Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili is an easy midwestern classic and total comfort food. Slow simmered for hours and served one of five ways, it’s perfect cold weather food!

A plate of Cincinnati chili five way.

We’re closing in on the end of the October and aside from a couple of days in the 50’s, our weather has been holding strong around the 70-degree mark, which is NICE, but also… NOT FALL. I love fall and would love some sunny 50-degree days so I can fully embrace hoodies, boots, blankets, hot chocolate, and of course, soul-satisfying comfort food.

Last month, I re-shared my favorite chili recipe and it spawned a discussion about Cincinnati chili, which I had never eaten before. I was flooded with tons of recipes and vowed to try it sometime soon. When we had a small dip in temperatures a couple of weeks ago, I took advantage and fired up a pot.

Of all the recipes I received, I was most drawn to the one sent to me by Mary; she said she began eating Cincinnati chili as a kid when she would eat dinner at a friend’s house before swim lessons. She said that she’s made tons of recipes over the years but the one she sent me, which hails from a church cookbook, is her absolute favorite.

A pot of Cincinnati chili after it has finished cooking.

Now, I’m going to be 100% completely honest with you.

I was super skeptical of Cincinnati chili for a number of reasons…

#1 – There were spices like cinnamon and allspice, and also… cocoa powder(!).
#2 – You mix everything together before you even put it on the stove, so no browning the onion or ground beef.
#3 – It’s traditionally served over spaghetti noodles, which threw this Italian for a serious loop.

I totally went into with a strong side eye, but I didn’t alter the recipe at all and forged ahead, cooking and serving it as directed. And you know what? We loved the heck out of this meal!

A collage of photos depicting the prepping of Cincinnati chili.

Let’s talk about the results, shall we? As the chili was cooking, I told my husband that the smell totally reminded me of moussaka, which is a Greek dish and the meat layer consists of ground beef or lamb cooked in a mixture that also includes cinnamon and/or allspice. He agreed and we officially LOVED Cincinnati chili.

It cooks up super thick and flavorful, and that spaghetti I was worried about? It’s crazy, but it just totally WORKS.

Cincinnati Chili served over spaghetti with cheese, onions and chili beans.

You may have heard the phrase “Cincinnati chili 5-way” and it refers to the topping options on the chili. Aside from the chili itself, these are the serving options:

– Over spaghetti (2-way)
– Shredded cheese (3-way)
– Chopped onion (4-way)
– Chili beans (5-way)

I went all the way and served it up 5-way and absolutely, positively devoured it.

If you’ve never had Cincinnati chili before, I highly encourage you to give it a try!

A big forkful of Cincinnati chili!

One year ago: Classic Calzones
Two years ago: DIY: Homemade Pumpkin Puree
Six years ago: Salted Caramel Popcorn, Pretzel & Peanut Bars
Eight years ago: Potato Rosemary Bread

Cincinnati Chili

Servings 6 to 8 servings
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 3 hours
Total 3 hours 15 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Michelle
Cincinnati Chili is an easy midwestern classic and total comfort food. Slow simmered for hours and served one of five ways, it's perfect cold weather food!


For the Chili

  • 2
    ground beef
  • 3
  • 15
    can tomato sauce
  • 1
    medium yellow onion
    (finely chopped)
  • 1
    chili powder
  • 2
    ground cumin
  • teaspoon
  • 1
    ground cinnamon
  • teaspoon
    ground allspice
  • ½
    crushed red pepper
  • ½
    cocoa powder
  • ¼
    garlic powder
  • 2
    bay leaves
  • teaspoons
    cider vinegar
  • 1
    Worcestershire sauce

For the Toppings

  • Cooked spaghetti
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • White onion
  • Chili beans


  1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy stockpot, stir together the ground beef and water until soupy.
  2. Stir in all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a rapid simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 3 hours.
  3. Serve over cooked spaghetti noodles (2-way), top with shredded cheddar cheese (3-way), chopped white onions (4-way), and/or canned, drained chili beans (5-way). Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Recipe Notes:

  • I used 85% ground beef and there was just a bit of grease when I stirred it at the end. I tend to like 85% for things like chili and meat sauce since it adds more flavor, but if you want to eliminate any grease, you may want to go with 90% lean.
Nutritional values are based on one serving without toppings


Calories: 182kcal
Fat: 6g
Saturated fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 70mg
Sodium: 821mg
Potassium: 622mg
Carbohydrates: 5g
Fiber: 1g
Sugar: 3g
Protein: 25g
Vitamin A: 570%
Vitamin C: 4.9%
Calcium: 40%
Iron: 3.9%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!