How to Set Up A Chili Bar

Best tips and ideas to set up an awesome chili bar party with all the fixings! Use this slow cooker chili recipe as a topping for french fries, hot dogs, nachos and more. Then top it with more flavors like cheese, onions and jalapenos.

best chili bar ideas for a party

If you like this idea, you’re going to LOVE my Soup Bar with even more ideas for hosting and entertaining.

This is how it usually goes when I make a big pot of chili. First round is chili & tortilla chips, next day we serve it over pasta, and if there’s any left over we put chili on a baked potato, or make chili cheese fries.

I thought, why not put all those ideas into one single chili party? Check out all my tips and my list of chili bar toppings below, plus the delicious all purpose recipe that goes with everything!

When to Set Up a Chili Bar at Home

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. 

chili bar signs

Why You’ll Love This Idea

  • It provides a hearty meal for guests.
  • This food bar is so versatile making it an easy way to entertain.
  • This is a delicious food buffet for adult friends, and families with kids.
  • People love making their own variations.
small bags of Fritos corn chips in wire basket
chili in mini Fritos bags

How to Set Up

Before we get to what goes on a chili bar, let’s talk about how to set it up. *affiliate links included

  • I find that a large table or counter works best for this party buffet. A sideboard would probably be too small or narrow to hold all the fixings. 
  • Set up on the dining table or on the kitchen island. If you need to push the table against the wall in order to use an outlet, that’s perfectly fine.
  • Serve the chili right from the slow cooker. Wrap a piece of burlap around the crock pot to make it more attractive in a party set up.
  • If you need to keep pasta warm or hot dogs hot, use chafing dishes for best results. They are a party hostess’ best friend. I love this stylish model, but if you don’t entertain much you can get away with using disposable ones (ah! did I just say that?).

PARTY TIP: Use corrugated disposable coffee cups for an easy-carry option. They’re easier to hold than bowls.

chili bar menu items

Best Ideas for a Chili Party

  • Place mini bags of Fritos corn chips in a wire basket for a cute display. You fill the bag with the chili and toppings and eat right out of the bag! HOSTESS TIP: Get mini bags here for the BEST price.
  • Use printable tags to label all the chili toppers and drinks, especially if you’re serving both beer and root beer.
  • You can make a diy sign like I did here using paint, muslin fabric, letter stencils, and a frame. 
  • Serve beer or root beer from a large urn filled with ice.

This chili bar is a huge hit with the entire family, making it a great idea for parents. Serve this at kids birthday parties where you’ll also have adults. 

PARTY TIP: This party idea is great for a man’s birthday or a teen’s birthday party buffet. 

Hot dogs on plate with food name tag
bowls of pasta and french fries with name tags
chili cheese fries with toppings
bottled drinks in ice bucket urn
chili on pasta and tortilla chips

More Chili Recipes

If you’re in the mood for a simple chili tasting party, try one or more of these tasty variations.

how to set up a chili bar for a party

What’s your favorite chili bar combination? One of my personal favorites is the Fritos bags that you can just grab and go.

Now here is the tasty all purpose chili recipe that goes with everything on the chili bar. See more chili bar ideas on Pinterest.

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chili bar party setup with slow cooker, toppings and chili sign.

Chili Bar Ideas

Yield: 10-12 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 20 minutes

Make this all purpose chili recipe for a chili bar party with all the toppings. This chili goes with everything from hot dogs to pasta, and potatoes and nachos!

Ingredients

Chili

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, browned
  • 1 packet (1.25-ounce) Chili Seasoning, Original flavor
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 15-ounces of water

Base Items

  • Cooked Pasta
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Hot Dogs & Buns
  • Crinkle Cut french fries
  • Small bags of Fritos corn chips
  • Baked Potatoes

Toppings

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

Instructions

  1. Prepare the chili by combining all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours.
  2. Place all the toppings in individual bowls or serving dishes along with serving utensils for guests to help themselves to.
  3. Layer the base items with the chili.
  4. Add selected toppings to top the chili and you have a great meal.

Notes

I suggest small servings so you can have more than one combo. You may even want to cut the hot dogs in half.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

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60 Comments

  1. I read through the comments and only saw clarification on the water but what size can of tomatoe sauce and diced tomatoes does the recipe call for? Thanks!

    1. 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.

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

    1. 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.

  3. Love this idea, and used it to help celebrate this year’s Oscars. Thanks for the great idea!

  4. 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.

    1. Oh no, Megan! I had to find them at the convenient store here. Glad it turned out successful anyway!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

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

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

    1. 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.

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

    1. 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!

  9. 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!!

    1. Thank you Denise. I appreciate you saying so. I’m sure you all will have a great time and congrats to him!

  10. 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!

    1. 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.

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

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

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

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

  15. 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 🙂

  16. 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

  17. 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!

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

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

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

  21. 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

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

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