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Authentic Cincinnati Chili Recipe: A Unique Twist on Classic Chili

Cincinnati chili

Are you craving a unique and flavorful chili experience? Look no further than Cincinnati chili! This distinctive style of chili originates from Cincinnati, Ohio, and offers a delightful blend of flavors and spices. In this article, we will explore the history, ingredients, and step-by-step process of preparing an authentic Cincinnati chili recipe that will leave your taste buds wanting more.



Cincinnati chili has a fascinating history that dates back to the early 20th century. It was first introduced by Macedonian and Greek immigrants who settled in Cincinnati and brought their traditional recipes with them. However, Cincinnati chili has evolved over the years to become a unique regional delicacy.

The story begins with a man named Tom Kiradjieff, who arrived in Cincinnati in the 1920s. He opened a small restaurant called Empress Chili, where he served his version of Greek-style chili. Tom’s chili had a distinct Mediterranean influence, combining aromatic spices and herbs with ground beef and tomatoes.

To make the chili more accessible to a wider audience, Tom Kiradjieff made a significant change. He served the chili over spaghetti, creating a dish known as a “two-way.” This new concept was an instant hit, and people flocked to Empress Chili to enjoy this unconventional yet delicious combination.

Over time, Cincinnati chili gained popularity and more chili parlors opened throughout the city. Each chili parlor developed its own unique recipe, adding their personal touch to the dish. Some parlors created variations like three-way chili, which includes the addition of shredded cheddar cheese, and four-way chili, which also includes diced onions or kidney beans.

Cincinnati chili became deeply ingrained in the local culinary culture, and its popularity spread beyond the city limits. Today, it is considered a staple dish in Cincinnati and is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Many chili parlors have become iconic landmarks and continue to serve this beloved chili recipe.

The distinctive flavor profile of Cincinnati chili sets it apart from other chili styles. It features a rich and complex combination of spices such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and cocoa powder. This unique blend of flavors gives Cincinnati chili its signature taste that is both savory and slightly sweet.

Whether you’re a chili aficionado or a curious food lover, exploring the history of Cincinnati chili adds an extra layer of appreciation to this beloved dish. Now that we’ve learned about its origins, let’s dive into the ingredients and step-by-step process of making an authentic Cincinnati chili at home.


Step 1: Gather Ingredients10 minutes
Step 2: Prepare the Ground Beef5 minutes
Step 3: Chop the Onion5 minutes
Step 4: Cook the Ground Beef and Onion15 minutes
Step 5: Add the Spices and Simmer30 minutes
Step 6: Prepare the Spaghetti10 minutes
Step 7: Assemble and Serve5 minutes

Please note that the cooking and preparation times mentioned in the table are approximate and may vary depending on individual cooking skills and equipment. It’s always a good idea to read through the entire recipe and gather all the ingredients before starting the cooking process to ensure a smooth and efficient preparation.


Ground Beef1/2 pound
Onion1 medium-sized
Garlic2 cloves
Tomato Sauce1 cup
Water1 cup
Chili Powder1 tablespoon
Ground Cinnamon1/2 teaspoon
Ground Allspice1/4 teaspoon
Ground Cloves1/4 teaspoon
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder1 tablespoon
Worcestershire Sauce1 tablespoon
Apple Cider Vinegar1 tablespoon
Spaghetti4 ounces
Shredded Cheddar CheeseFor topping
Diced OnionFor topping (optional)
Kidney BeansFor topping (optional)

Please note that the ingredient quantities listed are for a serving size of 2 people. Adjust the quantities accordingly if you need to serve more or fewer individuals.


Step 1: Gather Ingredients

Before starting the cooking process, gather all the necessary ingredients to ensure a smooth preparation.

Step 2: Prepare the Ground Beef

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the ground beef until browned. Break it up into smaller pieces using a spatula or wooden spoon. Drain any excess fat.

Step 3: Chop the Onion

Peel and finely chop the onion. Set it aside for later use.

Step 4: Cook the Ground Beef and Onion

Return the skillet with the cooked ground beef to the stove. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic to the skillet. Cook them together until the onion becomes translucent.

