Entertaining | Set Up A Chili Bar + All-Purpose Chili Recipe!


Today I’m sharing an idea that you can use for Fall or Winter entertaining, as well as a timely idea for Super Bowl & other Football gatherings. I thought, ‘what could be more hearty, manly, and versatile than a chili bar?’ I didn’t want to do a chili tasting or cook-off because I think most people have seen that already. Instead I thought about the many ways you can serve chili using one all-purpose recipe.  This is how it usually goes at my house: First round is chili & tortillas, next day leftovers are served over pasta, at a fast food restaurant we order chili & baked potato, or chili cheese fries, etc.

This is a fun way to set up a buffet for friends and even the kids loved making their own variations. Using some printable tags from Party Box Designs I set up and labeled lots of chili toppers + root beer. You can see my list of options below, plus the delicious recipe I used that goes with everything!

Set up a chili bar

Base items available for topping with the chili:

  • Pasta
  • Tortillas
  • Hot Dogs
  • Crinkle cut french fries
  • Small bags of Fritos corn chips
  • Baked Potatoes


  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Diced Onion
  • Sliced Jalapenos
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • other condiments like ketchup & mustard for the hot dogs

Combine the base items with the chili and select toppings and you have a great meal.  I suggest small servings so you can have more than one combo – you may even want to cut the hot dogs in half.  One of my personal favorites is the Fritos bags that you can just grab and go.  You fill the bag with the chili and toppings and eat right out of the bag!

To hide the not-so-attractive crock pot, I wrapped it with burlap.  I served root beer from a large urn, which you could also fill with beer of course.

This chili bar was a huge hit with the family.  The husband loved it, the kids loved it, and it could even be used for a tween or teen birthday buffet.

chili bar by Celebrations At Home{all photos from Celebrations At Home}


All Purpose Chili Recipe

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, browned
  • Chili Seasoning Packet – “Original” flavor
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 can water

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on high for 6 hours.

Get the printable football party tags from Party Box Design here.

For another great chili recipe, check out our Fiesta Chili Recipe here!


For more inspiration, follow me on Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter. Cheers!


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About Chris

Chris Nease is a party stylist and home entertaining expert with over 15 years of experience. In addition to her work as founding editor of Celebrations At Home, Chris is an editorial stylist and has contributed to Homes.com, SheKnows, and countless other websites. Most recently she was featured in Celebrate magazine, and her work has been published in Woman's World, Ocala Style, Yum Food & Fun for Kids, and Cottages & Bungalows.


  1. This is fabulous! Love wrapping up the crock pot!

  2. Love it Chris! Serving chili at our party this Sunday and just might steal some of your darling ideas :)

  3. You’ve got some great ideas going on here and perfect timing with the Super Bowl just around the corner. Love all of the make it yourself sections.

    – The Tablescaper

  4. LoVe the Chili Bar!

  5. LOVE!!! You are so clever!! And now I’m wanting chili! :)

  6. love love love it! you did such an amazing job lady!

  7. LOVE the chili in the frito bags! So stealing that and what a great idea for camping or tailgating also!

  8. FestivePartyGirl says:

    I love chili ANYTHING – fries, hot dogs, nachos…yum! What a great idea. Just in time for Super Bowl

  9. boa noite, que ideia boa e simple para receber amigos, bjs.

  10. Genius! So manly, yet so adorable! And wrapping the crock pot! Love the options to do it yourself! ♥

  11. I’m so doing this on Sunday! So easy and you can feed even the pickiest eaters! Btw, another great chili topping is French fried onions, you know the kind you put on old fashioned green bean casserole. They definitely Iadd some extra flavor and texture!

