovers! Chili is already packed with meat, but who cares?
Mexican chorizo adds such a wonderful savoriness and smokiness that you can’t get from ground beef.
Pan-fry your chorizo until crispy and throw it in the bowl of chili! Pair it with sharp cheddar cheese for an even richer stew.
22. Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is a sweet and tender addition to your rich and spicy chili. The sweetness helps mellow down the spiciness of the dish, giving you that perfect flavor combination.
Its texture also adds a crisp and tender contrast to the stew. It’s easy to prepare, too! Just slice the squash into cubes, coat it in olive oil, then pop it in the oven.
Roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, and you’re all set.
Add the roasted squash to your chili and stir. Apart from the flavor and texture, the starches in the squash also help thicken the stew.
Beer in chili? I won’t say no to that!
Don’t worry, adding beer to chili won’t make it boozy. Rather, its maltiness brings out the flavor of the meat, beans, and spices, giving you a richer chili.
To use, just replace some of the liquid in your recipe with beer. Whatever brand works! It’s a simple swap that makes a significant improvement.
24. Herbs and Spices
Whether it’s cilantro, parsley, cumin, cayenne, or a combination, herbs and spices add more personality to chili.
Feel free to experiment with your seasonings! Mix and match your favorites until you get your most desired flavor.
But keep in mind that certain herbs and spices are stronger than others, so don’t over do it.
25. Sour Cream
There’s nothing like a cool, creamy, and tangy sour cream to make your chili even more appetizing.
One dollop does wonders! Not only does it make your chili thick and velvety, but it also tones down the spiciness of the dish.
It also complements with the meats, beans, and spices in the chili, elevating its flavor to a whole other level.
26. Dried Cranberries
Cranberries are usually served at Thanksgiving, but they work magnificently with chili, too! The sweet and tart flavors of dried cranberries balance out the savory and spicy beautifully.
They also pair well with the spices, giving your chili an extra rich flavor and aroma.
Plus, the tender, juicy, and chewy textures add such a beautiful contrast to the stew! The red hue adds a nice pop of color, to boot.
Cornbread is typically served on the side of chili. Who says you can’t put it on top instead?
You can crumble the cornbread and sprinkle it all over the stew, or bake the stew with cornbread batter.
With the latter option, you’ll give your chili a wonderful, crisp on the outside, crumbly on the inside crust. That wonderful yellow hue also gives it a stunning color contrast!
28. Maple Syrup
No honey? No problem! Use maple syrup to add sweetness to your savory and spicy chili.
If you don’t want your chili to be way too sweet, though, give it a combo of maple syrup and sour cream. Just stir the ingredients into your chili to give it that wonderful, unique flavor.
Last but not least, I have a classic ingredient that adds heat to your chili. Just like other peppers and hot sauce, jalapeno gives your chili that wonderful spicy flavor.
It’s not as strong as other peppers, though. It’s just enough to give chili that extra kick.
If you’re worried your friends and family won’t like it, just serve a bowl of jalapenos on the side, along with other chili toppings, and let them decide!
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