Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Style Chili Copycat Recipe

If you aren’t familiar with Cincinnati Chili, you should be! I must admit, this unusual chili, I was a bit taken aback. I grew up in Texas where chili meant meat, beans and spicy.

Cincinnati chili throws this idea on its head with the addition of cinnamon (yep, really), dark chocolate and a hint of cloves for a unique (and delicious) chili. In Cincinnati, there is a (somewhat fierce) division when it comes to this style of chili as people typically like one of the two main restaurants that serve it: Skyline or Gold Star.

After a while, the taste of Cincinnati Chili grew on me and my husband was already a life-long fan so I worked on figuring out a healthier copycat recipe. The flavors in Cincinnati style chili are healthy to begin with, as Cinnamon, Chili Powder and Cloves all have health promoting properties. Of all the recipes I’ve tried to make a healthy version of, this has been one of the easiest!

In Cincinnati, this chili is served with spaghetti noodles (never understood that) and topped with a mountain of cheese, onions and oyster crackers. We skip those additions and just top with chopped onions or a little raw cheese. Cincinnati Chili is not naturally spicy and it has become a kid favorite in our house. It is also delicious as leftovers or as a topping for eggs for breakfast. If you’re brave enough to add cinnamon to to your chili, give this recipe a try!

Cincinnati Chili Copycat Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A healthy copycat recipe of Cincinnati style chili with hints of cinnamon, cloves and dark chocolate. Try it!
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 6+
  • 2 pounds ground beef (preferably grass fed)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 cups bone broth
  • 2 cups of tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder or 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • ¼ cup (non-spicy) chili powder
  • ½ bar unsweetened cocoa (about 2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  1. Pour broth in to large stock pot and add ground beef.
  2. Bring to boil and simmer for about half an hour.
  3. Add diced onions, tomato sauce and spices and reduce to medium low heat.
  4. Simmer for at least two hours until chili has thickened. Add water if needed during this time.
  5. For best flavor, refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight and reheat.
  6. Enjoy!
Our favorite ways to serve are "1-way" with plain chili topped with onions or over eggs. This is also delicious over roasted cabbage "noodles."
Ever been to Cincinnati? Had the chili? Ready to try this recipe? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. Deborah Lapatina says

    I live in New Mexico, the land of green and red chili. I’ve also lived in Texas and eaten some outstanding ‘cowboy’ chili. When I first moved to Cinci I was taken to a Skyline chili house and stopped eating after two bites. It was the most disgusting glop I’ve ever eaten. Chili with chocolate and spices is nothing new, although in Cinci they seem to think they came up with this idea. Then I had Grater’s ice cream and fail to see why an ice cream laden with hydrogenated soy bean oil and waxy chocolate is considered a tradition. Take the time to drive to Columbus and have the one of the top ten ice creams in the United States, Jenni’s Splended Ice creams. Jenni has a terrific ice cream cookbook and I’ve made some of the best homemade ice cream I’ve ever had; AND it’s eggless and stays scoopable after freezing.
    In Cinci they have a tradition of bad taste! Still if you’re looking for another equally limp Cinci tradition, try getta.

    • Aleesha says

      Cool your jets Deb! I grew up in Southern Ohio and make a healthy Cincinnati chili for my family regularly. They love it even though my husband was raised in Colorado. Cinnamon and chili is a delicious combo in lots of dishes. Most things have been done before no matter where you are so give Cinci a chance! If you judge any place by their fast food joints then you haven’t really taken the time to get to know it.

      • Deborah Lapatina says

        I lived there for seven years. no jets involved; this is not judgement. observation. Fast food is poison no matter where you eat it. Air is filled with mercury and that’s why they have one of the highest rates of cancer and allergies.
        Incredibly oppressive area, but everyone’s allowed to get drunk as often as they like. Saw Lyle Lovitt while I lived there and he even made jokes about this. I live in Taos, NM now, it’s not perfect but at least everyone is allowed to be who they are. Not too many places left in the US with this kind of freedom. Can’t tell you how many people from Ohio come here ‘to escape’ . . . that’s their words or “I got out alive”.

    • Bec says

      My goodness! Jets in full force! Live and let live. We Cincinnatians love our chili, Graeters and goetta. Let us have our thing. God bless. :)

  2. Heather says

    I definitely LOVE this kind of chili, so much so that I am writing a comment (big news, cuz I don’t normally do this). Had it first after my roommate in college recommended it. She used to buy Skyline chili in the can, ewwww, but when we visited Cincinnati we dined in at Skyline and I became a believer. My homemade verison is pretty good, but I can’t wait to try yours! Thanks!

