Regional Cooking: Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili

Not long before he died, my grandfather sent me his recipe for his famous Cincinnati Chili.  I was thinking of him over the holidays and reminiscing about his chili and cheese grits with my brother.  In the spirit of family and regional cooking, I’ll share his “secret” recipe that he was careful to pass along to me.

Cincinnati Chili is a regional style of chili con carne which is believed to originated with immigrants from Macedonia and has been served for almost a century in hot dog stands, diners and “chili parlors” throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.  Cincinnati Chili has a thin consistency and is made with seasonings such as cinnamon, cloves, chocolate or allspice.  It is usually served over spaghetti or hot dogs and often topped with shredded cheddar cheese and diced onions.

I did a little research and found that there is an art to ordering this chili, something like ordering a coffee at Starbucks.  Here’s an example:

  • Bowl:  chili in a bowl (may be served with oyster crackers)
  • Two-way:  chili and spaghetti
  • Three-way:  chili, spaghetti and cheese
  • Four-way:  chili, spaghetti, cheese and onions
  • Five-way:  chili, spaghetti, cheese, onions and beans
  • Four-way bean:  chili, spaghetti, cheese and kidney beans

Cincinnati chili can also top a “coney dog,” which usually also includes mustard, cheddar and onion.

Cincinnati Chili

makes 2 quarts

Combine the contents of 1 package of chili mix (any brand) with 1 – 6 ounce can of tomato paste in a large saucepan and add 6 cups of cold water.  Add 1½ lbs. of lean ground beef – RAW (do not brown).  Stir with a fork until the beef is completely broken into small pieces.

Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring vigorously.  Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 4 bay leaves and 2 dried chilies.

Reduce to a simmer and DO NOT COVER.  Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 3 hours until desired consistence – not too watery and not too thick.

Serve over spaghetti and add grated cheddar cheese.  Makes good conies, too.

Add salt, pepper and hot sauce to individual taste.

Sounds crazy, but it works.  And only one dirty pan.

 

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. petit4chocolatier
    Dec 26, 2012 @ 19:40:09

    Love this; delicious!

    Reply

  2. Terri at Time To Be Inspired
    Dec 27, 2012 @ 01:35:36

    Would love to give this a try – perhaps in a month or so when I’m not so full from the holiday over-eating!

    Reply

  3. Marylin Warner
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 20:49:55

    Nothing is better than a recipe passed down by a beloved relative. My grandmother’s recipes never turn out as good when I make them, but as I mix the ingredients and then smell the familiar aromas from the oven…ah, the memories I have!
    I love that this recipe has a variety of combinations. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  4. blinkpack
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 21:46:39

    Josh here from the BlinkPack blog. I just stuffed my face with as much Cincinnati chili as I possibly could in a two-day period. I tried the chains and the local eateries, and my favorite was the five-way served by Skyline Chili. Thanks for the great post and recipe. Cheers!

    Reply

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