Cincinnati Chili

Mediocre chili. It’s a plague running through households like Mary Kay at a church potluck. And we’ve all succumbed to the ‘please don’t let this happen’ prayer while run shuffling to the stadium bathroom after being force-fed our uncle’s tailgating tradition. It’s time for an intervention, and the answer hails from Cincinnati.

A Lovable Dish In An Unlovable City

Cincinnati Chili is the best thing to come out of Cincinnati since…ever. Granted, it’s not competing with much. You’ve got one of the worst NFL teams in history, high-caliber officials like, Jerry Springer, who was elected mayor after he was caught writing a bad check to a prostitute, a murky intestinal-shaped slurry called the Ohio River, and we won’t even get into the westside. Just know it exists, and you don’t need to go there.
Formerly crowned ‘Pork Processing Capital of the World’ (Yum!) thanks to its large concentration of German immigrants, you might think blood sausages and bratwurst would be Cincinnati’s crowning jewel

But no, Cincinnati’s love for everything pork didn’t come close to producing a dish that shines as bright as the Greek stew meets chili meets spaghetti sauce created by Macedonian immigrants in the 1920’s.

Granted, they do love their pork products. When I roamed the dank streets of Porkopolis in my early twenties, you couldn’t turn a corner without running into a flamboyantly dressed flying pig statue or attend an event titled by some play on words involving swine. Go on down to the annual Big Pig Gig or power walk the Flying Pig Marathon.

Charming, but we’re here for the chili.And the truth is it’s good. I mean damn good. So good, you’ll be willing to overlook the abnormal activity of placing chili on top of naked spaghetti noodles. But if it’s culinary sin too great to swallow, you can dip your toe in by getting the chili dog affectionately referred to as a ‘coney’. It’s equally as delicious and I wholeheartedly recommend you get both. But the fun doesn’t stop here. You’ll proceed to what is known as ordering via the ‘way’ system, which is as follows:



The Cincinnati Chili ‘Way’ Ordering System

  • Two-way: spaghetti topped with chili (also called “chili spaghetti”)
  • Three-way: spaghetti, chili, and cheese
  • Four-way onion: spaghetti, chili, and cheese w/ onions or cheese (Four-way w/onion is where it’s at!)
  • Five-way: spaghetti, chili, beans, onions, and cheese
Once you’ve been sauced and covered to your liking, add a good dose of hot sauce – crystals or franks to keep it traditional – and serve up oyster crackers on the side.
You’ll find over 250 chili parlors in the greater Cincinnati area, all serving up their own variations of the original recipe. This iconic dish separates itself from its distant cousins with two star ingredients: cinnamon and chocolate. In effect, creating the Mediterranean-spiced sauce Cincinnatians have come to love.


Techniques that make it tasty 


1. Browning not boiling the meat gives enhanced flavor and texture

2. Toasting the spices in oil adds complexity and richer flavor

3. Reducing via a slow simmer allows the flavors to marry while thickening the sauce

*Don’t forget to check seasoning and acidity (apple cider vinegar) before serving


Chicken Stock

Yield: 7 quarts

Gear Needed

  • Dutch Oven


  • 3 lbs chicken parts
  • 8 oz carrots
  • 8 oz onion
  • 4 oz celery
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


  • Add olive oil to a large dutch oven or pot and heat until shimmering
  • Add onion, carrot, and celery to pot and saute until lightly browned and softened
  • Add chicken parts 
  • Cover with water and bring to a low simmer
  • Let mixture simmer for 1.5 hours removing any impurities that rise to the surface.
  • Strain through cheesecloth or chinois into a clean bowl
  • Store in refrigerator for 5 days or freezer for 3 months

More Recipes

  • What makes Cincinnati Chili different?

    There are a number of things that make Cincinnati chili unique. The main difference being the flavor profile that focuses on Greek ingredients.

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