Easy Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili Recipe

Cincinnati chili is found at chili parlors throughout Ohio. [Editor’s Note: One of the most popular chains of Cincinnati chili parlors—yes, they call them parlors, isn’t that quaint?!—in Ohio is Skyline Chili. If you’re ever driving past, we suggest you make a detour and dally long enough to sit down and have a bowl full.] We often serve this with noodles and shredded cheese.–Rick and Michael Mast

LC Cincinnati Chili Cheat Sheet Note

If you’re either from Cincinnati or have ever experienced Cincinnati chili, you can skip straight to the recipe. Everyone else, listen up. This here chili is different than what you’re accustomed to calling chili. It’s spicier—as in full of warming spices like allspice, cloves, and the like. It’s dicier—as in punctuated with wee bits of ground beef rather than hulking behemoth chunks of chuck. It’s runnier—as in much soupier than the stick-a-spoon-in-it style of chili to which you may be accustomed. It’s chocolate-ier—as in graced by the enveloping and oh-so-slightly sweet goodness of dark chocolate that rounds out the spices and lends a slight mole-like character to the whole shebang. It’s funnier, too—in a good way. In the best possible way, actually. Because really, doesn’t it make you giggle to learn that they plop Cincinnati chili atop spaghetti in its namesake city? Sorta seems like something they’d put in a comic strip. Oh, it’s less bean-ier, too—they get added later, as an optional afterthought. Still, despite its questionable right to the name “chili,” we really, really like this little number. Here’s how you’ll find it in Cincinnati:

Two Way: Chili plopped on spaghetti
Three Way: Chili plopped on spaghetti and smothered with cheese
Four Way: Chili plopped on spaghetti and smothered with cheese and sprinkled with diced red onions or beans
Five Way: Chili plopped on spaghetti and smothered with cheese and sprinkled with diced red onions and beans

Cincinnati Chili Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 1 H, 40 M
  • Serves 8


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/4 cup chili powder, or less to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato purée
  • 2 to 4 cups beef stock (for a less runny chili, start with just 2 cups)
  • 2 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 pinches sea salt
  • 2 pinches black pepper


  • 1. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil and sauté the onion over medium heat until translucent. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. (If you feel you must, go ahead and skim most of the fat rendered from the beef, but we encourage you to leave it and skim it after the chili has simmered. Fat equals flavor, don’t you know.)
  • 2. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, allspice, cloves, bay leaves, cayenne, and tomato purée. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • 3. Add the beef stock and stir. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. If desired, skim any fat from the surface of the chili.
  • 4. Add the chocolate and vinegar and stir until combined. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the Cincinnati chili with salt and pepper. (For instructions on how to serve this here chili, take a gander at the LC Note above the recipe.)
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