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Cincinnati chili has no kidney beans?

Cincinnati chili has no kidney beans?
Would that make it a pasta sauce with chili spices?

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  1. Texas chili, especially the competition stuff, does not have beans either. It may not even have tomatoes. And the beans, if served on the side, are pinto, not kidney.

    The Cincinnati version is something like a ground meat pasta sauce, with a Greek twist on chili spices. You can order it in several 'ways'
    - on spaghetti
    - with beans
    - with onions
    - with cheese
    I probably have the order in which these are added wrong.

    My impression is that the chili with kidney beans is a midwestern incarnation; quite distant from the original Texas 'bowl of red'. The use of 'chili spices' is pretty light. Most of the flavor (or lack thereof) comes from tomatoes and the beans.

    11 Replies
    1. re: paulj

      I was going to say this as well. I've not met a bowl of Cincinnati chili that I particularly liked (maybe I haven't tried enough), but good Texas chili is quite like a glorious beef stew flavored with a mixture of chilis. I defy my Texas-born parents by adding the tiniest bit of kidney beans, but they haven't disowned me yet.

      There certainly seem to be some regional differences in what counts as chili. The cafeteria where I work (in the midwest) serves up bowls of something they call vegetarian chili, which is actually just a bean soup with a bit of chili powder mixed in. Apparently, some people think of chili as mostly beans. A yankee friend of mine has absolutely no problem with this. I can't understand it one bit.

      1. re: caseyjo

        There are certainly regional differences: don't the definitions Texas-style and Cincinatti-style speak to that?

        1. re: mamachef

          yes, I always think of chili having beans, in my case I like kidney.
          Even the aisle of chili at the grocery store has beans in them thar canned goods

          1. re: sylvan

            Canned beans are a lot cheaper than canned meat. That's why canned chili is usually bean heavy.

            1. re: sylvan

              I use red beans, not kidney beans. Much softer skin, more tender bean.

        2. re: paulj

          You order it thusly:

          3-way: Spaghetti topped with chili and shredded cheddar cheese.
          4-way: A 3-way with the addition of onions
          5-way: A 4-way with the addition of kidney beans.

          This is the order. If you want spaghetti, chili, beans, cheese you order a 5-way no bean. Cheese is always on top.

          You can also order it inverted, so that the cheese is the first thing on the plate, followed by beans, onions, chili, pasta.

          You can ALSO order it dry -- which means after assembly, the plate is tilted a bit against a special strainer that hugs the side of the plate, which allows excess liquid to run off. A former co-worker always ordered a large 5-way, inverted, dry.

          Dixie Chili, across the river in Kentucky, used to offer a 7-way: a 5-way with cut-up frankfurters and a fried egg atop the cheese.

          1. re: jmckee

            Really? This has me curious...

            I've only had Cincinnati chili at chain places (Skyline and Gold Star) but in both of those restaurants, a 4-way is either beans OR onions, not automatically onions. I have a Skyline down the street from me (Columbus, not Cincy.) If I walked in and ordered a 5-way, no onion (in order to get spaghetti, chili, bean, cheese) they would laugh at me, and say "you mean a 4-way bean?"

            The menus for the two spots have it listed this way:

            Are you saying that local places, as opposed to the chains, assume that a 4-way is always onion?

            1. re: Ditdah

              That has been the acceptable order since I was a young boy. It has been documented in the past by, among others, Jane and Michael Stern. The guideline has eroded in recent years, because of the sacreligious practice of ordering a four-way bean, instead of a five-way, no onion. (And yes, I'm poking fun at some of the "authenticity" posts on this site.)

              They wouldn't laugh at you. We're midwesterners; we're polite. But if you looked at your check you might see "five-way no onion" checked.

              1. re: jmckee

                Actually, they didn't laugh, but they did seem very confused. I eat there a few times a month, and I asked when we were there Saturday. The server said she'd never heard it that way (5-way no onion) and went back to the kitchen to ask - they all said the same thing: to get it without onion, you order a "4-way Bean."

                I'm sure it's because we're not local to Cincy, and it's probably just easier for corporations to standardize the "ways" to make it easier for outsiders to order. If you're not familiar with the proper ordering method, then increasing your number as you increase ingredients seems natural.

            2. re: jmckee

              Blue Ash Chili, with two locations (mason as well as the original) has a 6-way, with jalapeno bottle caps as the sixth way.

              1. re: jmckee

                I am curious how the kidney beans that can be added are prepared. Are they cooked separately and added like a topping? And if so, are they just plain, cooked beans?

            3. Cincinnati Chili, as best I understand, is more style of serving the chili as opposed to the chili itself, although certain herbs and spices are a commonality amongst the sauces, in varying degrees. The Chili is served one of many ways, from one-to-five, and the beans are one of the layers. One-way is plain, two way spaghetti; three way over spaghetti w/ a layer of beans; four-way, with the above plus cheese, and five-way with the addition of a layer of chopped onions. It's not just chili-flavored pasta sauce, for sure: it's a reference to the whole method of serving.

              23 Replies
                1. re: mamachef

                  No, the beans are the last option. Cincinnati chili is chili on spaghetti (two-way), or with added cheese (three-way) or cheese and onions (four-way). Five-way is with beans. Chili alone would be "plain." I take the order to be an indication that the beans would be an unusual option.

