Sorta Cincinnati Chili

2016-02-14 12.14.59RECIPE #197, DAY #233

ORIGINAL RECIPE: My head and a little internet research*

TIMING: 30 minutes


TOOLS: Just a coupla soup pots

COOK TYPE: Stovetop

HEALTH: Assuming you are keeping your pasta intake reigned in, this is an okay way to get your protein, grains, and veggies all in one bowl. The better to relax with, my dear. You would be much better off with a moderate amount of cheese and inclusion of the raw onion and beans.

EXPERIENCE: Right now–due to the incessant, chaotic renovation of our home–we are on a weekly, rotating menu. Saturday evening is chili, which is partly because it is something I can make without referencing a cookbook. This week, I also had a half-pack of spaghetti and some cheddar cheese left over, so I thought, “Hey, isn’t that what makes a Cincinnati chili?” Turns out, sorta.

Cincinnati chili is a regional food which most of the country is unfamiliar with. I thought of Steak ‘N’ Shake. I’m not sure they even call their dish Cincinnati chili, but they do have a spaghetti with chili, cheese, and onion and I thought of it as Cincinnati chili, because that’s what Cincinnati chili looks like. However, the truth is that Cincinnati chili is not really a chili, it just resembles it. It is basically ground meat in a tomato-y broth with Macedonian spices. It tops spaghetti and is served with optional cheddar, onion, and kidney beans.

My version was a cross between a familiar Southwest chili and Cincinnati chili. I really enjoyed it, but if you want a more authentic version, see HERE (but you might want to omit the cocoa, as that is considered inauthentic by some).

NOTES: Part of the reason I merged this chili with a Southwest version is that I wanted more veggies in it. In Cincinnati chili, you should not see any veg. I wanted the veg. Also, I added cider and cocoa, because I like cider and cocoa and I like a little bitter-sweet.

Note that my technique is also very un-Cincinnati. The Macedonian immigrants imported the technique as well as the ingredients, and real Cincinnati chili boils the meat in a broth and then goes from there.

Cincinnati chili is taken 1 of 5 ways. 2 of the ways including topping with kidney beans. For flavor’s sake, I included the optional beans in the chili. You can omit them or serve them on the side, as well.


  1. Cook 8 ounces spaghetti in salted water according to package directions.
  2. In a heavy bottomed soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 diced onion and 1 diced green bell pepper and cook until onion is translucent. Push onion to the rim of the pan and add 1 pound ground beef. Cook, chopping up, until browned. Add 2 cloves pressed garlic and 1 diced jalapeno and stir for 1 minute.
  3. Add 30 oz crushed tomatoes, 1 bottle hard cider (or beer), 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cocoa powder, 1 pinch clove, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1 teaspoon salt. Add 1 can drained kidney beans, if using. Stir.
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 20 minutes to develop the flavors.
  5. Serve in a bowl, over spaghetti, with 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar and 1/2 diced white onion for serving.

Serve with your Cincinnati chili options.

*Recipe changed from the original.


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