Cincinnati-Style Chili

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All you need is 5 ingredients to make my Southern version of easy Cincinnati-style chili recipe. It’s the perfect blend of spicy and savory flavors, served traditionally on a bed of spaghetti.

A forkful of Cincinnati-style chili.

This is my Southern take on a traditional Cincinnati chili recipe (hence the word “style” in the title). I may have tweaked the flavors just a bit (the authentic version uses a lot of spices), but I’m serving it the traditional way on spaghetti, so that gets bonus points, right? Authentic Cincinnati chili has a very unique flavor and is unlike anything I have ever tasted before. I can fully see how, if you were raised on this stuff, you’d be left with a craving that only Cincinnati chili would fill. 

But today we’re making a Cincinnati-style chili recipe with an Alabama flair. This recipe is ridiculously easy to make. All you need is 5 ingredients: cooked ground beef, tomato sauce, ground cumin, chili powder, and water. The instructions are as simple as mixing the ingredients together and letting them simmer and thicken on the stove for about an hour.

Then we serve a big scoop of the meat sauce on a bed of freshly made spaghetti. Personally, I love how the spaghetti noodles seem to take to the chili sauce perfectly and they are great for balancing out the chili spices. The finishing touch is the toppings of your choice. As you can see, I opted for shredded cheese, but there are other options below.

You’ll also want to keep scrolling to learn more about Cincinnati chili and how to make this recipe work for you. Now I can’t wait until fall gets here so I can have a big chili dinner with friends. Let’s get cooking!

And if you need other Chili ideas try making some of these: White Bean Chili With ChickenEasy Skillet Chili BakeBuffalo Chicken Chili, or Crock Pot Chili Recipe

Labeled ingredients for Cincinnati-style chili.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Tomato sauce
  • Ground cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Cooked ground beef
  • Cooked spaghetti for serving

Helpful Kitchen Tools


How to Make Cincinnati-Style Chili

Place all ingredients in a large pot.

Place all of your ingredients into a large pot.

Add water to large pot.

Fill up your tomato sauce can with water and add that as well.

16 ounces equals 2 cups.

Give ingredients to a good stir.

Now give all of this a good stir.

Bring ingredients to a boil.

Bring this to a very light boil before reducing the heat and cooking, stirring every now and then, for about an hour.

You also want to cook it uncovered like so.

Cooked Cincinnati chili.

It will look deliciously thick like this when done.

Place cooked spaghetti on plate.

Now add some cooked spaghetti noodles to your plate…

Top spaghetti with a spoonful of chili.

And add a heaping spoonful of the meat sauce on top.

Plate of Cincinnati-style chili.

 Like this.

Cincinnati spaghetti topped with shredded cheese.

Finish your Cincinnati spaghetti with the toppings of your choice like shredded cheddar cheese.

But there are more options below.

Forkful of Cincinnati-style chili.

Enjoy your chili. Comfort food at its finest!


  • Store leftover chili in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop on low until heated through.
  • Freeze leftovers in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and then reheat them as above.

Recipe Notes

  • This will make enough for two large servings or four smaller ones, so you might want to double it if feeding a whole family. Luckily it’s super easy to double, you just need a big pot!
  • Feel free to substitute the ground beef for ground turkey.
  • For extra tomato flavor, use 1 can of tomato sauce and 1 can of tomato paste.
  • If you want it to taste like traditional Cincinnati chili, you’re going to need to raid your spice cabinet. Along with the chili powder and cumin, you can add:
    • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice
    • A pinch of ground cloves and/or ground nutmeg.
    • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper if you want to add more heat.
  • Other seasonings you can add for flavor include 2 minced garlic cloves, a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
  • Another way to add flavor is to substitute the water for beef broth.

Recipe FAQs

What are the ingredients in Cincinnati chili?

The main ingredients in Cincinnati chili are ground beef, tomato paste, and spices.

Why do you put chocolate in chili?

Adding a tablespoon of unsweetened chocolate (chopped) or cocoa powder to any chili recipe adds so much richness and depth to the flavor. Feel free to give it a go.

What is different about Cincinnati chili?

There are a few differences when it comes to Cincinnati chili:

  • It’s served on spaghetti rather than rice.
  • You don’t cook beans in the chili, you add them as a topping.
  • The seasonings are different and usually include a combination of ground cumin, chili powder, ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ground nutmeg, paprika, and/or dried oregano.

