Looking for a fun dinner party idea? Host a Mexican theme party with a friendly chili cook-off! Here’s how to host one.

When my supper club last got together for a Mexican theme party, we made lots of amazing dishes with tables inspired by the culture.

For this month’s supper club, we are kicking it up a notch with a little friendly competition. And I love this theme!

We are cooking up big ol’ pots of chili for a cook-off party that is so going to be so fun. In today’s post, we are sharing some table inspiration and hosting ideas, and on Saturday, we are each sharing our favorite chili recipes.

Do you have a favorite chili recipe you love? Then come join us for a chili showdown for a Mexican theme dinner party.

Here’s how to host a chili cook-off.

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Supper Club

We’ve been having a great time with our supper club and this month we are having a little friendly competition with a chili cook-off party. This is a fun idea for any Texas or Mexican-themed party.

So today, we are sharing lots of fun entertaining, table centerpieces, and decorating ideas.

If you are coming from Rachel from The Ponds Farmhouse, welcome to my home. I’m thrilled you dropped by.

In case you are new here, I’m Stacy, a self-taught master gardener who lives and gardens in northern New Jersey, zone 6a.

We recently moved to a beautiful 1850 Farmhouse with 10 acres of gardens, sculptures and statues.

I’ve been gardening for over 20 years and enjoy helping beginner gardeners find their inner green thumb, as well as discover a love for all things plants and flowers. I love to bring the outdoors inside my home too.

I hope you enjoy visiting my home today and hope you come back so we can grow stuff and create beautiful spaces together.

Cinco de Mayo Celebration Ideas as a mexican theme party idea with farmhouse table set with plates, sombreros and colorful banners with flower centerpiece

Mexican Theme Party Ideas

A Mexican theme party can be a fun and festive way to celebrate a variety of occasions, from birthdays and holidays to summer gatherings and other social events.

It incorporates decorations, food, and music that are inspired by Mexican culture. Here are some ideas for throwing a festive Mexican theme party:

Decorations for a Mexican theme party often include colorful banners, piñatas, and sombreros. Brightly colored tablecloths, flowers, and candles can also be used to create a festive atmosphere.

Mexican cuisine is an important part of a Mexican theme party. Popular foods include tacos, enchiladas, chili, guacamole, salsa, and chips. Margaritas, tequila, and other Mexican beverages are also commonly served.

If you really want it to feel more like you are celebrating in Mexico, encourage guests to wear traditional Mexican clothing or wear sombreros, ponchos, or colorful dresses.

Of course, you’ll need some Mexican music that includes pop music, mariachi, ranchera, and cumbia.

Some fun Mexican theme party activities to offer include to piñata, dancing, or a tequila tasting. You could even host a costume contest or other games and activities that are inspired by Mexican culture.

Mexican party theme ideas for Cinco de Mayo Celebration with small black sombreros on a farmhouse table

What Is a Cook-Off Party?

A cook-off party is a social gathering where participants compete against one another to prepare the best dish, typically with a specific theme or type of food. The dishes are often judged by a panel or by attendees of the party, with prizes awarded to the winners.

Cook-off parties can be a fun and engaging way to get people more involved and can provide a great opportunity to showcase culinary skills, experiment with new recipes, and sample a variety of different dishes.

Some common types of cook-off parties include:

  • Chili
  • BBQ
  • Soup Parties
  • Hot Wings
  • Pulled Pork
  • Lasagna
  • Spaghetti with Meatballs
  • BurgersMac ‘n Cheese
  • Meatloaf
  • Dessert
  • Cocktail
removing lid on healthy turkey chili with toppings in ramekins on the side like mango salsa, shredded cheddar, corn muffins and sour cream and avocados on red buffalo check table cloth

To host a cook-off party, it’s important to establish the rules and guidelines for the event, such as the theme or type of food, the cooking equipment and supplies that will be provided, and the judging criteria.

Participants should be encouraged to bring their own ingredients and equipment, and the host may need to provide cooking stations, tables, and other necessary supplies.

Cook-off parties can be a great way to bring people together and create a fun and engaging atmosphere. They can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels and can provide a great opportunity to build community and foster new friendships.

adding the toppings to turkey chili healthy recipe in yellow bowl

How to Host a Chili Cook-Off for a Mexican Theme Party

Organizing a chili cook-off can be a fun and rewarding experience, and it’s a great way to bring people together and enjoy good food and good company.

Here are some tips for organizing a super fun chili cook-off party.

Choose a Location

Are you hosting indoors or out? Do you need a larger space? Is this chili cook-off party for fun or are you fundraising for a cause?

When choosing a location for a cook-off party, consider factors such as accessibility, size, and available facilities.

You may also need to consider the weather and whether you need to provide shelter or shade for participants and attendees.

close up of mexican theme party table that is ready for a chili cook off party with turkey chili, and all the toppings that include biscuits, sour cream, corn muffins, guacamole, shredded cheddar, avocadoes and mango salsa.
Bricks ‘n Blooms

Plan Ahead

You’ll definitely need to plan ahead to pull off a chili cook-off party. Consider what supplies and equipment you will need for the event, such as tables, chairs, cooking equipment, serving supplies, and decorations.

But also consider how each participant’s chili will be made or prepared on-site. Will you need extension cords and power strips?

Think about offering additional food and drinks for participants and attendees. And consider how you’ll play music for the event. Do you have a sound system or will a few remote speakers work?

