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Feb 8, 2007 06:04 PM

Cincinnati Five-way Chili

I've only had "real" Cincinnati chili once, at a chain in FLA, and it was horrible. But, I've been eating it for years because of this recipe that appeared in the Boston Globe. When I first ate it, it reminded me of the sauce I used to get on chili dogs ("Texas Weiners") in NJ when I was a kid. Its very Greek-American based.

Resulting from a recent discussion on the Boston Board regarding this subject, I agreed to a request to post this recipe here.


1 lb ground chuck
1 med onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 cup water
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tspn black pepper
1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, grated
1/2 tspn ground cumin
1/2 tspn tumeric
1/2 tspn allspice
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1/4 tspn ground cloves
1/4 tspn ground coriander
1/4 tspn ground cardamom
1 tspn salt
Tomato juice, as needed

Brown beef, add onions and garlic. Stir in BBQ sauce and water. Add all the spices. Simmer for an hour or so. Thin with tomato juice while simmering.

Pasta of your choice, spaghetti or linguine is best
Beans of your choice, we like pinto or black
Grated cheddar
Some chopped onions.

Put cooked pasta in bowls. Ladle sauce over. Add a spoonful of beans, some onions, and a handful of cheese.

The sauce is better after a day or so in the frig. We've used ground turkey with almost equal results. The key is to use as many whole seed spices and grind them for each batch, especially the cloves, coriander, and cardamom. The BBQ sauce also has a big effect on the flavor and we usually use a cheap, basic, supermarket brand. Anything more strongly flavored overpowers the spices.


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  1. Cincinnati guy here...gotta love my Cincy style chili. Depends on what type though.

    Skyline is our top dog around Cincy and it's my personal favorite over the competitor Gold Star Chili.

    We also have Camp Washington Chili which won many awards including best chili in the US. That's a pretty big feat if you ask me.

    Personally I never cook Cincy Style chili though - I like cooking hearty, chunky stuff.

    1 Reply
    1. re: detzelpretzel

      I'm a skyline girl, but I won't yuck your yum. Empress is awesome too. My great grandma has a copy cat recipe.

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. I can't imagine putting BBQ sauce in Cincy chili...would be too sweet. Here's the recipe I got from a friend who was raised in's the only one I use and it's fabulous:

        Cincinnati Chili
        1 quart water
        2 pounds ground beef (can also use buffalo or even ground turkey...but beef is traditional)
        1⁄2 tsp ground cumin
        1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
        1 tsp cinnamon
        2 tbsp chili powder
        1 1⁄2 tsp allspice
        11/2 tsp black pepper
        3 whole bay leaves
        1 tbsp salt
        1 1⁄2 tbsp white vinegar
        1⁄2 tsp Worcestershire
        2 large onions, chopped
        1 whole clove garlic
        1 6-ounce can tomato paste

        Add water to a large pot. Crumble ground beef into it. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Stir and then reduce to a simmer. Continue simmering for 3 hours. Remove bay leaves and garlic clove.

        Serve plain or with cheese...or with cheese and onions...or over hot dogs (with or without the cheese and/or onions)...or over pasta (with or without the cheese and onions). My kids actually love this over mashed potatoes!

        3 Replies
        1. re: wyf4lyf

          My wife has the recipe from Camp Washington and your recipe is very close..

          1. re: tomj

            Born and raised in Cincinnati, and I've never heard of BBQ sauce in the chili. Camp Washington's can't be beat. While I'm relocated now, still have packets of chili mix mailed to me by indulgent relatives!

          2. re: wyf4lyf

            to jpsox and wyf4lyf

            thanks to both of you for posting.
            wondered myself about the BBQ sauce, couldn't figure why it'd be in there.
            and there are so many bottled BBQ sauces, who knows which on would be close to that original recipe.
            but then wyf, I really thought that the skyline I had must have contained chocolate and yours doesn't, so, hum, make 'em both different nights compare, then maybe on a really freezing night, I could combine the two and see how that is.
            Can't wait
            thanks to both of you for posting, much appreciated

          3. The original comment has been removed
            1. I use a recipe very similar to the OP (from the Sterns chili book) and one thing they do is toss the cooked pasta with butter to coat before ladeling on the chili. Very good. This hits the spot about once a year and makes the house smell great on a cold, grey, rainy day like we are having here in No. Cal. I agree, make it the day before.

              1 Reply
              1. re: foodfan

                foodfan, that is a great idea about the butter tossed noodles.
                makes for an even richer dish, yum