Cincinnati Chili: When it comes to regional American cuisine, one dish that stands out as unique, delicious, and surprisingly versatile is Cincinnati chili. This flavorful and unconventional chili has a cult following in its hometown and has been steadily making its way into the hearts (and stomachs) of food enthusiasts around the world. In this blog post, we’ll delve deep into the world of Cincinnati chili, exploring its history, the traditional preparation method, popular variations, and even a homemade Cincinnati chili recipe.

A Brief History of Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati chili traces its roots back to the early 1920s when Macedonian immigrant Tom Kiradjieff opened the Empress Chili parlor in Cincinnati. Inspired by the Greek and Macedonian dishes he grew up with, Kiradjieff’s chili was different from the Tex-Mex chili that many of us are familiar with today.

The original Cincinnati chili was influenced by Mediterranean spices and included unconventional ingredients such as cinnamon, allspice, and chocolate. Kiradjieff’s chili was served as a sauce over spaghetti, and it quickly gained popularity. To this day, many chili parlors in Cincinnati carry on the tradition of serving chili on top of spaghetti, often with additional toppings like shredded cheese, onions, and beans.

The Cincinnati Chili Experience

What sets Cincinnati chili apart is its unique combination of flavors and the various ways it can be enjoyed. Here are the key components that make Cincinnati chili special:

1. The Spices

Cincinnati chili is known for its distinctive spice blend. While the recipe varies from one establishment to another, common spices include cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and cumin. These spices give the chili a unique, sweet-and-savory flavor profile that distinguishes it from traditional chili.

2. The Three-Way

The classic way to enjoy Cincinnati chili is the “Three-Way.” This dish consists of a plate of spaghetti, a generous serving of Cincinnati chili, and a mound of finely shredded cheddar cheese. It’s called a “Three-Way” because it combines the three main components.

3. The Four-Way

For those who want an extra layer of flavor, the “Four-Way” adds diced onions to the Three-Way. The onions provide a refreshing crunch and a hint of pungency that balances the sweet spices of the chili.

4. The Five-Way

If you’re looking for the ultimate Cincinnati chili experience, opt for the “Five-Way.” In addition to spaghetti, chili, cheese, and onions, this version adds a generous scoop of cooked kidney beans. The beans contribute creaminess and protein to the dish.

5. Coneys

Another Cincinnati favorite is the “Coney.” This consists of a steamed bun filled with a Cincinnati chili sauce, diced onions, and a drizzle of yellow mustard. Coneys are often served in pairs, making them a popular fast-food option in the city.

Cincinnati Chili Variations

While the classic Cincinnati chili dishes mentioned above remain true to their roots, there are several variations that cater to different preferences:

1. Chili Pizza

Cincinnati chili can be used as a pizza topping, creating a fusion of Italian and American flavors. The sweet and savory chili pairs surprisingly well with melted mozzarella cheese.

2. Chili Burritos

Cincinnati chili wrapped in a flour tortilla with cheese, onions, and perhaps some beans or rice makes for a hearty and flavorful burrito.

3. Vegetarian and Vegan Options

For those who follow vegetarian or vegan diets, Cincinnati chili can be made with meat alternatives like tofu or beans. These versions can be just as delicious as their meaty counterparts, with the same unique spice profile.

4. Healthier Alternatives

To cut down on calories or carbs, some people opt for spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles in place of traditional pasta, creating a low-carb Cincinnati chili experience.

5. Regional Twists

Outside of Cincinnati, you can find local restaurants and home chefs putting their own spins on Cincinnati chili, incorporating regional ingredients and influences. This diversity keeps Cincinnati chili fresh and exciting.

A Homemade Cincinnati Chili Recipe

For those who want to savor the unique flavors of Cincinnati chili in the comfort of their own kitchen, here’s a homemade Cincinnati chili recipe:


For the Chili:

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

For Serving:

  • Cooked spaghetti
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Diced onions
  • Cooked kidney beans (optional)


  1. In a large pot, brown the ground beef over medium heat. Break it up into small pieces as it cooks.
  2. Once the beef is browned, drain any excess fat.
  3. Add the beef broth, tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and all the spices (chili powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cumin, and red pepper flakes) to the pot.
  4. Stir well to combine all the ingredients.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 1.5 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  6. Taste the chili and adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper as needed. If you like it spicier, add more red pepper flakes.
  7. To serve, place cooked spaghetti on a plate, ladle the chili sauce over it, and top with shredded cheddar cheese, diced onions, and cooked kidney beans if desired.

This homemade Cincinnati chili recipe captures the sweet-and-savory essence of the traditional dish and allows you to customize it to your liking.

Cincinnati Chili Beyond Cincinnati

Cincinnati Chili

While Cincinnati chili remains a beloved regional delicacy, its unique flavor and versatility have helped it find a home in many kitchens across the United States and beyond. Whether you’re a Cincinnati native longing for a taste of home or a curious foodie looking to explore the unconventional side of chili, Cincinnati chili is an experience worth savoring.

So, if you find yourself on a culinary adventure, don’t hesitate to try the Three-Way, Four-Way, or Five-Way, or experiment with Cincinnati chili in your own kitchen. It’s a flavorful journey that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on your taste buds.

Read Also: Peach cobbler recipe with cake mix


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here