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Cincinnati-Style Chili


Cincinnati-Style Chili
(courtesy of the Cincinnati CVB)
In Ohio, almost everyone has their own version of Cincinnati chili, that unique stew-like mixture, served with pasta, cheese, onion, and beans that originated in Ohio's "Queen City." Even Anthony Bourdain talked about it when he filmed his food show in Cleveland last winter.

My version is a little different in that it uses cubes of meat instead of ground beef. Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients; most are spices that can be found in your pantry. The combination gives the dish a complex nature, reminiscent of a Mexican mole.

Prep Time: 5 hours, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Total Time: 10 hours


  • 2 large coarsely chopped, sweet onions
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 3 lbs. sirloin, cut into 1" cubes
  • 4 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 3/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. tumeric
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamon
  • 2 8oz. cans tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp. molasses
  • 3 cups canned beef broth (about 1 1/2 small cans)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Accompaniments:
  • Cooked spaghetti
  • Chopped sweet onion
  • Cooked red kidney beans
  • Finely grated cheddar cheese
  • Oyster crackers


Make the Stew
In a heavy Dutch oven or kettle, cook the onions in oil over moderate heat, stirring until they are softened. Add the garlic and cook the mixture, stirring, for one minute. Add the beef chucks and brown them lightly on all sides. Add chili powder and other spices. Cook mixture for one minute. Stir in tomato sauce, cocoa, molasses, beef broth, water, and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours, or until thickened.

Let Flavors Meld Overnight
The chili will improve in flavor if cooled completely and refrigerated overnight. Add more water as necessary when reheating.

Serving Cincinnati Chili
To serve, ladle soup into bowls of spaghetti. Top with beans, onion, cheddar cheese, and oyster crackers.

Serves six.

History of Cincinnati Chili
Cincinnati chili originated in that city in the early 20th century, created by several sets of northern Greek immigrants. Today, according to the Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, the "Queen City" consumes over two million pounds of chili each year; we Clevelanders like it too.

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