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Cincinnati Chili – Spend With Pennies


If you’ve never had Cincinnati Chili, you’re in for a treat.

This beefy seasoned sauce is different from our usual chili recipe because it has a special blend of spices and is cooked and served in a unique way!

Served over hot spaghetti, Cincinnati chili is traditionally served with toppings like cheese, onions and/or beans!

4 way onion cincinnati chili topped with cheddar and onions

Unlike a typical chili recipe, Cincinnati Chili is made with unexpected seasonings that include cocoa powder, cinnamon, and allspice!

What is Cincinnati Chili?

Named for the city of Cincinnati, this chili has a unique flavor and is served differenrlt than our traditional chili recipes.

It has been around since the 1900s and has been tagged as one of the “moist iconic foods in America” by the Smithsonian. It was made popular by the Skyline diners chain and if visiting their restartants, you must try Skyline Chili!

Seasonings: Some belive the seasonings are derived from the Greek dish moussaka or other similar Greek dishes. The seasonings include cocoa powder (or sometimes unsweetened chocolate), cinnamon, and allspice. Some use cumin or a pinch of ground cloves. It’s usually served over spaghetti with special toppings as below.

How to Make Cincinnati Chili

This Cincinnati chili recipe is easy to make. It does take some time, most of which is hands off as it simmers on the stove.

  1. Sauté onions in a dutch oven. Add the uncooked beef and other ingredients to the same pot (the beef is not browned first).
  2. Simmer for 2 hours, skimming fat off the top as needed.
  3. Serve over spaghetti Cincinnati style (more serving info below).

You can adjust the spices and add a bit of Tabasco or Worcestershire sauce for extra flavor if you’d like.

cooked cincinnati chili in a dutch oven with a bay leaf next to cheddar cheese and onions

Ways to Serve Cincinnati Chili

To serve Cincinnati style chili, traditional toppings include shredded cheddar cheese, chopped onions, and/or chili beans (or kidney beans) to name a few. Not only are the flavor and toppings unique, but instead of twirllling the spaghetti like spaghetti and meatballs, pile on the toppings and cut the spaghetti with a fork.

Here are the traditional ‘ways’ to top Cincinnati chili:

  • 2-way: topped with chili.
  • 3-way: topped with chili and shredded cheese.
  • 4-way onion: topped with chili, shredded cheese, and chopped onions,.
  • 4-way bean: topped with chili, shredded cheese, and beans.
  • 5-way: the works! Top with chili, shredded cheese, chopped onions, and beans.

Serve this with the toppings on the side and to let your family choose their own way! Don’t limit yourself to these ways, add your own toppings from hot sauce to oyster crackers.

close up of plated Cincinnati Chili with cheese

What to Do With Leftover Chili

Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to four days or in the freezer for up to four months.

To reheat, just replace in a pot on the stovetop or in a dish in the microwave and heat until bubbling hot. No need to thaw in advance.

Stretch the leftovers by serving them with a hot dog in a bun. Top with chili, mustard and other toppings.

If your family loves chili but hasn’t tried the Cincinnati version yet, they’re in for a real treat!

More Ways to Love Chili

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Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati chili isn’t your usual chili. This meaty sauce has unique blend of spices and is served over spaghetti with some special toppings!

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cook Time 2 hours 15 minutes

Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes

  • Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender.

  • Add the uncooked beef and the remaining ingredients.

  • Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer skimming any fat that rises to the top. Simmer for 2 hours or until the sauce has thickened.

  • Remove the bay leaf and discard.

  • Serve over hot spaghetti with toppings per the notes below.

How to Serve Cincinnati Chili

Start by spooning the chili over hot spaghetti and then add the following toppings:

  • 2-way: topped with just chili.
  • 3-way: topped with chili and shredded cheese.
  • 4-way onion: topped with chili, chopped onions, and shredded cheese.
  • 4-way bean: topped with chili, beans, and shredded cheese.
  • 5-way: the works! Top with chili, beans, onions, and cheese.

Nutrition information is for the sauce only and does not include pasta or optional toppings.

Calories: 220 | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 701mg | Potassium: 757mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1542IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine American
Cincinnati Chili in the pot and plated with writing
close up of Cincinnati Chili with writing
close up of Cincinnati Chili with a title
cooked Cincinnati Chili in the pot with a title


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