Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember. On family vacations to Kentucky or Tennessee, we always stopped in Cincinnati to visit Skyline Chili to enjoy a plate of spaghetti, and a hot dog liberally covered in chili, cheese and onion.

Later, Mom would order packets of the Skyline Chili seasonings from Ohio, and make the chili for us at home…it was always a big hit. If you’ve never had Cincinnati chili, you’ll have to adjust your idea of what chili is – this one is not very spicy, and not very tomato-y…its simply meat, onion and seasonings. And the seasonings are a balance of chili against cocoa and brown sugar…while it’s not exactly sweet per se, you can definitely detect the cocoa in the sauce.

Since becoming gluten-free, I can no longer make the chili from the little Skyline Packets – they don’t list wheat as an ingredient, but I sure got the unpleasant reaction when I made it, so, like everything else, packets are out, and cooking from scratch is in.

The recipe below is from Cook’s Illustrated, from Feb 08 – I’ve adjusted some of the proportions of seasonings to my own tastes, but as you add chili powder, sugar and cocoa and let it simmer, you may decide that the chili needs a little more of one of them to balance the flavors to your liking.

Cincinnati Chili
Serves 6 as a main course

2 tsp table salt or to taste
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 T vegetable oil
1 large onion, minced
3 cloves garlic , minced
3 T chili powder
1 T dried oregano
1 1/2 Tb cocoa
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 c chicken broth
2 c water
2 T cider vinegar
2 tsp dark brown sugar
2 c plain tomato sauce
hot pepper sauce

Serve with:
Pasta, grated sharp cheddar cheese, minced onion

  1. Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a large pot. Add the ground beef, stirring vigorously to separate the meat into individual strands. As soon as the foam from the meat rises to the top (this takes about 30 seconds) and before the water returns to a boil, drain the meat into a strainer and set it aside.
  2. Rinse and dry the empty pot. Set the pot over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is warm, add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and browned around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the chili powder, oregano, cocoa, cinnamon, cayenne, allspice, black pepper, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until the spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, water, vinegar, sugar, and tomato sauce, scraping the pan bottom to remove any browned bits.
  3. Add the ground beef and increase the heat to high. As soon as the liquid boils, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chili is deep red and has thickened slightly, about 1 hour. Adjust the seasonings, adding salt and hot pepper sauce to taste, or adding more cocoa powder or chili powder if needed.
  4. Serve over pasta in individual bowls. Spoon the chili over the pasta and top with the cheese and onion. Serve immediately. Chili also freezes very well, just be sure to let it defrost in the fridge.

268 cal per 3/4 cup chili, 80 cal from fat, 10g fat, 80mg cholesterol, 910mg sodium, 760mg potassium, 13g carbs, 4g fiber, 5g sugars, 33g protein
Brown rice pasta: 100 calories per ounce

4 thoughts on “Cincinnati Chili

  1. I tried Cincinatti chili for the first time in college and LOVED it. I think I had it three-way. I’ve heard of a place in the city that has Cincinnati style on the menu, but I can’t, for the life of me, remember the name of it! I’m not sure it would be gluten free, though.

    • Glenn, that would be a lovely surprise! And most grocery stores should have a brown rice pasta to serve it over. If your friend needs any help with the gluten-free diet, let me know. I love helping people embrace the gluten-free life.

  2. Pingback: Roasted Sweet Potato Noodles with Cincinnati Chili | The Whole Kitchen

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