                  I am not from Cincinnati. My source is Calvin Trillin, in American Fried.

                  1. re: GH1618

                    good to know. thanks for clarifying.

                    1. re: GH1618

                      what if you want a five-way without the two-way, three-way?
                      just kidding

                      1. re: GH1618

                        GH1618, you've got first-rate information, even if second-hand. Cincinnati chili is a thick meat sauce (or a thin soup). The first way I ever had it was on spaghetti with a ridiculous mountain of cheese, diced onions, and a dollop of sour cream. I wouldn't have even known there was spaghetti under all those toppings, but to this day, that is still one of the most comforting meals I can imagine.

                        1. re: GH1618

                          Speaking as someone who grew up eating Cincinnati-style chili:

                          A two-way is chili and spaghetti. A three-way is chili and spaghetti with cheese. A four-way is a three-way plus either beans OR onions. A five-way is a three-way plus beans AND onions.

                          See, for example, the menu at Gold Star Chili, my preferred chili chain. http://www.goldstarchili.com/online-m...

                          1. re: FoodPopulist

                            Just make sure not to ask for a three-way in other regions of the country--you might end up with something quite different!

                        2. re: mamachef

                          this is very true. however, there are a couple similarities between most of the more popular and iconic ones. mainly including: no beans, and the addition of plenty of warming spices (what i like to call "pie spices") such as cinnamon, cloves, and most of the time chocolate.

                          its kind of a mash up between a chili, a pasta sauce, a manwich, and a mole.

                          oh, and the best way to serve it is over a hot dog. preferably with far more yellow cheddar than you would ever think it actually needs.

                            1. re: mamachef

                              No, the chili is different too. It was started by Greek immigrants, and typically includes spices like cinnamon, cloves,allspice,etc. In truth it is somewhere in between chili and the meat component
                              of pastitsio

                                1. re: malabargold

                                  Yes and that different spicing makes all the difference. Luckily, I travel to Ohio on business fairly often and I always plan on one sidetrip to Skyline.

                                  1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                    BTW there are in fact three Skyline Chili outlets here in Indy if you swing by here again... (I've eaten at one of them)

                                    BTW2 I've made "meat sauce" for pasta with stick cinnamon and cloves and soy sauce in it for years and years, when I am in the mood, and always thought of it as with "Chinese"/SE Asian - influences, not as "Greek"-influenced or even "Sicilian"-influenced. :-) I found out only in recent years that other folks made it in a similar way too...

                                    1. re: huiray

                                      Is this what one finds in bottles at the Chinese grocery labelled "Chinese spaghetti sauce" in English? When I read the Chinese, I don't see the words "Chinese" or meat anywhere in there so I've been hesitant to buy it.

                                      1. re: JungMann

                                        No idea, sorry! I've never consciously noted such bottles at my Chinese groceries - I should look out for them next time.

                                        1. re: JungMann


                                          I did indeed find bottles of stuff at my Chinese grocery today labeled "Chinese Spaghetti Sauce". Were these the ones you saw with the Chinese given as 拌麵拌飯醬 ? If so, indeed it would not say "Chinese" or "Meat" within that phrase! ("Noodles and Rice Sauce" would be an approximation)

                                          I copied down the list of ingredients: Soybean oil, fried wheat gluten, soy sauce mash, soybean curd, green beans, sugar, chili, mushrooms, spices, seasoning agents. Nope, no meat.

                                          It looks like simply a soybean-based sauce with some ??Western?? ingredients ("mushrooms" - didn't look like shiitakes, looked like button-type, so far as I could make out in that thick dark brown lumpy mush through the glass; while "green beans" could mean...who knows. Probably concocted as a "sauce" usable for either "noodles" a.k.a. spaghetti :-) or on rice. Could well be tasty, but I declined to buy a jar.

                                        2. re: huiray

                                          Ray, say it's not so! Where are the Indy Skylines? I was there and I missed it! (at least I had some in Cleveland before arriving in Indy). I see you have a new QB. Good Luck!

                                          1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                            Well, Luck is his name. :-)

                                            The Indy Skylines? They're all well outside of downtown - so no, you didn't "miss" them; you would have had to go some distance to get to them - specifically, there're two on 86th/82nd Street, one each in the NE and NW quadrants close by the 465 ring road. The other is in the southern regions. But by all means we could take a drive to one of them when you are next in town. :-)

                                            1. re: huiray

                                              Anyway Skyline is probably not the best thing to eat when you are getting sick. Going to Shapiro's to eat was kind of like going home.

                                    2. re: mamachef

                                      No, the spices are very important. and different. It is the combination of "American" flavors and Eastern European flavors. It's the addition of allspice and cinnamon, with a bit of cocoa powder that makes it different. Not just the styles of ordering/serving it.

                                      1. re: wyogal

                                        To be precise, it's a combination of American and Greek flavors, not Eastern European. Eastern European would be adding things like paprika and caraway, not allspice and cinnamon.

