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How to Host a Chili Cookoff Party

It's Time For Chili!

Hosting a chili cook off party is a fun way to spend time with friends and try out some great chili recipes.

This guide has helpful tips, ideas and supplies you'll need to plan and host an awesome chili cookoff party.


What's A Chili Cook Off Party?

It's when chili lovers get together to share and enjoy great chili. Everyone cooks their own chili for others to sample, judge and (hopefully) vote for. After all the votes are in, a winner is crowned.

It can be as simple or fancy as you want.

How's Everyone Going to Cook Their Chili In My House?!?

They're not...unless you have a super sized commercial grade kitchen. Tell everyone to make their chili at home and bring it in a crock pot. All you need is counter or table space and an outlet for them to plug into.

This makes your party clean up a lot easier, too.

Plan Early!

Pick a date and time well in advance (month or more). Weekend afternoons work well for many people.

Then prepare your invites and send them out. Include the usual invite stuff: what, when, where plus details about the cook off. Specify in the invitation that each contestant's chili should be made at home and brought in a crock pot. Mention what categories (green, red, veggie, etc) will be judged, if any.

You can also ask folks to bring a ladle (unless you have a lot) for their chili. Make sure to ask for an RSVP and give a respond by date.

Prepare for the Cook Off

A few party logistics questions to answer...

Is There Space for the Chili? - Estimate how many crock pots of chili there will be and check that you've got enough counter and/or table space. You'll need an outlet for each to plug into so check that your outlets work and get an outlet strip if needed. Make sure there's enough space to put a ladle, ID tag and sample cups next to each pot.

Where Will People Sit? - Remember that some of your table space may be taken up with pots of chili. Plan now where people can sit.

How Will People Vote? - A simple paper ballot will work fine. More on this later.

What Prizes Will Be Awarded? - 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes work well. You could do a basic award ribbon for each or get creative and pick something fun.

Label Each Chili

Place an index card or sheet of paper in front of each chili pot with its identifying information. The info on the label will depend on if your cook-off will be a blind tasting where voters don't know who cooked each chili or not.

For a blind tasting, assign each chili a number as it arrives and keep a list of who brought that number. If you want to keep people guessing, assign the numbers in random order so voters won't assume chili #1 is yours.

For an open tasting, list the cook's name or the chili name.

More Chili Cookoff Contestants

More Chili Cookoff Contestants

Fun Cook-Off Tip

Tell each chili cook to be creative and name their chili. Include the chili's name on its label.

Serve & Eat The Chili

The best part...

There's no one right way to do this. The most important thing is to have an easy way for your guests to remember which chili they're eating so they know which one to vote for later.

We put little Dixie cups next to each pot of chili with the chili's number written on it (done ahead of time). That way people can first sample each chili and come back for seconds after they picked some favorites. To carry all those chili cups around, we provide styrofoam tray plates. Here's a picture of my tray with chili samples.

For anyone that wants a big bowl of chili, we put bowls out, too. And condiments...can't forget those. We put out rice, grated cheese, sour cream and corn bread for everyone to have with their chili if they want. Serve what you like or think your guests will like.

My Chili Cookoff Tray by Mac33

My Chili Cookoff Tray by Mac33

Scroll to Continue

Ballots & Voting

Create and print out some simple ballots. Here are a couple ways to format your ballot:

  1. Draw a line or box for the voter to write the name or number of their favorite chili.
  2. List all of the chili entries with a box next to each for voters to check.

Put out a box or bowl (decorate it if you want) for everyone to place their ballots in. Then announce when all votes need to be cast to be counted. You may also want to set some ground rules like "no voting for your own chili" or "one vote per person".

Chili Cookoff Photo Credits

More Chili Cookoff Contestants used under Creative Commons from Tingsteph.
My Chili Cookoff Tray used by permission from Mac33.

Were these tips helpful? What do you look for in a great chili cook off? Please leave a comment below.

Hot Chili Comments

amandascloset0 on April 19, 2013:

Great lens ! Thanks for posting. It's a chlli night right now and I always love chilli when it's chilli out. Thanks for the info!

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on January 06, 2013:

Great suggestions for a successful Chili Cook Off Party. I am going to feature this lens on the related lenses on my Chili Pepper Decoration lens that hasn't gone live yet

artdivision1 lm on November 21, 2012:

Sounds like a great party! Gonna need some red wine too to go with

clouda9 lm on November 10, 2012:

What a fun reason to have a party!

anonymous on September 06, 2012:


itravel2004 lm on August 02, 2012:

I like to eat chilli specially Nasi Lemak

hntrssthmpsn on June 10, 2012:

What's better than chili? More chili! Awesome lens. You've motivated me to start something spicy simmering!

Michelle61 on March 14, 2012:

@anonymous: Yummmy!!!! I like the additional condiments!

Michelle61 on March 14, 2012:

This was awesome! I never have gone to a chili cookout nor have I ever hosted one, but I'm thinking it will be fun. Thanks for the tips, and when I do hold one, I will positively post pictures on the lens I write about it!

anonymous on February 18, 2012:

great ideas!

Add cilantro, onions tomatoes, pico de gallo, variety of beers in ice bucket

We are having our 2nd family chili cook-off. So exciting!

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on September 30, 2011:

What a great idea! I have attended chili cook offs at festivals, but never thought of hosting my own. I will definitely plan to do this. Thanks for the idea. It will be great fun.

anonymous on June 26, 2011:

This has made me very hungry. Nice Job!

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