Cincinnati Chili is a rich, meaty, unique meat sauce with Mediterranean spices, served up with spaghetti noodles and your favorite toppings. It’s delicious the first day, and somehow even better the second day!
Why You Have to Try This Hearty Cincinnati Chili Recipe
If you’ve never tried this dish before, believe me when I say you are going to love it! Here’s why:
- Unique Flavor: Cincinnati chili gets a special flavor punch from a blend of spices like cinnamon, allspice, and cocoa powder. This sweet and spicy chili is usually served over pasta topped with shredded cheese, onions, beans, oyster crackers and more!
- Big-Time Comfort Food: This is not diet food, y’all – it’s comfort food! Sometimes you just want a big ol’ chili dog, or yes, some flavorful chili served over pasta and loaded down with toppings. It’s the perfect stick-to-your-ribs kind of comfort food dinner for chilly nights.
- Make Ahead: As this chili is better the next day, this is a great make ahead dinner for guests! It also travels easily to bring to an event, just keep it warm in a slow cooker!
- Fun Tradition: This is “the” recipe of Cincinnati, Ohio, and it’s so fun to recreate in your own kitchen, no matter where that is!
Looking for more epic chili recipes? Try my favorite hearty chili con carne, rich chili Colorado, or this chunky beef chili made with two kinds of beef! If you don’t much hands on cooking time, try this easy slow cooker chili instead.
What Is Cincinnati Chili
Cincinnati chili is a truly unique twist on regular chili. What sets it apart is its surprising combination of spices and flavors. Unlike Southwestern chili recipes, Cincinnati chili includes sweet, warm spices like cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Some recipes also include cocoa powder, giving it a slightly sweet and exotic taste that’s earned it a huge following and fandom.
While most chili recipes are served with cornbread or crackers, Cincinnati chili is often served over spaghetti, and topped with shredded cheddar cheese, making it a comforting and hearty dish that’s distinctively “Cincinnati.” So, if you’re in the mood for a chili experience that’s both familiar and wonderfully different, this chili is a must-try!
The Ingredients You’ll Need
For full ingredient amounts and directions, scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Lean Ground Beef: Lean ground beef is my favorite, and it usually doesn’t even require draining! You can use any ground beef you prefer, just make sure to drain any excess grease if needed.
- Beef Broth
- Tomato Paste: Make sure to use paste, not sauce.
- Onion: White onion is traditional, but you could substitute yellow, red, or sweet onions.
- Cocoa Powder: While optional, cocoa powder helps to deepen the flavor without making the chili taste like chocolate. You can also use bitter chocolate, chopped into pieces.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: A little tanginess brings out the flavor in the recipe, regular white vinegar will also work.
- Herbs and Spices: You’ll need salt, chili powder, cumin, dried oregano, bay leaves, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cloves.
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Beef Bouillon
- Granulated Sugar: You could also use honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar.
- Spaghetti Noodles: Cooked according to the package directions.
- Shredded Cheese: Cheddar cheese is traditional.
- Optional, For Serving: Kidney beans, chopped onion, hot sauce, and oyster crackers are all traditional toppings for Cincinnati chili. (If you use beans, be sure to drain them and warm them up first!)
How to Make Cincinnati Chili
Making this dish is easy and mostly hands-free. The stove does all the work! Here’s how to whip up a batch:
- Combine: Add your ground beef and beef broth to a large pot. Mash and cook until the meat is finely crushed and cooked through.
- Simmer: Add the rest of the chili ingredients and continue cooking the chili for one to two hours, to deepen the flavors. If it gets too dry, you can add extra broth.
- Enjoy! Serve the finished chili over the cooked spaghetti, with your preferred toppings.
I hope you’re inspired to try this fun, flavorful recipe – it’s a classic for a reason! Be sure to check out these helpful tips for success:
- Texture: It is important that the meat is finely broken up into little bits, not big clumps. I used a potato masher, finely crushing it with the broth. You might want to add the broth and then use an immersion blender to lightly puree if needed.
- Sauté: While it feels strange, you do not brown or sauté the ground meat in Cincinnati chili like you would a regular chili. Instead, you cook the ground beef with the broth together at the same time creating a uniform texture.
- Flavor Development: This dish is way better if you make it ahead of time and refrigerate overnight before serving. The rest time allows the flavors to develop more, making this a great make ahead dinner for when you’re having guests!
Here are some of the best ways to enjoy Cincinnati chili:
- Three, Four, and Five Way: These are classic options! Three-way Cincinnati chili is made with spaghetti noodles, chili on top, and then a heap of shredded cheddar. Add beans or onions, and you’ve got four-way. Five-way chili includes all of the above, plus oyster crackers for some salty crunch.
- Coney: Cincinnati chili is also popular as a hot dog topping! These “coneys” are sure to become your new favorite way to make a chili dog. Homemade hot dog buns make them even more indulgent.
- Chili Cheese Fries: Top a plate of French fries with Cincinnati chili and a generous amount of shredded cheddar cheese. You can add onions and beans for extra flavor! For a sweet and savory twist, use sweet potato fries instead of regular fries.
- Baked Potato: Serve Cincinnati chili over a baked potato and sprinkle it with cheese and onions for a hearty and satisfying meal.
How to Store and Reheat Leftover Cincinnati Chili
To store this chili, just cool it down and place it in an airtight container, or cover it tightly with a lid or some foil. Store in your refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To reheat, place the desired amount in a saucepan on the stove over low heat until warmed through, stirring occasionally. You can also reheat it in the microwave! If the chili seems a bit too thick, feel free to add a splash of water.
Can I Freeze This?
Sure! You can freeze Cincinnati chili by cooling it down and packaging it in freezer bags or airtight containers. Freeze the chili for up to three months, and thaw it in the fridge overnight before reheating it.
More Yummy Chili Recipes
- Best Hot Dog Chili
- Creamy White Chicken Chili
- Easy Stovetop Chili
- Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili
- Colorado Green Chili
- Crockpot Chicken Chili
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 4 cups beef broth
- 1 (12 oz) can tomato paste
- 2 cups diced white onion
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, optional
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons beef bouillon
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- Salt, to taste
Optional, For Serving:
- 1 lb spaghetti noodles, cooked
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Kidney beans, drained and warmed
- Chopped white onion
- Hot sauce
- Oyster Crackers
- In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, combine the beef and beef broth and cook while using a masher or large fork to break up the meat into very small pieces.
- Once beef is cooked through, add all the remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat for an hour, or up to 2 hours to deepen the flavors. Add a little extra broth if it gets too dry.
- Serve the chili over noodles and top with a tablespoon of beans, onion, a lot of cheese, some hot sauce and oyster crackers. Or, you can also serve over hotdogs.
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