top of page


A perfect copycat recipe for Cincinnati Chili you can make at home.

Authentic Cincinnati Chili is a meaty, rich, and spicy chili from (you guessed it!) Cincinnati, Ohio. It is served over hot spaghetti with your choice of toppings. Don't forget the cheese and oyster crackers!

Origins of Cincinnati Chili

The Cincinnati-style chili was born when brothers Tom and John Kiradjieff left Macedonia to start a new life in America, bringing their traditional Macedonian recipes and opening a restaurant on October 24, 1922, called Empress Chili Parlor. His version of chili was made with the spices of his homeland. They sold chili dogs, spaghetti with chili, coffee, cigars, and some groceries. Since it was right next to the Empress Burlesque Theater, the restaurant had a steady stream of customers. "La Emperatriz" became the model for later Chilean salons and was the first job for many other immigrants who came to the USA.

According to the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, Cincinnati residents

consume more than 2,000,000 pounds of chili each year, topped with 850,000 pounds of shredded cheddar cheese. Whenever we visit family, we help with this problem by visiting one of our favorite places to get it, Skyline Chili.

Many variations of the original chili have evolved. This is usually a type of chili con carne characterized by toppings such as cinnamon, cloves, and sometimes chocolate. It uses Broth, a tomato base, and a unique blend of spices and savory with sweet seasonings. It is usually served over spaghetti or as a hot dog sauce. It usually is a thin, gravy-like consistency, unlike most chili con carne.

What Makes It Cincinnati-Style?

Three things distinguish Cincinnati chili from other kinds:

Toppings: Chili powder and cumin are needed for almost any chili recipe, but in Cincinnati chili, you'll find cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and possibly nutmeg paprika and oregano. Worcestershire sauce is also a standard ingredient. Little unsweetened chocolate or cocoa powder is controversial but not unheard of.

No Browning, No Stir-Fry: Any Cincinnati chili recipe that begins with "Heat the oil ..."This contrasts with everything you've learned about creating layers of flavor in a soup or stew. But remember, this is dinner food with a spice trailer. Just pour everything into the pot, stir when it comes to a boil, and that's it. This creates a pasty and even texture compared to the distinct minced meat crumbs. It won't be pretty at first. But stay with us: these are jobs.

Toppings: Repeat after me: Don't put beans in Cincinnati chili.

You can, however, put the beans on top of the chili. Chopped raw onions, chewy heaps of delicately grated cheddar cheese, and oyster crackers are also traditional sides. Beans, onions, and cheese on spaghetti.

One of the most memorable parts of consuming this chili is the ordering process. No, it's not just a bowl of chili, you must make decisions, and you must know the language of Cincinnati chili. Then, you walk over to the counter and tell them what you want. Basic chili is served two ways over spaghetti, but you must decide if you wish to add cheese, onions, or beans to the chili. Plus, hot sauce and oyster crackers are served as a side dish with every full plate.

Two-Way: Chili on top of spaghetti

Three-Way: Chili on top of spaghetti with shredded cheddar cheese

Four-Way: Chopped onions added to the three-way

Five-Way: Beans added to the four-way

Coney: Vienna sausage or hot dog with mustard, topped with chili, onions, and cheese


4 cups beef broth

2 pounds ground beef you can use (93% lean 7% fat) if you don't want refrigerate the meat and skim the fat off

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cups finely chopped onions

1 tablespoon finely minced garlic

¼ cup chili powder or more to taste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon hot red pepper or more to taste

1 tsp Brown sugar

2 tsp dried oregano

3 bay leaf

2 cups fresh or canned tomato sauce

2 tablespoons cider or white vinegar

½ ounce (one-half square) unsweetened chocolate

Salt, to taste

1 pound spaghetti, cooked

8 ounces sharp cheddar, finely grated

1 15-oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 small white onion, finely diced

Oyster crackers, for serving


Step 1. Place the broth in a saucepan or Dutch oven and add the meat little by little until it separates into small pieces. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Step 2. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onions. Cook, often stirring, until the onions are wilted and begin to brown. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, chili, bay leaf, and tomato sauce and bring to a boil.

Step 3. Add the tomato mixture to the meat mixture. Next, add cider or vinegar and chocolate. Bring to a boil and cover. Simmer for an hour—place in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, remove the fat, heat, and serve over cooked spaghetti with cheese, beans, and onions.

1,522 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All


bottom of page