Beef chili with kidney beans and cheese topping

Chili is an ultimate comfort food—a thick soup with ingredients that vary by family recipes, regional ingredients and personal tastes. The most common versions are made with beef, tomatoes or tomato sauce, onions and spices, with kidney beans as a popular optional ingredient. Some recipes use poultry or pork instead of beef. Flavors range from mild and savory to knock-your-socks-off hot. Here are some of the best pairings for a warm bowl of chili.

Breads and Crackers

Tiny oyster crackers mixed into chili add body. Buttery snack crackers or saltines can be served on the side or crumbled on top. Corn bread has a nice texture, and its slightly sweet flavor accentuates chili spices. Toasted garlic bread and crusty French or Italian bread are great for dipping. For something a little extra, dip a grilled cheese sandwich into chili.

Pasta and Grains

Chili is served in some locales atop spaghetti, like a pasta sauce. Cooked elbow macaroni gives chili more substance and texture; leave the pasta in the chili overnight in the refrigerator to let it absorb the spices and flavorings. Rice also makes a good base; fill the bottom of a bowl with rice and add the chili on top.

Toppings and Condiments

To accommodate the wide range of tastes people desire in a bowl of chili, serve it with a selection of toppings. Shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack or Parmesan cheese add flavor and a satisfying gooey texture. Sour cream or crème fraîche smooths chili out. Vegetable condiments add nutrition and fiber. Try any of these popular options:

  • Chopped yellow, white or green onions
  • Chopped red and green bell peppers
  • Chopped jalapeno peppers
  • Diced green chiles
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Chopped fresh tomatoes
  • Sliced radishes
  • Avocados
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Corn

For even more savory goodness, some people like to add bacon bits or refried beans.


The bold tastes of chili stand up well to richly flavored beverages. Frosty mugs of ice-cold beer are a common companion, as well as full-bodied red wines and fruity wine punches like sangria. The lime and tequila in margaritas complement the spices in chili. For those who don't drink, a lemony iced tea is refreshing.