Chili tends to be a cold-weather 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've got your top chili pairings covered.
One of the most popular pairings with chili is beer, with some recipes even calling for beer to be added to the stew itself. Chili recipes can vary widely in ingredients, spices, and heat levels. With such a variable dish, you need a flexible beer that can handle the heat, meat, spices, and whatever else people decide to throw on top, like cheese, onions, or avocado.
One beer that can take on all that spice and hold its own against a variety of other ingredients 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 this amber lager. It's still a favorite there, sold branded as Negra Modelo and Dos Equis Amber throughout Mexico and the U.S.
The slightly sweet, caramelly beer is an excellent foil for dishes with a lot of spice, 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 (a combination of Blue Moon and Guinness). Overall, any light or medium-color and body beer with a crisp finish that isn't too hoppy will pair well with chili.
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 malbec, shiraz, tempranillo, or select cabernet sauvignons. These specific red wine varietals can handle the meat, tomatoes, and the traditional chili spice that includes cumin and chiles.
A white wine fan would do well with a chilled off-dry German or Alsace Riesling or even a balanced 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.
Chili is a very hearty meal and there's a lot going on flavor-wise, 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 your chili is spicy, the Paloma, with its tequila base and soothing grapefruit soda.