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Bring the Midwest’s most delicious secret to your dinner table with this Cincinnati Chili recipe! This unique comfort food features savory ground beef simmered in a medley of aromatic spices, served over a bed of hot spaghetti with plenty of shredded cheddar cheese and onions. It’s a delightful twist on traditional chili that’s quick to make and impossible to resist!
What Is Cincinnati Chili
Just as the name suggests, Cincinnati chili is a signature dish of Ohio. Renowned for its distinctive flavors and comforting appeal, its roots trace back to Greek immigrants who introduced the dish to the city in the early 20th century. Unlike typical chili, it features ground beef cooked with a blend of aromatic Mediterranean spices, including cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and sometimes even unsweetened chocolate, which give the dish its incredible flavor.
But this chili doesn’t just get its flavor profile from Greece, it’s also typically served over a bed of hot spaghetti. Yet, it doesn’t stop there! The folks of Ohio then took this delicious dish and added toppings. The most common way to enjoy Cincinnati chili is the 3-way, which includes the chili, spaghetti, and a generous sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese. But you can build up to a 4-way or even a 5-way by adding chopped onions and kidney beans.
Why You’ll Love This Cincinnati Chili
- Make Ahead Meal! With simple steps and easy to find ingredients, you can whip up this delightful Ohio treasure ahead of time to enjoy later. It’s the perfect make ahead recipe for busy weeknights or impromptu gatherings that is both fridge and freezer friendly.
- Taste of Ohio! The unique flavor of Cincinnati-style chili is undeniably delicious. The combination of savory ground beef infused with a medley of aromatic spices served atop a mound of spaghetti will tantalize your taste buds like no other chili you’ve had before.
- Family Favorite! This chili holds a special place in the hearts of families across the Midwest and will surely find its way into your family’s heart too! With its warm and satisfying nature, it’s a comfort food that both kids and adults alike will love.
- Ground Beef – I typically use lean ground beef in all my recipes, but any type of ground beef will work. You can also use ground turkey if you prefer.
- Onion – Brown onion is the best choice, but any onion you have on hand will do the trick.
- Garlic – Always mince fresh garlic cloves for the most flavor. In a pinch, the bottled stuff will do, but it just doesn’t offer the same depth.
- Spices – A magical blend of chili powder, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, ground allspice, and ground cloves create the signature taste of Cincinnati chili.
- Bay Leaves – Infuses the chili with a subtle aromatic flavor that enhances the overall taste.
- Tomato Sauce – The savoriness of tomato sauce complements the spices and brings the chili together.
- Beef Broth – Used to thin out the thickness of the chili and make it more like a stew. I always use low-sodium or no-sodium beef broth to control the overall saltiness of the dish.
- Worcestershire Sauce – This tangy ingredient adds a hint of umami that makes the chili addictively good.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Adds a touch of acidity that brightens the flavors and adds a hint of tang that complements the richness of the dish.
- Sugar – Just a pinch of sugar helps to balance the flavors and round out the taste of the chili.
- Seasonings – Salt and black pepper season the chili to perfection.
- Cooked Spaghetti – Most people serve the chili on a bed of tender spaghetti noodles. But feel free to serve it over any type of pasta you like, rice, or even a hot dog.
- Cheddar Cheese – Shredded cheddar adds a yummy layer of indulgent gooey cheese.
- Onions – Used to garnish the dish with a final zingy flavor.
This Ohio signature dish is as easy to make as it is delicious! This fuss-free recipe allows you to enjoy a hearty and comforting meal without spending hours in the kitchen.
To begin, grab a large pot or Dutch oven. Then add the ground beef to the pot and cook it over medium-high heat while breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it’s no longer pink and fully cooked. Then drain off any excess fat, remove the beef from the pot, and set it aside for now.
Now, using that same pot, toss in the chopped onions and minced garlic. Then saute them for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent and the garlic fragrant.
