Chili night wouldn’t be the same without a great selection of toppings to go with your delicious chili. If you’re looking for the best toppings to stock your chili bar with, then you’re in luck!
We’ve done all the hard work for you, and made this handy list of the best chili toppings for building the ultimate chili bar!
Here, we’ll take a look at 28 tasty chili toppings, so you can find the best toppings for everyone to enjoy.
So let’s get started!
The 28 Best Chili Toppings For Your Chili Bar
No chili bar can go without a delicious salsa. There are plenty of different types of salsa, but salsa roja is definitely one of the most popular. This spicy red salsa is made with tomatoes, garlic, lime juice, and jalapenos.
These sharp flavors brighten the taste of the chili and add an extra kick of heat; because salsa roja and chili share a lot of the same ingredients, this topping is a subtle pairing that elevates the existing flavors instead of contrasting them.
Spicy, zesty, and delicious, this tasty salsa is a great addition to any chili bar.
Rich and creamy, guacamole is a great addition to all sorts of Mexican cuisine. Chili is no exception, and this tasty topping is right at home in your chili bar.
Mash up avocado, red onion, tomatoes, and garlic, adding some chilis and a squeeze of lime for added flavor.
Quick and simple, you can whip up a delicious guac in no time! You can also mash it to whatever texture you like, from chunky to smooth.
While normally reserved for nachos and tacos, tortilla chips are also a great topping to serve with chili. These crunchy, salty chips add some nice texture and a hit of flavor to your chili.
You can either use whole chips to scoop up the chili and any other dips or toppings that you serve, or you can crush up the chips and sprinkle them on top for a crunchy addition to your chili.
There are few dishes that can’t be improved with bacon, and chili isn’t one of them! The salty bacon pairs perfectly with the spicy, smoky chili.
By cutting the bacon into small pieces before cooking it, it becomes crispier and adds some great texture when mixed into the chili.
Smoky, salty, and meaty, bacon crumble has it all!
Any good chili bar needs a great selection of cheese. Shredded cheddar is one of the most popular options, but you can also use shredded Pepper Jack or gouda if you want something a bit sharper.
If you’re looking for a more traditional cheese for your chili, then cotija or queso fresco are both great options. Manchego is also a good choice, along with blue cheese and even parmesan.
If you’re a fan of spice, then these tasty pickled jalapenos are just what you need for your chili bar! Spicy and with a tangy hit of vinegar, pickled jalapenos add plenty of flavor and heat to your chili.
While you can get ready-made jars of pickled jalapenos in stores, it’s super easy to make pickled jalapenos at home that taste even better!
All you need is some jalapenos, pickling spice, and white vinegar for a delicious topping that stores for months.
What could possibly make a spicy, meaty chili even better? Why not some spicy, meaty chorizo! This spicy sausage is a delicious addition to chili, chopped into pieces and mixed in with the stew.
Its smoky, savory flavors add some extra depth to the chili, while balancing perfectly with the acidity from the tomatoes.
We know what you’re thinking – “Beer? In the chili?”. Just hear us out, okay?
Adding a splash of beer into the chili adds a deeper layer of flavor, with the maltiness balancing out the brighter flavors of the chili for a richer stew.
It also adds a slight bitterness for a more complex taste, working especially well with the spicy jalapenos and acidic tomatoes.
9. Lime Wedge
Limes are used in a lot of Mexican dishes for their refreshing zesty juice. This works great when balancing spicy foods, with the lime’s tart and slightly sweet juice taking the edge off the heat while accentuating the rich flavors.
Serving your chili with a lime wedge lets you add the juice directly to the chili for a zesty hit of citrus.
10. Sour Cream
Along with salsa and guacamole, sour cream is one of the most popular chili toppings out there. This tangy dip adds a layer of complexity to your chili, with its sour flavor mingling with the sour and spicy taste of the chili.
It might not be to everyone’s taste, but sour cream is a vital addition to any chili bar.
