Cincinnati Chili for #SundaySupper

Cincinnati Chili

Okay, I realize that this, my first submission to Sunday Supper, is a bit of a cheat.  I’ve published this recipe before, nearly four years ago. The flavor was excellent, the writing was fine and the photos were…dark and dreary. And just kind of terrible, in general.

But this Cincinnati chili is such a staple, it seems a shame to let it languish in the terribly-photographed-and-therefore-never-mentioned-again depths of my archives. This recipe is my fall-back. When I am craving chili, I make Cincinnati chili. When I don’t know what to make for dinner, I make Cincinnati chili.  When I don’t feel like cooking and have very little food in the house, I make Cincinnati chili; we almost always have the ingredients on hand.

Oftentimes, we stick with just the three- or four-way version.  The beans take a little extra effort and planning ahead, since we rarely have canned beans in the pantry, only their dried counterparts. Which is a bit sad, because the five-way Cincinnati chili is stellar.

Not sure what I’m talking about with the three-, four- and five-way stuff? Let me explain: Cincinnati chili, or at least Cincinnati chili a la Skyline Chili, is served over spaghetti, topped with cheese.  That’s a three-way chili. A four-way adds onions or beans.  A five-way adds both. Let’s get to it!

(And if you like it, can I ask you to vote for my chili in the Sunday Supper Chili Cook-Off?)

Cincinnati Chili

Yield: Serves 4

Cincinnati Chili

Traditionally, Cincinnati chili is served over spaghetti and topped with cheddar cheese (also called a three-way Cincinnati chili). For a four-way, add onions or kidney beans. For a five-way, add both.


  • 4 cups water
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 scant teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 - 12 teaspoon dried pepper flakes
  • For serving
  • Cooked spaghetti
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Diced white onion (optional)
  • Cooked kidney beans, rinsed and drained (optional)


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large stockpot, and use a wooden spoon to break up the ground beef.
  2. Cover the pot and cook over medium-high heat, bringing the chili to a boil. Uncover, and reduce the heat to medium so that the chili is just simmering. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the ground beef further with your wooden spoon, until it is the consistency of a thin meat pasta sauce. This should take 45 minutes to an hour.
  3. For serving:
  4. Drop some spaghetti into a bowl, and top with the chili. Sprinkle some cheddar cheese on top.
  5. For a four-way, add some diced onions or kidney beans. For a five-way, add both!
  6. Note:
  7. If you are using onions to top your chili, soak the chopped onions in water for 10 minutes first, then drain.This will cut back on some of the tear-inducing onion bite.

Will YOU be a part of the #SundaySupper Chili Cook-Off judges panel this week? Voting is live at the Sunday Supper Movement Online Community Magazine starting now and concluding (fittingly) on February 27 – National Chili Day! Browse the submissions and cast your vote by clicking HERE!

Beef and Bison Chili

Pork Chili

Chicken, Duck, and Turkey Chili

Mixed (meat combo) Chili

Fish and Seafood Chili

Vegetarian Chili


Best Wines To Pair with Chili #SundaySupper from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.


  1. says

    Welcome to the Sunday Supper Family Julie! Wow, what a fabulous first recipe. I had never heard to chili over pasta until I asked my followers how they liked their chili and many said over pasta. Guess what? I served my Chicken Buffalo Chili over pasta and the family loved it.

  2. says

    I love your photos and I’ve never had cincinnati chili (although 3 or 4 way for me)! I find it over spaghetti interested but really it’s just a spicy meat sauce, right? 🙂

  3. says

    I’ve never seen a chili recipe served on spaghetti! And I like that there are different versions. Guess I need to learn more about Cincinatti food 🙂

  4. says

    Hi Julie – great post and love the sound of the Cincinnati Chili! Looks like it would be the perfect chili for chili dogs (the current craze in my household).

    Lovely photos and I love the bowls! Are they from Anthropologie?

  5. says

    As close as we live to Cincinnati and the fact that we have relatives there, I’ve never had this chili! And I love pasta! I can’t wait to try this.

  6. says

    I love #SundaySupper! I get to learn so much! I had never heard of Cincinnati Chili before! I love the spices used in it!!! Yum!

  7. says

    Ok, this just looks awesome! And is it bad to admit that I’ve never had Cincinnati Chili like this…and there is even a Skyline Chili down here in Clearwater?!?! The shame!

  8. says

    Welcome to Sunday Supper!

    I’ve never made Cincinnati Chili but think my little ones would totally go for it – how can you go wrong with noodles?

  9. says

    I had never heard of Cincinnati chili before, what a great idea. One trick I do with dried beans is I make a large batch and then freeze it so I always have some on hand instead of tinned.

  10. says

    Beautiful pictures!! I made a Cincinnati Chili a few months ago, and I mixed the beans in with the chili before serving it on spaghetti with cheese and onions, and one of my regular readers lives in Ohio, so I got schooled, as you can imagine. It was quite delicious though. And I see yours is proper. 🙂 And thank you for the picture tutorial on the different “ways”. People outside Ohio really have no clue…

  11. says

    Love the idea of Spaghetti as a base for chili.The warm spices especially cinnamon and all spice is calling my name 🙂 .