Cincinnati 'Skyline' Chili

Cincinnati Skyline Chili
The Spruce
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 4 hrs
Chill: 8 hrs
Total: 12 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
479 Calories
28g Fat
14g Carbs
44g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 479
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 28g 35%
Saturated Fat 10g 50%
Cholesterol 135mg 45%
Sodium 1007mg 44%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 44g
Vitamin C 10mg 52%
Calcium 115mg 9%
Iron 7mg 39%
Potassium 1017mg 22%
*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 this beloved local recipe. To most, the sound of meaty chili on top of spaghetti, covered in generous amounts of cheese, possibly onions, maybe beans, and 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, such as over a hot dog or unseasoned 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 laid in a protected vault since Lambrinides' death. What we do know is that unsweetened cocoa and cinnamon are key to the beautiful, 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

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1/4 cup chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. 

    Cincinnati "skyline" chili ingredients

    The Spruce

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

    Ground beef and water in a 4-quart pot
    The Spruce
  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 all the rest of the ingredients for the chili. Stir well and simmer uncovered on low for 3 hours.

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

    Cincinnati "skyline" chili simmering in a pot
    The Spruce
  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
    The Spruce
  7. Refrigerate the chili overnight, covered. 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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  8. Enjoy.

How to Eat 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, as with the pasta, add just chili, or chili and cheese, or chili, cheese, onions or beans, or all the toppings. Mustard is a must if you're having a hot dog, but there is no wrong way of eating this flavorful chili.

How to Store and Freeze

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 four to six months.

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