Creating a chili bar is a fun and easy way to host a gathering for any occasion. These ideas for toppings, decorations, sides, and more will help you to throw an epic chili party your guests will love. Free printables with multiple themes included!
You may have noticed that I am a huge fan of food boards and bars. One big advantage is that the food can usually all be prepped ahead of time. They are perfect for any size crowd, there is always something for everyone, and they look amazing!
One of my favorite things to do in the fall is to host a chili bar party. Chili is the perfect comfort food when the temps start to drop and EVERYONE loves chili! Especially my chili! LOL 😉
I partnered with my amazing designer Kimberley to create custom chili bar signs and food tents with three different themes. One is a woodland theme which is what I used for my recent fall chili party.
Today I’m sharing all of my hints and tips to help you to throw an epic chili bar party for any occasion. The best part is you can download the FREE PRINTABLES with all three themes at the end of this post!
1. Choose Your Chili
First and foremost you will need to decide which type or types of chili you will be serving. This will depend on your guest list. Are all of your guests meat-eaters? Do you have any vegetarians attending? Are you serving a big crowd?
The slow cooker is definitely the way to go! You can throw everything in it the morning of your party and your delicious pot or pots of piping hot chili will be ready to serve when your guests arrive.
2. Pick Your Printable
Adding a sign and food tents/labels are a fun way to spruce up your chili bar. It’s those “small gestures” that make such a big difference! I came up with three fun themes for you to choose from.
The woodland theme is awesome for your fall or winter parties. I love the bears and check out the little heart on the baby bear. So cute!
Football and chili are a winning combination. You’ll have lots of fans huddled around your amazing game day chili bar!
Pick your own theme with these chalkboard printables. I created a Mexican fiesta, but you can customize for any occasion!
3. Select Your Sides and Toppings
The best part of a chili bar, in my opinion, is all of the sides and toppings! The possibilities are endless which is what makes it such a crowd-pleaser.
Cornbread, hot dogs, and baked potatoes are some of my favorite sides to serve. I keep the foil-wrapped baked potatoes in the oven on warm until ready to serve. I make the hot dogs at the last possible minute and wrap those individually in foil as well. If I’m serving baked potatoes and hot dogs, I skip the cornbread.
- Tortilla Chips
- Fritos – Never heard of chili and Fritos until I moved to Texas. It’s a must here! 🙂
- Sour Cream
- Hot Sauce
The free printable food tents/labels have several toppings already printed on them. I’ve also include editable blank labels ready for you to customize with your favorite toppings that I may not have included.
*Most of the sides and toppings I serve are part of our clean eating diet. The tortilla chips, Fritos, and hot dogs are what I consider FUN choices! The hot dogs were organic uncured 100% grass-fed beef and the buns were the least processed I could find.
4. Look For The Perfect Location
It might sound silly, but it’s important to find the perfect location to set up your chili bar, especially if you are having a big crowd. Pick a spot that will allow your guests to have room to create an assembly line.
I have an island in my kitchen but it’s small. So, if I’m serving inside, I push my dining room table against the wall. This gives everyone plenty of room. For my recent party, I used a folding table and set my chili bar up outside.
5. Browse For Bowls and Serving Pieces
Once you have your location picked out, it’s time to gather your bowls and serving pieces. You will need a variety of bowls for your toppings and possibly some trays for your sides. I choose my serving pieces based on the theme.
Always shop your house first. If you need additional items, Dollar Tree is a great place to shop for inexpensive serving bowls and trays.
Placing your sides and toppings at multiple levels will make your chili bar more visually appealing, and it helps your guests to see the amazing selection of toppings. Cake stands, tiered trays or decorative boxes can all be used to help elevate your bowls. I found my mini crates at Michaels for 70% off! Score! (The tablecloth is just some fabric I bought at Walmart.)
I like to lay everything out ahead of time so I’m not scrambling at the last minute trying to figure out where everything will be placed.
Once you have your layout figured out, you can place most of your toppings in the bowls ahead of time. The only thing I don’t chop ahead of time is the avocado. I place all of the toppings on a tray in the fridge and pull it out a few minutes before my guests arrive.
I took most of the pics for this post a few hours before the party. Here was my layout before the party. The space in front of the lantern was for the hot dogs which I made at the last minute. The potatoes were not cooked yet. Almost everything else was ready. As you can see the avocado bowl was empty.
I made some last-minute adjustments that evening. I put the bowls, plates, napkins, and spoons on a small table next to the chili bar. This allowed me to move the chili to the front of the table and the potatoes behind the chili. In the pic below the potatoes are where I put the hot dogs which were by the fire pit staying warm. 🙂
Such an easy party to prep for and all of my friends loved it!!!
I hope these tips, hints and free printables will help you to create an epic chili bar party of your own! Don’t forget to download your free printables below.
Tag me on Instagram @smallgesturesmatter with your chili bar pics! 🙂