sides for chili

What To Serve With Chili?

Chili is a classic American dish, so much so that many of us eat it multiple times a month. It has even gained popularity across the world because it is versatile, easy to make, and filling. However, finding side dishes that work with chili may not be as intuitive as you would want it to be, and making a mistake could be detrimental.

Take a look at all the best side dishes for chili, and pick one or more of these side dishes for your next dinner!

What Is Chili?

Chili is a popular meat and beans stew. The word is short for the dish called “chili con carne,” which translates to chili with meat. This stew contains chili peppers or chili powder, meat, usually beef, tomatoes, and kidney beans.

You can find chili seasoned with garlic, onions, and cumin. Chili is traditionally from Northern Mexico and Southern Texas but is now a staple across the United States. Many consider chili a cookout dish, while others see it as a side dish.

Most famously, people serve chili during football games and other sports-related parties. You can now find variations on chili, including vegetarian chili, chili Verde made with green tomatillos, pork or chicken, and white chili made with white beans. For the most part, chili is served with grated cheese and sour cream on top and sometimes accompanied by tortilla chips for dipping.

Nutrition Facts

One cup (154 g) of chili con carne has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 259 calories
  • 196 g water
  • 17.4 g protein
  • 9.7 g fat
  • 26.2 g carbohydrate
  • 7.37 g fiber
  • 5.23 g sugar
  • 81.3 mg calcium
  • 3.38 mg iron
  • 61 mg magnesium
  • 221 mg phosphorus
  • 671 mg potassium
  • 1040 mg sodium
  • 11.7 µg selenium
  • 7.11 mg vitamin C
  • 50.8 µg vitamin A
  • 35.6 mg cholesterol

Chili is considered a high protein food, but it also contains a good amount of fat, cholesterol, and sodium. To make a healthier chili, you can swap the beef with turkey or chicken and add more beans. You can also make your chili at home instead of using pre-made ingredients and measure the sodium and fat better.

What Goes With Chili Anytime

Below are some sides for chili that you can serve with chili at any time!

#1. Oven-Baked Potato Wedges

Nothing better than some fries or potatoes to go with chili. You can pretty much use the chili as a topping and sprinkle cheese on top.


  • 6 Russet potatoes (or your potato of choice)
  • 1 ½ tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Follow these steps to prepare your oven-baked potato wedges:

  1. Before you begin, preheat your oven to 415 degrees F.
  2. Cut your potatoes in 4 ways, ending with thick and large wedges. Place the potatoes in a bowl, and wash them carefully. Pat dry.
  3. Cover your potatoes with oil, spices, salt, and pepper.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the potatoes evenly on it.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, but check them often as some can be done earlier.
  6. Serve with chili on top or on a side bowl to dip.

#2. Fresh Green Salad

Since chili is a thick, filling meal, having a side dish that is clean and easy to digest can be a good idea. This fresh green salad will take minutes to make and can complement your meat and beans nicely.


  • 4 cups mixed greens (or your favorite salad mix)
  • 3 cups diced cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups chopped red onions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Follow these steps to prepare your fresh, green salad:

  1. Wash your greens carefully, and allow them to dry for about 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss them carefully.
  3. Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Continue tossing for another 2 minutes or until your salad is completely mixed.
  4. Serve cold on the side.


Nothing says cookout better than a yummy homemade coleslaw. This side dish is fresh, sweet, tangy, and crunchy, which is a fantastic complement to the density of chili.


  • 4 cups shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix
  • 2 cups shredded carrots (omit if using a coleslaw mix)
  • 1 cup olive oil mayonnaise (or your favorite kind)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (or 1 teaspoon ground mustard)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Follow these steps to prepare your coleslaw:

  1. Wash the vegetables and allow them to air-dry.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, and pepper.
  3. Toss everything for a few minutes, until the slaw is completely covered.
  4. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
  5. Serve cold, with chili on the side.

#4. Cilantro-Lime Rice

This rice is a great choice to accompany your chili because it combines citrus with tangy. You can serve the chili on top as a topping or the side with a splash of lime juice on top.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 ½  cups water
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Follow these steps to prepare your cilantro-lime rice:

  1. Heat your olive oil in a pot at medium-high heat. Add the rice, and cover it with oil. 
  2. Add the garlic, mix everything, and allow to cook for 30 seconds. 
  3. Add the water, salt, and pepper. Bring water to a boil, then cover, and simmer at low heat.
  4. Cook your rice for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until soft, and fluffy.
  5. Place cooked rice in a large bowl. Stir in lime juice, mix well. Add cilantro and continue to mix.
  6. Serve warm with chili on top or the side.