Step 5: Add the Spices and Simmer

To the skillet, add the tomato sauce, water, chili powder, ground cinnamon, ground allspice, ground cloves, unsweetened cocoa powder, Worcestershire sauce, and apple cider vinegar. Stir well to combine all the ingredients.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the skillet and let it simmer for about 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.

Step 6: Prepare the Spaghetti

While the chili is simmering, cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain the cooked spaghetti and set it aside.

Step 7: Assemble and Serve

To serve, place a portion of cooked spaghetti in a bowl or on a plate. Ladle the Cincinnati chili generously over the spaghetti.

Optional: For additional toppings, sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese, diced onion, and kidney beans over the chili.

Enjoy your homemade Cincinnati chili while it’s hot and flavorful!

Please note that the preparation steps provided are a general guideline. It’s essential to follow specific recipe instructions and adjust cooking times based on personal preferences and equipment.

Equipment Required

Nutrition Information

Nutrition InformationAmount Per Serving
Serving Size1 person
Total Fat28g
– Saturated Fat11g
– Trans Fat1g
Total Carbohydrate45g
– Dietary Fiber6g
– Sugars7g
Vitamin D0mcg

Please note that the nutrition information provided is an estimate and may vary based on specific ingredients and portion sizes. It is always recommended to refer to specific product labels or consult a registered dietitian for precise nutritional information.


  • Use lean ground beef: Opt for lean ground beef to reduce excess fat and achieve a healthier chili.
  • Adjust the spice level: If you prefer a milder chili, reduce the amount of chili powder or omit the ground cloves. For those who enjoy extra heat, add a pinch of cayenne pepper or a dash of hot sauce.
  • Let the flavors develop: Cincinnati chili tastes even better the next day as the flavors have more time to meld together. Consider making a larger batch and refrigerating the leftovers for a delicious meal the following day.
  • Serve with traditional toppings: Along with the optional toppings mentioned in the recipe, you can add other traditional Cincinnati chili toppings such as oyster crackers, chopped jalapeños, or hot sauce for an extra kick.
  • Make it vegetarian: If you prefer a vegetarian version, you can substitute the ground beef with plant-based alternatives like textured vegetable protein (TVP), crumbled tempeh, or cooked lentils.
  • Experiment with beans: While kidney beans are a common topping for Cincinnati chili, you can try using other beans such as pinto beans or black beans for added variety and texture.
  • Customize the spaghetti: If you’re not a fan of spaghetti, you can substitute it with other pasta shapes like macaroni, penne, or rotini. You can even serve the chili over rice or alongside crusty bread.
  • Double the recipe for a crowd: Cincinnati chili is a great option for gatherings. Simply double or triple the recipe to accommodate a larger number of servings.

Pros & Cons

✔️ Unique and flavorful❌ Longer cooking time
✔️ Versatile for toppings❌ High fat content
✔️ Great for leftovers❌ Requires multiple spices
✔️ Can be customized❌ Not suitable for vegan diet
✔️ Represents Cincinnati culture❌ May not appeal to traditional chili lovers


In conclusion, Cincinnati chili is a unique and delicious twist on traditional chili that is worth experiencing. Its distinct blend of flavors, influenced by Mediterranean spices, sets it apart from other chili varieties. The combination of savory and slightly sweet notes creates a delightful taste that will leave you craving more.

This recipe offers versatility, allowing you to customize the toppings to suit your preferences. From shredded cheddar cheese to diced onions and kidney beans, you can create your own Cincinnati chili masterpiece. It’s a dish that represents the rich culinary culture of Cincinnati and has become an iconic regional favorite.

While the recipe may require a bit more time and a variety of spices, the effort is well worth it. Cincinnati chili is perfect for those looking to try something different or expand their chili repertoire. Whether you’re a fan of hearty comfort food or seeking a new culinary adventure, Cincinnati chili won’t disappoint.

So, why not gather the ingredients, follow the step-by-step instructions, and embark on a culinary journey with Cincinnati chili? Prepare to indulge in the unique flavors and enjoy a delightful meal that will leave you wanting seconds. Don’t hesitate to explore the delicious world of Cincinnati chili and discover a new favorite dish.