Cornbread is a classic Mexican side dish, and is a great topping for chili too. This simple bread is made mostly of cornmeal and a few other basic ingredients.
It has a gentle sweetness and subtle flavor that mellows out the richer taste of chili without getting overpowered, while its fluffy texture makes it great at soaking up the rich stew.
Cornbread also makes tasty croutons, which are a perfect addition to a chili bar.
12. Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to chili toppings, but it’s definitely worth a mention on this list.
The tangy, sharp flavor of balsamic vinegar is a vibrant accompaniment to chili and helps to bring out its brighter flavors.
Its acidity also helps balance out and tone down the spiciness in the chili for a more complex dish.
While toppings like lime juice and balsamic vinegar are great with chili because of their acidity, honey’s strength comes from its sweetness.
The sugary sweetness of honey helps balance out its spiciness and the acidity of the tomatoes, while bringing out the sweeter, fruitier flavors of the chili.
Honey also deepens the flavor of the meat, giving the chili a more complex taste.
Looking for a bit more heat from your chili? Then adding a splash of hot sauce is a great option!
Sriracha is one of the best options here – on top of adding some extra spice, sriracha also has a burst of sweetness and a tangy taste that pairs great with the chili.
Tabasco is also a great choice, and you can use any hot sauce you prefer.
15. Cilantro Chutney
Cilantro is a common topping in Mexican cuisine, providing some freshness and a sharp herby flavor that rounds out the other bold flavors.
This tasty chutney combines the sharp taste of cilantro with some fragrant garlic, zesty lime juice, and spicy chili.
Its mix of simple yet bold flavors makes this chutney a great topping to include at your chili bar, and can be made in just a few minutes!
16. Maple Syrup
Like honey, adding a splash of maple syrup to your chili adds a delicious layer of sweetness that is a great contrast to the spiciness and acidity of the chili.
However, the added subtle nuttiness and slight burnt taste adds an extra bit of complexity to your chili.
You don’t need to add much, as you don’t want the chili to be overly sweet. Just mix in a spoonful to give your chili a tasty twist.
17. Pico De Gallo
This fresh salsa is a great contrast to salsa roja, while still pairing perfectly with chili.
Its combination of diced tomatoes, onion, and serrano peppers bring some vibrant and fresh flavors to the mix, while a squeeze of lime juice and some fresh chopped cilantro add a zesty hit to balance it out.
Spicy, fruity, and a great palette cleanser, pico de gallo is a great alternative to traditional salsa.
18. Butternut Squash
If you’re looking for a way to add more flavor and texture to your salsa, then butternut squash is just what you need! This tasty squash is packed with a rich and slightly sweet flavor, along with a ton of nutrients.
Roast chunks of squash before tossing them into your chili for a hearty topping that bulks out your chili; brush the squash with a layer of honey for a burst of sweetness, or barbecue sauce for some smokiness to match the spice.
19. Cocoa Powder
Stick with us here – we know this sounds strange, but adding a pinch of cocoa powder to your chili is an absolute game changer!
If you’ve ever had chili chocolate before, you’ll know that the rich and slightly bitter taste of dark chocolate adds an incredible complexity to spicy chilies.
As a result, a pinch of cocoa powder in a chili will transform it into a much richer and deeper dish.
20. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is an incredibly common ingredient in Asian cuisine, and is used to add salt and umami flavor to a recipe. However, this isn’t just the case with Asian dishes – adding a splash of soy sauce to your chili helps add an extra hit of savory umami.
As we’ve already covered a few times, chili can go with all sorts of versatile flavors from sour to fruity, and even sweet. So while mango might seem like an unlikely fit at first, it’s a unique and delicious addition to chili that is well-worth a try!
You can either enjoy the sweet and refreshing fruit in chunks added to the chili, or why not mix the mango with lime juice, jalapenos, onion, peppers, and cilantro for a hot and fruity mango salsa?
Green onions are great for adding a burst of fresh flavor and are a great palette cleanser among the bold tastes in chili. Pickling them takes this a step further, with a sharp hit of vinegar that balances out the slight sweetness of the onion.