  12. Fabulous! What time should we be over for the game?!

  13. candice perera says:

    Chris, you have hit the nail on its head…we sri lankans are famous for its chillie and no curry taste as good without it. But this gives me an idea and let me try it at the next family gathering. love the idea

  14. This looks great…I especially love the burlap cover on the crockpot…clever idea since those things are so unsightly! I’ll remember that next time :)

  15. The Chili Fritos Bags…oh yes please! Great idea and love hiding hiding the crock pot with the burlap bag.

  16. This is great! Though, now I’m extremely hungry! :-)

  17. This is such a cute set up! I love the “fill n’ go” Frito’s bags. So many fun ideas!

  18. Thank you for listing the item in the dishes. So many times I see a great display but wonder what they are serving!

  19. Love this idea! Thanks for sharing. Your so talented.

  20. This is such a cute idea! It’s making me hungry! Great job as usual Chris!

  21. I love this so much!!!

  22. Love the idea! I may try it at the next gathering!

  23. I am going to be doing this at a baby shower in December, love the idea.

  24. Vicki Sterling says:

    We are thinking of doing this for a fall wedding reception. Much easier than all the traditional reception foods. What do you think?

  25. A chili bar?! That is my kind of buffet! Such a clever idea. I love the choice of chili dogs or frito-pie. :)

  26. What a great idea! Thanks do much for sharing! I think I’m going to try this for a baby shower in january. I was wondering, though, how many people did you feed with what you’ve got set up here? I’m not really good at serving sizes. Most of the time I have waaaaay too much left over. Thanks again!

    • Thanks, Peasquared. This was small and casual – only six of us. You would definitely need to double or triple the amount of chili depending on your numbers. But remember, because there’s so much variety you need less of each item too.

  27. What a fantastic idea! And I love all the variations people can eat chili.

  28. Awesome idea love it. Will be trying this weekend

  29. I am so excited to do this for my husbands college graduation party in December! What a perfect way to celebrate during the colder months for a group of all ages! I love it and all the details you added!!

  30. I love this idea. I will be using it for our November BUNCO game night. Thank you!!

  31. Katie Walters says:

    I am having a hard time figuring out how you covered the crockpot with burlap? Could you please explain? Thanks!

    • Hi Katie,
      I used a long strip of burlap and folded it over lengthwise to give it that soft edge at the top. Wrapped it around and held it in place with a rope belt. The bottom is just scrunched up a bit.
      Super easy and quick!

  32. Love this idea and set up!! Perfect for our Halliween party this weekend!

    How many people do you think your chili recipe would serve?

    • Leslie, it could probably serve 8-10 depending on how it’s served. You can easily double the recipe or make a couple of batches.

  33. Sheila Warner says:

    I found your website because I am planning Chili Bar Party. My idea was a little different: the chili and toppings would be made, but also wanted to give choice of chili mac or chili cheese fries. Wondering how to keep the cooked pasta and the cheese sauce/dip for the fries warm so guests can make their plates without using the oven. Lot of guests…not so much oven.

    • Sheila, I think crock pots may be your best bet, or even fondu pots. If you don’t have them yourself maybe you can borrow extras from family or neighbors.

  34. Love the idea, especially the frito bags, but they don’t sell them in stores around here. Actually, I went to three stores and only 1 actually sold fritos at all. Making this as we speak for my sons birthday party tonight!

  35. Love this! How many did your set up/chili recipe serve?

  36. megan madison says:

    Beyond the fact that no stores in Atlanta sell individual frito bags, this idea was easy to duplicatelast night for my hub’s birthday. The Chili bar was a hit! What a fabulous idea. Thanks for posting.

  37. Love this idea, and used it to help celebrate this year’s Oscars. Check out our post with using a vegetarian chili here: http://flatstolofts.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/oscar-chili/. Thanks for the great idea!

  38. This is wonderful! Great idea!

  39. I LUV everything about this! Just needed clarification in your chili recipe, you stated 1can if water. What is that in exact measurements? Tx!

    • Libbie, these are regular size cans – usually 15 oz., but since it’s what I like to call a “dump” recipe it won’t effect the taste is you find 16 oz or 14.5 oz. I know brand’s sizes can vary.

  40. I LUV everything about this! How fun!

  41. any ideas on keeping the dogs and pasta warm, for people coming back for seconds?

    • Pammyb, you can use crock pots or chafing dishes if you like. However, if the chili is hot it will warm up the pasta when poured over it.

  42. What a great idea! Could you please tell me where you found the white framed menu board? Thank you.


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