A vegan chili bar is a fun and simple way to entertain a crowd for a party, big game, or family dinner. In this post, we’re sharing our favorite recipes, products, and serving tips to make creating your own chili bar a total breeze!
But, if you’re ready to take your love for chili to the next level, you’ve landed in the right place because today we’re sharing our best tips for creating an awesome vegan chili bar!
Chili bars are SO fun. I just love the idea of serving yourself and making it your own. I also dig how easy it makes entertaining while still leaving your guests massively impressed with the whole experience.
What is a chili bar?
For those not already catching my drift, a chili bar is a bar comprised of at least one kind of chili served with various sides, sauces, and toppings that are presented “serve-yourself” style…kind of like a salad bar but with CHILI instead of lettuce.
In this round-up, we’ve highlighted the brands and recipes we like to include in our vegan chili bars. That way, you can make it as simple as stopping by the store for a few items or as thorough (and might I add, badass) as making everything from scratch.
How to Build Your Own Chili Bar
Our #1 Tip: Serve your chili in the slow cooker! Keep it on warm, so everyone is getting a fresh warm bowl of chili.
As far as toppings go, we’ve divided this post into the following categories: Cornbreads, Sour Cream, Cheesy, Crunchy, and Veggies. To build a well-rounded chili bar, we suggest choosing at least 1 or 2 suggestions from each of these categories.
As chili’s official BFF, cornbread always has a seat at our chili bar. After all, you’re gonna need something to sop up all that delicious chili flavor!
Store-Bought Options: If you live close to a vegan bakery (or a bakery with vegan options), you can probably order cornbread from them. And don’t forget to serve them with some vegan butter because…obviously. We’re really digging the new Plant Butter from Country Crock right now. Earth Balance + Miyoko’s make great options too!
If you don’t live near a vegan bakery though, fret not because vegan cornbread recipes are abound on the internet. Here are two of our favorites:
1. Vegan Skillet Cornbread by Veganosity
Veganosity is one of our favorite food blogs, and they totally kill it with this veganized classic cornbread recipe! Made in the skillet, the methods in this recipe are super easy. It has quickly become a staple in our own kitchen.
2. Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins by My Quiet Kitchen
If you’re looking to break out of the ordinary, try these jalapeno cornbread muffins from My Quiet Kitchen! They’re stuffed with ALL the yums like jalapeno (obvs), corn, and beans. And look how cute they are!
Sour cream is another longtime member of the chill crew, and luckily – you do not need dairy to get your fix! This not only adds a creamy texture to your chili, but it also cools it down, which is imperative for all your “I don’t like it spicy” guests.
Store-Bought Options: Our 2 favorite store-bought sour cream brands are Tofutti and Follow Your Heart. You can usually find them in the refrigerated section, either among the dairy-based sour creams or sometimes in the produce aisle where you’d find the tofu.
Making your own vegan sour cream is super easy, however. Check out these recipes:
1. Classic Vegan Sour Cream by Vegan Huggs
This classic sour cream recipe from Vegan Huggs is simple + delicious, made with a base of cashews + non-dairy yogurt. Look how creamy dreamy that stuff is!
2. Tofu Sour Cream by Bree’s Vegan Life
For those looking for a nut-free option or those of you without a high-powered blender, check out this tofu-based sour cream from Bree’s Vegan Life! We’ve made something similar in the past, and you will not believe how silky smooth it comes out.
3. Vegan Buttermilk Ranch by Plant Power Couple
I KNOW this sounds weird, but holy crap is ranch dressing delicious and insanely interesting in chili! And if you think about it, it’s basically just differently flavored sour cream, so that makes sense, right?! Don’t overthink it; just try it.
As far as I’m concerned, every chili bar needs a cheesy element. Luckily, we don’t need any dairy for this one either!
Store-Bought Options: We’re HUGE fans of the Daiya Farmhouse Blocks for our chili bars (NOTE: The blocks, not the shreds). When we serve them with chili, we usually get the cheddar + jalapeno havarti and shred them on a cheese grater just like you would any other dairy-based cheese. Serve them in little bowls with some tongs. Our non-vegan friends and fam are always really impressed with this blend!
