Ashland – Oct. 2017
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Whip Up a Super Bowl Chili Party

Picture of bowl of chili and side of cornbread

Super Bowl parties are fun, but making food for them can be expensive and a lot of work. A terrific alternative is a Super Bowl Chili Party. Chili is delicious and nutritious, easy on the budget, and is best made well ahead of time – enabling you to enjoy your guests and the game too.


One of the great things about chili is its versatility. You’re only limited by your imagination. You can use beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, seafood, or go meatless. For a party, whip up two or three – a couple of recipes for meat eaters and a vegetarian offering. Or, for an interactive party, ask guests to bring their favorite chili or their favorite toppings to share and exchange recipes.

The “Queen of Chili,” Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Jane Butel, author of Chili Madness, says chili is a truly American dish. While controversy rages about the origins of chili, Butel insists, “Chili was invented in Texas. They had beef and needed to feed the cowboys herding the cattle. Beef has long shelf life and they learned if you mixed beef with chilies, it would last even longer.”

Picture of Chili Pie

Toppings make a chili party really fun. Try cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, cripsy chip strips, or whatever strikes your fancy.

Traditional Texas chili is “chili con carne” (chili with meat) and doesn’t contain beans. It’s essentially beef (or other meat), chilies, onions, salt, and garlic.

However, chili doesn’t have to be meat-based. At Paradox Café in Southeast Portland, Oregon, chef/owner Bonnie Downey makes Holy Molé Chili, a vegan recipe that uses pinto beans and what she calls “molé love,” an intense combination of onions, chilies, garlic, and spices. “To make vegetarian or vegan chili taste great, you need to bump up the flavors,” she says. “The molé I make is intensely flavored, about four times stronger than you’d want for a sauce. That intensity is balanced by the mild flavor of the beans.”

Picture of Chili Dog topped with Onions

Offer your guests buns and sausages or hot dogs and let them make their own chili dogs.

Use fresh spices. One key to any great chili is freshly ground chile and other fresh spices. “The best flavors come from pure chile pods,” says Butel. “Chili powder is usually 40% chile, 40% salt, and 20% additives, preservatives, and flavorings. Some companies put silica in to prevent clumping. I prefer pure ground chilies because when you add salt to chile, it dries it out and the oils go rancid, creating a strong, rank taste.”

Use the best meat. Another key is good meat. Butel calls beef “the backbone of traditional chili.” For best flavor and texture, she uses 80% lean chuck roast. “Don’t shy away from fat,” she insists. “That’s where the flavor is.”

She also suggests hand cutting the beef into 1/2-inch cubes or coarsely chopping it (a chili grind). The type of ground beef used to make hamburgers, she says, won’t yield the same texture and quality as hand-cut chuck, but it’ll do in a pinch.

Top it
. Part of the fun of a chili party is all the toppings. Serve toppers in individual bowls and let your guests help themselves.

  • Cheese (shredded or crumbled) – cheddar, jack, pepper jack, feta, blue, queso fresco, queso blanco
  • Jalapeños, pickled, finely chopped
  • Tortilla strips or chips, Fritos
  • Sour cream
  • Lime wedges
  • Avocado, slices or cubes
  • Hard-cooked eggs, chopped
  • Fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • Green or sweet onion, finely chopped

Mix it up. One way to vary your Chili party menu is to offer buns and hot dogs and sausages and let your guests make their own chili dogs. Another delicious alternative, chili frito pie, comes to us from Texas. Simply fill a plate or bowl with Fritos. Load on your favorite chili and then top it with whatever you’d like such as cheese, sour cream, and jalapenos.

by Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

Chili FAQ’s

It’s not necessary to soak beans overnight. Soaking beans doesn’t save time or reduce the sulfur (gas) content. To save energy, rinse the beans and put them in a pot with four inches of water covering them (no salt). Add one fresh onion per pound of beans and a ham hock (leave out for vegetarian). Bring to a boil for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover for 30 minutes. Then bring them back to a boil and cook until tender (11/2-2 hours).

When it comes to chili, selling means different things. For real chiliheads, chili refers to the dish; chile means the peppers; and chili powder refers to commercial pre-mixed blends [usually containing ground chile, salt, garlic, cumin, and additives and preservatives].”

Storing ground chili in the refrigerator maintains its freshness. It’ll stay fresh in the refrigerator as long as you have it.

You can cool the burn. Immediately eat something acid (lime juice, vinegar, or wine), sweet (honey, sugar or dairy (milk, sour cream, or cheese).


