If you're wondering what goes with chili, try making one of these simple sides to round out the meal.
Corn-and-Avocado Salad With Goddess Dressing
Credit: Petrina Tinslay

A pot of homemade chili delivers on a dinner that is delicious, comforting, and crowd-pleasing. And because it's already chock full of protein and fiber, with ingredients such as beef, tofu, beans or sweet potatoes, it's practically a complete meal on its own. You may want to serve some sides to compliment the dish and are probably wondering what goes with chili and will round out the meal?

We've got a few ideas here for sides that will enhance even the humblest of chilis, or play co-star to a blue-ribbon winner. Whether you're pressed for time or want to impress, there's a recipe in this round-up that will be a perfect pairing for a hearty bowl of chili.

Corn-Based Carbs

Cornbread is a classic and time-tested accompaniment to chili, and for good reason. The slightly sweet, toasty flavor of the cornbread will complement the boldly-spiced chili. And whether you prefer your cornbread to be served oven-to-table in a cast-iron skillet or baked as muffins, our recipes are sure to satisfy.

A quicker alternative to making cornbread that also goes with a bowl of chili is another corn-based carb: nachos! Crunchy, salty, and delightfully cheesy, a pan of nachos is a side you can make happen in just a few minutes and they're great for dipping into a bowl of chili that's still a little too hot to eat.

Salads and Slaws

Whether you prefer a chili that is plant-based, like this weeknight version or loaded with tender pieces of braised beef like this Classic Beef Chili, chili is a famously rich and filling dish. To complement this heavy-weight main, a crisp and refreshing salad or slaw is just the ticket.

The make-ahead Corn-and-Avocado Salad with Goddess Dressing that's pictured above can be prepped the night before and fits perfectly with the Southwestern feel of spicy chili. For a last-minute salad, choose something tangy and refreshing, like this Green Salad with Pickled-Shallot Vinaigrette, or this Butter-Lettuce Salad with Buttermilk and Herbs. Really, anything that is clean and crunchy is a good pick for what to serve with hearty chili, even a simple platter of fresh-cut crudités makes a perfect pairing.

For a satisfying side of slaw to go with your chili, opt for recipes that use a lighter dressing so it will provide a cooling and crunchy counterpart to the main meal. This Cilantro-Lime Kale Slaw, for instance, utilizes tangy Greek yogurt to still provide some creaminess without weighing any of the vegetables down. A simpler slaw side is this ultra-crunchy Cool Jicama Slaw, which would be ideal to serve with an extra-spicy bowl of chili.

Toppings Galore

With the standalone side dish ideas covered, our last category is dedicated to all the fixings you can pile right on top of your bowl of chili.

Cheeses: Try shredded sharp cheddar or spicy pepper-Jack cheese if you want streaks of melty cheese to be marbled throughout the bowls of chili. Alternatively, a crumbled variety like cotija or feta will keep its shape better and offer up a briny bite with the rich chili mixture.

Herbs and Alliums: You can't go wrong with a generous smattering of herbs like chopped scallions and cilantro. If your chili is extra-spicy consider throwing a little mint into the mix to cool things down. Finely chopped red onion is also a great topping for chili because it provides an assertive bite and crunch to the softened beans and vegetables in the chili.

Guacamole: It's a great topping for chili and guacamole is an especially good choice if you're planning to have nachos or tortilla chips on the table as well. For a simpler substitute, a lime-spiked sour cream will be just as creamy and satisfying.


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