Consider how you will tally the voting for each chili the day of. Maybe attendants each get a marble and they add a marble to a glass or mason jar of their favorite recipe. Whoever has the most marbles wins.

And consider what prizes you’ll award the chili cook-off party winner.

Determine what is expected of participants and attendees, such as the type of chili that can be made, the amount of chili that must be provided, and any other requirements.

Include all of the rules and guidelines on the invitation so everyone knows what to expect, especially if they are participating.

close up of easy turkey chili healthy recipe with salsa, onions, guacamole, scallions and sour cream

Set the Date and Send Invites

Choose a date and time and invite your friends and family with a festive invitation. If you are hosting a cook-off party as a fundraising event, you’ll want to enlarge the scope of your invites.

I still prefer hand-sent or handmade invites over electronic, but Evite works pretty well so you can track who’s participating and what kind of chili they are making with a few clicks.

Consider decorating the invite with Mexican theme party ideas so guests know what to expect and get excited to attend.

Cinco de Mayo Celebration Ideas in rustic farmhouse with mexican theme party decor that includes sombreros banners and flowers

Decorate the Day Before

If possible, decorate, and set up the cooking and serving areas well before the cook-off party is scheduled to begin so it’s not as stressful for you.

You’ll need lots of Mexican-inspired decor to help make the party’s atmosphere more festive and fun.

But also up tables with electricity options and be sure to include small labels for each chili recipe so guests know what they are enjoying. Because it won’t be obvious what the recipe is otherwise.

Serving Chili for a Party

When hosting a chili cook-off party with a variety of recipes, it’s best to serve them in mugs, small bowls, or recyclable cups so guests can walk around and sample different dishes.

This also allows for guests to go back and get more of their favorite chili recipes as well.

Simply set up a chili station with spoons, bowls, and napkins, and you are good to go!

Set Up a Topping Table

close up of chili cook off party bar for mexican theme party idea with red checkered table cloth, instantpot filled with chili, biscuits, toppings and turkey chili.

Although we’re tasting chili at a cook-off party, it’s a good idea to offer an array of toppings so that when guests choose a chili they want to eat as their meal, they can top it off.

Some great topping options to offer include:

  • Shredded Cheese like cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Mexican cheese blends
  • Sour cream
  • Sliced Avocado
  • Guacamole
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Salsas
  • Scallions
  • Onions
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Cilantro
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Hot Sauce
  • Lime Wedges
adding chili toppings to easy turkey chili recipe for mexican theme party with a cook-off

Label the Chili

Be sure to label each chili recipe so guests know what they are tasting.

I found these adorable mini chalkboard labels that are reusable for other events. I may even use them for Thanksgiving this year.

It’s also a great idea to ask guests to journal their recipes so you can put together a PDF file of the soup party recipes tasted.

Encourage people to sample the chili and vote for their favorite dish. Be sure to have a system in place for counting votes and announcing the winner.

labeling chili for a cook off party on mini chalkboards, with copper pots and red checkered check table cloth

Offer Additional Food and Drinks

Provide participants and attendees with additional food and drinks. Not everyone enjoys chili so it’s a good idea to offer other light bites to enjoy.

It’s also a good idea to offer an array of beverages. Here are some ideas to offer:

And that’s it!

Next up in our supper club is my good friend Michele from Vintage Home Designs.

More Chili Cook-Off Ideas for a Mexican Theme Party

Want to see more chili cook-off party ideas? Wait until you see how my friends are hosting their chili cook-off party and decorating their homes. Click on the blog name to head over to the post.

Other Ideas for a Mexican Theme Party

Would you host a chili cook-off for a Mexican Theme Party? Do you have any other festive ideas for a fun dinner party? I would love to know more in the comments below.

And don’t miss joining my Gardening DIY and Decorating Community on Facebook for more chatter. And follow along there and on Instagram as well. There are behind the scenes daily things that I share on Instagram that don’t make it on the blog. Would love to see you there too!

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Click here to shop my vintage farmhouse with close up of the front porch with flowers

Looking for More Supper Club Ideas?

Our supper club has been so much fun and we’ve covered so much over the last year.

Whether you are in a supper club or just want some dinner party theme inspiration, check out the themes we’ve hosted before.

And click here if you want to learn how to organize and host your own supper club. They are so fun to do and provide a great reason to gather regularly with family and friends.

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close up of chili cook off party table with turkey chili and toppings that include corn muffins, shredded cheddar, sour cream and guacamole

Thank you so much for following along.

Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

Stacy Ling

Want to learn more about me?

I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years and author of the best-selling book, The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy-Care Flower Garden. With a deep passion for gardening, I enjoy helping others find their inner green thumb with all things plants and flowers, as well as finding ways to bring the outdoors inside their homes.

Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging here.

stacy ling cutting dahlias in her garden
Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling cutting zinnia flowers in her cottage garden with wood picket fence in front of garden shed

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  1. Such a fun theme this month. Love your twist for a Mexican theme chili cook-off. Your table looks so festive. Pinned!

  2. Such a cute table Stacy! I love the idea of the Mexican theme chili party. Your table decorations as so cute!

  3. This is so fun, Stacy! I love the Tex-Mex twist you added to your chili cook-off. Super creative and perfect for Cinco de Mayo coming up soon.

  4. Stacy – So fun, I love the mexican theme. I cannot believe how much information you provide to your readers. You’ve done all the work and research – so helpful! Thanks for letting me be part of your group this month.