Cincinnati Style Chili

I first tried this dish in Chicago many years ago at a Cincy Chili franchise. Although it never really caught on here, I was hooked. After finding a recipe for it in a local paper and experimenting with the seasonings, I came up with a version that was to my liking. It is unlike Texas red chili in being mild and mellow with complex overtones from the many spices added to it.

Yield: 6 - 8 servings

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Cincinnati Style Chili Recipe

  • 1 pound lean ground beef, turkey, pork and/or venison
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup bacon bits, or 2 strips bacon, fried to crisp and crumbled
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
  • 1 cup green or red bell pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 4 ounces tomato paste
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes, minced or ground (optional)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder, mild or hot (see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup wine or cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons honey or sugar, to taste
  • pinch crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound dry pasta
  • Optional condiments:
  • cooked kidney beans, minced onions, grated jack or cheddar cheese
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Preparation Instructions

Brown the meat, drain excess fat and set aside. Brown the onion and pepper in oil, until onion is transparent, then cool. Mix the rest of the ingredients (up to the pasta) and bring to a simmer. After 10 minutes, add the cooked meat, onions and pepper, then simmer for 30 minutes more.

Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain.

Serve the chili over the pasta and garnish with the other condiments as desired.

Yield: 6 - 8 servings
Helpful Hints

The meat may be cooked ahead of time, then refrigerated or even frozen before use.

If spicy chili powder is used, the red pepper is not necessary. This is supposed to be a fairly mellow dish (not fiery hot).

Whole cumin is preferable. Toast lightly first, then grind in a mortar or coffee/spice grinder. For that matter, use all whole spices when possible and grind just before using.

This recipe is best when prepared a day in advance, which allows the complex flavors to blend better.


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Amy L

I put amazing b/c i have to put something to put the comment.. i hope it is amazing. I wish you had pictures so that I could pin the recipes that I want to try.. OR have a way to pin the recipes here once you log in (like a virtual recipe box.) I am getting the stuff to make this but i sure hope i remember where it is!! :)


I am a native Cincinnatian and we NEVER put red pepper, sun dried tomatoes, chopped onions or chopped tomatoes in the chili. As previously noted, it is a fine texture. And cheese is not optional.

Dave B

I lived in Cincinnati for a number of years and still make this style chili today. Real Cinci style chili never browns the meat. Add the one pound of ground beef to 6 quarts of tepid water and whisk it until the meat is all finely dispersed then add all the ingredients and boil down 1 to 1.5 hours. It's the fine texture and spice that makes it good!