Homemade Cincinnati Chili Recipe

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Cincinnati Style Chili Copycat Recipe
Wellness Mama » Blog » Recipes » Beef Recipes » Homemade Cincinnati Chili Recipe

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

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 so I worked on figuring out a healthier copycat recipe. My husband, who was already a life-long fan, didn’t object at all. 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!

Cincinnati Chili Recipe

In Cincinnati, this chili is served over 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 Style Chili Copycat Recipe

Cincinnati Chili Recipe

A healthy copycat recipe of Cincinnati style chili with hints of cinnamon, cloves, and dark chocolate. Try it!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Calories 322kcal
Author Katie Wells


6 people



  • Pour the broth in to large stock pot.
  • Add the ground beef and bring to boil. 
  • Reduce to a simmer and continue cooking for about 30 minutes.
  • Add all the remaining ingredients and reduce to medium low heat.
  • Simmer for at least two hours until chili has thickened. Add water if needed during this time.


Nutrition Facts
Cincinnati Chili Recipe
Amount Per Serving (2 cups)
Calories 322 Calories from Fat 108
% Daily Value*
Fat 12g18%
Saturated Fat 6g38%
Cholesterol 93mg31%
Sodium 981mg43%
Potassium 951mg27%
Carbohydrates 12g4%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 41g82%
Vitamin A 365IU7%
Vitamin C 9.1mg11%
Calcium 64mg6%
Iron 6.9mg38%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


This chili can be eaten immediately, but for best flavor, refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight and reheat.
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.”

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Ever been to Cincinnati? Had the chili? Ready to try this recipe? Share below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


32 responses to “Homemade Cincinnati Chili Recipe”

  1. Katie Avatar

    One of our favorite recipes! We really miss Skyline now that we don’t eat out much and this recipe really satisfies that!

  2. Diana Avatar

    5 stars
    This article REALLY piqued my interest, as I had lived in northern Kentucky (near Cincy) for 14 years. I first encountered Cincinnati-style chili in 1997, when a co-worker was eating some. I’d never before seen chili eaten over spaghetti noodles! That just didn’t seem right to me, even gross. BUT…up to that point, my only experience had been with ‘regular’ chili, not this kind. Since it was a very popular lunch around there, my curiosity got the best of me. I finally tried it, ordering a “3-way”, which is spaghetti noodles, topped with the chili, then topped with shredded cheese. I LOVED IT! Obviously, you can’t compare it to ‘regular’ chili…it’s a completely different style and taste!! Yes, it looks thin and soupy and ugly, but something ‘magic’ happens when served over noodles, and you add cheese & toppings. It’s a unique, very tasty combination. Yes, it’s fattening, but it was definitely a treat at times! Having lived in 9 states, I’d discovered that each place tends to have their own unique foods or dishes; Cincinnati-style chili is that kind of dish for that region. And by the way, I’d always read that Cincinnati-style chili had originated from a Greek family, who had started Skyline Chili. Anyway, this brought back fond memories (ha!). Thanks for this healthier version of Cincinnati chili; I will have to try it!

  3. Jessica Avatar

    DelicIous! I have been craving chili spaghetti for a while. When I told my husband I was making this he was sceptical as he is a very picky eater and has never had it before. We both loved it and he even asked me to make it again. I can’t wait to try more of your recipes!

  4. Stefania Avatar

    I grew up in Cincinnati and GOLDSTAR is the best! This is actually more of a “Middle Eastern” chili because of the spices used. (Particularly cinnamon.) Goldstar Chili was in fact founded by four brothers from Jordan. Because my dad’s family hails from an Arab background, this chili has always had a special place in my heart. This recipe looks wonderful. I will have to try it. Still using the spaghetti, though, sorry!

  5. Sindi Avatar

    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,

    1. Yani Avatar

      There’s nothing German about Empress chili. You’ve been lied to your whole life. I hope this helps.

    2. Kevin Avatar

      3 stars
      Sindi is correct about some things. Your recipe is so far from what Cincinnati chili really is. You are only misleading people. Chocolate of any kind is NOT, in any way shape or form, a part of Cincinnati chili. This recipe actually looks fantastic, but it’s not Cincinnati, sorry.

  6. Goldi Avatar

    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.

  7. Tanya Avatar

    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.

  8. Keppen Kettering Avatar
    Keppen Kettering

    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!

    1. Jodi Avatar

      Hey there,
      As a Cinci native, I eat this stuff all the time. I think it’s interesting that you use venison, I’ll have to try that. I saw in your comment that you really like beans. When you order a four-way in Cincinnati, you have to specify onions or beans. (five-way is both) I think it’s usually kidney beans but I’m not sure because I don’t really like them haha. Just thought I’d give you a heads up and you should totally try a five-way next time.

  9. Mj Milillo Avatar
    Mj Milillo

    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!

  10. Kathleen Avatar

    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! 🙂

  11. Kelly Wertz Harris Avatar
    Kelly Wertz Harris

    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. 🙁 😉

  12. LAO Avatar

    By “1/2 bar of unsweetened cocoa”, do you mean something like a Bakers unsweetened chocolate bar? Thanks!

  13. Jeni Avatar

    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).

  14. sarah Avatar

    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.

    1. Sierra Avatar

      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!

    2. emily Avatar

      Me too.. Cincy all my life and Goldstar is my favorite! Been eating it since the 1970’s.

  15. Brianne Grogan Avatar
    Brianne Grogan

    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!

  16. Amy Avatar

    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!

  17. Lora Adkins Avatar
    Lora Adkins

    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!

  18. Heather Avatar

    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!

  19. Deborah Lapatina Avatar
    Deborah Lapatina

    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.

    1. Aleesha Avatar

      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.

      1. Deborah Lapatina Avatar
        Deborah Lapatina

        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”.

    2. Bec Avatar

      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. 🙂

      1. joyce Avatar

        You bet, I live in Calif. and if I do not get my chili fix along with ice cream from Greaters I have withdrawals.
        Goetta is the hardest to get.
        There is no gotta in Calif. Joyce

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