Here is where the magic starts! Add the chili powder, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, ground allspice, ground cloves, and bay leaf to the pot. Then give it a good stir to combine and cook the spices for 1 to 2 minutes with the onion mixture.
Next, it’s time to start creating the foundation of the chili. First pour the tomato sauce, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and apple cider vinegar into the pot. Then stir in the sugar, salt, and black pepper until fully combined.
Alright, you’ve done all the work and now it just needs to cook! First, add the ground beef back into the pot and bring the chili to a simmer. Then cover the pot with a lid and let it cook for 1 to 2 hours, stirring it from time to time.
Next, remove the bay leaf from the chili. Then give it a taste and season it with salt and pepper to your liking.
Once the chili is ready, ladle portions of it over bowls of hot spaghetti. Then top it with some shredded cheddar and chopped onions to serve it as a two-way or three-way if you like!
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes Cincinnati chili different?
Cincinnati chili stands out from traditional chili due to the unique blend of Mediterranean spices incorporated into the recipe. Moreover, unlike most chili, it is traditionally served over spaghetti.
What gives Cincinnati chili its flavor?
The flavor of Cincinnati chili comes from its interesting combination of ingredients. The savory ground beef, sautéed onions, and aromatic garlic lay the foundation of a typical chili, but spices like cinnamon, allspice, and cloves infuse the chili with its signature taste. The addition of beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and apple cider vinegar also further enhances the flavors.
What can I add to my chili?
Anything you like! You can get creative with toppings and additional ingredients to customize it to your liking. Some popular toppings aside from shredded cheddar cheese and chopped onions include red kidney beans, oyster crackers, sour cream, and diced tomatoes. For an extra kick, consider adding cayenne pepper or chili flakes.
- Skim the fat. After browning the ground beef, make sure to skim off any excess fat to prevent the chili from being overly oily.
- Spice it up. Add some cayenne pepper or chili flakes to give your chili a kick.
- Add a touch of chocolate. Some recipes include a teaspoon or two of unsweetened cocoa powder to add depth. Mine doesn’t but feel free to experiment.
- Make it ahead. Cincinnati chili tastes even better the next day, so consider preparing it in advance to serve the next day.
You can store leftover Cincinnati chili in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Then just reheat it in a pot on the stovetop or in the microwave. However, if the chili is frozen it’s best to let it thaw out overnight in the fridge prior to reheating.
Other Ground Beef Recipes
- Easy Meatloaf
- Hoisin Beef Noodles
- Instant Pot Hamburger Helper
- American Goulash
- Asian Ground Beef Noodles
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 large onion (chopped)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 bay leaves
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 cups beef broth (low sodium or no sodium added)
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- salt and black pepper (to taste)
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown the ground beef over medium-high heat until fully cooked. Drain any excess fat and set the meat aside.
- In the same pot, sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, cloves, and bay leaf to the pot. Stir to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
- Add the tomato sauce, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and black pepper to the pot. Stir to combine.
- Bring the chili to a simmer and add the cooked ground beef. Cover the pot and simmer the chili for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the bay leaf and adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper to taste.
- To serve, ladle the chili over cooked spaghetti or other pasta. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and chopped onions, if desired.
- Spice Level: Adjust the chili powder or add cayenne pepper to reach your desired spice level.
- Serving Options: Traditional Cincinnati Chili is often served over spaghetti (“2-way”), but you can also add cheese (“3-way”) and onions (“4-way”), and beans (“5-way”) for a heartier meal.
- Chocolate: A small amount of cocoa powder or dark chocolate helps deepen the flavor; feel free to experiment to find your preference.
- Leftovers: This chili freezes well and even tastes better the next day as the flavors meld together.
- Simmering Time: Allow the chili to simmer for at least 2 hours to fully develop the flavors. If you find it too thick, you can add a bit more water or broth.
- Gluten-Free Option: Use gluten-free pasta if you want to make this dish gluten-free.
Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.