How to Make Cincinnati Chili
Cincinnati Chili is a mystery to most chili fans, often copied but never duplicated – plus it’s the only chili know for what it’s served on: spaghetti. When in Cincinnati you can’t just order a bowl of chili, you need to know the Cincinnati Chili ordering shortcuts:
Ways Cincinnati Chili is ordered
- 3-way: Spaghetti with chili, covered with shredded cheddar cheese
- 4-way: Spaghetti with chili, then cheese, then onions
- 5-way: Spaghetti, beans, chili, cheese & onions
- 6-way: Spaghetti, beans, chili, cheese, onions & sour cream.
**No 2-way chili is served in Cincinnati; the cheese must always go on top.
I’ve never had authentic Cincinnati Chili, which is no surprise since I’ve never been to Cincinnati. That’s like saying you’ve had New York Style Pizza when you’ve never left California. So since I’ve never had it, there’s a good chance the recipe I picked out could be pretty bad, or pretty good – how am I to know. Cooking Russian roulette.
Here’s the recipe that I picked out of the Ultimate Chili Book – not to be confused with the Ultimate Chili Cookbook which I also own.
Cincinnati Chili Recipe
4 large cloves garlic, pressed
2 large onions, chopped
1 qt. water
2 pounds ground beef
1 (16 oz) can tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 large bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Cooked spaghetti – enough for 6 servings.
I used an entire head of garlic and simply chopped it up. I also used 1 large white onion instead of two. Other then that I actually followed the ingredient list to the letter, which almost never happens.
In a large skillet, saute the garlic and onions in hot lard (vegetable oil with butter works too). Add water until simmering. Add the beef. (You will actually be boiling the beef, instead of sauteing it, but that’s the way they do it in Ohio, I guess.) In go the tomatoes, vinegar, Worcestershire and all of the spices. Simmer for 3 hours.
Only 1 onion proved to be plenty. The directions are very vague – it doesn’t say what type of onion (red, white or yellow) and it doesn’t say how long to saute before adding the water.
Step 2: Adding water & seasonings
This does not look very tasty yet, I must admit at this point I was not holding out much hope. But after adding the seasonings and letting it all cook together things started to look a little bit better.
Step 3: Cook 3 hours
After adding the seasonings and letting things cook a bit, the chili started to smell really good – the allspice and cinnamon where wafting throughout the house. After simmering for 3 hours my first attempt at Cincinnati Chili was officially done. After the chili was finished cooking I was concerned with the layer of fat at the top of the pot, but I skimmed most of it off prior to serving and it all came out fine.
Step 4: Eat
We ate our chili 3-way. This first attempt at Cincinnati Chili was pretty much a success. I think I’ll try another recipe next time, to see which style of cooking tastes better. I’ve come across 4 different recipes for Cincinnati Chili so there’s plenty of controversy on what makes real Cincinnati Chili.
Whatever the real way is, this cooking experiment was rated a success by both myself and the ex. She deemed the chili an “elegant meat sauce” even though it took her a bit to get past the idea of eating chili on noodles. It wasn’t nearly hot enough for me, but I took care in choose the right hot sauce for the job, in the end I decided on a combination of Chipotle Tabasco (for body) and HOT Loco Luna (for flavor & heat)