Drinks That Pair Well With Chili

Close up of a bowl of chili on colorful plate mat

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Chili tends to be a fall recipe staple and for good reason: It's quick to make; it's an easy, filling meal for when you're having a crowd over, and you can drink your favorite beverages right alongside it. Whether you are going for beer, cocktails, or wine, we have got your top chili pairings covered.


Chili is one of those dishes for which everyone has their own secret and favorite recipe. Sometimes these special recipes include more hot peppers than should legally be allowed in one pot, but there are plenty of not-so-spicy ways to make a tasty chili.

With such a variable dish, you need a flexible beer that can handle the heat, meat, beans, spices, and whatever else people decide to throw on top, like cheese, crackers, onions, or, in the case of some pockets of the U.S., spaghetti (which is also served under chili in some places). That beer is Vienna lager. The style may seem a little obscure but it's really not. Austrian brewers moved to Mexico in the 1800s and introduced their amber lager, and it's still a favorite there. Today it is sold under such brands as Negra Modelo and Dos Equis Amber throughout Mexico and the U.S. The sweet, caramelly beer is an excellent foil for dishes with a lot of heat, and this makes the style popular in Tex-Mex restaurants. In the case of chili, the bright apple notes in the beer play nicely against the earthy notes of the beans and cumin spice. Another especially good beer choice to go with chili is a Black and Blue.


Chili is a very hearty meal and there's a lot going on in it, so it is best to do the exact opposite with cocktails. Simple mixed drinks that are light in flavor, tall, and refreshing make the best match with chili. They don't compete with the complexity of the food and help you wash it down, which is certainly necessary if you like the spicier adaptation. Fitting drinks include the ever-refreshing Pimm's Cup, the whiskey-based Presbyterian, and if you do opt for those hot chiles, the Paloma, with its tequila base and soothing grapefruit soda. 


There are plenty of wine pairing options for chili, especially if you prefer red wines. Shoot for a red that strikes a good balance between acidity and tannin content and is medium- to full-bodied. Consider a malbecshiraz, tempranillo, or select cabernet sauvignons. These specific red wine varietals can handle the meat, tomatoes, and bit of traditional chili spice that includes cumin and chiles. A white wine fan would do well with an off-dry German or Alsace Riesling or even a sparkling wine like cava, where the bubbles can help cut the spice. Finally, dry rosé is a viable chili pairing option, especially if you aren't into a full-on red and don't think fresh and light white wines are good chili contenders.