Easy to make and full of flavor, this simple topping is a great choice for a chili bar.
Similar to cocoa powder, a small amount of coffee granules added to your chili can transform the flavor into a much darker, richer chili.
However, instead of the sweetness of cocoa powder, here you get the earthy tones of coffee. It’s also slightly more bitter and has a stronger taste, and adds a unique complexity to the spicy chili.
24. Coconut Milk
Not everyone loves a lot of spice, but that doesn’t mean you have to forego the delicious flavors of chili.
Topping it off with a splash of coconut milk gives you the best of both worlds, granting a bit of a shield against the spice while accentuating the bold flavors within the chili.
The sharp, smoky flavor of whiskey makes it a great balance for chili. The warmth of the alcohol softens the harsher spice of chilies, and the earthy, smokey notes it gives the stew makes it a great addition for the grown-ups!
Add the whiskey directly to the chili as it simmers for a sharper presence, or let the meat marinate in whiskey to give it some added tenderness and a subtle sweet and smoky flavor.
If you aren’t a fan of alcohol, then adding cola instead of whiskey offers a similar but somewhat different experience with a sweeter kick.
Instead of the smoky taste of whiskey, cola adds a clearer sweetness and the richer taste of molasses; there’s also the slightest hint of caramel and vanilla to balance out the spice a bit.
27. Greek Yogurt
Yogurt is similar to sour cream, but gives your chili a richer, creamier texture and a smoother taste. It’s also a lighter option, making it a great alternative to sour cream. It’s tangy, creamy, and works perfectly with a bowl of hot chili!
28. Salsa Verde
Another salsa, this green variant is renowned for being one of the spiciest salsas out there.
With jalapenos and serrano chilis bringing plenty of heat, and an extra hit of tartness from tomatillos, this hot salsa is perfect for your chili bar if you’re a fan of spicy foods.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re looking for a more authentic chili, there are a lot of great toppings to choose from. Traditionally, chili is topped with a variety of fresh herbs and vegetables for flavor.
Fresh cilantro, red onion, diced tomatoes, and jalapenos are all traditional toppings, along with cheeses like cotija or queso fresco.
Chili is often also topped with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, and lime juice. These bold flavors are great at balancing the spicy chili, so it’s no surprise that they’re so popular!
No great chili bar is complete without cheese – but what cheese is the best choice? There are plenty of great options when it comes to cheese for your chili bar, and there are definitely some cheeses that stand out.
If you’re looking for a more authentic Mexican-style chili, cheeses like cotija, queso fresco, and manchego are all great choices. Cheddar is also a good accompaniment with chili, as well as Pepper Jack, Monterey Jack, and gouda.
When it comes to chili, you want your cheese to have a sharp flavor to help it stand out from the other bold flavors in the chili. The cheese also needs to melt well, adding a creamy texture and well-balanced flavor to the chili.
Chili doesn’t just pair great with all of these tasty toppings! No meal is complete without a drink, and there are plenty of drinks that make the perfect accompaniment to your chili.
If you’re a wine fan, a deep red like shiraz or cabernet sauvignon is a good balance for the spice and acidity in the chili.
Beer is also a tasty pairing; a stout compliments the taste of the chili without getting overpowered by the spice, while a cold Corona or similar pilsner will brighten the chili’s bold and spicy flavors.
Cocktails are a great choice too! Mojitos, margaritas, and other refreshing drinks balance out and complement the spice and acidity of the chili, especially if they have lime in them.
You don’t just have to pair chili with alcohol, however, and non-alcoholic drinks like lemonade or mocktails can also make a delicious drink to pair with your chili.
And there you have it – 28 of the best toppings to stock your chili bar with. Chili goes great with all sorts of tasty toppings, so there’s sure to be something for everyone to love!
So if you’re looking to build the ultimate chili bar, make sure to stock these delicious toppings to raise your chili game to the next level.
Now you know the best things to top your chili with, all you have to do now is give them a try and pick your favorites.