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30 January 2019

Cincinnati chili is a chili unlike any other, filled with a beguiling mix of Mediterranean spices and chili powder, a beloved regional favorite. Make it tonight with this recipe.

If you’ve never had Cincinnati chili, I urge you to give this recipe a try. Right away. Tonight.

It’s a different sort of chili, so different from other chili recipes from other parts of the United States. It certainly looks like a regular chili when you include beans, similar in appearance to something like Chili Colorado or even this Super Easy Chili Recipe, but you’ll notice the difference once you take a taste.

Cincinnati Chili is Unique

First off, Cincinnati chili is more like a meat sauce, like a bolognese, meant to be served over spaghetti or pasta.

It is not a spicy chili. While it does contain chili powder traditionally, it is different in the other blend of Mediterranean spices that go into it.

You won’t get that spicy kick unless you alter the original recipe, though you can include chili flakes and serve it with hot sauce.

Instead you’ll enjoy an unexpected touch of sweetness that typically includes cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, though other spices play an important part and, as with any recipe, variations do exist from cook to cook.

This mix of spices works together quite harmoniously, and with your first bite, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And potentially hooked.

Cincinnati Chili on a plate of noodles, ready to eat

Cincinnati Chili Ingredients

Typical ingredients in Cincinnati chili include ground beef, tomato paste, spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, cumin, chili powder, bay leaf, dark chocolate (though this is more of a home cook option), simmered in water or stock.

Toppings include cheese, onions and beans, and sometimes garlic.

The History of Cincinnati Chili

The story of Cincinnati chili starts with two brothers, Tom and John Kiradjieff, who immigrated to Cincinnati in the early 1920 from troubled Greece.

They opened up the Empress Chili Parlor in 1922, and wanted to make something Americans would appreciate. What they essentially created was a stew of meat seasoned with their familiar spices, added in chili powder and other local American spices, and served it up.

The locals fell in love with the dish and have continued to go for serving after serving to this day.

My Cincinnati Chili Recipe

My Cincinnati chili recipe was given to me from a friend named Jerry I met as we were both visiting Florida. I struck up the conversation about making chili, and he said I MUST try his recipe, but he vehemently insisted I change NOTHING.

No alterations. No substitutions. NADA! I have made no changes to Jerry’s Famous Cincinnati Chili recipe, so here it is!

Thanks, Jerry!

Cincinnati Chili on a plate of noodles with shredded cheddar cheese over the top, ready to eat

How to Make Cincinnati Chili – the Recipe Method

Combine the following ingredients in a large pot.

  • 2 pounds ground chuck
  • 1 quart + one cup tomato juice (canned)
  • 1 whole large onion
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder (more or less as desired)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1 teaspoon milled black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 5 whole bay leaves
  • 1.5 teaspoons vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
  • 2 large dashes Worcestershire sauce

Submerge the onion and break up the uncooked beef as fine as you can.

Adding all of the ingredients to a pot to make Cincinnati Chili

Cook on medium-low heat, uncovered, for two hours, stirring every 20 mins. Everything will break down and meld together quite nicely.

Cincinnati Chili in a pot, ready to have the onion and bay leaves removed

Remove onion and bay leaves. Looks just like any chili!

Cincinnati Chili in a pot

Serve it up!

Cincinnati Chili in a pot with shredded cheddar cheese and Fritos over the top

How to Serve Cincinnati Chili

Serving up Cincinnati is another way it is differentiated from other American chili recipes.

  • 2 Way – Cincinnati chili over spaghetti
  • 3 Way – Cincinnati chili over spaghetti with cheddar cheese
  • 4 Way – Cincinnati chili over spaghetti with cheddar cheese, with either diced onions or beans
  • 5 Way – Cincinnati chili over spaghetti, with both diced onions AND beans

Jerry and his wife, Pam, who adore their Cincinnati chili, love to serve theirs over spaghetti, but also on hot dogs, and with Fritos over the top.

They also enjoy making their favorite “Walking Tacos”, which is in a bowl with some shredded lettuce, chili, shredded cheese, sour cream and Fritos. They also mix all of that up right into a small Frito bag. Nice!

That’s it my friends! I hope you enjoy your Cincinnati chili! It really is unique! A chili like no other!

I’d love to hear what you think of it.

