Cincinnati-Style Chili

Happy Monday everyone!  We had a nice weekend – the skies were blue and the temperatures were in the low 60s; two lovely days of Indian Summer.  We enjoyed it a great deal, which is good because a nasty front is moving through our area today, bringing very cold temperatures, rain and maybe even – sigh – snow.

Ah, well.  One of the nicer things about living in northeast Ohio is that there are actual seasons.  There are two seaons in northeast Texas:  Summer and Christmas.  It’s said there are four in northeast Ohio:  Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter and Construction, but I’ve found that Spring, Summer and Autumn all make appearances, however brief they may seem.

But I think I may have been here too long, if I’m making this dish.  Seriously, when I first moved north, I was appalled at what passes for chili here.  In Podunk, at least, it is little more than tomato soup with ground beef and beans in it.  And those crazy people down in Cincinnati put their version of chili on spaghetti!  It all just seemed so…wrong.

Well, that will teach me, because the idea of making Cincinnati-Style Chili has been lurking around in what passes for my brain for some time now.  I do have to confess that I’ve never actually eaten Cincinnati-style chili, but that doesn’t mean I can’t speculate on how good (or bad) it might be, and how I would like it to taste.  So I made it Friday night and you know what?  It was pretty darn good.

First, I didn’t serve it on traditional spaghetti, of course, but on a bed of perfectly cooked spaghetti squash which I roasted until it was just fork tender.  The result was spaghetti squash that was almost perfectly al dente.  Secondly, I indulged in some rare – for me, anyway – dairy and tossed the squash with some ghee and some Parmesan cheese.  Traditional Cincinnati-style chili is often topped with beans, which I omitted, cheese and chopped onion, which I included.  It seemed necessary for the dish, but you are more than welcome to leave the dairy out if you want to avoid it.

Lastly, as I mentioned I’ve never actually eaten this kind of chili, so I basically made and tweaked a double batch of my hot dog chili.  My excuse for this, besides the fact that it’s easy and pretty darn tasty, is that I had a commenter tell me her neighbor made the hot dog chili recipe, added jalapenos and beans, and won a chili cook-off with it.

Well, okay then.

I don’t know if it is chili cook-off worthy, but as Cincinnati-style chili, it’s pretty darn good.  I’ll make it again.

Cincinnati-Style Chili
Cincinnati-Style Chili
Cincinnati-Style Chili

Serves: 8
  • 1 large spaghetti squash (about 3 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 six-ounce cans tomato paste
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds in the center. Add enough water to cover the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold both halves of the squash, and place the squash in the pan, cut side down. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or just until tender enough to be pierced with the tines of a fork. Take care not to overcook.
  3. While the squash is roasting, brown the ground beef in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. While it is still somewhat pink, add the onion and continue cooking until the meat is cooked through and the onion is soft and translucent.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the tomato paste, water, spices and salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the chili is thickened, about 20 minutes.
  5. Once the squash is roasted, scrape out the flesh with a fork to make long strands into a bowl, handling the hot squash with care. Toss the spaghetti squash with the ghee and Parmesan and divide between 8 plates. Top with the chili, cheese and onion and serve.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 494 calories, 28.8g total fat, 119.1mg cholesterol, 1251.7mg sodium, 1097.4mg potassium, 20g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 9.3g sugar, 42.4g protein


19 thoughts on “Cincinnati-Style Chili”

  1. Well, I do. I do know that it is “chili cook-off worthy!” Cooking the squash al dente made all the difference. It was MARVELOUS!

  2. My hubby, during his college years at Marquette in Wisconsin, worked for a chili place (where apparently Jeffrey Dahmer was a regular visitor that my hubby served chili to) – he (my hubby, not JD) and the owner of the chili place flew down to Ohio to visit all the Chili places there to improve on their own chili…so they ended up doing a version of Cincinnati Chili, too – and through my hubby I was introduced to what I would have previously considered an ‘unconventional’ chili – and now I won’t eat it any other way! Well, except now I’ll have to try your version, of course! 🙂

    1. Oh, my goodness – what a story!!

      As for the chili, I still consider it a VERY unconventional chili, but you know, I was really surprised at how much I liked it. I never thought I’d ever enjoy any chili that wasn’t Texas-style.

  3. I did not even know such a thing EXISTED! Goodness. I’m going to trust you that it tasted great. At least they don’t try to put BEANS on noodles:).

