I was introduced to Cincinnati Chili while my brother was going through his residency in Cincinnati (we were living just outside Fort Knox, KY at the time, so it was a do-able day trip, even with Princess an infant).
This regional specialty is different from your “typical” chili in three ways.
#1-The recipes are characterized by including unusual ingredients such as cinnamon, cloves and chocolate. . . and frequently NOT including chilies or chili powder.
#2-The ground meat is not browned, it is boiled-which gives it a much finer texture in the finished dish.
#3-It is ordered or made “by the numbers” depending on what you layer.
One way-just the Chili
Two Way-Spaghetti, Chili
Three Way-Spaghetti, Chili, Shredded Cheese
Four Way-Spaghetti, Chili, Shredded Cheese, Onions em>OR Beans
Five Way-Spaghetti, Chili, Shredded Cheese, Onions AND Beans
Even though it’s a favorite “fast food” item in the Cincinnati region (Skyline Chili is the most famous restaraunt to serve it) it is easy to create a homemade version. Don’t let the long list of ingredients (or their weirdness) scare you–it really is pretty fast and easy to put together.
And it tastes great! The last time I made Cincinnati Chili Princess declared it “Magnificent”, Yankee Bill said it was delicious and even Buddy (who dislikes beans but was able to eat his without) said it was good.
- 2 1/2 LBS of Ground Beef Venison or Turkey
- 2 beef bullion cubes
- 1 quart water
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 16 oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 onions diced
- 2 stalks celery diced
- 1 1/2 TBS vinegar
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1-2 cloves garlic diced
- 2 TBS chili powder
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp allspice
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 TBS brown sugar
- salt & pepper
Optional ingredients for serving:
- shredded cheddar cheese
- diced onions
- canned kidney beans drained
In a large pot boil together: beef, onions, celery, water and bullion cubes. (I like to actually reach my hand into the pot before I turn on the heat and sort of squish the ground meat into the water so it turns into a sort of slurry)
Reduce heat and add all other ingredients.
Simmer for 2 hours.
Remove bay leaves and add salt & pepper to taste before serving.
To adjust this recipe for a crockpot:
Reduce water to 2C
Combine all ingredients in a crockpot.
Use your hands to completely break up and distribute the ground meat throughout the dish.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
This is a very flexible dish, but if you have never had Cincinnati Chili I recommend that you make it with all the ingredients, including the "weird" ones like chocolate, before you decide to leave anything out.
Obviously you can leave out or increase any ingredients to taste-add more onion, leave out the celery, double the cinnamon. . . whatever makes you happy.
Have you ever eaten or made Cincinnati Chili? What is your favorite way to eat it? (I’m an “All the way-5 way” gal myself!)