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Made famous by Skyline Chili in Ohio, Cincinnati Chili is full of secret ingredients and served on spaghetti with lots of toppings, depending on which “way” you like it.

Cincinnati chili on a black and white serving platter.

Ever been to the Skyline Chili in Ohio?

If that’s a no, leave everything you thought you knew about traditional chili behind, because this recipe will turn it all upside down, but only in the most delicious way.

The (secret) recipe calls for a combination of spices and ingredients that you might find a bit odd, especially for a savory meat stew. Allspice? Cloves? Unsweetened chocolate?

Stick with me (and our friends from the Buckeye state) because this recipe is perfect for the slow cooker and freezes beautifully, so you can have Cincinnati-style chili any time, any place.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Recipe FAQs
  6. Cincinnati Chili Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for Cincinnati Chili.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Unsweetened chocolate: Just one ounce is all you need, but the super fans swear it makes all the differences.
  • Ground beef: You won’t have a chance to drain the fat from the beef in this recipe. I think 85/15 is ideal for maximum flavor without too much grease, but you can choose something leaner if you want to.
  • Toppings: Build your bowl with spaghetti, chili, and cheese, then top it off with onions, kidney beans, or even oyster crackers if you want to. Here’s the official guide to the “ways” Skyline serves their chili:
    • 2-Way: Spaghetti, Chili
    • 3-Way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheddar Cheese
    • 4-Way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheddar Cheese, Onions OR Beans
    • 5-Way aka “the works”: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheddar Cheese, Onions AND Beans

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Cook onions until softened, about 5 minutes. 
Onions sauteeing in a pan.
  1. Stir in chocolate, garlic, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth, tomato sauce, vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce.
Cincinnati chili ingredients cooking in a silver pot.
  1. Stir in beef and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper).
Cincinnati chili ingredients cooking in a silver pot.
  1. Serve over cooked spaghetti with desired toppings such as cheese, beans, onions, and crackers.
Cincinnati chili on a black and white serving platter.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 10 generous servings of Cincinnati Chili.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: Cool and portion into freezer-safe containers, label and date. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Slow cooker: Sauté the onions in olive oil over medium-high heat until softened. Add the garlic and oregano, chili powder, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon. Add to a slow cooker with the chicken broth, tomato sauce, vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar, Worcestershire, salt and pepper, and beef. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours or LOW for 6 to 8 hours.
  • Coney Dog: If you’re thinking a hot dog smothered with chili might be just the thing, you’re not alone. Eat it in the bun, or topped with cheese, mustard, onion, beans, you name it.

Recipe FAQs

What makes Cincinnati Chili different?

Cincinnati Chili is made with several non-traditional ingredients including chocolate, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. It’s also a thinner chili overall, and it’s served over spaghetti noodles with a mountain of cheese on top.

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More Midwestern classics

Cincinnati chili in a black and white serving dish.

Cincinnati Chili

Made famous by Skyline Chili in Ohio, Cincinnati Chili is full of secret ingredients and served on spaghetti with lots of toppings, depending on which "way" you like it.
4.97 from 282 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 10 servings
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 234

Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions finely chopped (plus more for topping)
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate (see note 1)
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 16 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds ground beef (preferably 85/15, see note 2)
  • cooked spaghetti for serving
  • shredded cheese dark red kidney beans, finely chopped onions, and oyster crackers, for serving (see note 3)

Instructions 

  • In a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Cook onions until softened, about 5 minutes. 
  • Stir in chocolate, garlic, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth, tomato sauce, vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Stir in beef and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper).
  • Serve over cooked spaghetti with desired toppings such as cheese, beans, onions, and crackers.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Unsweetened chocolate: Just one ounce is all you need, but the super fans swear it makes all the differences.
  2. Ground beef: You won’t have a chance to drain the fat from the beef in this recipe. I think 85/15 is ideal for maximum flavor without too much grease, but you can choose something leaner if you want to.
  3. Toppings: Build your bowl with spaghetti, chili, and cheese, then top it off with onions, kidney beans, or even oyster crackers if you want to. Here’s the official guide to the “ways” Skyline serves their chili:
    • 2-Way: Spaghetti, Chili
    • 3-Way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheddar Cheese
    • 4-Way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheddar Cheese, Onions OR Beans
    • 5-Way aka “the works”: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheddar Cheese, Onions AND Beans
  4. Yield: This recipe makes 10 generous servings of Cincinnati Chili.
  5. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  6. Freezer: Cool and portion into freezer-safe containers, label and date. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Nutrition

Calories: 234kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 18gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 298mgPotassium: 417mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 532IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 40mgIron: 3mg
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Executive Chef and CEO at | Website | + posts

Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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Comments

  1. MMMMM, this does not taste like Cincinnati chili. I followed the recipe, but it is clove forward. Not sure how to doctor it at this point. Thoughts?2 stars

    1. Hi Sayala, sorry about that! I would add a pinch at a time until it reaches your desired taste. Take care and sorry again! – Meggan

  2. Great, easy recipe. I didn’t have unsweetened chocolate so I just substituted with 3 T of Organic Cacoa Powder. I also didn’t have any fresh garlic so substituted garlic powder. My family said I can make this ALL THE TIME! It was just so delicious.5 stars

    1. That’s wonderful, Kathleen! I love it! I’m so glad it was a hit with your family! – Meggan

  3. This chili is mean. Followed the recipe pretty closely but took a couple tips from the comments–added a teaspoon each of paprika and cumin, and cooked it for an hour or so instead of 20min. I also hit it with an immersion blender towards the end, which was a great move.

    I have limited experience with Cincinnati chili and had never made it before, so I don’t have a great sense of what “authentic” is here, but whatever this is it’s really good.5 stars

  4. I made this and just finished my first bowl. ITS WONDERFUL! I put mine on shredded lettuce, topped with some diced onion and sour cream.
    My only suggestion is to cut back on the clove IF you’re sensitive to it like I am. For me it overpowers the other flavors.
    All in all though this was a spectacular recipe and one i will be making again!
    Thank you for sharing it.4 stars

    1. Hi Connie, I’m so glad you liked it! I hope you’re able to adjust the clove to your liking. Take care! – Meggan

    2. I swear I gave it five stars …. its showing four & I can’t edit so HERE !

      LOVE IT. And everyone I shared it with loved it too.5 stars

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