#5. Cheesy Mashed Potatoes With Bacon

Another mouth-watering side dish. This one is decadent and filling, which goes well with chili during a cookout, football game, or potluck.


  • 6 Russet potatoes (or 10 yellow potatoes)
  • 4 slices bacon or 1 cup bacon bits
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Follow these steps to prepare your cheesy mashed potatoes with bacon: 

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. While the oven is heating, wash your potatoes, peel them, and cube them.
  3. Cook your potatoes in a large pot for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain them and set them in a large bowl.
  4. Cut your bacon into squares. In a pan, add chopped bacon and cook for about 5 minutes. Skip this step if using cooked bacon bits.
  5. Mash your potatoes with a potato masher or a fork. Add the melted butter and sour cream. Mix well, and then add the cheese. Continue to mix until everything is cohesive. 
  6. Add the bacon, mix one last time, and transfer your potatoes to a greased baking dish.
  7. Bake your cheesy potatoes for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden.
  8. Serve warm and top with chopped cilantro and more cheese if needed.

#6. Cornmeal Biscuits

Cornbread is a traditional side dish to serve with chili. This recipe, on the other hand, is a tasty addition that can also be served with chili at any time.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • ½  cup melted butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • Pinch of salt

Follow these steps to prepare your cornmeal biscuits:

  1. Start by preheating your oven to about 415 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Sift carefully so there are no clumps.
  3. Cut in melted butter, using a fork. The end product should be a thick mixture.
  4. Add the milk, and mix well. Transfer your dough onto a flat surface.
  5. Knead the dough a couple of times. Pat it flat, and using a small cup, cut your dough into small circles that will become your biscuits.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place your circles on the baking sheet, leaving enough space between them to allow for expansion.
  7. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Check that they are cooked using a toothpick, if nothing sticks to it, your biscuits are ready!
  8. Serve warm or cold with chili on the side.

#7. Baked Sweet Potato Fries 

This side dish is a twist on a fan favorite without the added guilt and fat! Sweet potatoes complement the spice in your chili perfectly, and for added flavor, serve with some sour cream on top.


  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon sour cream to serve as a topping

Follow these steps to prepare your baked sweet potato fries:

  1. Preheat your oven to 430 degrees F.
  2. While the oven warms up, peel your sweet potatoes, and cut them into long juliennes.
  3. Line a large baking sheet, or use two medium ones, with parchment paper. Lay your sweet potatoes on the baking tray and sprinkle the salt and pepper.
  4. Drizzle the olive oil on top, making sure that every piece is covered. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the potatoes and bake for another 10 more minutes.
  5. Serve your fries immediately, add some chopped parsley, and a bit of sour cream on top. Alternatively, serve with chili on top.

How Can I Pick The Perfect Side Dish?

Chili is one of those dishes that has no standard recipe. Everyone you meet will make chili one way or another, but the end product is very similar. What matters with chili is that you serve it with a side dish that complements, and not overpowers, your meal.

If you are serving your chili as a main dish, consider preparing something with potatoes or rice. You can serve the oven-baked potato wedges, sweet potato fries, or cilantro-lime rice. Try adding a splash of lime juice to your chili as well.

When you plan on serving the chili as part of other dishes, such as in a cookout or potluck, you may want to try an easier side dish. You could go with the coleslaw, the cornmeal biscuits, or the cheesy mashed potatoes with bacon. All of these side dishes can be served as part of a bigger meal without much problem.

On the other hand, if you plan on serving chili and want to elevate your dinner, then you may want a lighter and more sophisticated dish. Try the green salad, and accompany it with the cilantro-lime rice or the oven-baked potato wedges. Your dinner guests will be delighted, and you will have a nice dinner all around.


Making chili is quite an experience, but serving it can be somewhat daunting if you are not sure what else to use. Now you will never have this experience again, as this list of chili sides can serve as inspiration from now on. You can also mix and match, and serve more than one item on this list.

See more: How to thaw frozen chili

*image by fotek/depositphotos

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