Cincinnati Chili

Total Time:
1 hr 5 min
40 min
25 min

6 to 8 servings

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 6 -ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons chopped unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon cider or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 12 ounces cooked spaghetti
  • 1 19 -ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pound grated cheddar cheese
  • Oyster crackers, for serving

Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat. Add half the chopped onions and the garlic and cook until soft, stirring, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, allspice, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne and cloves. Cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add the beef and cook the mixture, stirring, until the beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon salt.

Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, bay leaf and 1 1/2 cups water; simmer the mixture, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thicker. Add the chocolate, vinegar and Worcestershire and cook until the mixture is thickened but still soupy, about 15 more minutes.

Discard the bay leaf and season the chili with the freshly ground pepper. Divide the spaghetti among bowls and top with the chili, beans, remaining onion and cheddar. Serve with the oyster crackers.

Photograph by Ellie Miller

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    33 Reviews
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    Any reference to Skyline Chili makes me gag. Skyline chili was written up in our local newspaper a few years agoi as a great tasting chili witrh a greek influence. So my wife and I went to try it out. Worst chili Iever tasted. Some years later I was working in a city that had Skyline restaurants and decided to give it another try ( I love chili ). Same results...terrible. Skyline looks to me like the McDonalds of chili houses, not a gourmet chili house. In 1962 J took my first job and it was in Cincinnati. At that time there were lots of mom and pop independent chili restaurants all over Cincinnati and I ate at chili often and I enjoyed that chili which was a little different at each restaurant. There was no Skyline as of yet. If Skyline is Cincinnati chili then I guess there is no more real cincinnati chili sad to say. I know everybody's taster is different and most people here seem to like the Skyline stuff. so I am in the minority but that is my opinion.
    So did you actually make this recipe? We understand you are not a fan of Skyline restaurants and their chili but what about this recipe?
    I love this extremely flavorful version of Cincinnati Chili, but no, it is not like the versions you might find at Skyline or Camp Washington. I followed everything exactly as it was written except I didn't add beans (just my preference), but I would also make the suggestion of cutting down the salt. In the future I will add salt to taste after it has been cooking awhile. It is also key to mince the onions because otherwise it can get a bit chunky. I also suggest getting finely shredded cheddar cheese, which is the style that is normally served (allows for easier and consistent melting while eating). Please note, calling Cincinnati Chili, "Chili" is a slight misnomer. In describing it to people, I prefer to call it a sauce, just because people have a preconceived notion of what chili is, and they get turned off by it. Keep an open mind people!
    My family really liked this version. However, it was a bit too salty. The recipe calls for a tablespoon of salt and when I make this again I will use about half of that.
    Love Food TV Network, picked up the magazine jan/feb 2013 and came upon this chili, cooking it now. Am happy to have googled this recipe online as I have just noticed 3 INGREDIENTS are missing from the magazine. BAY LEAF and WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE and unsweetened chocolate, it is unfortunate had to come upon that, but it is US that keep you going ratings and all. big faux pas. Looking forward to the end result Cheers!!
    Side by side taste comparison with Skyline Chili - not even close. Followed recipe exactly; Food Network recipe looked like dark mud and it was grainy. Tastes more like a strong Greek meat sauce over spaghetti - not appetizing at all. I lived in Cincinnati for 20 years, ate plenty of Skyline, was really hopefully I could make something similar to bring back the memories. Disappointed. Stick with the real thing --
    The "darkness" and "graininess" probably came from the chocolate. If you make this recipe again, leave out the chocolate. (I'm pretty sure that Skyline does not use chocolate in their version of Skyline chili.) It's important for everyone to note that Cincinnati chili is NOT Skyline chili. Skyline chili is just a version of Cincinnati chili. There are many ways to make the traditional Tex-Mex chili that most people think of when they think "chili," and the same is true for Cincinnati chili.
    I'm a big fan of chili, all types, but have never had Cincinnati Chili. This recipe was easy, most of us have all the spices in our cabinets, so get them all out,and follow the recipe to the exact letter! I did add two cans of dark red kidney beans and two cans of the chopped tomatoes. I topped it with sharp cheddar and oyster crackers. Excellent! Great meal for a crowd and game day! Freezes well too. Talk about comfort food!!!
    My Grandmother lived in Cincinnati for years. She handed down a recipe to my mother, which I lost. This, however is just as I remember Cincinnati chili. It is great!!! I do suggest the first time you try this you stick strickly to the recipe. After that if you feel you need to make changes, do so.
    I substituted 2 cups beef broth for the water. I also omitted the canned tomatoes for an extra small can of tomato sauce. I also used 2TBS. unsweetened cocoa powder because I didn't have the chocolate. Everything else I did the same . Amazingly delicious !! Everybody loved it. 
    Thanks for the recipe!
    This is a winner: I found a new way to enjoy chili,thanks to Guy F. 
    It came out fantastic,with a small amount of changes. I had no chocolate ,I forgot to buy it.Secondly I added a chili mix along with most of the other spices. With my left over chunky tomato sauce which I made already weks ago,I added it with a small amount of water and the W. Sauce too. Had enough to freese for another meal to. I enjoyed mostly taht the beans went on top with the cheese and onions. I will make this again. Thanks
