Cincinnati Chili (Without the Drive)

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This Cincinnati Chili is so delicious, you just might lick your plate (like I did).

Cincinnati Chili - Solid Gold Eats

Recently I asked my Facebook friends to tell me what recipes they’d like to see on SGE. I enjoyed the responses (except I’m handing all the vegan ones to my mom, guys) because they showed the tastes of my friends and how unique they were. Chuck, for example, asked for Cincinnati Chili. This dude loves Skyline Chili so much, he mentions it in his twitter bio.

Out of all of the responses, Cincinnati Chili was the one I was most excited about trying. I’ve had Skyline Chili several times (there’s one on Michigan Road near 86th street in a little strip mall), once even IN Cincinnati, and each time I’ve been more than satisfied. While I don’t compare my version to theirs exactly, the concept is the same.

The characteristics of Cincinnati Chili are as such:

  • Flavor – seasoned with cinnamon, cocoa powder, allspice, cloves, nutmeg
  • Texture – beans aren’t welcome here (unless you get a 5-way, see below)
  • Serving – served over cooked spaghetti or hot dogs
  • Consistency – thin, not thick

(This is my disclosure saying I didn’t grow up in Cincinnati so those who have, feel free to comment with your version of Cincinnati Chili).

Cincinnati Chili - Solid Gold Eats

To break it down further, Cincinnati Chili is offered in these five different ways:

  • Bowl: chili in a bowl (which is cool for those of you who didn’t grow up with noodles in your chili)
  • Two-way: spaghetti + chili
  • Three-way: spaghetti + chili + cheese
  • Four-way: spaghetti + chili + cheese + onions
  • Five-way: spaghetti + chili + cheese + onions + beans

and sometimes:

  • Four-way bean: spaghetti + chili + cheese + beans (no onions)

Side note, I grew up eating chili with elbow mac. My dad would make a peanut butter sandwich to eat with his chili, and as I grew up I would do it, too. Sometimes I would even dip it IN the chili. I know, hardcore right? But thankfully Facebook told me that others do this, too.

If you’re asking are all of those spices essential? The answer is yes. Cocoa powder and cinnamon were key, though I’ve seen recipes that don’t use allspice, cloves or nutmeg or they use them in different combinations. I also saw a few recipes that used water (up to a quart), but why use water when you can use flavorful beef broth? My version does have one full teaspoon of cayenne pepper, so there’s definitely a kick to it.

Cincinnati Chili - Solid Gold Eats

Cincinnati Chili


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp Dutch processed cocoa powder*
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups beef broth

In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high. Add the diced onion and cook for 3 minutes until onions are soft. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.

Brown the ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon. Once browned, drain grease and return beef to the pot.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Let the chili come to a boil, then cover and simmer for at least one hour. Mine simmered for three hours because I was home. The longer you let it cook, the better.

When you’re ready to eat, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook some spaghetti per package directions. Plate the spaghetti and spoon the chili on top. Add shredded cheese, diced onions, and beans if you like. Save the leftovers – it’s even better the next day.

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  • Kitchen Kelli

    Skyline chili (that’s what we call Cincinnati Chili) is great! I have my own version but yours looks very delicious! I also think it’s important to let it sit in fridge overnight because it completely changes the taste of the chili – it makes it more mellow or “marries the flavors” or whatever you want to call it – it makes it all come together. I always cook mine on Thursday or Friday and then we eat it on Saturday or Sunday so it has the time to come together. Your pictures look exactly right for Skyline – YUM!

    • solidgoldeats

      Mmmm is yours online? I’d love to read it! I totally agree, you can’t eat this right away. It was amazing but even better the next day.

      • Kitchen Kelli

        Yes – it sounds sweet and IS sweet the first day, don’t like it very much but then………after overnight in the fridge it’s not sweet anymore. Here it is – I call it Rootin’ Tootin’ 2-day chili. It’s very complex!

  • Erin D.

    I agree with Kitchen Kelli, the second time around is the best time to eat Cincinnati Chili. My recipe is perfect for the days when you are tired from work and want something warm in your belly. Not much prep and easy for the first time “chefs” out there. Here is my recipe (from memory) it’s a little sweeter than most (the recipe, not my memory):


    1 yellow onion (chopped)
    2 cans crushed tomatos
    1 small can of mushrooms (drained)
    Apple Cider vinegar
    Chili Pepper
    Cayenne Pepper
    All spice
    Brown Sugar
    Splash of white wine (if you are feeling saucy…this can be left out)
    1 pd of ground beef
    Salt and Pepper
    1/2 box of Noodles (I like to switch up my noodles so, doesn’t matter what type you get)


    Over medium heat in a skillet, brown beef, when partially browned add in the onions and season with a dash of pepper and salt, finish browning and drain away the grease.

    Return beef to skillet and add crushed tomatoes, mushrooms.

    **Warning, I don’t normally measure out my spices and usually season to taste for this recipe so I would error on the side of caution and do some “tasting” as you add in your spices. Would low ball the seasoning and slowly add more as you stir**

    Put in a capful of the vinegar and about a 1/3 cup of brown sugar (or equivalent to a small handful).
    Stir in about 1 tsp of cinnamon (or the equivalent of 2-3 good shakes of cinnamon)
    Stir in about 1 tsp of the cayenne pepper (again, or the equivalent of 2-3 good shakes)
    Add 1 tsp of chili pepper (or more, if you are inclined to more spicy chili).

    Lightly season with chives and all spice.

    (for those adding wine just do one “glug”)

    Let boil for about 2-3 minutes and drop down to simmer for 30 minutes covered, stirring occasionally.

    Make your noodles.

    **hint: what I like to do is take colby cheese and line the bottom of my bowl with it and dump the hot chili and noodles over and mix**