Cincinnati Chili: A New Experience

Feel like you don’t get enough email? You want more? Subscribe to I get four or five emails a week from them, mainly shilling their books or magazine subscriptions, but maybe one a week will have kitchen tips and recipes.

Recently, an email touting Cook’s Country, CI’s “down home” magazine, featured Cincinnati Chili. That got my attention! Cincinnati Chili is one of my Top Five chili recipes. I got my version from a neighbor in Newton back in the 70’s, we’ll call it “Sally’s” Cincinnati Chili. Years — hell, decades — later, I experienced the “real deal” at a Skyline Chili franchise outside of Cincinnati on a trip to find the Ohio Heartland. I’ve got to check out this Cook’s Country version.


I downloaded the recipe and made it the next day for dinner. Of course CC had to put their “best way” spin on it, but it’s pretty good. It has the distinctive sweet-sour taste and the five ways and the ground beef. I polished off my dish and was pleased and satisfied, but sorry CC, I like the Sally version better.

Five ways better? Let me count the ways.

  1. CC uses more onions and less ground beef.
  2. CC uses brown sugar, Sally uses unsweetened chocolate.
  3. CC uses low sodium chicken broth and water, Sally uses beef broth.
  4. CC uses 2 tablespoons chile powder and one tablespoon dried oregano, while Sally uses four tablespoons chile powder.
  5. CC uses two tablespoons tomato paste, Sally doesn’t.

They both include garlic, cumin, ground cinnamon, allspice, vinegar and tomato sauce; Sally uses a bit of ground clove.
But the biggest and most telling difference is in the consistency and richness of the chili. CC is thick and chili like, limping home with chicken broth, water and sugar. Sally’s is thinner, darker and richer and emboldened by the beef broth and chocolate.

CC’s thickness is the result of the extra onion and tomato paste and the method of cooking. CC cooks the vegetables and spices, adds the broth, then adds the ground beef. When the beef is stirred in it combines with the onions, spice and tomato paste mixture, thickening the soup. Sally cooks the ground beef in the broth first, so it breaks up into fine bits and is suspended in the liquid, then adds the onions and spices. And Sally’s cooks an hour longer than CC.

Big difference.
CC — good, a good bowl o’ red.
Sally’s — excellent and memorable, non-traditional; more the Skyline Chili breed, but better.

Serve over spaghetti and add your choice of “ways.”



Cincinnati Chili, Cook’s Country (CC)

Use canned tomato sauce for this recipe—do not use jarred spaghetti sauce.

Serves 6 to 8
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups tomato sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef

1. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook onions until soft and browned around edges, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and allspice and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth, tomato sauce, vinegar, and sugar.

2. Add beef and stir to break up meat. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until chili is deep brown and slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and serve. (Chili can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)

STEP BY STEP: Five Ways to Cincinnati

  • TWO-WAY CHILI: Served over spaghetti.
  • THREE-WAY CHILI: Served over spaghetti and topped with cheese.
  • FOUR-WAY CHILI: Served over spaghetti and topped with onions and cheese.
  • FIVE-WAY CHILI: Served over spaghetti and topped with onions, beans, and cheese.

Sally Redmond’s Cincinnati Chili


Sally used to live across the street from us in Newton. Though she isn’t from Cincinnati, her husband Jeff is. Every spring, they would have a Kentucky Derby Party, with Mint Julips, their own Tote Board, and this Chili.
Note: I froze this in serving portions to eat plain or over rice, or noodles or even spaghetti.

1 Quart beef broth
2 # ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
4 T chili powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground cumin
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 t salt
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t ground clove
dash ground red pepper
1 bay leaf
1 15oz can tomato sauce
2 T vinegar (cider or white)
1/2 oz. unsweetened choclate

Bring broth to boil, gradually add beef; stir until meat separates into small pieces. Cover and simmer 30 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients, bring to boil, cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Refrigerate overnight, skim off fat before reheating.

4 thoughts on “Cincinnati Chili: A New Experience

  1. Thanks for passing on these recipes! I’ve never had Cincinnati Chili, but am looking forward to having it soon!
    BTW–just curious, what are your other top chili recipes (you mentioned.)


  2. Dee,
    Thanks for the comment.
    For my other favorite chili recipes, see
    Chili: My Top Five, posted April 4, 2007.


  3. Thanks for posting Sally’s recipe for Cincinnati Chili. It was great!


  4. CC has released a 2nd version of their Cincinnati recipe – but I haven’t seen it. I eat Skyline at least once a week (since I live right next to one), and I can tell from the 2 listed above the 40 year old one is likely more like the real deal.


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