    Excellent base recipe-add 1 1/2 QUARTS of water+cardamon-3 seeds crushed+oregano-1 tbl spn +3x more chili powder+a large squirt of yellow mustard = a very good recipe
    This recipe is fantastic - it rides the line of being hot spicy and sweet/cinnamon/clove spicy. I substituted half of the chili powder with mexican hot chili powder as well, which added some additional kick!
    It's not SkyLine Chili, but WOW. Of course, I had to doctor it a little to my taste, but my oh my!!! I'll definitely make this again. It made so much, it's going in the freezer. Can't wait to make it for a nice cold day.
    I thought this recipe was quite good. I did add a little more water than the recipe called for.
    We here in Cincinnati usually don't brown the meat,instead we cook it in water and add spices and let cook for 3-4hrs.
    This is a pretty good recipe. I tried this on some friends who were visiting from Ohio, because, ya know, everyone in Ohio probably eats chili like this. In spite of my alarmingly tactless interpretation of regional cuisine, my guests really liked this chili!  
    I actually used cocoa powder instead of chopped chocolate, but who knows how big of a difference this made. Still, I'd like to take total credit for the rave reviews my chili received.  
    I lived in Cinncy for 2 years and loved there chili this bought back so many memories. I actually used venison burger than Hamburger and couldn't tell a difference. Not sure what all the negative response were on this recipe. I thought it was extremely good. It did need a little more of one ingredient to make it exactly like Skyline or Gold Star.
    This is a pretty good crack at the recipe. I'm a native of Cincinnati, so I have to criticize the texture. Most parlors here boil the meat in the cooking liquid, which, aside from the unique flavors, is what separates this style from the others. Also, if you're going for authenticity, mince the portion of the onions that go into the Dutch oven. While the texture doesn't make or break the recipe, I find it worth noting.  
    Also the spice mixture was pretty close, but was missing something. I added 1 1/2 t. Hot Madras curry powder and it started to smell much more like Cincinnati style chili. One more clove garlic didn't hurt either.
    I loved it and so did my daughter. We did not have all the ingredients on had so we used what we had, added a ittle extra chocolate and made sure we used hot enough chile powder. yum yum. It even makes the house smell heavenly. This recipe is defenitly a keeper.
    Outstanding, tastes just like Skyline Chili, the only thing that we could not find in our grocery store was the sweet paprika, used regular and it was awesome...Thanks again Food Network
    Too spicy - and hot. Not good hot (my girlfriend and I like spicy foods - the kind of hot that hurts your mouth but has no flavor. Just not good. We had to drain it, boil it, drain it, and then mix in tomato sauce and add more worscherster sauce to save it.  
    I've lived in the Cincinnati area (Northern Kentucky) all my life and one of the reasons I'd never move is because of this style of chili. This is one of the recipes of Cincinnati style chili and it's delicious. There are several versions in the area offered by a slew of 'chili parlors'. From the looks of the upcoming series of Food Feuds with Chef Symon, a Cincy-chili feud might be a contender. But I'm surprised this style doesn't catch on more around the US.
    I didn't use this recipe because of the reviews and because I found another recipe that really hit the mark! Authentic Cincinnati-style chili is made with meat that is simmered in a liquid, not fried...anyhow, I won't say anything more except that I was told the batch I made was even better than Skyline's...this is directly from my cousin and his family, who came to visit us in Toronto two weeks ago. They live in Cincinnati and know their Chili! Here is a link to the recipe I used:
     P.S. I rated it a 3 out of 5 (average) simply because I had no choice but to enter a rating and because it seems to be an average recipe...
    I threw 80% of this chlii away. Out of a twenty person football gathering, not one person liked this. It was terrible and was thrown in the trash
    There should not be any onions Cooked into this.They are added after the fact in 3way chili.
    My husband and I LOVED this recipe and can't wait to make it for friends! There were a few changes due to taste preference and what was on hand. We didn't add allspice and changed the beans to great northern beans. I also didn't have tomato sauce on hand, so I used 1 can of tomato soup. Besides those few changes, we stuck to the recipe as close as possible. I let it simmer for about 2 hours before serving it up. I agree that it is concentrated, but when you combine it with spaghetti, beans and sharp cheese, its a WINNER!!
    I made this b/c my family usually makes it from the packets of cincinnati chili mix. I figured I'd give it a try and we loved it! My husband says it's so much better than the packet mix. It's now a new regular in the family. I used ground turkey as well and no one knew the difference.
    We live 15 minutes from Cincinnati and eat at all the local chili places regularly...and were excited to try it at home. This was AWFUL! There is a hint of Cincinnati flavor, but whoever made this is NOT from the area. It tasted so strong that the longer we tried to eat it the worse it tasted. We also threw it out. It almost tasted like it was a concentrated mixture.
     The reviewer that said remove the cinnamon & chocolate also does not know what Cincy chili is! These should both be there, but should taste a lot better than this!
    I made this recipe from the new Foodnetwork magazine and was terribly disappointed. The combination of spices did not taste anything like any Cincinnati Chili I have ever had. Had to throw the entire dish out. No stars for this one!
    I love Cincinnati chili and this taste just as it should. The reviewer who threw it out must not have known what to expect from Cincinnati style chili. I always serve it with spaghetti and cheese and onion (4-way) It has a slightly Greek flavor to me. My favorite dish at a Greek restaurant is a similar sauce with lamb chunks stewed until very tender served on pasta. I suppose its Greek/American.
    This was perfect for a cold winter night. The chili was different from most, but all of the spices combined perfectly to make it delicious - sweet with a slight kick at the end. We had beanless since I am allergic, and it still was a hearty meal. Also great in a burrito.
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