Cincinnati Chili

If you’re looking for a standard chili recipe, turn around right now. This is nothing like a normal chili, which you might have gathered already because, well, it’s served over pasta! I’ve never been to Cincinnati but hear this is fairly authentic, especially when served with extra diced onions on top. It definitely isn’t like the chili I grew up with in Texas–this is for “them crazy ole Yankees” who also put ketchup on cheeseburgers.

This is kind of a blend of spaghetti sauce and chili. It has tomato sauce, virtually no vegetables, cocoa powder, and cinnamon and is best served over pasta with a mound of cheese. Seriously–this is weird chili.

Cincinnati Chili from
Serves 8

1 Tbs vegetable oil
½ cup chopped onion
2 pounds ground beef
¼ cup chili powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 bay leaf
3 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
2 (10.5 ounce) cans beef broth
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 Tbs cider vinegar
¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper

¼ cup shredded cheese (Recipe calls for cheddar, though I really like mozzarella)
Extra diced raw onions for topping

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 6 minutes. Add beef and cook until browned.

Add chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, cloves, bay leaf, chocolate, beef broth, tomato sauce, cider vinegar, and red pepper. Stir to mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

It is the best if you now refrigerate overnight.

Remove the bay leaf. Reheat gently over medium heat. Serve over hot, drained spaghetti. Top with shredded cheese and diced raw onion if you prefer.

I told you I could cook real food!


  • We were just talking about Cincinnati Chili yesterday and here you are. Wonderful photos! I’d have to try this soon. The sweet chili intrigues me a lot. Cool post!

    29 March 2010
  • meg

    This is normally served with the optional addition of beans (probably kidney or pinto), finely chopped (raw) white onions over the top and occasionally, yellow mustard. Also can also be served over fries (as in chili cheese fries). And mozzarella is not as good as cheddar! You need the tang against the sweet/spicy flavour of the chili.

    29 March 2010
    • Alyssa

      Thanks for the input! Like I said, I’ve never been to Cincinnati so can’t attest to the authenticity, but I did read the same comments on the original recipe at I do normally serve it with diced onions and cheddar but was out of both at the time (though I always omit the beans as I really dislike them).

      29 March 2010
  • Wait– what? You don’t put ketchup on cheeseburgers? (This is a serious question; I thought everyone did that…)

    29 March 2010
    • Alyssa

      Nope! Just mayonnaise and mustard. My dad always said it was for Yankees, though I think it’s still pretty common in the south

      29 March 2010
  • Megan

    I don’t know, it doesn’t look very authentic to me lol. My mom grew up in Cincy and we make it much thinner than that. You have to think of it as more of a chili flavored sauce than a stew.

    30 March 2010
    • Alyssa

      I actually simmered at too high a temperature this time–usually it is much thinner! I do like think of it as a chili-flavored spaghetti sauce. That’s why it’s so interesting!

      31 March 2010
  • Chili’s definitely something we don’t see often here in Singapore, and I must say that I’ve always been intrigued by it. I love that this version has it served over pasta; something that I think would appeal more to the crowd here. I’m definitely giving this a go, and authentic or not, I wouldn’t even know any better! It sure looks good to me! :P

    31 March 2010

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