                                    3. Yes, the beans are an add-on, as paulj & mama chef point out. Cincinnati chili is not always served with spaghetti (although many of us natives will eat it no other way!).
                                      I have come to believe that "chili" is a broad term that can be applied to a wide variety of stew-like dishes, and that only absolutely necessary component is the source of its name- HOT CHILIES!

                                      1. im surprised, i think most of the responses in this thread are definitely from non-cincinnatians. because by far the way that cincy chili is eaten most often by people in cincy is in the form of the cheese coney a la Skyline and Gold Star chili.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: mattstolz

                                          Do you mean just a chili dog? :) How does it differ from the Detroit Coney?

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            <How does it differ from the Detroit Coney?>

                                            because its CINCINNATI chili ;)

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              JUST a chili dog?!? oh boy, here we go....

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                I've never had a detroit coney, so I can't explain the difference, other than if the chili/coney sauce has a different flavor. What are the standard toppings?

                                                The standard Skyline Coney has hot dog, yellow mustard, chopped white onion, Skyline Cincy chili, and MOUNDS of cheese.

                                                1. re: Ditdah

                                                  Well, and plus all of those ingredients are specialized to Cinncinnati: buns are steamed and soft, the hot dog is slightly smaller than usual, and the cheese is very finely shredded and is exceptionally mild (it tastes kind of like cheddar cheese "food," rather than cheddar.) All of these things add up to something unique.

                                                  I never understood the obsession with the spaghetti, as the noodles sit in a steam table in water for most of the day and are the most incredible unappetizing mush by the time you get them. However, I didn't drink much when I lived in Cincy - so perhaps the level of inebriation required to appreciate a five-way was something I never reached.

                                              2. re: mattstolz

                                                I'm not from Cincy, but spent a far amount of time there (I'm from Columbus, and one of my best friends lives in CIncy.) I actually prefer it with the spaghetti, not the coney. I always get the 5-way, he and his wife prefer the 4-way onion.

                                                For those not from the area, both Gold Star and Skyline serve both coneys and the "#-way" types, along with other things. Skyline has some awesome burritos made with their chili, as well as black beans and rice (not amazing, but tasty, and a nice vegetarian option) and salads/wraps (having nothing to do with chili of any sort) as well. Gold star has "Tex Mex" chili as well, served by the bowl, but I sometimes get a 4-way onion made with it when I don't feel up for the CIncinnati-style seasonings.

                                              3. I've always wondered why Cincinnati Chili is called "Chili" at all. I've enjoyed it, and don't mean this as a slur against it, but seriously think the name "Chili" is just not appropriate. It's really more a meat sauce on spaghetti, served with condiments usually served with Chili. A unique dish in it's own right.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: Midlife

                                                  yes, Midlife, that's what I was asking when I started this thread...I just wanted to clarify that the recipe didn't need kidney beans> I guess it doesn't unless I want beans in it.

                                                  1. re: sylvan

                                                    Beans are an addition to chili. One never needs to have beans in chili for it to be "chili."

                                                    1. re: wyogal

                                                      When my dad first came to visit us in Nm, I took him to my favorite New Mexican restaruant. He ordered a bowl of chile. At first taste, it was so firery that he asked me if I was trying to kill my poor father. His second question was where are the beans? I told him he ordered a bowl of chile (very common here), but didn't ask for frijoles, or beans. I wish they'd call eastern chilli, kidney bean stew, 'cause is sure ain't chile to me.

                                                  2. re: Midlife

                                                    It is indeed chili. Look at any collection of chili recipes from around the country; there is NO ONE WAY TO MAKE CHILI.

                                                  3. My personal preferences for chili are
                                                    1. Beans are not included, but instead are provided unseasoned as a garnish, allowing the eater to add the desired amount.
                                                    2. Meat should not be ground, but instead should be lean beef hand cut into small cubes a little smaller than 1/2 inch square.
                                                    3. Dark beer, pure cocoa powder and a tiny amount of vanilla should be used along with the usual host of spices, including powdered chili and cumin.
                                                    But then, everyone is entitled to their own preferences. That's what makes chili so good and interesting.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Tripeler

                                                      lean beef? doesn't that dry out during a long braise?

                                                      1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                        The braise isn't long, just enough to brown the meat. Then the liquids go in.

                                                        1. re: Tripeler

                                                          Braising is cooking in liquid. So the braising starts after the liquid goes in.

                                                    2. I grew up thinking I didn't like chili because all I ever was exposed to was canned chili with kidney beans. (what a travesty)

                                                      I love chili, love Cincinnati chili (no beans), love chili but detest and abhor kidney beans.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: laliz

                                                        Why not use red beans or pinto beans?

                                                      2. Grew up in Cincinnati, and my cousin still mails me packets of Cincy chili spice mix. What I still can't get right: the ultra-fluffy, ultra-fine grated cheese--just can't replicate it. Oh, and nobdy has yet mentioned the mandatory oyster crackers on top!

                                                        19 Replies
                                                        1. re: pine time

                                                          pine time, right on, we shouldn't forget the oyster crackers offered in a bowl

                                                            1. re: sylvan

                                                              Oh yeah - I totally forgot about the oyster crackers. I would never eat them with Tex-Mex chili (or whatever other name you call it), but with Cincy chili it's just a given. Although I don't put it ON the chili, I just eat them.

