Mouth-watering Cincinnati Chili: The Perfect Comfort Food

Cincinnati chili is a beloved dish of the Ohio River Valley. Unlike traditional chili, Cincinnati’s recipe does not contain kidney beans and includes warm spices like cinnamon and allspice. This regional dish can be served over spaghetti or hot dogs and is typically topped with cheddar cheese and onions. I have spent countless hours perfecting my authentic Cincinnati chili recipe, which provides all the classic flavors of this iconic dish.

My recipe features a perfect combination of lean ground beef, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and a secret blend of spices that creates an irresistible aroma that will have you salivating before it’s even finished cooking. Once you cook it yourself, enjoy the texture of the finely chopped onion mixed in with the beef, adding extra flavor to your dish. If you’re looking to make an unforgettable meal for your loved ones or to impress at your next dinner party, this is the recipe for you.

Don’t waste any more time searching for nearby Cincinnati chili restaurants or waiting hours in line to get your fix. In under an hour, you can make Cincinnati chili in the comfort of your own home with my easy-to-follow instructions. Believe me; this might even surpass some restaurant versions of the dish! So, let’s get started cooking the best bowl of cincinnati chili you’ll ever taste.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Traditional Cincinnati Chili
Traditional Cincinnati Chili

Picture this: a chilly winter evening, you’re bundling under blankets on the couch and want something warm and cozy to eat. That’s where authentic Cincinnati chili comes in. This hearty meat sauce has been a staple in the Midwest for over a century, and once you try it, you’ll understand why.

First of all, this chili recipe is utterly delicious. The combination of spices like cinnamon, allspice, and cumin create a unique flavor profile that sets it apart from your typical beef chili. And let’s not forget the topping possibilities – from shredded cheddar cheese to a mound of spaghetti noodles, this dish is incredibly versatile.

Not only is Cincinnati Chili tasty, but it’s also easy to make. With just a few simple steps, including browning the ground beef and simmering ingredients together in a pot, you’ll have a pot of warm satisfaction ready to enjoy in no time.

This traditional recipe is also perfect for meal-prepping or feeding a crowd. Feeling creative? Experiment with different serving options. Add some chocolate chips or hot sauce to customize your chili to your liking.

In short, Cincinnati Chili is an absolute must-try recipe for anyone who loves comfort food with plenty of flavors. Besides it being hearty and comforting due to the rich meaty flavors blended with aromatic herbs and spices; It is quick and easy to prepare for those with packed day-to-day schedules. With all these reasons considered, I am sure you will absolutely love this recipe!

Ingredient List

 A warm bowl of comfort on a chilly day
A warm bowl of comfort on a chilly day

Get your ingredients ready

Before starting this authentic Cincinnati chili recipe, make sure you have all the necessary ingredients stocked up in your pantry. Here is what you will need:

  • 2 pounds of lean ground beef (80/20)
  • 3 cups of yellow onions finely chopped
  • 6 cloves of minced garlic
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 can (6 ounces) of tomato paste
  • 1 can (8 ounces) of tomato sauce
  • 4 cups of beef broth
  • 1/2 cup of chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon for authentic Cincinnati flavor
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoons of ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Make sure to keep at hand some toppings for your chili, such as shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and diced onions.

The Recipe How-To

 Chili so delicious, you'll want to lick the bowl
Chili so delicious, you’ll want to lick the bowl

Step 1: Sauté Onion and Garlic

To get started with the traditional Cincinnati chili recipe, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add finely chopped onions and minced garlic; cook and stir until the onion is translucent. This should take about 5 minutes.

Step 2: Add Ground Beef

Next up, add 2 pounds of lean ground beef to the pot with the onions and garlic. Cook and crumble the beef for about 10 minutes or until it has browned nicely.

Step 3: Seasonings Go In

Now it’s time to add in those authentic Cincinnati chili seasonings that give this regional dish its signature taste. This includes chili powder, minced garlic, salt, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon and allspice. Stir to combine everything thoroughly.