Get ready to savor the aroma, embrace the flavors, and experience the true taste of Cincinnati with this remarkable chili recipe. Your taste buds will thank you for the delightful journey through this beloved regional dish.


  • Fact 1: A Three-Way is not what you think! 🍝
    • Did you know that in Cincinnati chili lingo, a “three-way” has nothing to do with relationships? It refers to the popular serving style of Cincinnati chili over spaghetti, topped with a generous sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese. It’s a delicious combination that will make your taste buds sing!
  • Fact 2: Secret Spices: The Cinnamon Surprise! 🌶️
    • One of the intriguing aspects of Cincinnati chili is the inclusion of unexpected spices like cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. These unique additions create a distinctive flavor profile that sets Cincinnati chili apart from other chili styles. It’s the secret ingredient that gives it a delightful and memorable taste.
  • Fact 3: Chili with a Touch of Cocoa ☕
    • Cincinnati chili surprises taste buds once again with its use of unsweetened cocoa powder. The addition of cocoa powder may seem unusual, but it adds depth and richness to the chili, contributing to its unique and complex flavor profile. It’s like a delicious culinary fusion of sweet and savory.
  • Fact 4: The Origin of “Skyline” Chili 🌃
    • Skyline Chili, one of the most well-known Cincinnati chili chains, got its name from its founders’ view of the Cincinnati skyline. Nicholas Lambrinides, the creator of Skyline Chili, wanted a name that would evoke the local atmosphere and charm of the city.
  • Fact 5: Chili 5-Way, an Iconic Cincinnati Dish 🌟
    • In Cincinnati, the “five-way” chili is a beloved variation of Cincinnati chili that takes the original three-way and adds diced onions and kidney beans on top. This hearty and flavorful dish is a true Cincinnati tradition, and many locals and visitors alike consider it a must-try when in the city.


Can I make Cincinnati chili without meat for a vegetarian version?

Yes, you can easily make a vegetarian version of Cincinnati chili by substituting the ground beef with plant-based alternatives like textured vegetable protein (TVP), crumbled tempeh, or cooked lentils.

Can I freeze Cincinnati chili for later use?

Absolutely! Cincinnati chili freezes well. Allow it to cool completely, then transfer it to airtight containers or freezer bags. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw and reheat as needed.

Can I adjust the level of spiciness in Cincinnati chili?

Yes, you have control over the spiciness. Increase or decrease the amount of chili powder and other spices to suit your taste preferences. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper for extra heat if desired.

Can I use ground turkey instead of ground beef in the recipe?

Certainly! Ground turkey can be used as a substitute for ground beef in Cincinnati chili. It will impart a slightly different flavor but still work well in the dish.

Is Cincinnati chili traditionally served over spaghetti only?

While serving Cincinnati chili over spaghetti is the most common way, you can also enjoy it over other bases like hot dogs, fries, or baked potatoes. Feel free to get creative and find your favorite combination.

Are there any gluten-free alternatives to serve with Cincinnati chili?

If you follow a gluten-free diet, you can choose gluten-free spaghetti or substitute it with gluten-free pasta options such as rice noodles or quinoa pasta.

Can I make Cincinnati chili in a slow cooker or Instant Pot?

Yes, you can adapt the recipe for a slow cooker or Instant Pot. Brown the ground beef, onion, and garlic beforehand, then transfer all the ingredients to your chosen appliance. Cook on low heat in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours or follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the Instant Pot.

What are some common Cincinnati chili toppings?

Common Cincinnati chili toppings include shredded cheddar cheese, diced onions, kidney beans, oyster crackers, chopped jalapeños, and hot sauce. Feel free to customize the toppings based on your preferences.

Can I make Cincinnati chili ahead of time for a party or gathering?

Absolutely! Cincinnati chili is a great make-ahead dish. You can prepare it in advance, store it in the refrigerator, and reheat it when needed. The flavors tend to deepen and develop even more when made ahead.

Is Cincinnati chili spicy?

Cincinnati chili has a unique flavor profile that is more aromatic and mildly spiced rather than excessively spicy. However, you can adjust the level of spiciness by adding more or less chili powder or incorporating additional heat elements according to your taste preferences.