I first tried Cincinnati Chili in a chili restaurant near Washington D.C. It seemed like it was created just for me. No beans (unless you order a five way), a little cocoa powder, cinnamon, and served over pasta! It also wasn’t overly spicy, just enough for flavor. I found a few recipes to try to recreate it at home and so far this one is the closest to what I remember. I have never been to Cincinnati to have authentic Skyline chili, but will probably have the opportunity soon to see how close this is to the original. Don’t be discouraged by the long ingredient list. Most of the list involves common spices.
To make this dish truly authentic: don’t add the onions during cooking. Sprinkle them raw over the hot chili. This recipe does have a bit of heat to it, but not overwhelmingly so. When serving the chili to the kids, I generally cut the cayenne pepper back to 1/2 teaspoon.
The idea for Cincinnati Chili was first created by Tom and John Kiradjieff, Macedonian immigrants, in 1922. They later opened a chili parlor called Empress. One of their former employees, Nicholas Lambrinides, opened the Skyline Chili restaurant. There are now many versions of Cincinnati Chili, between restaurants and grocery products.
Cincinnati Chili differs from other chilies by the seasonings (most notably cinnamon, cloves, and cocoa) and the unique way it is served- over a bed of spaghetti. It can also be served over hot dogs.
There are five ways to order this chili: bowl (just the chili in a bowl), Two-way (chili over spaghetti), Three-way (chili over spaghetti and topped with cheese), Four-way (chili over spaghetti and topped with cheese and onions), and the Five-way (chili over spaghetti and topped with cheese, onions, and beans).
To use the slow cooker: Cook the beef with the water as written in the instructions. Pour into a large slow cooker and mix in the remaining spices. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
Adapted from Creative Culinary
- 4 cups water
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 1 onion peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 1/4 cup chili powder (the mix, NOT ground chili)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pound spaghetti cooked and drained
- 1 onion peeled and finely diced
- 2 cups cheddar cheese finely shredded
- Oyster crackers
- In a large pot, combine water and ground beef. Break up the ground beef into tiny pieces. Bring the water to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the tomato sauce, onion, garlic, chili powder, cider vinegar, Worchestershire sauce, cocoa powder, salt, cayenne pepper, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaf. Decrease heat to medium-low and simmer for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. If the chili becomes too thick during cooking, stir in a little water to thin.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight. Skim off any fat. Serve hot over cooked spaghetti noodles and top with diced onion, cheese, and oyster crackers.