Cincinnati, OH

Cincinnati Chili Recipe


Cincinnati Chili is the ultimate comfort food for people who love spaghetti, cheese and chili. Follow our easy Cincinnati Chili recipe and make the decadently delicious dish at home this weekend.
Cincinnati Chili with ForkPhoto byDaryl Hirsch/2foodtrippers

We ate Cincinnati Chili for the first time while traveling. Though we’d heard of the dish before, we’d never had the occasion to taste it until our travels took us to Cincinnati.

This situation is not unique for us. Culinary curiosity has catapulted us to dozens of states in America as well as to more than 40 countries. It’s also the reason we added Cincinnati to our epic US road trip route in 2016.

Neither of us had ever been to Cincinnati; however, we were itching to try the Queen City’s two iconic foods. Yes, the mid-size Ohio city has not one but two iconic foods: Cincinnati Chili and Graeter’s Ice Cream.

=> Learn about Graeter’s Ice Cream, Cincinnati’s other iconic food.
Eating Cincinnati Chili makes us happy. Pairing it with beer makes us happier.Photo byDaryl Hirsch/2foodtrippers

After scheduling a tour at Graeter’s Ice Cream factory on the outskirts of the city, we focused our efforts on one thing and one thing only. Our mission was to eat as much Cincinnati Chili as physically possible in just 24 hours.

Mission accomplished.

What Is Cincinnati Chili?
Cincinnati chili is so wrong that it’s right.Photo byDaryl Hirsch/2foodtrippers

Cincinnati Chili lives up to its name insomuch that’s it’s from Cincinnati and its main ingredient is chili. Sort of. The chili in this dish is nothing like chili eaten in Texas or sold in cans across America. Instead, it’s more like a Greek meat sauce with flavors of cinnamon, clove and bay leaf. It’s kind of like pastitsio meets spagbol meets a burrito.

=> Read about the best noodle dishes in the world.

In Cincinnati, cooks start by topping oval plates with spaghetti and then smother the simple pasta strands with highly seasoned meat sauce. Based on how the ‘chili’ is ordered, they finish by adding the following:

  • Chili Spaghetti – Nothing – The name says it all.
  • Cincinnati Three Way Chili – Lots of Grated Cheddar Cheese
  • Cincinnati Four Way Chili – Either Chopped Onions or Kidney Beans and Lots of Grated Cheddar Cheese.
  • Cincinnati Five Way Chili – Chopped Onions, Kidney Beans and Lots of Grated Cheddar Cheese.
These are the only appropriate toppings for Cincinnati Chili.Photo byDaryl Hirsch/2foodtrippers

You may be wondering about Cincinnati One Way Chili. Wonder no more. One Way Chili isn’t a thing. Without the fixings, it’s just plain spaghetti and we don’t play that way.

Pro Tip: Don’t count out Cincinnati Chili if its combination of disparate ingredients sounds weird to you. In our opinion and, more importantly, the opinion of millions of hungry midwesterners, Cincinnati Chili is dee-licious.

The History of Cincinnati Chili
Cincinnati’s appealing skyline provided the name inspiration for the Queen City’s most famous chili parlor.Photo byDaryl Hirsch/2foodtrippers

In many ways, Cincinnati Chili is a quintessential American dish with its all-American cheddar cheese, Mediterranean flavors and Italian pasta. But how and when did it begin?

No flash in the pan (or should we say dutch oven?), Cincinnati Chili has been a thing in Cincinnati since two Macedonian brothers concocted the flavorful gravy in 1922. A century later, the city has more than 100 chili parlors serving versions of the city’s most popular comfort food.
This is the first plate of Cincinnati Chili that we ate at Skyline Chili in Cincinnati. However, it wasn’t the last.Photo byDaryl Hirsch/2foodtrippers

Lambrinides clearly did something right – Skyline Chili and Cincinnati Chili are now practically synonymous. The chain now has over 150 locations in four states including Indiana, Kentucky and Florida.

But wait there’s more…

Visit 2foodtrippers to learn where to eat great Cincinnati Chili in Cincinnati and how to make it at home.

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