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

4 / 5 (1 Reviews)
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review »

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!


For the Chili

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 3 cups (720 ml) water
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1½ teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

For the Toppings

  • Cooked spaghetti
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • White onion, diced
  • 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.

Did you make this recipe?

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

All images and text ©Brown Eyed Baker, LLC.