Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili

Let's talk chili, Cincinnati chili, in particular. When I explain this particular chili to folks, I start by saying it's not the reddish, tomato-based Tex-Mex chili they're used to eating; it's best to think of Cincinnati chili as a mole of sorts since it contains both chocolate and cinnamon. Yes, I know that seems like an odd thing to put on spaghetti or hot dogs, but trust your Recipe Lady on this one, it just works and it works well.

How did this strange dish come to be?

The history of Cincinnati Chili – a heart felt story of two Macedonian refugees who fled to America from Argos Orestiko in order to escape the Balkan Wars in 1921: Macedonian immigrant Tom Kiradjieff created Cincinnati chili in 1922. With his brother, John, Kiradjieff opened a small Greek restaurant called the Empress. The restaurant did poorly however, until Kiradjieff started offering a chili made with Middle Eastern spices, which could be served in a variety of ways. He called it his “spaghetti chili.” Kiradjieff’s “five way” was a concoction of a mound of spaghetti topped with chili, chopped onion, kidney beans, and shredded yellow cheese, served with oyster crackers and a side order of hot dogs topped with more shredded cheese.

The 'ways' of the chili:

Two-way: spaghetti topped with chili

Three-way: spaghetti topped with chili and shredded cheddar

Four-way: spaghetti topped with chili, cheese, and chopped onion

Five-way: spaghetti topped with chili, cheese, chopped onion, and beans

For a Cincinnati coney, substitute a hot dog in a bun for the spaghetti


IFC Ingredients:

Ground beef

Cheddar cheese


Crushed red pepper

Hot dog buns

Hot dogs


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 TB vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 TB chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 ounce unsweetened chocolate about 1/2 of a square of baker’s chocolate or 3/4 tsp of cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups beef broth
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 TB apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper


  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Diced onion
  • Cooked kidney beans

For serving: cooked spaghetti or hot dogs


    • In a large saucepan over medium heat, add oil and onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 6 minutes.
    • Add beef, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Stirring frequently, cook until browned.
    • Add chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, cloves, chocolate, beef broth, tomato sauce, cider vinegar, and red pepper. Stir to mix well. Bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
    • Remove bay leaf and serve over cooked spaghetti with the toppings of your choice, or on hot dogs.


    Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 days; or, frozen in an airtight container for up to 9 months.