Cincinnati Chili Recipe

Cincinnati chili was dubbed "the unofficial grub of Cincinnati" by What's Cooking America? And chef, food writer, and registered dietician Kristen Carli has all of the tips and tricks you need to perfect it.

Cincinnati chili is unique in a few ways. First off, it's a thinner chili than you might be used to, and it's made with a unique blend of spices, including some more commonly associated with baking. According to What's Eating America?, the recipe was pioneered by Macedonian immigrants Tom and John Kiradjieff, who added the Middle Eastern spices to chili back in 1922, forging a legacy.

"With the cinnamon and cloves as ingredients," says Carli, "the flavor is unexpectedly delicious." 

The second way this chili stands out is in how it's served: not with rice or cornbread, but atop spaghetti — kind of like a play on bolognese. With a host of optional toppings to dress things up or down to your tastes, it's a fun regional specialty to try at home.

Gather the ingredients for your Cincinnati chili

For this Cincinnati chili, you'll need a hodegpodge of items from all over the world. Go to the grocery store and grab Italian spaghetti, a Mexican cheese blend, American canned chili beans, and a whole host of spices. Cinnamon, cloves, and cumin are used in Carli's recipe, but other iterations include everything from allspice to Worcestershire to cocoa.

While this chili is certainly spiced, it's not nearly as spicy as some others from different regions across the Americas. A touch of chili powder is all you'll need to give the chili a kiss of heat.

Cook the beef for the Cincinnati chili

The recipe for this Cincinnati chili starts simply: cooking the beef in a skillet until nicely browned. According to Carli, no extra fat is needed — all you'll need is just a bit of time. Enameled cast iron works well for this dish, as it's naturally slightly nonstick. Be sure to break the beef up with a wooden spoon as it cooks so that you get nice, even chunks of beef in the finished chili.

Season the beef for the Cincinnati chili

Once the beef is cooked through, it's time to season your Cincinnati chili. Add the garlic, onion, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer for just ten minutes, and it's ready to serve!

"This chili cooks up in much less time than a meat sauce," explains Carli. "The flavors can simmer together, and the chili can thicken up in a shorter amount of time than a bolognese, for example."

Once everything is in the pan, you've got just enough time to cook the pasta before it's time to serve. Spaghetti is the classic noodle used for this dish, but you can sub whatever pasta you have on hand. "I would recommend a long noodle," Carli suggests, "for a similar bite."

Serve the Cincinnati chili

The chili has simmered, and the pasta is cooked. It's time to plate!

A traditional Cincinnati chili can be topped with a myriad of things, from chopped onions to shredded cheese to beans to crushed oyster crackers. Feel free to get creative here and add whatever sounds good to you on top. Carli's recipe calls for cheese and chili beans, which you can either add to each diner's bowl in the kitchen or set out on the table so everyone can garnish their own plate to their liking.

Cincinnati Chili Recipe
5 from 21 ratings
Cincinnati chili is unique in a few ways. First off, it's a thinner chili than you might be used to, and it's made with a unique blend of spices.
Prep Time
Cook Time
cincinnati chili
Total time: 1 hour
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
  • 1 15-ounce can of chili beans, drained and rinsed
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add beef and break up with the back of the spoon.
  2. Once cooked, add the garlic, onion, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, boil a large pot of water. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Set aside.
  4. Serve the chili on top of a bed of pasta. Top with cheese and chili beans.
Calories per Serving 675
Total Fat 24.9 g
Saturated Fat 10.4 g
Trans Fat 1.2 g
Cholesterol 76.1 mg
Total Carbohydrates 78.1 g
Dietary Fiber 9.3 g
Total Sugars 6.2 g
Sodium 851.5 mg
Protein 34.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Rate this recipe