Step 4: Tomato Paste & Canned Tomatoes

It’s time to add in some tomato flavor next. First, stir in 1 can (6 ounces) of tomato paste, then add 1 can (8 ounces) of tomato sauce. Mix everything together well until it’s fully incorporated into the meat mixture.

Next up is adding some liquid to allow those flavors to meld together properly. You’ll need to add 4 cups of water or beef broth, depending on what you have on hand.

Step 5: The Magical Ingredient

In this step, we’re going to toss something extra-special into our Cincinnati chili recipe – just like how Gold Star does it – which is a secret ingredient named “Worcestershire sauce”. Add around 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, then throw in a couple of bay leaves.

Bring everything to a simmer over medium heat. Once it starts bubbling away nicely, reduce heat to low and let it simmer gently for at least 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

It’s that easy! Please note that authentic Cincinnati chili is closer to a meat sauce than a traditional spicy chili dish you might expect from Texas chili or other parts of the country. But when served as “5 ways” atop spaghetti noodles piled high with shredded cheddar cheese and diced onions cooked two ways – raw & chopped – this meal will transform into something magical that everyone can’t help but adore!

Substitutions and Variations

 A perfect way to satisfy your food cravings
A perfect way to satisfy your food cravings

This Authentic Cincinnati Chili Recipe is pretty versatile, but there are some substitutions and variations you can try. Here are a few ideas:


– Ground turkey or chicken can be substituted for the ground beef if you prefer.

– To make this recipe vegetarian, use a meat substitute like textured vegetable protein (TVP) or crumbled tofu instead of the ground beef.

– If you don’t have allspice or bay leaves on hand, feel free to leave them out. They add flavor, but the chili will still taste great without them.


– 5-Way: To make this dish “5-way”, serve the chili over spaghetti noodles and top with kidney beans, finely grated cheddar cheese, and diced onions. This is the most popular way to enjoy Cincinnati chili!

– 4-Way: Skip the beans for a “4-way” dish.

– Chili Cheese Fries: Another popular way to enjoy Cincinnati chili is by serving it over French fries and topping it with shredded cheddar cheese.

– Chili Mac: Mix cooked elbow macaroni into the chili for a hearty and comforting meal.

– Texas Style Chili: For a spicier and thicker chili, replace some of the water with beef broth, reduce the amount of cinnamon and allspice by half, add more chili powder to taste, and include diced tomatoes instead of tomato paste.

Remember that experimenting with different combinations and ingredients is what makes cooking fun! Let your creativity run wild and find your own style for this classic Cincinnati Chili recipe.

Serving and Pairing

 Meaty goodness with a touch of spice
Meaty goodness with a touch of spice

Once your authentic Cincinnati chili is ready, the aroma of the exotic spices will fill your kitchen and tingle your taste buds. In order to fully enjoy this unique and soulful dish, here are some serving and pairing options that I highly recommend.

The traditional way to serve Cincinnati chili is over a bed of spaghetti, topped with shredded cheddar cheese and diced onions. This is called “three-way” since it’s a combination of chili (one way), spaghetti (two ways), and cheese (three ways). However, if you prefer a more protein-rich meal or are gluten-free, you can substitute the spaghetti with brown rice, quinoa, or zucchini noodles.

For extra crunchiness and earthy flavor, you can also sprinkle some crushed red pepper flakes and fresh cilantro on top of your Cincinnati chili. The red pepper flakes will add a touch of spiciness while the cilantro will balance it out with its citrusy aroma.

Cincinnati chili also pairs well with hearty sides such as cornbread, garlic bread, or crackers. These choices make for an excellent way to soak up all the delicious sauce leftover in your bowl.

If you’re feeling adventurous with beverages options, soda cupcakes bring an absolute harmony with authentic Cincinnati chilli. For anyone who prefers alcoholic drinks pairings, try this dish with a full-bodied Zinfandel or Pinot Noir as they perfectly complement the richness of the meat sauce.

