Cincinnati chili puts a Greek spin on classic chili with a delicious blend of warm spices. Traditionally served over spaghetti it’s the perfect dish for game day or to cozy up with on a chilly day.
Have you ever had Cincinnati chili? It’s this unique blend of warm spices and traditional chili ingredients that come together in the best way….and it’s served over spaghetti!
Like the Tex Mex versions, this dish relies heavily on seasoning. But unlike our smoky chipotle chili, pale ale beer chili, or Instant Pot chili, it has less of the hot spices and peppers you usually associate with chili
Instead this recipe for Cincinnati chili uses warm spices such as cinnamon and allspice which are common used on Greek dishes.
Not only does it taste uniquely delicious, but it doesn’t take long to cook. So you can make it ahead of time so you are ready for the big game or your party or add it to your chili dog sliders. It also makes easy weeknight dinners and lunches when time is of the essence.
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Ingredients You’ll Need
Here’s what you’ll need for this:
- Ground beef – We use 90/10 ground beef to reduce the amount of fat. Though not traditionally in Cincinnati chili, you could substitute ground turkey if you prefer.
- Onion – You can use a white or yellow onion.
- Garlic – Fresh tastes best, but you could use jarred, minced garlic.
- Diced tomatoes – You can use your favorite brand.
- Tomato paste – This helps to thicken the chili.
- Seasonings – You’ll need chili powder, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt.
- Brown sugar – This adds a bit of sweetness and helps balance out the acidity in the tomatoes, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce.
- Unsweetened cocoa – This may sound odd, but the cocoa adds an extra layer of flavor and richness to the chili.
- Worcestershire sauce – When it comes to seasoning things, Worcestershire sauce is a powerhouse that you really shouldn’t skip.
- Cider vinegar – You can use other vinegars, but we find apple cider works best.
Step 1 – Brown the ground beef. Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat and then add the olive oil, ground beef, onion, and garlic. Allow it to brown for 5 to 7 minutes and then drain the excess grease from the meat.
Step 2 – Add in the rest of the ingredients. Once you drain the meat, add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, cumin, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt, unsweetened cocoa, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, and water and stir to combine.
Step 3 – Simmer the chili. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce heat so that the chili simmers. Allow it to cook, covered, on low heat for at least 1 hour (up to 3 hours). As it cooks, make sure to stir it occasionally.
Step 4 – Serve. Once chili is ready, serve over spaghetti with cheese and diced onions.
What is Cincinnati Chili?
If you’ve never had Cincinnati chili it is a little different than the usual chili recipe. Cincinnati Chili is packed full of spices, from the standard chili powder, cayenne pepper, and cumin, to the unusual; allspice, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
As the name implies, it originated in Cincinnati, Ohio. Tom Kiradjeff, a Greek immigrant, created this masterpiece using Mediterranean spices to create a meat sauce for hot dogs. He then used that sauce on a dish he called chili spaghetti.
That’s right, Cincinnati Chili is traditionally served over spaghetti! The addition of spaghetti makes it awesome for feeding a game day crowd or a hungry family on a busy weeknight because a big bowl of pasta and a pot of chili can feed a lot of people.
You may have also heard of it referred to as Skyline chili. This is because Cincinnati chili originally gained it’s popularity when it was on the menu at the Skyline Chili restaurant chain.
How to Order Cincinnati Chili
If you have ever been to a major city like Cincinnati or Philadelphia, you’ll know that their namesake recipes have special ways of ordering them. This dish is no exception.
Example: If you want Cincinnati chili with cheese you order “Cincinnati three-way”.
When you order the chili, you need to know the special system for ordering so that you get your chili the way you want it. Here’s how it breaks down:
Two-way: Nothing extra just spaghetti topped with chili
Three-way: spaghetti, chili, and cheese
Four-way: In some areas people may ask for a “four-way” and then specify onion or bean calling it a “four-way onion” or “four-way bean”. In my area we just say “three way with beans” or “three way with onions” . Both work!
Five-way: If you want a five way you’re getting it all spaghetti, chili, cheese, onion, and beans!
Cincinnati chili makes an awesome chili for a chili bar. Set all of the add-in’s up on a table with your chili and pasta and let everyone make their own.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Spaghetti: You can cook this al dente 1 to 3 days ahead of time and store it in a gallon freezer bag in your refrigerator. To reheat before serving, drop the pasta into boiling water for 2 minutes then remove and drain. Just make sure to get as much of the water out as possible so it doesn’t get your chili wet.
Cheese: Shredded cheddar, monterey jack, or whatever your favorite chili cheese is a great topping option. Fresh shredded is best, but you can use bagged cheese for ease if you prefer.
Onion: You can finely dice a white or yellow onion. You could also use a red onion if you prefer.
Beans: Kidney beans heated in a pan over medium heat, lightly salt, if needed.
Place everything in bowls on the table along with your pot of chili and let people make their Cincinnati chili any way they like!
How to Make it Ahead of Time
You can easily make the chili a few days ahead of a get together or game. To store, cook, cool completely, and then place in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.
To reheat, allow frozen chili to thaw in the fridge overnight. You can then heat it up in a pot over medium heat until warmed through.
Looking for More Chili Recipes?
- Instant Pot White Chicken Chili
- Keto Chili – No Beans or Tomatoes!
- Instant Pot Chili
- Pale Ale Beer Chili
- Smoky Chipotle Chili
- 2 pounds Ground beef
- 1 medium Onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
- 29 ounces Diced Tomatoes, two 14.5 ounce cans
- 3 tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 2 tablespoon Chili powder
- 2 teaspoon Ground allspice
- 2 teaspoon Ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon Cumin
- 4 teaspoons Brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 2 tablespoons Unsweetened cocoa
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Cider vinegar
- 2 cups Water
- In a large pot over medium high heat brown add your olive oil and then the ground beef, onion, and garlic. Let it brown for 5-7 minutes and then drain the excess grease from the meat and return the meat to the pot.
- Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, cumin, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt, unsweetened cocoa, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, and water. Stir to combine.
- Bring ingredients to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let simmer on low for at least 1 hour (up to 3 hours) stirring occasionally.
- Once chili is ready, serve over spaghetti with cheese and diced onions.