Have you tried Cincinnati style chili? It’s a must!


Back in the early 90’s before I moved to Florida I had the chance to visit Cincinnati, Ohio. If you’ve been there, I don’t have to tell you what a beautiful city it is. Or that people from Cincinnati are proud of their town. After all, they have the Reds, the river and rollings hills (from what I remember). Good friends of mine introduced me to the area’s famous Skyline chili. And I was hooked! What a creative way to eat chili.

Over the years, as I missed that chili……I did happen to see it in the frozen section of my grocery store. I tried it, and of course it just wasn’t the same. But I made due. Then about five years ago, I did an internet search for the recipe…..and hit the jackpot! Recipes abound. The core differences in Cincinnati chili though and what makes it special are the cocoa powder, cinnamon and the way you eat it.

While your chili is cooking, boil a pot of water and make angel hair or spaghetti pasta, drain and set aside. Make sure you have finely shredded cheese, diced onion and kidney beans ready to go. I also like to top mine with a bit of sour cream, though not sure how authentic that is. 😉 When I made this recipe a couple weeks ago, I did another recipe search and bumped into my friend Kathleen’s blog. I cut her recipe in half, but if you want leftovers, have a big family or know you’ll all want seconds……go ahead and double the recipe. Next time, I will!

How to assemble your Cincinnati “Skyline” chili:

3 way – spaghetti, chili and cheese

4 way – spaghetti, chili, cheese and onion or beans

5 way – spaghetti, chili, cheese, onions and beans

Have you had Cincinnati chili before? Which way is your favorite way to eat it? What other foods are a “must have” while visiting Cincinnati?

Cincinnati style chili
Recipe type: Chili, Soup, Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Cincinnati is famous for their Skyline Chili. Try it...you'll love it!
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lb ground beef, organic
  • 1 cup crushed tomato or 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ tsp worchestershire sauce
  • 1½ tsp cocoa powder
  • 1½ Tbsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • ½ cumin
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ⅛ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Angel hair or spaghetti pasta, cooked
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Onion, diced
  • Kidney beans, cooked
  1. Brown ground beef in the bottom of a soup pot. Add in diced onion and cook till translucent.
  2. While beef is browning, measure and put all spices in a small dish.
  3. Add tomatoes, water, garlic, worchestershire sauce, bay leaf, cider vinegar to the pot.
  4. Stir in remaining spices (cocoa, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, salt, sugar).
  5. Cover pot and cook on low/simmer for at least 2 hours.
  6. For true 'Cincinnati style' serve with the following toppings/sides: spaghetti, kidney beans, diced onion, and shredded cheddar cheese.
  7. ** DOUBLE recipe in order to have second helpings or leftovers. It's that good! **

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16 Responses to Have you tried Cincinnati style chili? It’s a must!

  1. Trisha says:

    I love the assortment of spices in the recipe, it must make it really flavorful. Looks great!

  2. I’m going to try this, I am looking for a chili recipe that I like as much as Steak n Shake restaurants. I don’t like chunky chili (the beans and meat are fine) so this looks and sounds really yummy!

    Steak n Shake must be from Cincinnati because I think they word their menu the same way – 3 way, 4 way, etc.
    Kim @ What’s That Smell? recently posted..Clean Skillet Chicken “Parmesan”

  3. Shelby says:

    Yes! I have! and we love it! 🙂
    Shelby recently posted..Weekend Hash Browns

  4. Katie says:

    that’s pretty similar to how I make mine, though no matter WHO makes it, it will never be as good as the chili at Skyline 🙂
    Katie recently posted..Snazzits help snazz up your child’s wardrobe – #giveaway

  5. I love chili like this. I first had it many years ago when we first moved to Denver and one of my new friends who had moved here from Cincinnati make it for us for dinner one night. I had never had anything like it…but loved it from the getgo. Now I’m dying for some!
    Barbara | Creative Culinary recently posted..Homemade Biscoff Cookies with Biscoff Cream Cheese Frosting

  6. mjskit says:

    No – I’ve never had Cincinnati style chili! The chili looks delicious – I can almost smell it. Love the idea of serving over pasta. I would choose cheese, onion and beans for my toppings. Why not? 🙂
    mjskit recently posted..Sweet Potatoes with Brown Butter Sauce

    • Denise says:

      To me it’s so different that I think of this chili and regular chili as two totally different meals. I hope you try it! Let me know what you think.

  7. michelle says:

    yum, I need to try this- I’ve never had it ANY way before. 😉
    michelle recently posted..sweet potato and chorizo wraps

  8. It’s getting cooler here in Florida. A good time for Chili!
    Matthew ‘mmwine’ Horbund recently posted..Sipping Stepping Stone Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

  9. Aggie says:

    I’ve never had Cincinnati chili. Now I’m totally craving it Denise!!
    Aggie recently posted..Empowered Eating: Recipe for Dukkah Spice Blend

  10. Aggie says:

    I’m making a turkey version of this right now! I added the kidney beans in it too. Not traditional Cincinatti style but it’s smelling good!!
    Aggie recently posted..Empowered Eating: Recipe for Dukkah Spice Blend

  11. Pingback: Homemade hummus & making your own tahini {Secret Recipe Club} | Creative Kitchen

  12. Lisa R says:

    This is the best “copycat” recipe out there! I have made your version at least 6 times and we can’t get enough of it! I’m so glad I ran across this on Pinterest. My FIL lived in Cinci for a few years and says this is as close to perfect as it gets!

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