The Truth About Skyline Chili's Secret Ingredient

Cincinnati is known for a few things; mainly its sports teams and its craft beer scene. But perhaps what the Ohio city is best known for is its famous chili. Aptly named Cincinnati chili, the regional dish is thinner than your standard chunky chili and is sans beans. And rather than eating it out of a bowl, Cincinnati chili is traditionally heaped over spaghetti noodles or hot dogs and piled high with onions and shredded cheddar cheese (a combo known as Cincinnati chili "four-way").

While you can make your own Cincinnati chili at home, or snag a can of the good stuff at Ohio grocery stores, locals love to enjoy their favorite food at Skyline Chili. The local chain restaurant has been serving up massive helpings of the iconic dish since 1949. One thing even the biggest fans have yet to discover about Skyline Chili's most popular order? What its secret ingredient is.

Skyline Chili features something sweet in its recipe

What sets Cincinnati chili — specifically the kind served up at Skyline Chili — apart from other types of chili is its one-of-a-kind spice blend. However, it isn't the hints of cumin, Worcestershire sauce, and paprika that have customers questioning what's really inside each meaty bite. It's the slightly sweet aftertaste. 

There are a lot of guesses as to what gives Cincinnati chili that spicy yet sweet flavor that's so unique. Some think it's allspice, some say it's cinnamon, and some even argue chocolate is added to the blend. While chocolate can be ruled out (franchise owners told the News-Press there's no cocoa involved to protect those with allergies), the secret ingredient remains, well, a secret for now. 

The original recipe from Skyline Chili founder Nicholas Lambrinides has remained unchanged since the day it was invented and is locked in a bank vault, Food & Wine reports. Even franchise owners aren't allowed to know the mystery ingredient!