Monday, October 1, 2012

Cincinnati Chili

Week 4 of my chili series takes me back to the Midwest. My wife and I both grew up in the Indianapolis area, and this type of chili can be found at numerous restaurants around town. This is not surprising, especially considering it originated just two hours down the road in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Cincinnati-style chili, like its Texas cousin, is flavored with onions, garlic, and chilies, but it also gets a lot of inspiration from Greek cuisine. In addition to these classic chili flavors, this chili also features cinnamon and allspice, which are traditionally used in a lot of recipes in Greece. Unlike other chili recipes I have shared, this chili is not chunky. Instead, it is more the consistency of a  meat sauce you would normally serve over pasta.

This chili was first served in 1922 by two Macedonian brothers as a topping for hot dogs. A few years later, they opened Empress Chili, where they began serving it over pasta as well as hot dogs. Since then, several other Cincinnati-style chili parlors have opened, including Skyline Chili, Gold Star Chili, and Dixie Chili. This is also the chili served at Steak n Shake restaurants. Regardless of chain, this chili is traditionally served with the same options.

The simplest way of serving this chili is by the bowl, but the most common method is over pasta. If the chili is served over pasta with nothing else, it is called chili two-way. If the chili two-way is topped with shredded cheddar cheese, it becomes chili three-way. Adding raw diced onions to the chili three-way gives you a chili four-way, and throwing in a layer of kidney beans renders a chili five-way. It is also still good over hot dogs.

My favorite is chili five-way topped with a few oyster or soup crackers.

Cincinnati Chili

 2-1/2 lbs ground beef (I used 80/20)
4 cups water, divided
1 large onion, grated
4 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
4 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1 can (29 oz) tomato sauce
1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Spaghetti noodles
Kidney beans
Diced onion
Cheddar cheese

Heat large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add ground beef and 1 cup water. Cook over medium heat until browned. Drain well and rinse.

Add onion, chili powder, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, bay leaves, and salt. Stir and cook 1 minute.

Add tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce and remaining 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer over low heat for two hours. Chili will thicken as it cooks. Remove bay leaves. Serve over hot dogs or in any of the methods mentioned above.

Next week:  Hawaiian Chili


  1. So glad to be following you! I love Cincinnati Chili and this looks sooo good! Thank you so much for sharing your recipe.


  2. I like Cincinnati Chili 5-way too. Looks delicious! Will have to make a batch soon.

  3. Hi John,
    I will never forget the first time I had Cincinnati Chili, at Skyline in Cincinnati, I loved it! Your recipe looks awesome, I can almost taste it. Enjoy your weekend and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  4. John,
    This look amazing! I love chili but have never quiet perfected the right flavor. I can't wait to try this recipe. Thanks so much for linking up to Creative Thursday. Can’t wait to see what you share this week! Have a wonderful week.


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