Home Copycat Recipes Skyline Cincinnati Chili (Copycat Recipe)

Skyline Cincinnati Chili (Copycat Recipe)

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!

Copycat Skyline Cincinnati Chili topped with ground beef and cheddar cheese. Midwestern favorite!
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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.”

Ground Beef Chili Sauce with Pasta

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.

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Over time, other Cincinnati restaurants, such as Gold Star Chili and Skyline, followed suit.

Skyline Chili Ingredients: Ground Beef, Minced Meat, Tomato Sauce, Spices, Worcestershire Sauce

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. 
Copycat Skyline Chili in a Bowl with cheese and spaghetti.

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
Copycat Skyline Cincinnati Chili with Shredded Cheese and Spaghetti noodles.

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. Skim off extra grease, if any.
  • Don’t limit the pasta to just 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 in the recipe if you don’t feel like it! As long as you keep the chocolate and Worcestershire sauce, you’re good.
  • Make a slurry to thicken the chili. To make, dissolve 2 tablespoons of cornstarch or flour in a bit of chili liquid. Pour the slurry back into the pot and stir until thick.
  • Store leftovers properly. Refrigerate completely cooled chili in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
  • Double the recipe and freeze leftovers. Just let it cool completely and transfer it into freezer-safe containers. Label accordingly and freeze for up to 4 to 6 months.
  • How to reheat frozen chili? Let it thaw in the fridge overnight, and microwave until warmed through. 
  • Cook Skyline chili in the slow cooker. Once all the ingredients are combined, transfer the mixture to the slow cooker and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or low for 6 to 8.

More Chili Recipes You’ll Love

Skyline Cincinnati Chili (Copycat Recipe)



Prep time


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Copycat Skyline Cincinnati Chili recipe topped with ground beef and cheddar cheese. Make this Midwestern favorite at home for a fraction of what it costs at the restaurant!


  • 2 pounds ground beef

  • 2 cups chopped onions

  • 4 cups beef stock

  • 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce

  • 2-3 tablespoons chili powder

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 1/2 ounce grated unsweetened chocolate, or 2 3/4 tablespoons cocoa powder

  • 2 teaspoons instant minced garlic

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper or cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 bay leaf or 1/8 teaspoon bay leaf powder

  • Toppings:
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

  • Chopped onion, optional

  • Kidney beans, optional


  • In a large skillet over medium heat, add ground beef and onions. Saute until onions are translucent and beef is no longer pink. Drain.
  • Reduce the heat to low and pour the beef stock. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Mix in the tomato sauce, chili powder, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, unsweetened chocolate or cocoa powder, minced garlic, cinnamon, cumin, salt, red or cayenne pepper, allspice, cloves, and bay leaf or bay leaf powder. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.
  • Remove the bay leaf (if using) and spoon off the layer of grease on the surface.
  • Serve over spaghetti noodles or on top of hot dogs. Top with cheese and other optional toppings. Enjoy!
Skyline Chili

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

4 thoughts on “Skyline Cincinnati Chili (Copycat Recipe)”

    • Hi Tammy, personally, I’d go with the Worcestershire because I like the tang it brings! It all comes down to what flavors you prefer. If you want more acidity, go with the vinegar.

  1. Hi, Kim. I grew up in Cincinnati and have had to rely on shipping cans to my house, so I’m really glad to see a recipe! One note, and I don’t know how much of a difference it makes, but Skyline doesn’t fry the beef – it’s cooked in liquid, typically to a boil, which helps in breaking it up to an even consistency. No lumps. Of course, you’re more likely to have fat rise to the top as it cools, but that can be scraped off, especially if you let it sit in the fridge overnight (which helps with the flavor). And thanks for pointing out the “no tomatoes in the sauce.”

    • Hi Becky!
      Yes, you’re totally right about the beef.
      I like to fry it because I prefer the texture, but you’re free to mix it with the water, then use a potato masher to break it up.
      It’s delicious both ways 🙂


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