Cincinnati Skyline Chili

Cincinnati Skyline Chili
The Spruce
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 3 hrs 30 mins
Chill: 8 hrs
Total: 11 hrs 50 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
359 Calories
21g Fat
11g Carbs
33g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 359
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21g 26%
Saturated Fat 8g 38%
Cholesterol 101mg 34%
Sodium 755mg 33%
Total Carbohydrate 11g 4%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 33g
Vitamin C 8mg 39%
Calcium 86mg 7%
Iron 5mg 29%
Potassium 763mg 16%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Most people outside of Cincinnati haven't had the chance to try this amazing chili unless someone in their household has attempted to recreate the beloved local recipe. The sound of meaty chili on top of spaghetti covered in generous amounts of cheese and possibly onions with oyster crackers on the side sounds like an odd combination. But don't say no until you've actually tried it. Our take on this recipe gives you the closest thing to the true recipe. It's up to you how you want to eat it, whether over a hot dog or cooked spaghetti.

This famous no-bean chili recipe was created by Nicholas Lambrinides, a Greek immigrant who founded a popular chain of chili restaurants called Skyline Chili in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1949. The inventor's Greek roots can clearly be seen in the unique blend of spices, although we will never know for sure what the delicious secret blend is because the original recipe has been in a protected vault since Lambrinides' death. What we do know is that unsweetened cocoa and cinnamon are key to the deep flavor of this meaty concoction.

Our recipe for Cincinnati chili only makes the meat sauce—it's up to you how you want to serve it. It's thinner in consistency than other versions of chili and is popular as a sauce over hot dogs too. A few big pluses: The long, slow cook and overnight refrigeration allows for all excess fat to be removed, and this recipe freezes beautifully and can be kept in the fridge for a few days.


  • 1 quart water, more as needed

  • 2 pounds ground beef

  • 2 cups crushed tomatoes

  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1/4 cup chili powder

  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. 

    Cincinnati "skyline" chili ingredients

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  2. Add the water and beef to a 4-quart pot.

    Ground beef and water in a 4-quart pot
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  3. Bring to a simmer while stirring, until the ground beef is in very small pieces. Simmer for 30 minutes.

    Ground beef and water simmering in pot
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  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, onions, garlic, vinegar, Worchestershire sauce, bay leaf, chili powder, cocoa powder, cayenne, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Stir well and simmer on low, uncovered, for 3 hours.

    Add remaining ingredients for Cincinnati "skyline" chili in pot
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  5. Stir occasionally to avoid ingredients sticking to the bottom or sides of the pot.

    Cincinnati "skyline" chili simmering in a pot
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  6. Add water as needed if the chili becomes too thick. Once the cooking time has passed, remove from heat and allow the chili to cool off, covered, to room temperature.

    Adding water to simmering chili if needed
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  7. Keep covered and fefrigerate the chili overnight. The next day, remove the layer of fat that has formed on top before reheating and serving over pasta or hot dogs.

    Refrigerated Cincinnati "skyline" chili overnight
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How to Serve Cincinnati Skyline Chili

There are a few ways in which you can eat your chili. All are served with oyster crackers on the side:

  • Two-Way: Unseasoned cooked spaghetti with chili on top.
  • Three-Way: Unseasoned cooked spaghetti with chili and lots of shredded cheddar cheese on top.
  • Four-Way: Unseasoned cooked spaghetti, chili, lots of shredded cheddar cheese, and chopped onions or kidney beans.
  • Five-Way: Unseasoned cooked spaghetti, chili, lots of shredded cheddar cheese, chopped onions, and kidney beans.

Although not common, you can eat just the chili with a side of oyster crackers. For hot dog lovers, you can add any of the topping configurations above. Mustard is a must if you're having a hot dog, but there is no wrong way to eat this flavorful chili.

How to Store and Freeze

  • In an airtight container in the refrigerator, Cincinnati chili leftovers will last for up to three days.
  • If freezing, the chili should be portioned out into individual bags or containers and used within three months. Defrost in the fridge before reheating.

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