Cincinnati Chili

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There are so many chili parlors in Cincinnati, it’s rather hard to pin down which one best represents the city. Each one has their own version, and all are delicious. Try this Cincinnati Chili recipe that mimics that of one of the larger regional chains. Make your own 3-, 4-, or 5-ways at home!

Cincinnati Chili

It occurred to me when I was making my Cincinnati Chili this past weekend, I’ve never actually posted a recipe for the chili itself. Nor have I ever posted a recipe for a 3-way. Which is too bad, because it’s rather easy, and mostly hands-off work.

For years, I used Gold Star Chili packets, because my dad would send them to me every so often. I don’t really have family in Cincinnati any more (I have some cousins who live there, but I’m not going impose on them), and though there are Kroger stores in Columbus, they only carry the generic blue Cincinnati Chili seasoning packets. Which are okay, but they’ve got onions in the chili seasoning itself. And to me, that’s a no-no. The onions are a topping, they’re not in the chili.

Cincinnati Chili

Before I moved to South Dakota I received this Cincinnati cookbook as a gift from a friend – Long ago enough that it’s now falling apart, because it gets used so frequently. And one of the recipes is for “Traditional Cincinnati Chili.” Jay and I both thought it comes about as close to Skyline Chili as you can get without knowing the actual recipe.

Cincinnati Chili

I’ve said for years that whenever I make a batch of Cincinnati Chili, it’s usually because I’ve been feeling homesick. This time around is no different. That, and at least here in South Dakota, it’s still chili weather – In fact, we just got yet another round of snow. February and March have been winter blast after winter blast…I even got to work from home a couple weeks ago, because school was cancelled due to a blizzard (they’re common enough out here, and since there’s less than a million people in SoDak, they never make the news, but let them get a little farther east, and suddenly there are headlines about Insert-Winter-Storm-Name-Here). All that aside, my hometown’s been on my mind lately.

Even before my dad passed away, he’d finally gotten around to doing what he said for years he would do – Move to Columbus, to be closer to my sister. I was sad enough when he moved, because my last real link to Cincinnati was gone. I do still have friends who live there, as well as the aforementioned cousins, but let’s be realistic – Whenever I visit Ohio, I’m obligated to spend all my time in Columbus with my mom and sister.

Still, Jay knows it’s important to me to be able to have the bambino experience my hometown, so he’s suggested at some point, we make a trip just to Cincinnati. It’s been years since we visited the Newport Aquarium, and I’d still love for the bambino to experience a Reds game. I could take him to a Minnesota Twins game, but meh. Not the same thing.

I would, however, like to go on a chili-tasting expedition, since I missed out as a kid. I know there are a few parlors that have closed, but Empress Chili is still open, as it Price Hill Chili (and even though my dad lived in Price Hill for 20+ years, we never ate there). Jay and I ate at Camp Washington Chili years ago, and I’d love to go back.

Cincinnati Chili

You’ll note this recipe omits the use of cocoa powder or unsweetened chocolate – Many cookbook recipes (at least the ones I’ve come across) call for the addition of it, most likely for color. Wikipedia says that none of the parlors in Cincinnati use it in their recipes, which doesn’t really surprise me. I don’t really know why, but I’ve always assumed it’s just for the color that the chocolate is added.

Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili


  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can (8-oz.) tomato sauce
  • 4 C water
  • i Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 C chili powder
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 35 whole allspice
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • shredded mild cheddar cheese


In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, brown the ground beef along with the onion powder and garlic. Drain any excess fat, if not using lean beef.
Stir in the tomato sauce, water, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, chili powder, cayenne, and cinnamon. Make a bouquet garni by placing the bay leaves and allspice in the center of a square of cheesecloth, and tying it tightly with kitchen twine. Add to the chili.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 2-3 hours, or until desired consistency.
Once the chili has cooked for at least 2 hours, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta, and cook 10-12 minutes, or until al dente. Drain, and top with chili and shredded cheese to make a 3-Way.

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5 Replies to “Cincinnati Chili”

  1. Pingback: Cincinnati Chili Dip – Trampling Rose

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