Cincinnati Chili

I was looking around the Internets for a chili recipe and stumbled upon Cincinnati Chili. Chili and cheese over pasta (or fries ... any form of carbohydrates really) is my kind of food. I printed out a few recipes and then cobbled the ingredients together on paper until it looked promising. According to Rob, the cobbling was a success.

Useless Facts

  • Cincinnati residents consume over two million pounds of chili each year and top it with over 850,000 pounds of cheese. That's a solid chili/cheese ratio right there.
  • Traditional Cincinnati Chili is served 5 ways:
    • Just the chili
    • Chili over pasta
    • Chili over pasta with cheese
    • Chili over pasta with cheese and onions (aka "hay wagon" - the best!)
    • Chili over pasta with cheese, onions, and beans
  • "Grass fed" meat is not always grass fed. Confusing, yes. There's 100% grass fed, and then there's grass fed and grain finished (the latter makes up much of what's on the market). Unless the label says 100%, be sure to ask your butcher about the meat you're buying. Lindner Bison talks more about the benefits of grass-fed meat on their website.


Cincinnati chili is better the next day so I recommend making it ahead of time. Overall the steps for this dish are pretty simple but the key is to be patient. If you don't let the meat simmer long enough the texture won't be buttery and wonderful.

The photo above is of Ken and Kathy, owners of Lindner Bison. Linder is sold at the Santa Monica Farmers Market so I've had the pleasure of meeting them. Kathy and Ken love what they do and it shows in both attitude and product. I think Lindner ships but will need to ask this week to be sure.



  • 2 pounds lean ground beef Note: I use Lindner Bison.
  • 2 small yellow onions chopped fine, about 2 cups
  • 3 tablespoons quality olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste


  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or flake-style salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne (can be increased if you like more heat)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon


  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 4 cups tomato purée
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar


  • 1 pound thin spaghetti
  • Freshly shredded sharp cheddar
  • Chopped onions for serving



  • In a Dutch oven or similar chili pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering.
  • Add onions to pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and saute until translucent and light brown around the edges.
  • Add another tablespoon of olive oil, heat for a minute or two, then add the meat and cook until no longer pink. Note: Make sure to break the meat up as it's cooking so there aren't any large pieces. You can also substitute a tablespoon of bacon fat if you want some smokiness.
  • Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about a minute. Note: If your meat is on the fattier side, drain it briefly on a plate lined with paper towels. Add the meat back to the pot and continue.
  • Add spices and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Add tomato paste and stir for about a minute.


  • Add broth, 1 cup of water, and tomato purée. Bring everything back to a boil, then lower the heat and cover the pot.
  • Simmer for 3-4 hours, stirring every 30-45 minutes.​ Note: In terms of texture, around 4 - 4.5 hours seems to be the sweet spot for bison. Also, the chili should be relatively thick but not dry.
  • Add the vinegar.
  • This is the point at which you can stop and refrigerate the chili in an airtight container.


  • Boil some water and prepare your pasta per the instructions. Note: Adding salt to the water is an important flavor layer. I usually throw in 2 tablespoons of kosher or flake-style salt before cooking the pasta.
  • While the pasta is cooking, shred some cheese and chop the onions for serving.
  • Drain the pasta and for love of all things sticky don't rinse it. Toss with a little butter to coat the noodles.
  • Put some pasta in a bowl, then top with chili, cheese, and onions. Note: You want the chili to act as a sauce so be generous with the toppings.
  • Additional serving ideas include chili dogs (excellent) and chili omelets.


The chili (without pasta and cheese) lasts 2-3 days regrigerated in an airtight container. It also freezes beautifully.

Article Tags : any season, beef, main
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