                                                            2. re: pine time

                                                              Try your micro plane with the cheddar. Very fine and fluffy.

                                                              1. re: Terrie H.

                                                                thanks, Terrie, but I have tried it, and it's still not at ultra/ultra as Cincy chili parlors.

                                                                1. re: pine time

                                                                  Really? How fine of a microplane have you used? I have what I believe is a microplane with the finest grater on it and it does exactly what you are asking about.

                                                                  Are you looking for cheese vapors? :)

                                                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                    The problem with the microplane is it doesn't make the long, skinny threads of the Skyline type of cheese. It makes more of "cheese confetti" and not "shredded cheese." Not that it doesn't work well, it's just a somewhat different texture.

                                                                    It's hard to explain if you haven't seen the cheese at the restaurants. When you get Skyline to-go, the cheese comes sealed in little baggies, and they look like softballs of cheese string. But if you compact all the cheese in your hand (don't ask) then you see it's not nearly as much as you thought, because of the fluffiness of the threads. (It's still a crapload of cheese for a single serving!)

                                                                    1. re: Ditdah

                                                                      "It's hard to explain if you haven't seen the cheese at the restaurants. "

                                                                      I did some research online and know exactly what you are saying Ditdah. No, a microplane will not do this. I stand corrected. Thanks.

                                                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                        I hope it didn't come across as rude - I didn't mean for it to sound like I was trying to "correct" you. I just realize to someone unfamiliar with the type of cheese, we kind of sound insane.

                                                                        "It needs to be really small pieces."
                                                                        "So, use a microplane."
                                                                        "No, that's not small enough."

                                                                        It kind of sounds like we're trying to make powdered cheese!

                                                                        1. re: Ditdah

                                                                          it really IS hard to explain if ya havent had it before haha

                                                                          1. re: Ditdah

                                                                            "I hope it didn't come across as rude."

                                                                            Not at all Ditdah! I learned something actually. Always a good thing.

                                                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                              Yup to ya'll--I've never seen any home attempt match Cincinnati chili parlor "cheese vapors" (I am so stealing that phrase, ttoommyy!). And sadly, I'm 3000 miles away now, so I can't buy it, mattstolz.

                                                                          2. re: ttoommyy

                                                                            A term I read in a cookbook recently: "Feather shredded" cheese. That seems rightly descriptive.

                                                                          3. re: Ditdah

                                                                            For long, fine shreds of cheese, the fine shredding disc (not the regular one) for my CuisineArt will do it.

                                                                          1. re: mattstolz

                                                                            That's my problem...I'm 3000 miles from those locations.

                                                                        2. re: Terrie H.

                                                                          Problem is that cheddar is not right. You need something like cheddar-flavored-velveeta, which won't grate properly on a microplane.

                                                                          See if you can find finely shredded "American-style" yellow cheese in the preshredded packs, it might work. Mild cheddar might do it, too, but it can't have that crumbly cheddar texture to work right.

                                                                      2. I always made chili at home with beans until I was on a special diet where I could not have certain foods, beans being one of them. You know what? I like chili a lot more without them. I never use them in chili any more. To me, it seems like the beans were neutralizing the spice. Without them, I can taste the chili and other spices much more.

                                                                        1. i've never had authentic Cincinnatti chili, but Step One alone makes me extremely wary: boil (not brown) ground beef.

                                                                          15 Replies
                                                                          1. re: WNYamateur

                                                                            Yeah, that seems odd, but it's not just for Cincy chili. If you watch some of the "travel" food shows (like 'DIners, Drive-in's, and Dives' or any of Adam Richman's stuff) they hit up plenty of places that make coney sauce/cincy chili by boiling the beef in water. Some brown it first, some don't.

                                                                              1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                                                Boiled ground beef sounds like an unsavory gray pulp to me.

                                                                                1. re: WNYamateur

                                                                                  It doesn't really make it "pulpy;" it comes out as small pieces of ground beef sitting in the water, but it's easily drained/strained. And I certainly wouldn't EAT it that way - it doesn't stay just "ground beef in water" - it's usually skimmed (to remove as much fat as possible) and then all the other seasonings are added.

                                                                                  Sem-related, my sister in law who is from Puerto Rico cooks her ground beef (or other ground meat) like this all the time - for any sort of tacos, enchiladas, casseroles, etc... She cooks it in a big pot of seasoned water, crumbling the meat as it cooks. She said that's how she was taught to cook ground meat when you want it as a "filling" with smaller pieces, since it gives you a much finer consistency.

                                                                                  1. re: Ditdah

                                                                                    and if you whisk it occasionally while it's cooking, you get a really fine consistency.

                                                                                    1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                      If I want a fine consistency, I brown the meat and then put it in the processor.

                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                        It's a lot of fun dumping the raw ground beef into cold water and using your hands to make sure it is separated.

                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                          I can't see it getting meltingly tender this way. When you slowly braise it with its fat in water, the end result is much softer with none of the browned, drier crusty bits.

                                                                                          FWIW, classic bolognese doesn't call for deep browning of ground beef, either, and it's still quite flavorful. It's basically a braise, too.