  3. Lora Adkins says

    I’ve lived in Cincinnati most of my life, and I love the chili! Skyline is obviously way better than Goldstar. lol.
    I look forward to making this at home especially since we no longer are in Cincinnati. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  4. Amy says

    my family loves chili but i’ve never been a big fan of the beans added to it. I wonder if I can get them to try this recipe. It sounds very odd but I’d love to see how it tastes. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Brianne Grogan says

    I LOVE this type of chili! Pre-Paleo, I ate it over noodles, just like the traditional version. I bet it would be good over zucchini noodles if I really get a craving for the “real(-ish) thing.” Thanks for the recipe!

  6. sarah says

    I was born in Cincinnati and have lived here my whole life! And let me tell you, Cincinnati chilli is Skyline all the way! They even have a low-carb chili bowl. I love Skyline, but what I love even more is restaurants with low-carb options. Gold Star chilli tastes like dirt. Anyone who comes here, steer clear of Gold Star.

    • Sierra says

      I agree! I’m also from Cincinnati. At Jungle Jims (well, the little spice store inside Jungle Jims), they sell the skyline chili spice packets that taste exactly like Skyline. You can use those with grass-fed beef and make healthy skyline. I love it!

  7. Jeni says

    Yum, I’ll definitely try this.

    I always put a touch of cinnamon in my homemade chicken soup because it helps it keep longer in the fridge (and tastes yummy too).

  8. Kelly Wertz Harris says

    It never fails to amaze how lacking in manners some people are. There’s an old adage that says “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then say nothing at all.” Cincinnati is my hometown, and I am very proud of our unique traditions. Cincinnati chili is not meant to be compared to say, Texas chili. The recipe above is a good one. I’ve been making Cincinnati chili for years now, since I’ve lived in Texas for 16 years now. I miss the real stuff so much! My recent find in making the chili more like the real stuff is putting some of the chili and pulsing it in the blender, then putting it back in the pot. The chili is meant to have a thinner consistency than normal chili, and this really does that. I do up the white vinegar a bit too.

    Also, kudos to the Graeters and goetta reminder! Black raspberry chip is the bomb! Now I’m homesick. :( ;)

  9. Kathleen says

    Chili is my FAVORITE!!!! I’ve only tried chili with chocolate added to it once and I loved it! With your recipes I can have it again! Thanks! :)

  10. Mj Milillo says

    I have lived most of my life in Southwest Ohio and order a delicious Greek salad when I go to Skyline with Cincinnati chili lovers. I don’t like the chili at all but will forward Katie’s recipe to my relatives who think it’s the best!

  11. Keppen Kettering says

    I was a little hesitant on this because I’m such a fan chili
    with beans – but I made it and loved it, with ground venison of course. I
    served it in the traditional ‘four way’ style over spaghetti noodles, with
    cheese, and raw onion. YUM. My hubby loved it and so did I. It’s saved in my recipe
    folder now. Thanks!

  12. Tanya says

    I’ve just made this chilli for tomorrow night and it tastes terrible. I’m not sure how I’m going to rescue it, I’m not sure that it can be. It might pay to change the word cocoa in the recipe to chocolate (as in the photo and mentioned in the blurb above the recipe). I only read the recipe and instructions not the story above, so added in 2oz of cocoa powder, which is what cocoa means in New Zealand. I did think half a bar of cocoa was strange though you have so many ingredients we don’t get so just assumed this was another. Chocolate is chocolate not cocoa. Very disappointed.

  13. Goldi says

    I am very sorry many of you have such rude things to say about Cincinnati, my husband and I go there all the time to visit his family. I am from SoCal and I found the place super charming. Very few fast food restaurants, tons of mom and pop joints. It was clean and people were friendly. The place has a ton of personality (the good kind).

    Any who, I am building this chili as we speak, it smells like my mother-in-law’s house. I have roots in eastern Europe, of which this style of food is very popular (so keep talking haters) the spices remind me of a lot of dishes my grandmother used to make. So far, judged by the smell, this chili is going to be wonderful.

  14. Sindi says

    Hi there,
    I hate to tell you this but your recipe for Cincinnati chili is incorrect. I am from Cincinnati. Downtown Cincinnati has a little joint called Empress Chili, which was the first one to bring German chili to the general public. My grandmother worked at Empress and the owner gave her the recipe for the chili. She in turn gave to to my father, who gave it to me.

    There is no chocolate, cumin, or garlic ‘powder’ in the recipe. The onions and garlic should be fresh. The spices are all used whole and tied in a cheese cloth bag for removal later. The recipe doesn’t call for beef broth either, but I use it because the beef now-a-days has little flavor.

    Hope this helps,

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