The Best Chili Toppings for Any Bowl

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Whether you love to shred, crumble, or crunch your chili toppings, there’s practically endless ways to enjoy a bowl of chili. Check out our favorite options and try a few new ones on your next chili bowl!

You all know by now that I love chili I’ve got so many recipes for chili on the site. Plus I have an ultimate guide to the best chili bar ever.

Bowl of bison chili with shredded cheese and jalapeños on top.

But I also wanted to go a little bit more in depth on the best toppings for chili. Everyone knows that some of the best parts of chili is eating the toppings and customizing each bowl to your favorite flavors. 

I’ve collected some of my favorite toppings in the post below, so no matter if you like cheesy, crunchy, spicy, or maybe a little bit sweet, I’ve got the perfect toppings for your next bowl of chili.


There are so many different shredded cheeses you can use for chili!

Our go to cheese for chili is a sharp cheddar. We like to grate it at home it so it’s a little bit thick and doesn’t full melt immediately when it hits the hot chili.

I always recommend grating cheese yourself. It melts better due to the lack of anti-caking agent. It’s also a lot cheaper than buying those pre-shredded bags — although I know the shaded bags are very convenient!

If you are buying the pre-shredded bags look for the thick-cut or “off the block” variety. Not all of the brands sell it, but I know it’s available from Tillamook and Sargento brands.

Aside from sharp cheddar you could also go with white cheddar, smoked gouda, pepper jack, Monterey Jack, or any other cheese that is melty.

You could also go for a queso fresco or cotija cheese, which is a classic Mexican cheese. It is mostly often found in little crumbles. We like to use it on tacos but it’s also great with chili.


It may sound strange that you would want pickles for your chili, but trust me on this. We are not talking about cucumber pickles, but rather pickled jalapeños, pickled red onions, or even maybe pickled radishes.

Pickles add a wonderfully tangy and sometimes sweet or spicy flavor to your chili. It also adds a really delicious crunch!

When I am thinking of my favorite toppings, I always go for the pickled red onions, but we also love candied jalapeños, which are both sweet and spicy. If you’re not making your own pickles at home, you can always find these in the store usually among the regular cucumber pickles.

Tangy pickled red onions add so much flavor to tacos, burgers, and more.


I love adding crunchy items to chili. It’s a great compliment to the rest of the textures. Plus it’s so delicious.

Some crunchy options. Include turning your chili into a Frito pie by adding regular Frito corn chips, or Frito dippers on the bottom or on top of your chili bowl you can also use nacho cheese Doritos or any of your other favorite tortilla chips.

Make it a Frito pie or walking taco by using snack-size bags of Fritos or Doritos, cutting it open down the middle and pouring your chili right on top.

Other crunchy options include seasoned or plain crispy tortilla strips, crispy onions, or corn nuts.

Fresh produce

Add some extra veggies to your chili. I like to add chopped white onions, but you can also offer diced green onions.

Other great options include chopped fresh tomatoes, diced jalapeños or other spicy pepper, and shredded lettuce. 

Another must have for us is diced or sliced avocado. I recommend buying multiple avocados just in case one of them isn’t ready when it’s time to make the chili.

Offer lime wedges to squeeze on each bowl, and chopped fresh cilantro.

Creamy toppings

Even if you’re adding cheese, you might want to add some other creamy additions to your chili!

A dollop of sour cream is a classic option, especially if your chili ends up too spicy. Some prefer to use plain Greek yogurt instead.

Try Mexican crema, which is a little bit thinner and more pourable. Make sure you find the crema that comes in a bottle, not a tub.

You can also make a delicious avocado crema. Or you could even try a little drizzle of ranch dressing!

If you’re like my kids, you’ll want to add some wonderfully gooey and delicious queso. It really brings your chili to the next level!

Avocado crema in a bowl with limes and cilantro.

Hot sauce

You absolutely should have a variety of hot sauces on hand. This way everyone can make their chili spicy as they like. I have some friends who can’t handle heat well others absolutely love it and this way everyone’s happy.

I recommend classic hot sauces, like Cholula and Tabasco, as well as roasted chili pepper hot sauces for a depth of flavor. Have them on the table with the rest of your toppings so people can add to their heart’s content!

Setting up your chili toppings

When you’re getting everything ready for the perfect bowl of chili, there are a few things to keep in mind to make things as easy as possible.

Set up your toppings in small bowls and create a chili toppings bar. Have a spoon for each topping. Tongs or a fork are great for picking up certain items like grated cheeses or pickles.

Don’t cluster the toppings too close to each other. You don’t want sour cream to fall into your chopped tomatoes. If you can line up the toppings in a single row, or place them on a kitchen island with plenty of room to walk around, all the better!

Everyone loves choosing their own fixings, so make sure is enough space for all to grab their favorites. 

Whether you love classic homestyle chili, white chili, or veggie chili, a variety of toppings always makes it better!


About Megan

I focus on fresh ingredients and easy methods, with spins that keep meals interesting. Dinnertime shouldn’t be stressful or complicated, and I’m here to help you enjoy the time spent in the kitchen. Read more…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.