                                                                                          1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                            That's interesting....I have never thought about braising ground beef! I think that good quality ground beef is already pretty tender, albeit not meltingly, as you put it. I never put a deep brown on it; just a bit of brown for taste and to avoid that grey pastiness. Too much browning results in hard, chewy pieces that are unpleasant. A gentle browning followed by the processor, then the meat returned to the pan with a liquid has been pretty effective for me.

                                                                                            That said, I am intrigued by your method and will certainly try it. The textural differences will be interesting to investigate and I love to learn things from the smart cooks on Chowhound!

                                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                                              It is an interesting process. The braising essentially does to each individual "grain" of the ground beef what it does to larger pieces of tough meat. After a few hours at a low, low simmer, the texture changes and it becomes less chewy and more the small-scale equivalent of fork-tender.

                                                                                              Funny, I'd never really thought of making bolognese as braising, but essentially that's just what it is.

                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                It's basically how the chili for coney dogs are done. If you've ever been to A&W, and had a coney dog, that's how it's done.

                                                                                              2. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                                That said, I do prefer braised chuck chunks rather than ground beef for chili!

                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                  Me too - I wouldn't use the ground beef in water method for anything other than Cincinnati chili, to get that specific texture.

                                                                                                  I don't use ground meat in any other style chili, unless that's all I have on hand and want to whip something up without having to go shopping. (Well, i've used ground turkey, but that was for someone who didn't eat beef.)

                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                    Ditto here - I haven't made chili with ground beef in decades. But I've never made Cincinnati chili.

                                                                                            2. re: Ditdah

                                                                                              Additionally, the recipe I use (supposedly pirated from Skyline --ha ha), has you slow cook lots of diced onions in water, and then add the beef and do the "braise." That way all the oniony goodness permeates the meat mixture, and as the meat cooks, you mash it with a potato masher.

                                                                                              I'm not going to argue if it's really chili or not - but whatever you call it, if you grew up in that part of the world, there's nothing like it. I truly believe the chili cheese coneys are the best hangover cure ever!

                                                                                      2. since its almost superbowl time, i feel like no discussion of Cincy chili would be complete if we didnt at least mention Skyline chili DIP. its my favorite use of cincy chili. layered cream cheese, chili, some onions, and plenty of cheddar, baked till melty, with some good chips to dip in it. mmmmm

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: mattstolz

                                                                                          yeah, that stuff is terribly addictive.

                                                                                        2. not a kidney bean lover at all and really don't like it in Cincinnati chili, it's pinto, pink, red

                                                                                          1. Gah. HATE kidney beans in chili. IF using beans, pinto.

                                                                                            1. Chili does not have beans.

                                                                                              from the official chili.org, rule #2

                                                                                              NO FILLERS IN CHILI - Beans, macaroni, rice, hominy, or other similar ingredients are not permitted

                                                                                              The roots of chili are beanless, meaty roots. There stews with beans and chili-like meat that call themselves chilly, but then again there is also turkey bacon, which is not really bacon.

                                                                                              19 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: PenskeFan

                                                                                                Yup! In New Mexico, there is even meatless, beanless chile.

                                                                                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                  But the NM chile hasn't been anglicized with an 'i' or kidney beans. :)

                                                                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                    However in Texas and NM, beans are common enough on their own, or as a side. In other parts of the country, chili is one of the few dishes where beans are common. Bake beans is another, and maybe some sort of bean soup. You might even say that chili is a way of flavoring beans.

                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                      No Boston bake beans are an entity unto itself. Although I am a pinto bean junkie, I will bake a pot of Boston baked beans for my Ynakee wife, but refuse to serve the common side of hot dogs. I prefer fish cakes.
                                                                                                      I guess I am a food snob. One of the very few foods I refuse to eat when visiting the east is Chilli. It just seems wrong to me to put in kidney beans and ground beef. Right up there w/ SPAM. Sorry. It's like putting sweet potaoes, canned tuna fish and coconut milk together and calling it chowder.

                                                                                                  2. re: PenskeFan

                                                                                                    SOME chilis do not have beans.

                                                                                                    Mine does. It's not "Texas" chili, it's not "chili.org" chili. It's just chili.

                                                                                                    1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                      You're right. There is no "official" body which has jurisdiction over chili recipes everywhere.

                                                                                                      1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                        Real chili has no beans, going back to the 16th century. So my point is someone complaining about chili with no beans is far off the mark, because if anything, chili is not supposed to have beans.

                                                                                                        Someone can call a piece of toast with spray on cheese "Welsh Rarebit" but that doesn't make it so.

                                                                                                        1. re: PenskeFan

                                                                                                          Chilli in the 1500's? Really?
                                                                                                          Aren't we back to the old authenticity argument?
                                                                                                          I like beans with chilli because I enjoy the taste.

                                                                                                          1. re: bbqboy

                                                                                                            Again, my point is that the OP questioned chili without beans, which is backwards. Chili originally didn't have beans
                                                                                                            And yes, the earliest recorded recipe was in the 1500s. With no beans.

                                                                                                            1. re: PenskeFan

                                                                                                              Please cite a source for this 1500s recipe - and the recipe itself. It probably isn't a recipe in the modern sense, but a description, listing ingredients.

