Hosting a Chili Cook Off: Chili Cook Off Prize Ideas, Themes, Awards + More

Article by BlissLights LLCMon, Nov 21, 22
Hosting a Chili Cook Off: Chili Cook Off Prize Ideas, Themes, Awards + More

If you’re searching for cold weather friendly festivities this fall, a chili cookoff can be a fun and engaging way to entertain. From decorating to selecting prizes, a chili cookoff offers the opportunity for ample creativity in your party planning.

With a few simple tips, you can guarantee a memorable and delicious celebration. Read on for chili cook off ideas for a winning event.

How to host a winning chili cookoff party

Hosting a successful chili cook off is similar to preparing for most events. With some thoughtful planning and imagination, you can guarantee a transformative, entertaining night. Here’s how.

Send the invites with plenty of time

With the holidays approaching, your friends’ calendars might be filling up, so you should send out invites as soon as possible. The sooner your guests can RSVP, the sooner you can plan for what’s needed and how much. And that can give you the peace of mind you need to plan a dazzling experience.

Pick your theme

When you’re creating a night to remember, choosing an imaginative party theme can be the difference between a good event and a great one. Selecting a theme can help you stay organized when decorating tables and deciding on prizes. It can also set the tone for your party.

Sticking to a theme doesn’t have to be a heavy lift. Simple fixtures like the BlissRadia ambient mood light can take your guests to another world with the push of a button.

blissradia smart ambient mood light in warm yellow
blissradia is an led ambient light with app control that shines in multiple colors

BlissRadia Smart LED Mood Light


From desktop to bedside, light the way to concentration, stimulation, or relaxation.

Make sure you have the necessary equipment on hand

For any cooking contest, you’ll need the proper kitchen equipment. After all, your guests will want to keep their chili hot and fresh after all their hard work making it. Make sure you know how many heat sources or electrical outlets you’ll need. Once you’ve figured that out, you can focus on the more exciting parts of transforming your space.

sunny kitchen with pots and pans

Keep the entries anonymous during tasting

To keep things fair, tell everyone to submit their chili entries anonymously. This is an easy way to ensure all judging happens from a clear, impartial perspective.

Don’t run out of sample cups and spoons

There are a few supplies you should keep well stocked for your chili cook-off, and sampling utensils are at the top of that list. Keep an ample supply of small plastic sample cups and spoons on hand so guests can immerse themselves in all the flavorful delights.

plastic sample cups

Set out bowls after judging has been finalized

One of the challenges with a cooking contest is how easy it can be to fill up too soon. Waiting to set out bowls for full size portions after judging has taken place can help your guests avoid this dilemma. That way, your guests stay happy, and the event’s mood stays relaxed.

Decide how tasters will vote

Whether you prefer score sheets or simply voting by raising hands, you should choose a judging method beforehand. Selecting a voting system that’s fun and easy for your guests can keep the mood happy and the event flowing smoothly.

Don't forget to provide drinks

A good beverage selection is necessary for any food focused event, especially when the occasion involves so much hot pepper. And with a range of drinks to choose from, your guests can easily palette-cleanse between judging or cool down after any particularly scorching submissions.

In addition, you may want to have cooling condiments like sour cream on hand to cut the extra spice. The more comfortable your guests, the better their overall experience.

various drinks

Choose impressive prizes for the winners

While some guests might solely want to showcase their culinary skills, a winning chili cookoff needs to offer the grand champion more than just praise. Selecting creative chili cookoff prize ideas is another opportunity to reiterate the party theme and create a moment of awe.

Award categories for a memorable chili cookoff

Including multiple award categories in your contest can give each cook a chance to shine where they’re strongest. Below are some suggestions for which chili elements deserve to be celebrated.


The prize for this category will go to the cook whose bowls of chili leave the fieriest impression. Keep in mind that your guests will be deciding which chili to give this honor. That means you should note the spiciest entries in some way prior to tasting so guests aren’t caught off guard.

