Take the chill off spring with a special chili

Somehow, I’ve managed to write this blog for four years, and I’ve never shared the recipe for Cincinnati-style chili. How could that be?

This unique chili brings back great memories of living in Ohio in the early ’90s. Competing quick-serve restaurants Skyline Chili and Gold Star Chili serve this tasty treat at location primarily in Ohio and Kentucky. I indulge in a bowl whenever I’m near there.

What makes it special is the spices. This chili has no beans but includes cinnamon and unsweetened chocolate. Honestly, the flavor probably isn’t what appeals to me — it’s the presentation. The “soup” (which is more of a sauce) tops a pile of spaghetti noodles and a huge pile of finely shredded cheddar cheese tops the whole concoction, and who doesn’t like cheese? Former Minnesotans certainly do.

I warmed up with Cincinnati-Style Chili on this kind of chilly spring day (sooo tired of this weather, but I hear we’re in for a warmup this weekend). When you make Cincinnati-Style Chili at home, you can serve it with a beer (the franchises in the Cincinnati area don’t have liquor licenses, though in my decades-ago experience, college kids like Cincinnati-style chili after hitting the bars). And I used gluten-free quinoa noodles.

Don’t let the long list of ingredients stop you from trying this recipe. It’s delish.

Cincinnati Style chili

Cincinnati-Style Chili


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (I used 1 tablespoon mild, 1 tablespoon hot)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons beef bullion
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 ounce square unsweetened chocolate
  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • For topping: finely shredded cheddar cheese and chopped white onions


  1. Saute onion in oil in large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add beef to brown, breaking up into small pieces.
  3. Add wet ingredients. Add spices and chocolate. Stir to mix well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for at least an hour.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare spaghetti noodles. To serve, remove bay leaf from chili. Mound spaghetti in low bowl. Top with generous portion of chili, then cheese (also generously) and onions. This is called 4-way (spaghetti + chili + cheese + onions). Really die-hards add beans for 5-way. Serves 2-4.

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