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.
4.99 from 92 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
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Comments

  1. Good recipe, good flavor. One thing though- There is no chopped onion in Cincinnati chili. If you’re after the real thing, that’s kind of a deal-breaker.4 stars

  2. Just want to be absolutely, sure; so, don’t brown the ground beef, just boil it with the spices? *Never made chili that didn’t require browning it first. Thank you!

  3. I just made it exactly as you posted & it is incredible, I hope there is some left to put on the pasta as I keep ladling out samples!! Thank you!!5 stars

  4. Just made this tonight. SO good!! Diff from my usual recipe- cause I was too lazy to look for it, so I just googled and picked this one. I didn’t use cloves or chocolate- but everything else. Turned out SO SO good. (I was thinking.. chicken broth, really? But I did it) I probably added 50% more tomato sauce, cause I had it. Perfect amount of flavor. 100% – great recipe.5 stars

  5. Going to try this tonight! We’ve been using Cincinnati Chili packets for years, but I’m out and we need chili for the Buckeye game tonight. My daughter is skeptical, but with so many positive reviews, it’s game on!

  6. This was a dead ringer for Cincinnati Chili! I haven’t had it in years and it took me back to another time in my life. Thank you so much for the recipe and the trip down memory lane 😁5 stars

  7. Seems to me that SinCity Chilli is a riff on Mexican Mole’. This is a good recipe but I prefer the more intense flavors of a good mole’ base.

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