    1. Oh, but they do! 5 Way Chili is just a version of Cincinnati-style chili – spaghetti, chili, beans, cheese and onions, all layered one on top of the other in that exact order. Like I said, I’ve never actually eaten authentic Cincinnati chili, and I omitted the beans on this one. I’m picky about the legumes I eat, and how often since they tend to be very high in lectins (and even the proper preparations of soaking and/or sprouting doesn’t neutralize enough of the anti-nutrients), so I left them off of this version. I’m saving myself for New Year’s Day, when I foozle the locals and make some black-eyed peas and gluten-free cornbread. That’s MY idea of forbidden comfort food.

  4. I don’t think I’ve actually ever eaten Chili in any form at all! I think this was mostly because I’ve always disliked beans, and my impression of Chili was that it had to have tons of beans in it to BE Chili. In any case, this looks beanless and delightful! : P

    1. Well, beans as an integral part of chili depends on who you talk to – in Texas, you will find many chili purists who will tell you, “You don’t know beans about chili if you eat chili with beans.” I’ve actually written about this – just do a search on the blog for “Texas-Style Chili.” I used to put beans in my chili simply because that’s how I was raised; my mom always put beans in chili, but that was really more of a way to stretch the meal (I’m the oldest of five children).

      These days I mostly make beanless chili, although Beloved also enjoys beans in chili so I’ll include them once in awhile. But don’t fear the chili – it doesn’t HAVE to include beans!

  5. I’ve had chili in CN before … and I was shocked and appalled. : )
    In fact, it may have been one of the reasons I turned down that promotion to relocate there! LOL
    I’m sure yours is delicious, but I just couldn’t wrap my brain around what they were doing to CHILI.

    PS I would LOVE a Vitamix also …! I have friends who have them and I’m so jealous!

  6. Let me start off by saying that this is one of my favorite recipe sites because of so many perfect recipes so I’m writing this as a fan. I grew up in Louisville, KY so Cincinnati style chili was readily available and my all time favorite since childhood. I’m not calling myself an expert on the matter but damn close… anyway… Serving beanless chili over any spaghetti like item and topping it with shredded cheddar doesn’t make it Cincinnati chili. Where is the CINNAMON?

    1. I understand your indignation, because I feel the same way about recipes that bastardize Texas-style chili. 🙂 But considering what gluten does to me, I’ll never put anything on “real” spaghetti again, so I may never make or eat authentic Cincinnati Chili (which is why this recipe is called “Cincinnati-style”).

      In my defense, though, I must have looked at over a dozen recipes, all claiming to be authentic Cincinnati Chili – some of them contained cinnamon, some contained chocolate, some contained vinegar, some of them didn’t call for anything but tomato sauce and chili powder, so I didn’t know the real deal must include the spice. I’ll know better next time. 😉

  7. This looks incredible! I’ll be making it soon. 🙂

    Incidentally, I just moved from northeast Texas (after living in TX 10 years) back to my old stomping grounds in Pennsylvania. I used to say that Texas has two seasons – hot, and brown. I MUCH prefer the weather up here (I missed real seasons), so I’m delighted to be back! And what better way to warm the cold days than with this yummy recipe? I can’t wait!

  8. Made this today, REALLY good. I’ve tried several l Cincinnati chili recipes and this is my favorite (I say forget the cinnamon and allspice) I can’t wait for your cookbook!

  9. Hey, first time reader here. Found your blog from a Pinterest pin on Cincinnati chili, and wanted to compare it to mine! My dad was born and raised in Cincinnati and I lived there for most of my childhood, so recreating a favorite is always a challenge! I personally don’t eat the chili on spaghetti, I don’t like pasta (I know, weird) but dad does. Anyway, I will share the recipe I use, (dad says it’s heaven!) but always do what works for you!
    2lb beef
    2qt water
    2 onions
    1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
    2tb vinegar
    2tea Worcestershire sauce
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    3tb unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/4cup chili powder
    1 1/2tea salt
    1tea cumin
    1tea cinnamon
    1/2tea ground cayenne pepper
    1tea cloves
    1tea allspice
    1 bay leaf

    Boil the ground beef in 1qt water, breaking it up as it cooks till it resembles fine meal, and drain. Add 1qt water,and all the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
    We usually add the beans right in with the chili. Dad takes it over spaghetti, I eat it straight, although I will have to try the spaghetti squash!

  10. I was raised in the Cincinnati area. I am amazed and somewhat put off by people that make comments about any product they have never tried. How could anyone care about such a person’s comments? For your information, there are no good recipes for Cincinnati Chili on line. Skyline’s chili has approximately 50 ingredients. This food product is very difficult to make WELL. It is a different culture and people have difficulty with exposed to such things. There is simply too much bad information on this product from too many people that know very little!

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