How to Host a Chili Cookoff

I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I make a darn good chili. Not too spicy, not too sweet…the perfect amount of beans, meat and veggies…my mouth is watering just writing about it. Don’t believe me? Well, I’m not the only one who thinks it is amazing, my friends do, too. And I have the chili cookoff award to prove it! Want to prove your dominance in the kitchen? Then follow my easy tips on how to host a chili cookoff:

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Keep the party to 10 chili submissions total…any more and no one will remember what they tasted, not to mention that your plumbing will take a serious hit after all of the bathroom visits. Seriously.


Remember that simple is best. After all, your party is all about chili so that should be the highlight. Don’t go overboard with appetizers or desserts. A simple veggie tray or charcuterie board as an appetizer and a platter of cookies for dessert will suffice.


Prep enough toppings for even the pickiest chili connoisseur. I simply put out a small bowl of each and let people help themselves. Some topping suggestions:

Green onions/chives

Sour cream

Oyster crackers

Shredded cheddar cheese

Cubes of cornbread

Cooked macaroni noodles

Stock up on cups and spoons. Stay clear of Styrofoam and instead head to your local Dollar Store/Tree/General and get plain paper cups. No need to color code to organize each round or batch of chili…because seriously, who has time for that?!?!


Create tasting cards. It is very simple and easy to do on your computer. Tip: Print on cardstock so it is easiest to write on.


Have a big sign for people to put their votes on. We typically use a big chalkboard or poster board. Don’t let people vote for themselves because that’s just lame.

Designate one person to scoop the chili into the cups (sorry, this person can’t vote) and pass around to the party. Try to be as secretive as possible so no one knows which chili is which. If possible, try to have the tasting in a separate room from where the pots of chili are.


Try to limit each round to 10 minutes or else it will be a REALLY long night.


Give away a fun prize to the winners. We have been having our chili cookoff for four years, and the prize that changes each year is a silver toilet plunger, along with a side of Pepto Bismol.

Looking for my amazing, award winning chili recipe? Too bad! I’m not sharing! Here’s to hoping my tips on how to host a chili cookout not only yields fun, but also a victory for you!


Looking for other party planning tips

Enjoy the chili!
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  1. Jay Simms says

    That sounds like something I would do with my family. We all make chili just a little different. Of course I think mine is the best.

    • Amanda says

      It’s so interesting how people come up with such different varieties…onions, no onions, sweet, hot…the options are endless!

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