Cincinnati Chili, a unique twist on a family favorite

Chili has always been a staple in my family. To me, it goes with winter like peanut butter goes with jelly, you can’t have one without the other. Growing up we ate chili at least once a week. We’d crumble crackers or cornbread up in the tomato base to thicken it up. I enjoy my family’s recipe for chili, but I do like to change it up every now and then by making Cincinnati Chili.

Cincinnati Chili, for those outside the Ohio-Kentucky area, is a delicious blend of spices–cinnamon, allspice, cumin, chili powder, etc.–onions, ground beef and tomatoes. It can be served over hot dogs with shredded cheese and chopped onions to make the Coney Dog, or it can be served as the following:

  • Two Way (chili over spaghetti noodles)
  • Three Way (a layer of spaghetti, chili and cheddar cheese)
  • Four Way (a layer of spaghetti, chili, cheddar cheese and onions)
  • Five Way (a layer of spaghetti, kidney beans, chili, cheddar cheese and onions)

Don’t be shy to try the mountainous four- or five-way chili, but whichever way you try it you must eat it with oyster crackers (small, hexgon-shaped crackers).


My recipe comes the 1987 Inter County Rural Electric Employee’s Cookbook (Danville, Ky.). It’s like a church cookbook, everything’s good!

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 4 cups water
  • 16 oz. diced tomatoes
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 servings spaghetti, cooked
  • 1-1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 bag oyster crackers
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 16 oz. kidney beans, drained and heated

Combine ground beef , onions and water in a saucepan. Simmer until beef is turns brown. Add tomatoes with liquid, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and all the spices. Cover and simmer for 3 hours. The fat will float. If there is time, place chili in the refrigerator and lift the fat layer off. If times doesn’t allow, it’s ok. It tastes great. Servings: 6.


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  1. #1 by Wendy on February 1, 2011 - 3:01 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this Melissa, I’ve always heard of Cincinnati Chili but never knew what it was! I’ll have to try it!

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