Chili Resources

Chili Madness by Jane Butel

Everything you wanted to know about making chili, including recipes for making chili with beef, pork, chicken, seafood, and vegetarian.

$12.95, Workman Publishing


Pecos Valley Spice Company

Jane Butel’s spice company specializes in selling freshly ground, single spices like New Mexico red chile powder, Caribe chile powder, green chile powder, cumin, and Mexican oregano.




Here are three very different chili recipes for you to try, all courtesy of Jane Butel and Chili Madness.

Chili Bowl topped with green onions

Pecos River Bowl of Red

Albuquerque chili expert and cookbook author Jane Butel inherited this recipe from her grandfather who developed it after years of sampling chilis from cooks who cooked for cowboys herding cattle to rail heads.

Yield: 8 Servings

2 tablespoons lard, butter or bacon drippings
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 pounds chuck roast or 80% lean beef, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
3 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup pure ground hot red chile
1/4 cup pure ground mild red chile
1 Tablespoon ground cumin, divided
3 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1. Melt the lard, butter, or drippings in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent.
2. Remove the pot from the heat. Combine the meat with the garlic, ground chiles and cumin. Add this meat-and-spice mixture to the pot. Immediately add water and stir.
3. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender and the flavors are well blended. Determine the need for more salt and more chile. Stir in remaining cumin before serving with toppings.


Blue Heaven Chili

Cheese has long been a favorite chili topper and something that tames the heat. Blue cheese gives a great tasting “edge” to this chili.

Yield: Serves 2 to 4

2 tablespoons bacon drippings or butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large whole boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into ½ inch dice (2 to 2 ½ cups)
3 cups rich chicken broth
4 to 6 fresh green chiles parched, peeled, and coarsely chopped, or 1 cup canned or frozen chopped green chiles
1 medium russet potato, unpeeled, diced
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ cup crumbled blue cheese (blue cheese, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, or Stilton work well)

1. Melt the bacon drippings in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it is translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the garlic and chicken and cook, stirring, until the chicken begins to brown, about 4 minutes.

3. Add the broth, green chiles, and potato to the pot. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes can be pierced with a fork, 30 to 40 minutes.

4. Taste the chili and adjust the seasonings as needed, adding salt to taste (many chicken broths and bouillons are so loaded with salt that none is needed). Spoon the chili into individual bowls, and scatter the blue cheese over the top of each serving.

Note: To make “rich” chicken broth, simply simmer regular chicken broth (canned or homemade) over medium heat until it is reduced by half, 15 to 20 minutes (in this case you would begin with 6 cups broth and cook it down to 3.) Or, if using a bouillon concentrate, double the amount of concentrate.


Vegetarian Chili

Serves 6 to 8

For additional flavor and protein, you can serve this chili with crumbly cheese such as feta or queso blanco.

2 ½ cups dried kidney beans, soaked over night in water to cover
3 teaspoons salt
1 cup tomato juice
1 cup bulgur*
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium-sized onions, coarsely chopped
4 medium-sized cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 or 4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons pure ground hot red chile
3 tablespoons pure ground mild red chile
½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano**
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ green peppers, stemmed, seeded, and coarsely chopped
4 ounces queso blanco or feta cheese, crumbled, for serving (optional)

* Bulgur is available in some supermarkets and most health food stores. Cracked wheat can be substituted.
** Mexican oregano is milder and mintier than its Greek or Italian cousins.

1. Drain the kidney beans, place them in a large heavy pot, and add water to cover. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer the beans, partially covered, until tender, about 1 hour. Watch the water level and add more water, if necessary, to keep the beans from scorching.

2. Meanwhile, place the tomato juice in another saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Immediately remove it from the heat and add bulgur. Cover and let stand until the bulgur softens, but is still slightly crunch, about 15 minutes.

3. Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the celery, carrots, tomatoes, lemon juice, ground chiles, oregano, basil, ½ teaspoon of the cumin, black pepper to taste, and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Cover the pot and cook until the vegetables are nearly tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the bell peppers. Cover, and cook for another 10 minutes.

4. Add the kidney beans, the water in which they cooked, and the bulgur to the vegetables. Stir the mixture thoroughly, cover the pot, and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the bulgur doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot, for 30 minutes. The chili may be thick – add more water as necessary.

5. Add remaining cumin. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve with cheese on top, if desired.


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Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

RFT co-founder Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. An award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook, Bobbie is editor-in-chief at