This Cincinnati chili recipe is a delicious homemade version of the infamous Skyline chili that you can make at home. And with just a few steps to make, it’s one of the easiest family dinners you’ll make all year.
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What is Cincinnati Chili?
My family lived in Cincinnati, Ohio for about four years when I was growing up. I may not remember a ton about living in Cincinnati, but there are three things that burned into my brain that I’ll never forget – coasters, memories with my sister Breanna, and a love for Cincinnati chili.
I’ll give it to you, Cincinnati chili is an acquired taste but once you’ve acquired it, other chilis just don’t compare. Not even my all-time favorite white chicken chili recipe.
If you’ve never had Cincinnati chili, it’s a no bean beef chili like nothing you’ve tried before. The meat is typically ground very small, and it’s made with chili and chocolate, making it a bit sweeter than your traditional chili.
The most popular places to get it in Ohio are Skyline and Goldstar and the two of them serve it a little differently but the basic flavor is the same.
You can read more about the history of Cincinnati chili here.
Homemade Cincinnati Chili
My husband isn’t a huge fan of the quality of the ingredients used in traditional Skyline chili, so he came up with this version instead. If you really want Skyline or Goldstar chili, you could just buy these cans of chili or this Cincinnati chili mix and use that instead.
And for me a big fan, it’s close enough to the original to curb my cravings for Cincinnati chili when we can’t get back to Ohio often enough. And the best part of all is that the recipe is simple – meat + spices that simmer together for a while and that’s it.
It’s simple, delicious, and perfect for making homemade cheese coneys (try a cheese coney bar!), 5-ways, or just eating with a bunch of oyster crackers. And it works with most eating lifestyles including paleo!
Cincinnati Chili Ingredients
The thing that makes Cincinnati chili so unique is the ingredients. Unlike Texas chili or a traditional bean based chili, these are no beans. And the spices are way different than a traditional chili. They’re what makes it so delicious!
I’ve included the ingredients below with some notes but make sure to read the actual recipe at the bottom of this post for all the measurements, etc.
- Ground beef – we prefer grass-fed but you can use whatever type of ground beef you want
- Beef broth – go with the low sodium kind so your chili doesn’t end up too salty
- Crushed tomatoes – puree until smooth or just used pureed tomatoes
- Garlic – fresh garlic minced
- Apple cider vinegar
- Coconut aminos
- Chili powder
- Unsweetened cocoa powder – the cocoa powder is one of the things that makes this so unique
- Cinnamon powder – another thing unique to Cincinnati chili
- Salt and pepper
- Ground gloves
- Bay leaves
What to Eat with Cincinnati Chili
You can really eat Cincinnati chili with whatever you want but the typical ways to eat it include:
- Cheese coney – hot dog, chili, oyster crackers, mustard, and onions
- 3-way – Spaghetti, chili, and cheese
- 4-way – Spaghetti, chili, cheese, and mustard
- 5-way – Spaghetti, chili, cheese, mustard, and onions
The other things you need to know about eating Cincinnati chili is that it always needs to be eaten with oyster crackers. Okay, maybe not always – but they’re definitely a tradition and you’ll find them at both Skyline and Goldstar!
And the cheese needs to be freshly shredded cheddar cheese so it’s small, stringy, and fresh. None of the pre-bagged shredded cheese, it’s just not the same.
How to Make Cincinnati Style Chili
Cincinnati style chili isn’t difficult to make, but it does take a good amount of time. There’s not a lot of active cooking during that time, but it needs to simmer for a long time to let the flavors really combine together and give you that distinct Cincinnati chili flavor. Here’s how we make it!
1 – Add the beef and beef broth into a large pot and break up the beef into tiny little pieces (a signature part of Cincinnati chili).
2 – Bring the beef and broth to a boil and let them simmer for 30 minutes.
3 – Add dry ingredients (spices, etc.) and combine.
4 – Add wet ingredients (vinegar, tomatoes, etc.) and combine.
5 – Simmer on medium low for three hours, stirring every once in a while so the bottom doesn’t burn.
6 – Remove from heat and enjoy on a cheese coney, Cincinnati chili 5 way, or just in a bowl with some cheese and oyster crackers. Or if you want to be non-traditional, it’s always good with some chips or topped with chopped tomatoes and cheese.
More Delicious Dinner Recipes
- Almond crusted chicken
- Easy orange chicken
- Teriyaki chicken bowl recipe
- Whole30 Zuppa Toscana
- Greek lemon chicken
- Sweet spaghetti sauce
- Chicken enchiladas with white sauce
Easy Cincinnati Chili Recipe
- 2 lbs ground beef preferably grass-fed
- 4 cups low sodium beef broth
- 16-18 oz jar of crushed tomatoes pureed until smooth
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 TBS apple cider vinegar
- 1 TBS coconut aminos
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 1 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1 bay leave
- Add the beef and beef broth to a 6 qt pot.
- Break up the beef into very tiny pieces. You could probably do this with a fork, but I find that the best way to do this is to wear gloves and break up the meat with your hands until it almost dissolves into the broth. You're going for a "meat soup" texture.
- Bring to a boil then decrease to a simmer and simmer for half an hour, stirring frequently.
- Add all the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
- Add all the wet ingredients and stir to combine.
- Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 3 hours, stirring every so often so that the bottom does not burn. If the chili ever thickens up too much and looks like just ground meat, add a cup of a water and stir to combine.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool to an edible temperature.