Cincinnati-Style Chili

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

My husband, Derek, introduced me to Cincinnati chili when we lived in Louisville, which is as close as I’ve ever gotten to spending any time in Cincinnati proper. This chili, we both agreed, is spicier (and in my opinion therefore more interesting) than the Skyline chain’s fast-food-ish version: If what you’re after is strict authenticity, cut the cayenne in half, or use chile powder instead, and you’ll come darn close. This is a four-way (spaghetti, beans, chili, cheese); for a five-way, pile finely diced raw onions between the beans and the chili. Serve with oyster crackers.

NotesA very fine grind is essential here in order to achieve the correct texture: Use a meat grinder fitted with the plate with the smallest holes, or ask your butcher to grind it for you.

Equipment: 4-quart slow cooker


Cooking Methodslow cooking



Total Timehalf-day

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together, game day

Recipe Coursemain course

Equipmentcrock pot

Mealdinner, lunch


Taste and Texturecheesy, chocolatey, hot & spicy, meaty


  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2½ pounds finely ground lean beef such as sirloin (see Note)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ large onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese, finely shredded


  1. Tie the allspice, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaf together in a double layer of cheesecloth and place the bag in a 4-quart slow cooker.

  2. In a large skillet, working in two batches if necessary, cook the beef over medium-high heat until no trace of pink remains, about 10 minutes. Drain off the fat, then add the beef to the slow cooker, along with the tomatoes, 1½ cups water, the onion, garlic, ground cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook, covered, on the low setting for 6 hours.

  3. When ready to serve, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente; drain well and set aside. Place the beans in a small saucepan with enough water to cover, and bring to a simmer. Cook until heated through, then drain.

  4. Stir the chocolate into the chili until melted, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove and discard the bag of whole spices.

  5. Divide the pasta among 6 serving plates, then top with a spoonful of beans, ladle chili over the beans, and top with a big mound of cheese.


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This is a wonderful dish! My family came from Greece to Texas, I grew up thinking Texas chili was the best, and then discovered the Cincinnati chili in their original cafe. Try the recipe. It will surprise you!


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