If you’d rather go the homemade route, we adore these ideas:
1. Spicy Tofu Queso by Plant Power Couple
This vegan queso is nut-free, takes 5 minutes to make, and, as someone who has been eating it in her chili for about the past 3 weeks now, I can say with certainty: It. Is. Epic.
2. Cauliflower Queso by Yup, It’s Vegan
Because we strongly believe you can NEVER have enough queso options, we wanted to throw this cauliflower + cashew-based queso from the always-amazing Yup, It’s Vegan into the mix as well! It takes a little more time than the previous option, but LOOK HOW PRETTY. Your guests will want to dive right into that bowl.
3. Almond Queso Blanco by My Quiet Kitchen
We are LOVING this almond-based queso blanco recipe from My Quiet Kitchen. It would be perfect for crumbling atop your chili. It has a super mild flavor that also provides a distinct cooling effect – another win in pleasing the “I don’t like it spicy” crowd.
Another critical component to your vegan chili bar is the CRUNCH. This category can vary widely, so have fun and get creative!
Store-Bought Options: Original Fritos make a great crunchy option, as do tortilla chips! You can also just cut up corn tortillas into strips and air-fry them until they’re crispy.
Or, try one of these recipe ideas:
1. Crispy Air-Fried Onions by Plant Power Couple
These beauties are crispy, flavorful, and ADDICTIVE – a healthier version of those classic French fried onions. They’re one of our all-time favorite chili toppings and definitely a crowd-pleaser!
2. Homemade Vegan Doritos by Strength and Sunshine
The snack gods are smiling on us today because HOW COOL IS THIS HOMEMADE VEGAN DORITOS RECIPE?! Strength + Sunshine knocked it outta the park on this one, and I cannot wait to try Doritos with our next vegan chili bar. All the crunch of a regular corn chip but SO much more fun! Your guests will love this option!
3. Spicy Coconut Bacon Salt by Plant Power Couple
Because everything could use a little extra sprinkle of bacon, our coconut-based bacon “salt” is awesome sprinkled on chili. It’s full of smoky/spicy/sweet flavors with a hint of tomato savoriness for good measure. (It’s also one of my dad’s personal favorites!)
Even though our hearty vegan chili recipe is FULL of healthy veggies, you can never go wrong with a little extra color + flavor in your bowl – or on your chili bar!
Store-Bought Options: This can be as simple as some chopped herbs and some green onions!
Or, try one of these beautiful recipes:
1. Cilantro Lime Sauce by Eating by Elaine
Cilantro + lime + jalapeno, oh my! How cool does this sauce from Eating by Elaine sound? I could see this being a big hit at a chili bar, especially judging by the way T reacted when I told him about it!
2. Chipotle Corn Salsa by HappyKitchen.Rocks
It doesn’t get more colorful, beautiful, or delicious than this Chipotle Corn Salsa by HappyKitchen.Rocks! We’re big fans of corn salsa in this house.
3. Spicy Pickled Onions by Hey, Nutrition Lady
These Spicy Pickled Onions from Hey Nutrition Lady sound like SUCH a cool idea for a chili topping, so I had to give them a spot on this list! Plus, I think pickling your own onions is probably going to be impressive AF to your guests. (While, in reality, the recipe looks pretty simple. WIN-WIN!)
We hope this round-up helps inspire you to create your own kickass vegan chili bar.
When you do, we wanna know EVERYTHING. What did you include?! What chili did you make?! How did you display everything?!
Also: What time and where and ARE WE INVITED? 😉
You can fill us in by leaving a comment below or tagging us in your epic vegan chili bar photos on Instagram. I’m REALLY looking forward to seeing those! If you’re not already following along, we’re @theplantpowercouple with the “the”.
And if you want to be sure you never miss a Plant Power Couple recipe, don’t forget to sign up for our email list.
Party on, my chili-loving friends. Until next time!