Lastly, once you have savoured every last spoonful of your mouth-watering Cincinnati chili, be sure to keep some leftovers stored properly in an air-tight container and refrigerate them for next-day meals. Its flavour deepens over time which makes the Cincinatti Chili even more delicious upon reheating.

Trust me when I say that Cincinnati chili is a complete game changer in terms of taste palette so go ahead give it a shot today!

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 A hearty meal that brings people together
A hearty meal that brings people together

Making Cincinnati chili is a labor of love that takes some time and effort. But don’t worry, I’ve got great news for you! This flavorful dish can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator or freezer for later enjoyment.

If you’re planning to make Cincinnati chili ahead of time, let it cool to room temperature first. Then, transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to three days or in the freezer for up to a month. It’s important to note that if you’re freezing the chili, you should do so before adding any toppings like cheese or sour cream.

When it’s time to reheat the chili, simply put it in a saucepan over medium heat until it’s heated through. You can also use a microwave-safe dish and heat it using high power for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally until hot. If you find the chili has become too thick after storing, add a bit of water or beef broth until you reach the desired consistency.

When serving Cincinnati chili, consider adding your favorite toppings like shredded cheddar cheese or even spaghetti noodles. In fact, some people even serve their Cincinnati chili over pasta, which is affectionately known as “chili spaghetti.” Additionally, this hearty sauce can be enjoyed on its own or as an ingredient in other dishes like chili cheese fries.

So go ahead and make a big batch of authentic Cincinnati chili at once. Store leftovers properly and discover how easy it is to enjoy this delicious dish again and again.

Tips for Perfect Results

 A Cincinnati staple that will warm your soul
A Cincinnati staple that will warm your soul

To prepare the perfect Authentic Cincinnati Chili, follow these expert tips that will help you achieve mouth-watering results.

One thing to keep in mind is the kind of chili powder you use. Cincinnati chili relies heavily on its spice mixture, with cinnamon and allspice being unique ingredients that set it apart from other types of chili. Be sure to use good-quality chili powder and fresh ground cumin.

Another tip is to cook it low and slow. Cincinnati chili involves a bit of simmering time because you want those flavors to mingle and get absorbed into the meat. To avoid scorching or overcooking the beef, keep your pot at medium heat and stir occasionally.

A must-follow tip is to go easy on the tomato paste if you prefer a sweeter taste. While tomato paste adds a rich flavor to your Cincinnati-style chili, too much of it will result in an overpowering taste that could mask other spices.

Don’t skimp on the toppings! Traditional Cincinnati Chili toppings include finely grated cheddar cheese, oyster crackers, chopped onions or jalapeños, and kidney beans, among others. Use as many or as few toppings as you like to elevate your dish’s taste profile.

If you have kids or are serving people who prefer milder food, reduce the amount of black pepper and red pepper flakes in the recipe, as this can give it extra heat.

Lastly, for that perfect serving consistency, make sure you always have some water or beef broth on hand in case your authentic Cincinnati Chili gets a little too thick while simmering. Add gradually until you arrive at your desired consistency.

With these tips in mind, enjoy making delicious authentic Cincinnati Chili that is sure to become a family favorite on bowl game nights or any chilly fall evening.


As an experienced culinary explorer, I know that home cooks often have questions about recipes. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions and answers about this Traditional Cincinnati Chili recipe. From ingredient substitutions to serving ideas, these FAQs will help ensure that your cooking process is seamless and your final dish is delicious. So let’s take a look!

What is the original Cincinnati chili?

Before diving into the recipe for Cincinnati chili, a bit of history might be helpful. It’s important to note that Cincinnati chili is not your typical chili recipe that you might be familiar with from Texas. Instead, its roots lie in a Greek dish called pastitso. Imagine layers of pasta, cheese, and a flavorful meat sauce spiced with cinnamon, allspice and clove. That’s the foundation of the unique flavors you can find in Cincinnati chili.

