Cincinnati Chili

Flavored with unexpected spices, serve this meaty Cincinnati Chili over cooked spaghetti with all classic garnishes: beans, onions, and tons of cheese! Scroll down for a video tutorial.

The first time I made Cincinnati Chili, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it.

Looking over a few different recipes as I went, I realized it was more meat sauce than soup. And the spices were weird! Cinnamon? Allspice? Cloves?

I was skeptical.

A photo of a plate if Cincinnati Chili topped spaghetti, garnished with white onion and shredded cheddar cheese. There is a white linen napkin in the background, and the plate is on a dark blue counter top.

I persevered, though, and you should too.


By the time you spoon it over cooked spaghetti and bury it in shredded cheese, you’ll be a believer.

This recipe is inspired by Skyline Chili. I’ve never been there, but I imagine it is to chili what Maid Rite is to loose meat sandwiches.

Or what Culvers is to Butterburgers.

In any case, Skyline has the ultimate Cincinnati Chili recipe and all the ways you might want to eat it. If you’re not living in Ohio, though, you can easily recreate this classic at home.

A photo of a plate if Cincinnati Chili topped spaghetti, garnished with white onion and shredded cheddar cheese. There is a fork swirling the spaghetti in the foreground. There is a white linen napkin in the background, and the plate is on a dark blue counter top.

3-Way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese.

4-Way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese or Onions.

5-Way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese AND Onions.

The beans are dark red kidney beans. The cheese is shredded cheddar. The onions are white and raw.

Not pictured but always a good idea: oyster crackers!

Save this Cincinnati Chili to your “Main Dishes” Pinterest board!

And let’s be friends on Pinterest! I’m always pinning tasty recipes!

A photo of a plate if Cincinnati Chili topped spaghetti, garnished with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese. There is a white linen napkin in the background, and the plate is on a dark blue counter top.
4.89 from 9 votes

Cincinnati Chili

Flavored with unexpected spices, serve this meaty Cincinnati Chili over cooked spaghetti with all classic garnishes: beans, onions, and tons of cheese!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 10 servings
Calories 294 kcal


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds 85/15 ground beef
  • Cooked spaghetti, for serving
  • Shredded cheese, dark red kidney beans, finely chopped onions, and oyster crackers, for serving


  1. In a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Cook onions until softened, about 5 minutes. 

  2. Stir in garlic, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth, tomato sauce, vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. 

  3. Stir in beef and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. 

  4. Serve over cooked spaghetti with desired toppings such as cheese, beans, onions, and crackers.

Flavored with unexpected spices, serve this meaty Cincinnati Chili over cooked spaghetti with all garnishes: beans, onions, and cheese!

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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. :-))

  4. 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. 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.

    • 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.

  6. 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!

    • 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!

  7. We must be in Cincinnati! I can smell the chocolate in the chili!

  8. So making this for dinner this week! Is the beef added raw to the liquid? Or is it browned 1st?

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

  9. 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.

    • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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!!!

  10. 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! 

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

  11. I was looking at several different recipies of Cincinnati Chilli and when i came across yours, it was a definite yes! My husband and i both loved it!
    Thanks for the awesome recipie!

  12. You should be a part of a contest for one of the most useful sites on the web.
    I’m going to recommend this web site!

  13. This is so crazy because I just sitting here calculating amounts for a 3x recipe for Cincy chili for my husband’s birthday party this weekend and this recipe pops up on my feed! My husband is not even from Ohio (I am) but Cincy chili is his favorite! My mom’s recipe has the same suspect ingredients: allspice, cinnamon, cloves and she puts in unsweetened bakers chocolate. We live in NC now and I know our guests are going to wonder what the heck is going on with chili over spaghetti!  Anyways, it is really the best though and I always try to make a point to stop at a Skyline whenever I’m back home.

  14. I feel very wierd about boiling the ground beef. Could it be fried and then added? Or is this specific to Cincinnati chili

    • Hi Katie, I think this is specific to Cincinnati Chili. But I understand completely, and you’ll still get the overall gist of the recipe if you fry and then add the beef. I feel weird about boiling ground beef, too (but I tried it, I liked it). Feel free to do whatever you want! Consider this recipe a blank canvas for your own ideas. Thanks for the question! :)

  15. I live in Cincinnati and love Skyline, and also make my own Cincinnati chili often. I feel I should mention that it seems very unlikely two pounds of raw ground beef will be cooked all the way through in 15 or 20 minutes, even at boiling. My recipe call for boiling an hour to an hour and a half, and that’s only using one pound of ground beef. Just be careful, make sure it’s fully cooked.

    • Hi Mimi, thanks for your comment. It has never taken longer than 20 minutes for me to cook that much meat – maybe it’s because I use a gas stove?? But then again boiling is boiling. I will read up on the subject and ask some of my chef instructors at culinary school and see what they think. Thank you!!!

  16. My family ate at Skyline while passing thru the Cincinnati area a couple of years ago. This recipe brought back all the delicious memories! It was just so good! I buy beef in bulk and thus used 80/20. A lot of grease floated to the top as it boiled, but I was able to skim off almost all of it while it simmered. I thought about boiling the beef in water first next time, as some other posters have done, but I think I’ll just do it the way it calls for. I’m sure the whole dish benefits from the meat cooking in the seasoned broth, and again, it skimmed easily. Thank you for a keeper!

  17. I see posts about boiling the meat but instructions don’f mention it

    • Hi Bob, Step #3 says “Stir in beef and bring to boil.” You’re not boiling it in water, but I think this is what everyone in the comments is referring to. If you have other questions just let me know. Thank you!

  18. Cincinnati Chili is one of my favorites so I was glad to try out your recipe. It was wonderful! Delicious AND easy to make, using staples I already had in the house. I will halve the amount of chili powder next time because I like my chili on the mild side. Perfect meal on a cold winter day! Thank you!

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