Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili is a chili recipe like you’ve never had before! This chili is served over spaghetti or piled on hot dogs!

This chili is seasoned with interesting spices like cinnamon and ground cloves, Even more interesting is the addition of unsweetened cocoa powder, which adds a really great flavor that I think you’re going to love. Also be sure to check out our Hot Dog Chili recipe which is similar but flavored more like a typical chili recipe.

Cincinnati Chili served over spaghetti with beans, cheese and onions


Cincinnati Chili Recipe

So what is Cincinnati Chili? Well as you might have guessed, it’s a recipe that originated in Cincinnati as far back as the 1920’s.

This chili recipe, which is often served as diner-type fare, has unique flavors like cinnamon and ground cloves that flavor this special chili recipe. One bite and whether you’re from Cincinnati or not, you’ll be hooked!

How Do You Make Cincinnati Chili?

Not only do we love the flavors in this chili, but we love how easy it is to make!

Start by cooking onions and garlic in a pot or dutch oven. Add ground beef to the onions and garlic, breaking up into small pieces until cooked through.

chili recipe in a pot with ladle

Add the signature seasonings like cinnamon, ground cloves, unsweetened cocoa powder (or unsweetened chocolate) along with red wine vinegar and a bay leaf.

Along with those seasonings, you’ll also need cumin, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, paprika and salt.

Cincinnati Chili in ladle

Stir the tomato paste into the pot mixing it together with the rest of the ingredients. Now pour in the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes.

Let the chili simmer, covered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you like a thinner chili (as Cincinnati Chili typically is) just add a little water to thin out the base of the chili.

We like our chili slightly thicker so usually we leave it as is.

chili being spooned over spaghetti and beans

How Do You Serve Cincinnati Chili?

Here’s where things get fun. You can order (or serve) this chili recipe in a number of ways, literally.

  • Two-Way: Just the chili spooned over spaghetti, no other toppings
  • Three Way: Spaghetti, chili and finely grated cheddar cheese on top
  • Four Way: Spaghetti, chili, cheese and diced raw onions OR beans
  • Five Way: Spaghetti, chili, cheese, onions AND beans

Cincinnati Chili recipe on a fork

Me, I’d go for the 4 way with beans. I’m not a huge fan of raw onions but I get it here. The sharp flavor of raw white onions cuts through the thick, rich chili very nicely.

Well done, Cincinnati, well done.

Looking For More Dinner Recipes?

Cincinnati Chili served over spaghetti with beans, cheese and onions

Cincinnati Chili

  • Author: Dan
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

This unique chili recipe originated in Cincinnati in the early 1900’s and has become a standard dish in many restaurants and chili houses. Now you can enjoy this chili recipe wherever you live!



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 1 tablespoon crushed or finely chopped garlic
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/41/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/21 teaspoon ground cinnamon (start with a half and then add more if desired)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound spaghetti, cooked according to package directions and drained


  • Red kidney beans,
  • Finely grated cheddar cheese
  • Diced raw white onions


  1. Add the oil to a large pot or dutch oven. Cook the onions for about 5 minutes until softened, then stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Add the ground beef to the pot and brown, breaking up into small pieces and stirring together with the onions and garlic. If you like, you can drain any drippings from the pot at this time, or just start adding the seasonings.
  2. Add the cumin, chili powder, paprika, ground cloves, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, salt and cocoa powder to the pot and stir. Stir in the tomato paste and let brown for 1 minute.
  3. Pour in the tomato sauce, water and diced tomatoes along with the red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and bring the chili to a simmer. Simmer the chili, covered for 45 minutes.
  4. Taste for seasonings, adjust if needed and remove the bay leaf  Serve over spaghetti with your choice of toppings.

Recipe Notes

If you like a thinner consistency, add up to 1/2 cup of water to loosen the base of the chili.

This chili recipe can be made ahead of time and leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American

You Might Also Like:

Leave a Reply

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

Cocktails and Drinks

Side “Bar”

Try some of the cocktails and drinks we’re mixing up this week!