Most unique

There are a million ways to reimagine a classic chili, and the cook with the most inventive recipe will get to claim this title. Whether it’s adding uncommon ingredients or balancing classic flavors in an unexpected way, celebrate the entry that amazes with the most creativity.

Most on-theme

Your chili cookoff theme offers the chance for more than just you to add to the chili cookoff experience. This category rewards the contestant who stays most true to your theme in both ingredients and execution.

Best all-around

No matter which award categories you finalize, the top prize will go to the cook that excels at all of the above. The best all-around chili should harmonize flavor, spice, and innovation, creating a flavor experience as memorable as the rest of your party.

bowl of chili

Chili cook-off prize ideas

Inspire your competitors to go big with alluring prizes. Whether you go with practical items or something creative and whimsical, your winners should want to show off their prizes long after your cook-off. Below are some prize ideas for your next chili cook-off.

Chili-themed cook and serving ware

The chance to get new unique cooking equipment is an enticing reason to participate in any cooking contest. You can customize items like a wooden spoon or cutting board with accolades like “World’s Best Chili.” This thoughtful prize can take your event above and beyond the usual fare.

Something spicy for the hottest chili

While prizes don’t have to be specific to each award category, the spiciest chili category does offer many opportunities to get creative. Whether a high-quality bottle of hot sauce or a gag gift like a fire extinguisher, there are limitless ways to acknowledge the hottest chili.

fire extinguisher

Custom medals or trophies

You may also want to go the classic route of making medals or trophies for each winner. Although this may be a more traditional prize, you can easily customize each keepsake. Engraving with original artwork or a clever phrase will give your winners an award unlike anything else.

Award-worthy chili cookoff theme ideas

Your chili cookoff theme dictates all your party’s other details. Below are a few suggestions for themes that can add ambience and support a celebratory mood.

Backyard BBQ

For those last few perfect-temperature fall days, you can’t go wrong with a backyard BBQ. This classic party idea can make shopping for decorations relatively easy as well. Checkered patterns and burlap are simple ways to fit the theme and transform your home into a space of comfort and celebration.


“Crocktoberfest” is a fun twist on another fall classic celebration, with plenty of room for interpretation. You can emphasize this theme with German drinks and decor or require that guests use the namesake slow-cooker. Either way, a Crocktoberfest is sure to uplift everyone’s spirits at any time.

The Big Game

Enjoying a bowl of hot chili during a football game is an American tradition. You can tweak this theme to celebrate your home team or keep the theme more general with football-inspired decor. Either way, this theme is a fantastic way to transform your surroundings in a few small steps.

Grateful red

Immersing your space in red hues is a simple and efficient way to set the tone for your chili cookoff. While there are a range of red decorations you can use, the Sky Lite Evolve might be the easiest way to get there. With this 360-degree galaxy light, you can cast nebula clouds in all red throughout your space. You’ll create feelings of wonder and moments of wow right from your phone screen or via voice command. With the Sky Lite Evolve, you can literally speak your chili cookoff theme into existence.

blisslights evolve galaxy projector effect colors
sky lite evolve smart multicolor galaxy projector

Sky Lite Evolve: Smart Galaxy Projector


The latest evolution in smart galaxy lighting.

Hold a next-level chili cook off with BlissLights

There are many ways to plan a chili cookoff that inspires, and keeping these tips in mind can make your work as a host much easier. As you transform your space for chili night, BlissLights can help you create a mood of celebration and joy. Browse the BlissLights collection now to create a festive and fun setting that speaks to everyone’s senses.

About BlissLights

BlissLights has been a leader in the laser lighting industry since the company was founded in 2006. Our team of experienced engineers and technicians helped create award-winning special effect lighting for major theme parks before minaturizing ourpatented technology for home use. BlissLights is dedicated to laser safety and education, and is registered with the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH).

View all articles by BlissLights LLC

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