Try Some of My Other Popular Chili Recipes

Cincinnati Chili on a plate, ready to eat

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

Cincinnati Chili - Recipe
Print Recipe
4.84 from 12 votes

Cincinnati Chili Recipe

Cincinnati chili is a chili unlike any other, filled with a beguiling mix of Mediterranean spices and chili powder, a beloved regional favorite. Make it tonight with this recipe.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 10 mins
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chili, recipe
Servings: 8
Calories: 336kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground chuck
  • 1 quart + one cup tomato juice canned
  • 1 whole large onion
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder more or less as desired
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1 teaspoon milled black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 5 whole bay leaves
  • 1.5 teaspoons vinegar I used red wine vinegar
  • 2 large dashes Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Submerge the onion.
  • Break up the uncooked beef as fine as you can.
  • Cook on medium-low heat, uncovered, for two hours, stirring every 20 mins.
  • Remove onion and bay leaves.
  • Serve with your favorite fixins.

Notes

Heat Factor: Mild
To Serve:
  • 2 Way - Cincinnati chili over spaghetti
  • 3 Way - Cincinnati chili over spaghetti with cheddar cheese
  • 4 Way - Cincinnati chili over spaghetti with cheddar cheese, with either diced onions or beans
  • 5 Way - Cincinnati chili over spaghetti, with both diced onions or beans
Or, serve it over a hot dog with mustard, onions and shredded cheddar cheese.

Nutrition

Calories: 336kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 80mg | Sodium: 1032mg | Potassium: 756mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1890IU | Vitamin C: 29.6mg | Calcium: 58mg | Iron: 3.8mg

22 comments

  1. 5 stars
    I’ve cooked this twice in the last 10days….absolutely love it. I also have the Spicy food lovers cookbook and so far everything i’ve cooked has been amazing. Definitely the best book for a spice lover. Thank you thank you thank you!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks so much, Katy! Super happy you like it! It’s really good, isn’t it? YUM! I’m glad you are enjoying my book! Take care.

  2. 5 stars
    I made this recipe a few months ago and I must admit that I wasn’t totally convinced. Tonight, I did it again and it was very very good! So, there is a time for everything! I’m intrigued, Mike, you are always very precise in your recipes but here you only specify “chili powder more or less as desired”: what exact chili peppers do you use, here? I was unsure, so I added chipotle in adobo sauce with the tomatoes then guajillo and ancho powder: the result was very good!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Jeremie. It is pretty unusual and unique to Cincinnati. Certainly different! I was going by my friend’s recipe. I used 4 tablespoons of a typical American chili powder blend (there are many brands, yes – I use my Homemade Chili Powder Recipe), but according to the recipe, you can adjust it to your taste. Your options are perfect!

  3. Gerald Hayes

    5 stars
    Very unique tangy flavour. Can’t wait to try some on hot dogs.

    I do have one complaint. You failed to warn of the mouth watering aroma that permeates from the kitchen causing everyone to go mad!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      True, Gerald! This chili recipe should come with a warning! Too good to wait!

  4. Frank Buhrman

    5 stars
    No wonder it also goes on hot dogs – except for the beans, it’s close to the recipes in many areas for hot dog chili, which also came from Greek origins, rather than Tex-Mex, like chili con carne. In most cities it was originally called hot dog sauce until the similarity with chili con carne lead to the name cross-over. Isn’t hybridizing of food traditions wonderful for the taste buds?

    1. William D Ward

      3 stars
      Recipe sounds great But No Chili Parlor in Cincinnati cook the beans in the Chili. Beans are cooked separately and added when requested when ready to serve. But only when requested.

      1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

        5 stars
        William, the bean issue is discussed in the post, and this is a homemade Cincinnati Chili recipe with beans added. Don’t go messin’ with Jerry’s recipe. LOL.

  5. 5 stars
    That looks like a really hearty and comforting chili. The sauce looks lovely and rice too.

  6. 5 stars
    Thank you for reminding me it’s been way too long since I’ve had Cincinnati chili! And, thanks for sharing Jerry’s recipe with us, I won’t change a thing!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Pam! Jerry don’t want no changes! Haha.

  7. 5 stars
    Looks like Jerry has it right! I didn’t grow up in Cincinnati but I’ve lived here for almost 20 years now. It was definitely an acquired taste when I first moved here. But now I love it! You can find Skyline’s in certain parts of Florida – so Cincinnatians can still get their fix while vacationing, LOL

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Excellent! I can see how it’s an acquired taste, so I’m glad I loved it at first taste!

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