If you’ve never had Skyline chili before, you’re in for a treat. This Cincinnati chili recipe is rich, uniquely spiced and a Midwestern family favorite.
Cincinnati Chili is served on top of spaghetti noodles and topped with cheese. You can also enjoy this classic chili on top of a hot dog. Yum!
Flavored with unusual ingredients such as cumin, cloves, cinnamon, and chocolate, this chili is definitely different. Is it delicious? Heck yes.
Want to tickle your tastebuds with something new and exciting? Skyline Cincinnati chili it is. Let’s go!
Cincinnati Skyline Chili
Skyline Chili is a Cincinnati restaurant that serves one of the best Midwestern chilis on the planet.
If you’re unfamiliar, Cincinnati chili is a meaty sauce infused with a blend of Mediterranean spices. It’s savory, with hints of warm spices and chocolate.
Because it’s not as thick as southern chili, Cincinnati chili is more commonly served either over a bowl of noodles or on top of hotdogs.
It’s so popular, not just in the Midwest, that the Smithsonian has deemed it one of the “20 Most Iconic Foods in America.”
What Makes Cincinnati Chili Different?
While it does also contain ground beef and tomato sauce, Cincinnati chili has a completely different flavor profile to traditional Tex-Mex chili.
Cincinnati chili was brought to the Midwest by Greek immigrants dating back to the 1920s.
Its main components are similar to regular chili, but it’s made extra special with Mediterranean spices and chocolate.
To clarify, Cincinnati chili isn’t sweet. Instead, the complex flavor profiles work together as one, creating a pleasantly unique bowl of chili.
It’s not just the taste that’s different, but also the way it’s served. Sure, you can also eat it on its own, with or without toppings, but Cincinnati chili has a much greater purpose.
It was originally created as a hot dog topping, an idea that came from the owners of a hotdog stand outside a Cincinnati theater called Empress.
Eventually, the humble hot dog stand expanded into a restaurant, where the owners started to use the chili as a spaghetti sauce as well.
Over time, other Cincinnati restaurants, such as Gold Star Chili and Skyline, followed suit.
Skyline Chili Ingredients
- Ground Beef – The fattier the beef, the greasier the chili will be. That said, I like to use 80/20 for a good balance of fat and lean meat. It’s not too dry, not too greasy, and just perfect.
- Minced Garlic and Chopped Onions – The fragrant aromatics that make chili even more mouthwatering.
- Beef Stock – Water is okay, but to make your chili more extra, go for beef stock.
- Tomato Sauce – To be clear, it’s tomato sauce, not tomato juice, not spaghetti sauce, not tomato paste. Be sure to check the label.
- Chili Powder – You’re making chili, after all! Chili powder gives your chili its chili flavor.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Something acidic to balance out the savoriness of the dish.
- Worcestershire Sauce – Its unique umami flavor complements the beef well.
- Unsweetened Chocolate or Cocoa Powder – The secret ingredient that makes Skyline chili a cut above the rest. Chocolate or cocoa powder enhances the flavor of chili like no other.
- Cinnamon, Cumin, Allspice, Cloves, Red or Cayenne Pepper, and Bay Leaf – These warming spices make chili more cozy and comforting.
- Salt – To taste.
What is a Five-Way at Skyline Chili?
Skyline Chili gives you several options for how you want to enjoy your chili. You’ll love how you get to decide what you want to go in your bowl!
- 2-Way: spaghetti topped with chili
- 3-Way: spaghetti, chili, and shredded cheddar cheese
- 4-Way: spaghetti, chili, shredded cheddar cheese, and diced onions or beans
- 5-Way: spaghetti, chili, shredded cheddar cheese, diced onions, and beans – the works!
You can also top your bowl with oyster crackers for added crunch and hot sauce for extra oomph.
Or, enjoy your chili smothered all over a hot dog. This popular Cincinnati treat is called a Coney.
- Cheese Coney: hot dog, bun, chili, shredded cheddar cheese, mustard, and diced onions
- Chili Cheese Sandwich: bun, chili, diced onions, mustard, shredded cheddar cheese
Tips for Making The Best Cincinnati Chili
- Choose either 80/20 or 85/15 ground beef. You won’t want it to be too lean because your chili will be dry, but you don’t want all that grease, either. If you go beyond 80/20, your chili will be brimming with fat. You can skim it off, but that’ll be more work for you.
- Don’t feel like you should only limit the pasta to spaghetti. Try other noodles and shells as well! Penne, fettuccini, macaroni – anything goes.
- Add and omit spices according to your taste. You don’t have to put all the spices on the recipe card if you don’t feel like it. The two things you can’t take out, though, are the chocolate and Worcestershire sauce. They’re really what sets Skyline chili apart.
- Cincinnati chili is thinner than Tex-Mex chili. If you want to thicken it, make a slurry with cornstarch or flour. Spoon out some of the liquid into a bowl and mix it with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch or flour until dissolved. Pour the slurry back into the pot and stir until thick.
- Refrigerate leftovers in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.
- This chili freezes beautifully, so feel free to double or triple the recipe. Just let it cool completely and transfer it into freezer-safe containers. Label accordingly and freeze. Frozen chili keeps well for up to 4 to 6 months.
- Thaw the frozen chili in the fridge overnight, and microwave until warmed through.
- You can use the slow cooker to cook Skyline chili as well. Once all the ingredients are combined, transfer the mixture into the slow cooker and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or low for 6 to 8.
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