Cincinnati Chili is a regional recipe favorite from Ohio, beloved by everyone who tastes it. Serve it on spaghetti or hot dogs just like Skyline Chili, the restaurant that made it famous.

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 Chili any time, any place.

Recipe Ingredients:

Labeled ingredients for Cincinnati Chili.

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:
    • 3-Way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese
    • 4-Way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese, Onions OR Beans
    • 5-Way aka “the works”: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese, Onions AND Beans

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. In a large Dutch oven or sturdy pot, cook the onions with olive oil over medium heat until softened. Add the chocolate, spices, and garlic and stir until they’re nice and fragrant.Cincinnati chili ingredients cooking in a silver pot.
  2. Next, add the broth, tomato paste, tomato sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and some salt and pepper. Add the beef and bring the mixture to a 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) and serve any “way” you want it.
    Cincinnati chili cooking in a silver pot.

Recipe tips and variations:

  • Freezing: Cool and portion into freezer-safe containers, label and date. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat on the stove or in the microwave.
  • Slow cooker: Just like the regular recipe, start by sautéing the onions in olive oil over medium-high heat until softened. Add the garlic and oregano, chili powder, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon. Add this mixture 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.

Cincinnati chili on a black and white serving platter.

More amazing Midwest recipes:

Cincinnati chili in a black and white serving dish.

Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili is a regional recipe favorite from Ohio, beloved by everyone who tastes it. Serve it on spaghetti or hot dogs just like Skyline Chili, the restaurant that made it famous.
5 from 76 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:
    • 3-Way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese
    • 4-Way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese, Onions OR Beans
    • 5-Way aka “the works”: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese, Onions AND Beans
  4. Freezing: Cool and portion into freezer-safe containers, label and date. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat on the stove or in the microwave.
  5. Slow cooker: Just like the regular recipe, start by sautéing the onions in olive oil over medium-high heat until softened. Add the garlic and oregano, chili powder, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon. Add this mixture 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.
  6. 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 234kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 18gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 298mgPotassium: 417mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 532IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 40mgIron: 3mg
Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @CulinaryHill or tag #CulinaryHill!
Culinary School Secrets
Pro-level tricks to transform your cooking!

Meggan Hill

I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments

  1. Hi! Growing up in northern Kentucky (right across the river from Cincinnati) we eat this a lot! Just some friendly info….
    2 ways are spaghetti and chili 
    3 ways are spaghetti chili and cheese
    4 ways are spaghetti chili cheese and onions or beans 
    5 ways are all the above 
    One chili parlor ( that’s what cincinnati chili restaurants are called here) makes 6 ways which are all the above with added fried pepper rings on top. 

    Just thought you might like to know :-)

    I can’t wait to try this version! 

    1. I definitely want to know! Thank you Jill. You just can’t beat the knowledge of the natives. :) Fried pepper rings!!! Yes!

  2. I’ve tried about 50 different Cincinnati chili recipes and this one comes closest to the real deal. The proportion of spices is perfect. I used a teaspoon of garlic powder and a teaspoon of onion powder instead of raw garlic and an onion. I also used 4 cups of chicken stock because I let it simmer for a couple of hours. I boiled the beef in water and drained it in a colander because it gets the fat out. Thanks for not including chocolate! Cincinnati chili doesn’t have chocolate but so many recipes call for it.5 stars

    1. Wow, this makes my day! Thank you so much! I love your tips about garlic and onion powder. I will have to try it and see, that would definitely make it easier for everyone. So clever to boil the beef in water, too! You have all the ideas. :) And yes to no chocolate! I feel like there is so much peer pressure to include it, ha ha. Thanks again, I really appreciate your thoughtful comment!

    2. I just made this again using 97% lean ground turkey. (This is sacreligious for Cincinnati chili.) The extra lean turkey doesn’t boil down like beef so the texture and appearance of the meat is a little offputting at first but the broth is so delicious that it’ really doesn’t matter. I used to order cans of skyline chili online but this is so much better.5 stars

    3. YES!!!! So fantastic! Thank you for recipe testing and reporting back. :) I should really try it with turkey. I’m super picky about how I eat ground turkey (pretty much just in buffalo meatballs and tacos and regular chili) but this gives me hope. Thank you!!!

    1. The beef goes in raw, you don’t brown it first. I’ll make sure that’s clear in the recipe! Thanks Denise.

  3. I grew up by Cincinnati and ate at Skyline weekly! (Wednesday nights were kids eat free back in the day.) That said, the recipe I use actually has a bit of unsweetened cocoa in it too! (Weird, I know, but it taste so good- about a Tablespoon or 2). The man who started Skyline Chili was from a small village in Greece so the unusual spices make sense. Thanks for sharing this! I make this at least once a month, and when I go home to visit I ALWAYS go to Skyline!5 stars

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Chrissie! One of my amazing readers is currently testing the recipe with different ingredients including chocolate and cocoa powder (in different batches, of course). I may be updating my recipe depending on his findings and my own upcoming tests. Another person recommended chocolate, too. Thanks so much for your comment!

  4. We don’t ever have this in Canada, that I know of. But yours is the best looking I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been a foodie for quite a few decades.

    1. Thank you so much, Laura! We don’t have this in Wisconsin either, but my brother-in-law is from Ohio so I found out about it. And I felt like I just had to post it! It’s way too good not to share. :) Thanks again for reading and for the very thoughtful comment.

  5. I made this tonight and it was out of the park. Not that I doubted you, but, the amounts of cinnamon, clove, allspice, and oregano were a bit disconcerting, (I use Mexican whole oregano, so I did cut that in half because it is twice as potent as domestic, Italian or Greek.) BUT the spices DO work very well together in those amounts! So, continuing IN THE SPIRIT of the original Ohio recipe, I simmered (vice frying) my beef to just done in enough water to cover, then drained it to remove most of the grease – yeah, it dirties more dishes. The original calls for boiling it then leaving it sit overnight refrigerated and then removing the hardened fat, etc, etc….. With 85/15, there’s really not that much so boiling then draining works well. The original also calls for using fresh-ground whole spices – too much work for a single batch so your ground spices are much more practical. Anyway, Cincinnati would be proud and this is definitely a “5-star keeper” in my favorites. A home run! Good job kid!!!5 stars

  6. Thank you Meggan for answering “What am I doing for dinner tonight?” I have read of this and it’s origins so it’s time to take the plunge. I’m hungry for pasta anyway. I’m giving this a five before I make it, because all your stuff is good. You’re really a country girl at heart. :-))5 stars

  7. I’ve heard of Cincinnati Chili before, but I’ve never checked it out. This has some of the same seasonings (that we don’t normally associate with chili) that a Mole sauce does…the spices, specifically. I’ve added dark chocolate to chili before, and it adds a depth of flavor, but doesn’t taste chocolate-y of course. This chili sounds a bit more tangy (which I like) with the vinegar and worchestershire. This may be on the menu this weekend. I love chili, but I’m a bit tired of my same old-same old.

  8. Looks interesting! Ive never put chili over pasta, I usually put it over rice, so Ill have to try this!5 stars