                                                                                                              OP's question is evidently based on a version of chili that is common throughout middle-USA. It dates back to Depression era chili parlors across the Midwest. In Texas cattle country, a beef only stew makes sense, especially if they were used to eating beans on the side. But elsewhere, beans were much cheaper than beef, and chili spices made the beans much more interesting and 'exotic'.

                                                                                                          2. re: PenskeFan

                                                                                                            The term is actually "Welsh rabbit" (source: James Beard in Delights and Prejudices).

                                                                                                            What is "real" chili supposed to mean, anyway? Who is the authority. How were they appointed to this exalted position? Obviously, food evolves. We don't eat the same food that our ancestors ceturies before us ate. The tomato came from the New World, so Europeans in pre-Columbian times did not have them. Is Italian foof not "real" Italian if it contains tomatoes?

                                                                                                            Chili contains chiles, and whatever else the cook wants to throw in. I happen to prefer it without beans, but sometimes will use black beans. If someone wants beans in their chili, it's nobody else's business.

                                                                                                            1. re: GH1618

                                                                                                              It's like having to define what "real barbeque" is. It's going to depend a lot on the location of the country you are in, as well as personal preference. (People in Texas might say that North Carolina vinegary pulled pork isn't REAL barbeque, but that doesn't make it fact.)

                                                                                                              Chili is the same way. It's different to different people and in different places, but as long as it's got the basic premise down, it's chili.

                                                                                                              1. re: GH1618

                                                                                                                Real, authentic chili is chili based on the original recipe, which had no beans.

                                                                                                                The OP makes it seem that beans are mandatory. they are not. It is like fans of Chicago Deep Dish trying to declare that NY style pizza is not pizza because it doesn't have thick crust.

                                                                                                                1. re: PenskeFan

                                                                                                                  I usually make pintos separately and pour my chili over them.
                                                                                                                  But I'm interested in this 1500's thing. Where was this and what meat was used?
                                                                                                                  I've always thought the cattle drive story about being create by chuckwagon cooks rolling from Texas to Kansas was reasonable.

                                                                                                                  1. re: bbqboy

                                                                                                                    This must be the 1500's recipe:

                                                                                                                    ""Hear me," said Torres, leaning over the table until he lay flat upon it; "eet is the chili-con-carne made not from the beef or the chicken, but from the flesh of the señorita—young and tender. That ees the secret. Everee month you must eat of it, having care to do so before the moon is full, and you will not die any times. "
                                                                                                                    O'Henry, The Enchanted Kiss.
                                                                                                                    Torres claims "At the age of twenty-three I arrive in Mexico from Spain. When? In the year fifteen hundred nineteen, with the soldados of Hernando Cortez."

                                                                                                                    This reference comes from De Witt's The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia.

                                                                                                                  2. re: PenskeFan

                                                                                                                    While I don't put beans (or tomatoes) in my chili, the meanings of a word are whatever most people understand it to mean. Clearly, many people expect chili to have beans.

                                                                                                                    1. re: PenskeFan

                                                                                                                      "Real, authentic chili is chili based on the original recipe, which had no beans."

                                                                                                                      Again, nonsense. There are MANY varieties of real chili. And if it were "authentic" in your description, it would have to be cooked over open flame.

                                                                                                                    2. re: GH1618

                                                                                                                      Welsh rabbit or Welsh rarebit refers to the same dish which can be made in many different variations. Apparently the Welsh were banned or prevented by high prices from buying rabbit and developed the rabbit/rarebit dish as an alternative--showing a sense of humour we could all stand to learn from.

                                                                                                              2. Last night I made my version of Middle-American "chili". It has ground beef, tomatoes, pinto beans (hate kidney beans), ground ancho chilis, cumin, etc.

                                                                                                                Two months ago I made my version of more "authentic" chili. It had chunks of chuck braised with various dried chiles, cumin, Mexican oregano, etc.

                                                                                                                These two dishes are not the same thing, and we like them both! This is what's exciting about cooking! It is forever changing and evolving through the creative processes initiated by chefs and home cooks alike. I love the challenge of a hobby that I will never, ever, ever learn EVERYTHING about. Not only is there too much to learn, but cooking is a living, changing beast that cannot be conquered. There may be classic ways of doing many things, but the only "wrongs" in my mind are to use fake/low quality ingredients.

                                                                                                                One of my philosophies that goes beyond the kitchen is that I need to learn the rules.....so that I can break them!

                                                                                                                1. Cincinnati chili is a condiment, not a traditional chili that one eats out of a bowl. People shouldn't confuse them but it happens all the time.

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: thomtompkins

                                                                                                                    I love Skyline, but I would call it more a sauce than a condiment. Technically, it is just like spaghetti meat sauce with that special Cincinnati Greek seasoning.

                                                                                                                    I love "traditional" chili w beans too and since Skyline can be ordered with beans, it qualifies on that criteria too.

                                                                                                                    That said, to me there is no chili like Skyline. I will drive out of my way when visiting OH just to have me a plate.

                                                                                                                  2. cinci chili is not really chili. it's a greek-american pasta sauce. all this talk about how to make good chili is sort of beside the point...