So, there are three different ways to serve Cincinnati chili (yeah, they do things differently in the Midwest):

  • Three-way: spaghetti, chili, and shredded cheddar cheese.
  • Four-way: spaghetti, chili, shredded cheddar cheese, and minced raw onion OR warmed canned kidney beans.
  • Five-way: spaghetti, chili, shredded cheddar cheese, minced raw onion, AND kidney beans.

Traditionally you eat Cincinnati-style chili over hot dogs or with spaghetti. If you opt for the hot dog idea, it’s called a Coney Dog. Grab your steamed bun and beef hot dog and top it with chili, diced onion, cheese, and yellow mustard.

You also add the toppings of your choice: shredded cheese, diced onion, kidney beans, and/or oyster crackers.

Can you make Cincinnati-style chili in the slow cooker?

Absolutely! Instead of placing all of the ingredients in a large pot, put them in the crock pot instead. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. I recommend cooking with the lid on and then removing it halfway through the cooking time. This will allow it to thicken beautifully, as there’s a lotta liquid!

How do you make vegan Cincinnati-style chili?

You have a couple of options for a vegan Cincinnati chili recipe. First, substitute the ground beef for your favorite plant-based ground meat alternative. Second, use a combination (about 2 cups) of cooked lentils and sliced mushrooms.

Check out these other chili recipes:

Easy Skillet Chili Bake

Buffalo Chicken Chili

White Bean Chili With Chicken

Crock Pot Chili Recipe

Hot Dog Chili Recipe

A big plate of Cincinnati-style chili.

Cincinnati-Style Chili

All you need is 5 ingredients to make my easy Cincinnati-style chili recipe. It's the perfect blend of spicy and savory flavors, served traditionally on a bed of spaghetti.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chili, spaghetti
Servings: 4 small servings


  • 1 16-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 16 ounces water (just fill up the empty tomato sauce can)
  • 1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder or to taste


  • Place all ingredients in a pot and give it a good stir.
    1 16-ounce can tomato sauce, 16 ounces water, 1 pound ground beef, browned and drained, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 2 tablespoons chili powder or to taste
  • Bring just to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer (uncovered and stirring often) for about an hour.
  • Serve over freshly-made spaghetti noodles with the toppings of your choice. Delicious!
Tried this recipe?Mention @southernplate or tag #southernplate!

“Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same.”

– Francesca Reigler, artist

Submitted by Jenny

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  1. It is a good chili-mac recipe but does not resemble the Cincy version. Skyline is our favorite, it does not have chili powder included and has a square of unsweet chocolate from the 1946 Greek recipe. You can find the original recipe in the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper archives.

  2. 5 stars
    When I saw the picture of the spaghetti topped with chili and cheese, my first thought was that that is how I eat my hash browns at Waffle House, so it’s GOTTA be good!!

  3. We’ve always known this dish as “Chili Mac,” regardless of what type of chili is served on top of the noodles. Cincinnati-style Chili, with it’s finely ground meat and cinnamon flavor, certainly does make the dish taste different! I’m with you, though, I prefer more of a “traditional” chili flavor… as long as it isn’t too spicy!

  4. Colleen — there are several chili “parlors” (funny name) in the Cincinnati area. One of them uses cinnamon, but the other 3 do not. We don’t like the cinnamon type either. Our favorite is Dixie Chili — been in the same family for about 70 years or more. When I moved from northern Kentucky, I had to order it online. Dixie Chili is only in northern Kentucky — not Cincinnati. Gold Star and Empress Chili don’t use cinnamon either. Only Skyline.

  5. I love mine with RICE! I call it aloha style because living in Hawaii a year how I learned to eat it that way, but spaghetti sounds good too I will have to try that next time. I had Cincinatti chili with the cinnamon in it, not a fan…

  6. I am an Alabamaian raised by parents who are from Cincinatti 🙂 My dad lives there now and mails me GoldStar chili seasoning packets because its something I can’t live without 🙂 It’s perfect served over spaghetti with onions and cheese, and coicindentally is in the fridge at work now waiting on me to heat it up and eat for lunch!! If you are intersted in trying it Christy I would be happy fo send you some from a few cities over!!

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