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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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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.
4.98 from 235 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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I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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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.

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Comments

  1. We ate this right after the simmer and didn’t love it. The clove was a little too forward. However, we had it for lunch the next day and it was great. The flavors melded overnight. We added some cayenne because we love a kick. If I did it again I’d cut the clove by 25% or so, and add some cayenne and cumin. Also, I used semi-sweet morsels which seemed to work just fine.4 stars

    1. Hi Wilson, sorry about that! I’m glad it was great the next day. I hope you’re able to adjust it to your liking next time. Take care! – Meggan

  2. To make the ground beef fine enough I add the meat to the water and use a hand mixer to blend before heating the water. Also I agree with the review that said onions are a topping only. True cincy chili doesn’t have them cook into it. The chocolate is completely necessary as it adds the smoky flavor. I subbed beef broth for chicken and I always add a bit of nutmeg. It knocks it out of the park! Overall a good recipe.4 stars

  3. This is good and has some awesome Greek flavors! As a Greek it reminds of stifatho beef stew. The only thing missing from the recipe is cumin. So I added 1.5 tsp or so or to taste. It makes a big difference and enhances the overall flavor. Overall, great recipe. I definitely enjoyed it.5 stars

  4. Excited to try this recipe tonight…….hoping that it’s the next best thing to being in Cincy to watch my Os play the Reds.

  5. I use internet discovered recipes so very often and this is the first time I have paused to write a review. As a former Buckeye now living where Skyline Chili is only found in cans and frozen form (which is way better than nothing), this is THE BEST Cincy chili recipe I have come across. It was even closer to the mark on day two. Thank you, Meggan for pulling this together. I am giddy knowing that something this close to the real taste is just a little bit of chopping and boiling away. WhoDey! and O-H!5 stars

  6. A friend from Cincinnati came here and made me the famous chili from there. It was amazing but she didn’t give me the recipe and for years I’ve been craving it. I made this recipe and it was exactly like it! I am thrilled to have this recipe and if you are wanting a true Cincinnati chili recipe, you will love it! I give it 5 stars!😊5 stars

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