                                                                                                                    this thread is like people debating how to make the best hamburger, and going off on how to best dice the ham......

                                                                                                                    ignore the nomenclature, please. cinci chili is not chili, it generally contains no chiles, the rules for other chili recipes do not apply because cinci chili is not chili, it is only *named* chili-- but it is its own thing.

                                                                                                                    19 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                      All the recipes that I've seen include 'chili powder'.

                                                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                        Oh, this is a totally fatuous and disingenuous argument. Of COURSE it's Chili. It's just not the kind of chili you like. You might as well say that Philly Cheesesteak isn't steak, per se.

                                                                                                                        1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                                          i think you're joking ;-P
                                                                                                                          but on the chance that you aren't-- are you saying cinci-chili is *not* basically a greek stew, or that it does *not* have origins in cincinnati greek-american diners?

                                                                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                            I am saying no such thing. What I am reacting to is the lifelong insistent cry of "It's NOT chili." There is no definitive chili. If it's a stew of meat that includes, among other things, chili powder, meat, and cumin, it's still chili.

                                                                                                                            1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                                              you just described the mongolian lamb dish i ate last week. it isn't helpful to call the mongolian dish "chili" just because on the surface it may resemble a dish that might be more familiar to an american audience. it isn't helpful to call a cantonese-american beef-broccoli, or a classic bolognese "chili."

                                                                                                                              yet this is exactly what happened in the case of cinci-chili. it's a greek dish. understanding that it is greek, and NOT a dish of mexi-tex ethnic and regional origin is key to "getting" what the dish really is. all of the misunderstanding and angst running through this whole thread--about beans, beef chunks, "proper" cooking/boiling meat, cinnamon/mediterranean spices and herbs, and dried-powdered vs. fresh chile peppers disappear when one can separate the origin and history of mex-tex chili and cinci-chili.

                                                                                                                              the nomenclature of cinci-chili needn't get people so hot. "chili" was coined by the american dining audience who were familiar with american regional chilis--not by the greek ethnic cooks who made the dish. the composition and spicing of cinci-chili does not reflect at all on mex-tex regional or ethnic groups (who are justifiably proud and invested in their own chili traditions)-- however the attempt to sanitize/americanize the greek dish by naming it "chili" has resulted in all of this needless controversy.

                                                                                                                              it is important for one to realize, when ordering a coney dog or a 5-way bowl, that what one will get is a different item than a chili dog in houston or a bowl of chili in new mexico... just as it's important to "get" that if one orders a philly cheesesteak, one isn't going to wind up with an 8-oz slab of beef loin and a wedge of cheddar on a plate.

                                                                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                No, it isn't important . Chili has long since departed from the "original" Texas concept,if that is even real. What about White Chili with Chicken? Do you seek to discredit it too?

                                                                                                                                1. re: bbqboy

                                                                                                                                  who is discrediting anything? i am saying that cinci chili has a totally different ethnic/regional origin than the pre-columbian origin of mexi-tex chili. that it is a different dish. that the "rules" of other traditional american chilis do not apply to cinci chili because it's essentially a greek stew. whatever cinci-chili is called, i am calling on people to acknowledge and respect the cultural origin of the dish-- which will never happen as long as people keep piling the expectations of other regional american chilis on a dish that is greek.

                                                                                                                                  my hope is that if people can see cinci chili as a greek-american heritage dish, that it won't be seen so much as some abhorrent stepchild in the chili family. that people can learn to enjoy cinci chili on its own terms and not constantly measure it against their preferred bowl of red/green/white/what have you. that people can get off their high horses in their rush to diss cinci chili/ohio/midwesterners/white people/yankees/what have you and say... you know, this cinnamon flavor with the cheese is kind of nice.

                                                                                                                                  can you, or someone please explain to me why some folks want to sweep the greek origin of this dish under the rug, as if cinci-chili dropped out of the sky, into skyline... or walked a long road from amarillo to come to rest in ohio, and without spreading any variations of itself along that interstate highway? that doesn't make much sense to me.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                    I don't think anyone is sweeping the Greek origin under the rug. I also don't think that this dish is going to be found in Greece, as is. It is part of the melting pot culture of America. People are calling it chili because it is called Cincinnati CHILI. That's all. The same way people call that macaroni/tomato/hamburger dish "goulash."

                                                                                                                                    1. re: wyogal

                                                                                                                                      And for goodness sake -- "precolumbian origin"? This isn't anthropology. As with many "food of the peoples" (a term I have been waiting years to use), chili wasn't invented, it developed. You can't say with certainty when it became chili. You can't say what's "authentic". You can't say who developed it. There are versions of chili made in most of the states, and they're not lock-step homogeneous.

                                                                                                                                      Nobody I know -- other than people I've come to lump together as "Texas Chili Purists" -- thinks my city's dish is an abhorrent stepchild. And nobody wants to "sweep the greek origin ... under the rug." What doesnt' make much sense to ME is the continuous, insistent, and frankly tiresome assault by these purists on my city's dish -- a dish which neither Calvin Trillin nor Jane and Michael Stern (to name a couple of experts on regional food) saw the need to assail with the whine of "It's NOT chili."

                                                                                                                                      1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                                                        Thank you for this.

