Cincinnati Chili (or “Cincinnati-style chili”) is a regional style of chili con carne characterized by the use of seasonings such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice or chocolate. It is commonly served over spaghetti or as a hot dog sauce, and is normally of a thin, sauce-like consistency, unlike most chili con carne. Restaurants that feature Cincinnati chili are frequently called “chili parlors”. Cincinnati chili seems to have originated with one or more immigrant restaurateurs from Macedonia who were trying to broaden their customer base by moving beyond narrowly ethnic styles of cuisine.
Cincinnati Chili Ordering Basics
Ordering Cincinnati chili is based on this ingredient series: chili, spaghetti, grated cheddar cheese, diced onions, and kidney beans. The number before the “way” of the chili determines which ingredients are included in each chili order. Thus, customers can order a:
- Bowl: chili in a bowl
- Two-way: chili and spaghetti
- Three-way: chili, spaghetti, and cheese
- Four-way: chili, spaghetti, cheese, and onions
- Five-way: chili, spaghetti, cheese, onions, and beans
I stumbled across Saveur’s recipe for Cincinnati Style Chili while looking for a good chili recipe to make for tonight’s dinner. I have heard about this style of chili but have never tried it, until today. I followed Saveur’s recipe to the letter. Most of the commenter’s who have tried the real deal agree that the taste is spot on for Cincinnati chili. As it simmered away in my kitchen, the aroma was amazing. Even more amazing was the taste. If you decide to try this, don’t go into it thinking “Tex-Mex” chili. This is something entirely different, but in a good way.
I enjoyed mine, Five-Way!
- tbsp. olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
- 1½ lbs. ground beef
- 2 tbsp. chili powder
- 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp. ground allspice
- ½ tsp. ground cloves
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp. celery seed
- 1 dried bay leaf
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¾ lb. dried spaghetti
- 1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed under hot water and drained
- 4 cups finely grated cheddar cheese
- Oyster crackers
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and half of the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5–6 minutes. Add beef, chili powder, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cumin, oregano, nutmeg, celery seed, bay leaf, and salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, 6–8 minutes. Tilt skillet and spoon out and discard any accumulated fat. Add tomato sauce, cocoa powder, and 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered, until somewhat thick, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add spaghetti and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8–10 minutes; drain. Put beans into a small pot and cook over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until hot throughout. Divide spaghetti between 4 large bowls. Top with chili, cheese, remaining onions, and beans. Serve hot, with oyster crackers on the side.