Cincinnati Chili

Like most creation myths, the origin of Cincinnati chili is subject to interpretation. Several sources agree that it was invented in the early 1920s by Macedonian immigrant Tom Kiradjieff as a topping for the hot dogs he sold from a cart. The stand-alone version seems to have been first offered in 1922 by a restaurant operated by Kiradjieff and his brother John.  Called “spaghetti chili” it was what is now known as Two-Way Chili (See below for other serving options). It is served with oyster crackers for crumbling into the chili. And, of course, you can still get the chili on a hot dog.

About the only thing shared by Cincinnati and Texas chili, besides the name, is that they both contain beef. But while Texans prefer cubed chuck, in Cincinnati finely ground lean beef is the rule (I used eye round). Furthermore, Cincinnati chili does not usually contain chilies (or chili powder even though some claim that it originated in the city). Also, in Cincinnati the meat is not browned before cooking as it is elsewhere. But the biggest difference is in the spices: cinnamon, cocoa, allspice, cloves, and Worcestershire. Note, too, that torch-out contests to see who can eat the hottest chili are considered rather vulgar in Cincinnati which is, after all, in the genteel Midwest.

This recipe uses a pressure cooker. If you do not have one, just put everything in a Dutch oven and simmer until done, about 1½ hours.

Serves: 6 to 8


  • 1½ pounds extra-lean ground beef
  • 2 cups beef stock or broth
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (I use no-salt added, adjust salt accordingly if needed)
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1½ tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. cayenne or other hot pepper powder
  • 1½ Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp. salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Put all of the ingredients into the pressure cooker and cook on high pressure (15 psi) for 20 minutes counting after the unit comes to pressure. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes then release the pressure according to manufacturer’s instructions. Simmer at atmospheric pressure for a further 15 minutes to thicken somewhat but remember that Cincinnati chili is thinner than Texas chili.

To Serve

Prepare spaghetti according to package directions and transfer onto individual serving plates (small oval plates are traditional).

Two-Way Chili: ladle chili over spaghetti

Three-Way Chili: top Two-Way chili with shredded yellow cheddar

Four-Way Chili: add chopped onion to Three-Way chili

Five-Way Chili: Put a layer of warmed kidney beans in the plates then add the spaghetti and the rest of the toppings.  

Serve oyster crackers in a separate container on the side.


4 responses to “Cincinnati Chili

  1. Laura Love February 5, 2011 at 14:47

    I used to work with someone who had lived in Ohio for many years, and this was how he ate his chili. I was utterly blown away watching him pour his chili onto spaghetti. He referred to it as Skyline Chili, which I have since learned is a restaurant in Cincinnati that serves it this way. You can also buy it in cans, but I can’t imagine that it tastes as good.

    • Leo Cotnoir February 5, 2011 at 16:05

      In Cincinnati chili is ALWAYS served over spaghetti! I left out the pasta because my wife is sensitive to wheat I did not serve it in the proper Cincinnati fashion. However, the chili itself is authentic.

  2. Ronel August 19, 2014 at 01:52

    I was interested in making a Cincinnati chili in a pressure cooker, and I found yours. I have never eaten it before, and since I have no frame of reference to compare this to, I have to judge it on the flavor combinations-which thankfully tasted wonderful. My husband really liked it too and said that he would much prefer this to an Italian flavored meat sauce. So thanks for posting this pressure cooker recipe, it made a 3 or more hour simmering sauce in 45 minutes!!! Can’t wait to make it again soon. By the way, instead of pasta, I use a Benriner Cook Vertical Spiral Slicer and make zucchini “noodles”. And just by pouring the hot chili over the top, it helped soften the raw noodles enough to give them a spaghetti texture. Thanks again for the recipe!

    • Leo Cotnoir August 19, 2014 at 08:56

      Thanks for your comment, Ronel. I am glad you liked my recipe. I will definitely try your zucchini noodles since my wife is sensitive to wheat and can’t eat regular spaghetti.

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