Super-easy Game Day Chili Station

Game Day Chili Station

Learning to make a great pot of Chili was on my Fall to-do list, and though a little late, I’ve been practicing over the break. A chili bar, it turns out, is the perfect fare for watching football and—especially—the big game. It’s hearty and comforting and (potentially) decadent, but also (potentially) pretty good for you. You can make it ahead of time in a crockpot or on the stove, and it’s also a great way to use up all those tortilla chips that get left over: second-day nachos.

So I’d love to hear your favorite Chili recipes (do you have a secret ingredient? like cinnamon? stout? chocolate?). One reader sent me an amazing suggestion for a smoky 3-bean Turkey chili.

Here are two of mine: a go-to Chili con carne base and a favorite vegetarian option, along with some thoughts on toppings and setting up a chili bar. 


Chili con Carne (adapted from Betty Crocker)
For 4 Servings:

1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate (or a Tbsp of cocoa powder)
1/2 tsp red pepper sauce
2 C diced tomatoes, undrained
1 large can (19 oz) red kidney beans, undrained

In large saucepan, cook beef, onion and garlic over medium-high heat about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain.
Stir in remaining ingredients except beans. When boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Add beans. When boiling, reduce heat to low; simmer uncovered about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until desired thickness.

If you prefer to use Turkey, you can substitute it, or try this Smoky Turkey Chili recipe instead.

Cooking with Kids

Vegetarian Chili (adapted from Betty Crocker)
For 4 Servings:

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-3 fresh jalapeño or serrano chiles, seeded, finely chopped (depending on preference)
2 cans black beans, drained, rinsed
2 cans fire-roasted or plain diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup water
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 C frozen sweet corn

In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and chiles, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender.
Add black beans, tomatoes, water, chili powder, cumin and salt. When boiling, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add corn. When boiling, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes longer.



Toppings: Setting up a great Chili Station

I think some toppings are essential—like cheese, cilantro, and sour cream—but you can get creative with anything from bacon to Fritos, from cornbread to spicy olives. We just made this batch for our family and used our fingers, but I’d suggest serving spoons to keep things clean and healthy for everyone. Here’s what I’d set out:

Cheese. Nothing beats a good sharp cheddar.

Sour Cream. Sour Cream has a great cultured flavor and comes in a squeeze option, so it’s perfect for setting out beside hot sauces and the like without having to deal with messy bowls and spoons.

Tortilla Chips. You’re likely to have plenty of these on hand for game-day. I hear crushed Dorritos are an awesome topping.

Tomatoes. Go for whichever variety looks best, but as they’re not in season, you can always skip if you can’t find brightly colored ones.

Peppers. All kinds. Our kids love bell peppers. And adults might appreciate some extra jalapeños or green chiles.

Lime Wedges. This is something that often gets overlooked, but a little acidity makes most dishes taste better. (I also like to squeeze some on my tortilla chips.)

Red Onions. Thinly slivered.

Avocado. If you have any that aren’t needed for the guacamole, set some slices aside.

Cilantro. You can pre-chop a bunch or prop some in a vase with water (to keep it from wilting) and set out kitchen shears.

Hot Sauce. Everyone has their preference. Tabasco is a classic, and you can also get green chili and chipotle versions. Cholula Original adds a mix of heat and smokiness.



How do you like your chili? What’s your favorite recipe or topping?

(And what will you be doing on February 7th, game day? We have sort of an odd mix planned—with a matinee of the Broadway version of Little Mermaid with Hudson before kick-off. Ha! So I’m glad to have something easy to make ahead.)


P.S. Some drink tips for hosting Daisy Sour Cream” target=”_blank”>Daisy Squeeze Sour Cream. Squeeze more out of the Big Game with a #DollopOfDaisy.”” target=”_blank”>game day.

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