What is the difference between Cincinnati chili and regular chili?

Different variations of chili are characterized by unique spice blends that contribute to their distinctive flavor profiles. The classic red chili typically features cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder, among other seasonings. Meanwhile, Cincinnati chili sets itself apart with a hint of sweetness, which is achieved by incorporating spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. To enhance its distinctive flavor, some Cincinnati chili recipes even call for the addition of cocoa powder.

What are the ingredients in Cincinnati chili?

This recipe article will cover how to make Cincinnati chili with detailed instructions, tips, and recommendations using the main ingredients of this delicious dish.

What is the difference between Skyline Chili and Cincinnati chili?

When it comes to the world of chili, there are many variations and differences that distinguish each kind. One particular version that stands out is Skyline Chili, which is a type of Cincinnati chili that doesn’t contain any beans in the sauce. This unique characteristic was intentionally selected by its creator, Lambrinides, who believed that beans were not a fitting ingredient in chili. Similarly, an authentic Texas Chili, or chili con carne, also does not include beans in its recipe.

Bottom Line

As a culinary explorer, I highly recommend giving this traditional Cincinnati chili recipe a try. With its unique blend of spices and ingredients, it’s no wonder why it has become such a beloved dish in the Cincinnati area. Whether you’re looking for a cozy dinner on a cold winter night or something to impress your friends at your next cookout, this recipe will not disappoint.

And if you’re hesitant because you’ve only ever had Skyline chili before, don’t let that stop you. This recipe is just as authentic and delicious as any restaurant-style chili out there. Plus, with the ability to make substitutions and variations to fit your preferences, the possibilities are endless!

So gather your ingredients and get ready to embark on a culinary journey to Cincinnati with this authentic chili recipe. Just be prepared for the inevitable question from your guests: “Can I have seconds?”

Traditional Cincinnati Chili

Traditional Cincinnati Chili Recipe

I got this recipe from a college friend who grew up right outside of Cincinnati. The original recipe calls for twice as much ground beef and no beans, but I prefer the combination. This chili has an interesting blend of flavors and you can easily adjust amounts to your liking - I tend to measure all the spices with a generous hand! Don't be afraid to make it spicy because serving it on spaghetti sort of spreads out the heat. I have also added chopped bell peppers to this to add color, with good results. This freezes well. A couple of notes - browning the ground beef ahead of time works ok, but the consistency will be much different than if you crumble the raw meat into the water at the start (chunky vs. a kind of thickened sauce consistency). Also, this will work in a crock pot, but the end result is too thin and watery for my taste.
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Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 324.4 kcal


  • 1 quart water
  • 1 lb raw ground beef
  • 2 (14 1/2 ounce) cans kidney beans, undrained (pinto beans are fine too)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar (red wine vinegar works too)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice (I tend to use closer to a full tsp. because I love it)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • cooked spaghetti
  • shredded cheddar cheese


  • Pour water into a large cooking pot (5-qt size)
  • Crumble raw ground beef into water.
  • Add beans, onions, garlic, tomato paste, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and all of the spices, salt and peppers.
  • Stir together and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer till meat is cooked and chili is thickened, from 45 minutes to an hour and a quarter (depending on how thick you like it).
  • When chili is nearly done, prepare spaghetti (as much as you need - think in terms of how much you would want if this were spaghetti sauce).
  • Place drained spaghetti on plates and ladle chili over it.
  • Top with shredded cheddar.

Your Own Notes


Serving: 323gCalories: 324.4kcalCarbohydrates: 30.1gProtein: 23.2gFat: 12.8gSaturated Fat: 4.8gCholesterol: 51.4mgSodium: 1908.5mgFiber: 10.2gSugar: 7.2g
Keyword < 4 Hours, Low Cholesterol, Spaghetti
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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