Cincinnati Chili

February  7, 2018
2 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

Called a chili, this is more of a soupy ground (minced) beef sauce seasoned with sweet and savory spices. Now a regional standby, the Cincinnati, Ohio dish was created in 1922 by Macedonian immigrant brothers and showcases a blend of spices that may include cinnamon, allspice, Worchestershire sauce, and sometimes chocolate. Many crown it with chopped onions, shredded cheese, kidney beans, and crushed oyster crackers. Serve it over spaghetti. (From America: The Cookbook (Phaidon), by Gabrielle Langholtz.) —Food52

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe was featured in the article In Cincinnati, Chili Is Sauce (& So Much More) —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound (455 g) ground (minced) beef
  • 4 cups beef stock or water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 15-oz can tomato puree (passata)
  • Cooked spaghetti, for serving
  • Crushed oyster crackers, for topping
  • Optional garnishes: grated cheddar, cheese, chopped white onions, cooked kidney beans
  1. In a large pot, combine the beef and beef stock. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while simultaneously breaking apart the beef with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to a simmer, continuing to break up the beef so it's very fine. Cook for 20 minutes. Add the bay leaves, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, cinnamon, cayenne, allspice, cloves, salt, and tomato puree and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the heat, cover, and refrigerate overnight or longer.
  2. Before serving, skim the fat from the top and discard. Reheat the chili, and place it atop cooked spaghetti. Sprinkle with oyster crackers and garnishes of choice.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Marion Groth
    Marion Groth
  • Cracker

3 Reviews

Cracker February 10, 2023
I’ve made Cincinnati Chili for many years based on a recipe from Burt Wolf. In his original he used a lb lean ground beef & a lb of ground lamb. In addition to the cinnamon, etc he used cardamom & unsweetened cocoa powder. In restaurants you can order two-way chili (over spaghetti), three-way chili (adding shredded cheddar cheese), four-way (topping all w chopped onions), & five-way chili (all plus kidney beans). I often do leftover CC over coucous ir even grits.
Marion G. March 6, 2018
I like to push mine over the edge spice-wise, so this is what I use (I really think the cider vinegar, clove, and cocoa powder are essential):

2 yellow onions, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
½-1 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground allspice
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
3 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 cups crushed tomato
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 lbs ground beef
1 whole bay leaf
1 quart cold water
Marion G. March 6, 2018
I add water during the cooking process as needed, BTW