Cincinnati Chili Recipe
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5 from 5 votes

Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati chili has a unique blend of Mediterranean spices, and can be served on it’s own, as a meat sauce over spaghetti, or with the additions of cheese, onions and beans (aka two-way, three-way, four-way, and five-way!)
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr 20 mins
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mediterranean
Keyword: cincinnati chili
Servings: 8 (approximately)
Calories: 359kcal


  • 1 1/2 pounds 80-85% lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped (approximately 4 cups)
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depends how spicy you like your chili)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups canned tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped (see notes)
  • Optional: 1-2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (see notes)
  • 1 pound spaghetti, cooked, drained and tossed with 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (use gluten-free pasta if gluten-free)
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (approximately 3 cups)
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed


  • Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the ground beef and stir vigorously to separate the meat. After about 30-45 seconds, before the water returns to a full boil, drain the meat into a strainer and set aside.
  • Rinse and dry the saucepan, then place over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions and cook for approximately 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and browning around the edges. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and remaining teaspoon of salt. Cook until fragrant, approximately 30 seconds, then add the water, stock, tomato sauce, and apple cider vinegar, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any brown bits that have formed.
  • Add the ground beef back to the pot and turn the heat to high. Once the chili is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the chili has thickened slightly, approximately 1 hour. Stir in the bittersweet chocolate and simmer an additional 5 minutes. Taste; add cocoa powder if the chili tastes too sweet (the bitterness of the cocoa powder will balance). Season with additional salt as desired.
  • To serve: divide the buttered spaghetti into individual bowls. Top with the chili, cheddar cheese, onions, and kidney beans (or any preferred combination). Leftover chili can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or frozen for several months.


Try to use bittersweet chocolate that’s at least 70% cacao. Some bittersweet chocolate is as low as 60% cacao, which is closer to semi-sweet chocolate and could result in a sweeter chili. Adding the cocoa powder at the end will offset any sweetness and add richness. Start with 1 teaspoon, taste, and then add the second teaspoon if needed. Alternately, you can omit the bittersweet chocolate entirely, and instead add 2 teaspoons cocoa powder + 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar.
Adapted from More Best Recipes by America’s Test Kitchen


Calories: 359kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 97mg | Sodium: 1478mg | Potassium: 687mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 25.7% | Vitamin C: 12.8% | Calcium: 35.5% | Iron: 19.6%