                                                                                                                                        To me, chili is basically a spicy stew involving beef (or chicken) and cumin in some meaningful way. Just because it doesn't fit the purists' definition doesn't mean it isn't chili.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: wyogal


                                                                                                                                        my mother in law did just that. one of the things she made for dinner on a regular basis was her "goulash". I didn't like her salmon patties, didn't like her mooshy way overcooked spaghetti, but mostly she was a terrific cook indeed. her goulash, whenever we heard that was for dinner, she knew we'd come for dinner and we did. it was indeed, macaroni, tomato 'juice' from a quart sized can of Campbells juice, onion oil, garlic oil, ground beef with Lawry's and Accent < yikes, mixed together, delicious.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: wyogal

                                                                                                                                          >>The same way people call that macaroni/tomato/hamburger dish "goulash."

                                                                                                                                          Except when they don't. That same basic dish is known as American chop suey in parts of the northeast, and Johnny Marzetti in parts of the midwest.

                                                                                                                                          But for the record, no one calls it chili.

                                                                                                                            2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                              I don't care what you call it.
                                                                                                                              I don't care how you make it.
                                                                                                                              I don't care if you like it or not.
                                                                                                                              I don't care if it involves beans or no beans or cheddar or onions.
                                                                                                                              I don't care if it's from Cincinnati Ohio or Multitoosta Maine.
                                                                                                                              I don't care if it's real chili or fake-o chili or stew or soup or moosh.
                                                                                                                              I only care that I LOVE THE STUFF

                                                                                                                              Gad I wish I had some right now. I do a 5 way BTW....large size


                                                                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                So far, your description Cincinnati chili makes the most sense to me. I have made it twice. I wasn't too excited about it the first time so I tried it again and was underwhelmed again. If I'm going to have a meat sauce on spaghetti I prefer it to have Italian flavors not Greek. If I'm going to have chili on pasta I would do it with Texas style chili. I don't because I do not need extra carbs in my diet.

                                                                                                                                Although I did not have it, Cincinnati chili made its debut at the Minnesota State Fair last year. My brother and his family went to Cincinnati last year and came back ready to wow me with this new way to eat chili. They did not believe me when I said not only have I heard of it but I have made it.

                                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                  Regarding a meat sauce with Italian flavors for spaghetti: Well, Sicilians do it (with cinammon). Whether or not Sicily is "Italian" is another question contested by some folks :-)
                                                                                                                                  Here's a couple hearty sauces for consideration:

                                                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                    I suppose I should have specified bolognese or American style bolognese.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                      Well that certainly opens a can of beans. :)

                                                                                                                                      1. re: bbqboy


                                                                                                                                        "Well that certainly opens a can of beans. :)"
                                                                                                                                        oh I love beans :)

                                                                                                                              2. IMHO, real chilli does not have beans and Cincinnati is NOT the ultimate authority on chilli. To quote comedian Ron White:

                                                                                                                                "I'm guessing the Mexican boys could show up with a goat and an onion and kick their butts."

                                                                                                                                10 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                                                  The OP was used to a style of chili that has kidney beans. Beans are as much an 'aside' in Cincinnati as they are in Texas. It's other people and states that claim to be 'ultimate authroities' on chili, not Cincinnati.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                                                    There is NO ultimate authority on chili. Not even a smug comedian.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Fibber McGee

                                                                                                                                      I love chili and I'm no authority and who BTW PotatoHouse is Ron White ?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                                        They call him Tater Salad. He's one of the Blue Collar comedians along with Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Fibber McGee

                                                                                                                                          ok Fib, I just looked him up.
                                                                                                                                          I know who he is, watched him a few times until I couldn't take his foul mouth any longer. but sans the potty mouth, he is pretty funny.
                                                                                                                                          is he always drunk or is that his shtick?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                                            It's his shtick, but he has a history of substance problems.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                                              You may like the comedy of Jon Pinette, iL Divo, in case you have not heard of him. You can think of him as the foodie comedian. His comedy is clean, but he's a large man who has food as a major part of his routine. He calls Italy the "Motherland". Doubtless, he would have opinions about chili, Cincinnati and otherwise.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Fibber McGee

                                                                                                                                                oh I LOVE John Pinette. And Jim Gaffigan.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                                                                  Gaffigan is great, as well. He has a funny routine about Hot Pockets, which, AFAIK, do not have anything with chili in them.

                                                                                                                                      2. Growing up in California I was very clear what adobo was. A reddish brown sauce that chili's were packed in. It was mostly salt and vinegar and onion and garlic. Then i moved to Hawaii. i was at a Filipino restaurant and saw pork adobo... fantastic. Imagine my surprise when I got a pork plate with a vinegary garlicy, salty soy sauce marinade. But they came from the same roots a couple of centuries ago, as do cincinati and tex-mex, and south west chili. They are all chili. Yes, the cincinnati one was influenced by the ethnic cultures it was introduced to. The south west varieties adopted beef as the main ingredient. Other areas became more bean heavy. Get over it.

                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. There's a Skyline near me, but I don't really care for their Chili. I don't get why some people get all excited over it, it tastes like something out of a can and has a weird flavor to it from all the spices.