Friday , 19 January 2018

Cincinnati Style Chili

When you grow up in Cincinnati, you’re always grabbing a coney or three way for lunch, dinner, after a night of drinking and sometimes even for breakfast (depending on what time you get up).

I mean, the stuff is delicious.  I’ve had friends who moved away who literally craved it and always made a point to stop and get some any time they came back in town.

Heck when I went to college in Columbus (mind you, that’s only a 1 ½ hour drive) I would purposely drive 20 minutes from my dorm just to get my fix.

In Cincinnati, we’ve got two big home grown chains: Skyline and Gold Star, along with a multitude of other independent chili parlors that dot the landscape.

For those not in the know –Cincinnati style chili is a thin meat only chili (no beans unless you order a 4 or 5 way) that incorporates a multitude of spices to give it a very distinct taste.  Honestly, it kind of reminds me of a Mexican mole in spirit rather than the traditional chili you find (or maybe expect).

People always say it’s Greek style, but once again I’ve always been confused by that.  Yes the originators of the chili recipe were Greek, but I imagine that they just used a variety of spices to make the American style chili for their own unique take on it.  I mean, there’s nothing even remotely Greek about it.

But I digress – for years I’ve tried different combinations of spices (along with different recipes) to get a chili that was close to the taste I love.  Yes, I could definitely run to my local chili parlor, but it’s easy to make at home and this way I can use the leanest ground beef I can find along with reduced fat cheese i.e. make it healthier.

I PROMISE YOU – this tastes almost dead on one of the big chain’s chili.  It even smells like it.

In Cincy, the cheese is served literally mounded by the fistful on top of dishes (super delicious) but in the recipe below I’ve reduced the cheese quite a bit.  It’s still crazy good, but be aware that 2 cups of cheese is usually no where near enough for 4 servings (the more traditional route is at least 1 cup of cheese per serving).

When I make this I make at least enough for 8 servings, since my husband and I like to freeze additional individual portions that we can pull out for a quick lunch/dinner (plus its much cheaper than buying the frozen version at the store – double win).

Oh some lingo and definitions for you (I’m staying with just coneys and spaghetti here, I’m not going to even go into the fries, potatoes, burritos and chilitos you can use this on and in):

  • Phony Coney/Chili Cheese Sandwich: Hot Dog Bun, chili cheese
  • Cheese Coney: Bun, Hot Dog, Chili and Cheese (mustard & onions optional)
  • Chili Spaghetti: Spaghetti and Chili
  • 3-way: Spaghetti, Chili and Cheese
  • 4-way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese and Fresh Diced Onions OR Beans
  • 5-way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese, Fresh Diced Onions AND Beans

And I know I’ve been hitting on the fact that this is chili and spaghetti but shh – I was out of spaghetti so fettuccine got subbed.

Cincinnati Style Chili

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Servings: 8

Calories per serving: 323

Fat per serving: 9

Cincinnati Style Chili

To make eight 3-ways use 16 oz of dried whole wheat spaghetti. To make four 3-ways use 8 oz of dried whole wheat spaghetti or about 2 oz of dried pasta per serving. The nutritional info includes the cheese and spaghetti.


  • 4 cups water
  • 2 lbs ground extra lean ground beef (at least 95% lean)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 16 ounces tomato sauce
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 dashes Tobasco or similar sauce
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar (I'm also a fan of doing a mix of habanero cheddar with regular cheddar)


  1. Bring the water to a boil and add the ground beef. Stir until the beef is separated.
  2. Stir in the remaining ingredients (onions through hot sauce).
  3. Reduce heat and summer, uncovered, for 2 to 3 hours or until thickened. Cincinnati chili is not super thick - it should have a runnier consistency. If you've overcooked it and it's too thick, thin it out by stirring in 1/2 cup of water and letting cook for another 10 minutes.
  4. Optional: Cool, then refrigerate overnight. Skim off any accumulated fat and reheat the chili.
  5. Use to make either 3 ways or cheese coneys. Top with cheddar.
  6. Note: If you make half a recipe of this, you’ll simmer about 1 ½ to 2 hours.

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  1. Cincinnati Style Chili looks sumptuous!!! I am a chili lover anything spicy I will devour. Thanks for sharing your recipe, I’ll definitely find the time to cook one. All in all, how much would the ingredients cost?


    • Actually it’s has a touch of sweet, it’s not really spicy. As far as the ingredient cost, honestly I’m not sure how much it would cost. I always keep baking cocoa and the spices on hand, so really all I buy is the beef and cheese (I usually have dried pasta).

  2. I have seen so many recipes for Cincinnati chili, but have never tried it. I lived in Dayton for a little while as a child, but missed out. It sounds really good and with such a glowing recommendation, it seems I need to put it on my list of things to try in 2012!

    Welcome to the Improv, by the way. I can’t wait to see what you make in February!!
    Kristen recently posted..Mediterranean Pizza: Sour Cream and Lemon Improv ChallengeMy Profile

  3. That looks amazing!! and WOW look at all those spices! Good job!!!!
    Sammie recently posted..Year of the DragonMy Profile

  4. I’ve never had Cincinnati Chili and it looks amazing. We’re having a cold, snowy day that would be perfect for it. I have to try it!
    Carol @There’s Always Thyme to Cook recently posted..Moo Shu Chicken and VegetablesMy Profile

  5. This is totally new to me! The idea of putting ground beef in boiling water is also a new concept but the end result is what matters and this looks delicious. Perfect for a winter meal!
    Susan recently posted..Lemon Angel WingsMy Profile

  6. I’ve saved this to my Pinterest board of Must Make Recipes. I love how you made it a bit healthier too!
    Kristi Rimkus recently posted..Don’t Like Eggplant? This Low Calorie Eggplant Parmesan Will Change Your MindMy Profile

  7. Just how it looks on the top of that pasta is enough to make me drool already
    Raymund recently posted..Apple Caramel Cinnamon RollMy Profile

  8. I love that chili has it’s own LINGO! I’ve heard of Cincinnati Chili – but I’ve never had it. When my brother used to travel to Ohio for work, he adored it! Thanks for the recipe!
    Ann recently posted..Asian Noodle SlawMy Profile

  9. i would devour this plate in no time. Pefect for me because I always tell my hubs that I love chili if only there are no beans with it.. so this is it… haha.
    i thought i would like to let you know that i enjoy reading your posts.
    happy monday!
    skip to malou recently posted..Fresh Start: Steamed Tamarind ChickenMy Profile

  10. This is a great sounding recipe. I love the spices you use. I haven’t made chili in a while and hubby really loves it. I would like to make this.
    Casey recently posted..Latkes with LoxMy Profile

  11. It is a great recipe to taste. Love to make this at home. I always wanted to make some chili food. And I am so pleased that I have read this. Please post more.
    Twinky recently posted..simple skin care tipsMy Profile

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