Cincinnati Style Chili With a Twist

Kimberly Snyder
by Kimberly Snyder
6 servings
1 hr 45 min

Ever wondered how to make Cincinnati Style Chili? How many ways can you make it? Do you know the secret behind its unique taste?

In honor of the Cincinnati Bengals going to the Super Bowl for the first time in a number of years, I thought I would share my interpretation of Cincinnati Style Chili!

According to our friends at Wikipedia, Cincinnati Style Chili is actually a Mediterranean inspired meat sauce which is used to top spaghetti. It can also be used on hot dogs to make Coneys or Coney dogs.

Cincinnati Style Chili was introduced to Cincinnatians in the 1920s by a pair of brothers from Macedonia. Cincinnati Style Chili has a long and interesting history. Numerous articles and even a book have been written about it!

The “Secret” Ingredients

Cincinnati Style Chile normally combines ground beef, beef stock, tomato paste and a variety of spices into a sauce or thin stew. The spices used include a unique combination of sweet and savory spices such as chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove and bay leaf.

While none of the over 200 chili parlors in Cincinnati will reveal whether they actually do use unsweetened chocolate in their chili, many of the recipes that I found did use it.

How Many Ways?

What is a Way? How many of them are there, anyway? With Cincinnati Style Chili, “ways” are actually combinations of toppings added to the basic Cincinnati Chili. Standard Chili toppings include shredded Cheddar cheese, chopped onions and beans.

A “two-way” would be spaghetti topped with the chili. Adding shredded cheese to this basic combo makes it a “Three way”.The addition of onion makes it a “Four Way” and finally, adding beans makes it a “Five Way”.

The Chili is often served with oyster crackers. I was unable to get oyster crackers as there seems to be a great cracker shortage. We haven’t been able to find oyster crackers for over a month at any of our local Stores!

It Isn’t a Bowl of Chili

Cincinnati Style Chili is actually served on a shallow plate, not a bowl. It is also eaten with a fork, not a spoon like you would normally expect to eat chili. Pictured below is my husband’s plate of Cincinnati Style Chili. He actually added a bit (ok a lot more) chili powder on his!

When I was first introduced to Cincinnati Style Chili, I was expecting it to be more like what I consider to be traditional chili or Tex-Mex Chili. This Kim’s Black Bean Slow Cooker Chili is more what I was expecting. I wasn’t prepared for the fine texture of the meat or the unique flavor of the sauce. Honestly, I thought it was weird and I didn’t really care for it. Now that my palette has matured and I have taken the thyme to understand the history behind it, I realize it is actually quite delicious!


Are you wondering what the “twist” is that I was referring to in the title? Well, like my decorating style, “Kim Style” which is a unique blend of several decorating styles, this recipe is the result of studying several different recipes and creating one that uses two of the spice blends from Mad Dash Mixes. By looking at the ingredients listed on the backs of the Mad Dash Mixes packages and comparing them to the spices used in the various Cincinnati Style Chili recipes, I decided that using the mixes in place of the various individual spices would work. The Chili Mix also has a thickening agent in it that helps make this Cincinnati Style Chili recipe a little thicker than normal.

I also added a little unsweetened cocoa to the spices. In place of the shredded cheddar cheese that is normally used to top Cincinnati Style Chili, I used shredded mozzarella.

In addition to changing up the spices, I used balsamic vinegar in place of apple cider vinegar. A few of the recipes called for coconut aminos. I substituted Worcestershire sauce for that ingredient.

Since my recipe adds the onions and the beans to the recipe while it is cooking, once we add the shredded cheese, we will automatically have a 5-way Cincinnati Style Chili.

Now you have a flavorful, unique dish to serve at your Super Bowl party while you cheer on the Bengals! Touchdown Bengals!!!!

Basic Chili Staples to Have on Hand

Let’s talk about some staples to keep on your shelves or in your pantry.

Preparing a variety of soups and Chilis is easy to do if you keep staples such as Kidney Beans, Black Beans (or pinto beans) and diced tomatoes in your pantry. These items can be used in a number of different recipes. I usually have at least 4 cans of each on my pantry shelves.

Two other items to have in your panty are Chili Mix and Caribbean Jerk Seasoning from Mad Dash Mixes.

Cincinnati Style Chili With a Twist
Recipe details
  • 6  servings
  • Prep time: 15 Minutes Cook time: 90 Minutes Total time: 1 hr 45 min
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  • 1/2 pound ground beef broken up into tiny pieces
  • 1/2 pound chorizo sausage - fresh or packaged break up the fresh sausage into small pieces, cut the packaged sausage into pieces. Remove any casings.
  • 2 cups Beef broth
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3 tbsp Chili Mix Mad Dash Mixes
  • 2 tsp Caribbean Jerk seasoning Mad Dash Mixes
  • 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can Kidney Beans, drained & rinsed can use Black Beans or Pinto Beans if you prefer
  • 1 box spaghetti 16 oz box of spaghetti

While wearing gloves, break up the ground beef into small pieces. Chop or break up the chorizo sausage. Add to stock pot
Add 2 cups beef broth and stir
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add 3/4 cup of chopped red onion. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Stir frequently while simmering
Combine 3 tablespoons Chili Mix from Mad Dash Mixes, 1/2 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa and 2 teaspoons of Caribbean Jerk Seasoning from Mad Dash Mixes in a small bowl and blend well.
Add the spice blend to the stock pot with the meat/onion and broth mixture. Stir well
Add the minced garlic, 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar and 1/2 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce to the stock pot. Stir until everything is mixed together.
Drain & Rinse 1 can of Kidney Beans and add to the stock pot.
Add the can of diced tomatoes and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer for 40 minutes. If chili appears to be too thick , add a little water to help thin it.
while the chili is simmering, prepare the spaghetti according to package directions. Once the spaghetti is finished cooking, drain and set aside.
Be sure to remove the bay leaf from the stock pot of Chili once it is finished simmering.
Prepare bowls of assorted toppings for the Chili. Toppings can include extra shredded cheese, chopped onions and oyster crackers (if you can find them!)
place a portion of spaghetti on the oval plate. Top with the Cincinnati Style Chili. Add shredded cheese. Extra onions can be added. Serve with oyster crackers, corn chips or croutons if desired.
  • one pound of ground beef or one pound of chorizo sausage can be used if you don't want to have a blend of the two meats.
  • Additional chili powder can be added if you want a little more "heat" to the recipe
  • Remember to remove the bay leaf before serving the Cincinnati Style Chili
Kimberly Snyder
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