3-2-1 cincinnati chili

vegan or meaty

when i was younger, every fall our neighborhood held a chili cook-off. it was awesome. the kitchen would fill with crock-pots and kids running around, parents shouted instruction “go play in the basement!” only being ignored. i don’t remember one shred of a side dish, vegetable, or anything non-chili related, with the implied exception of alcohol. i loved chili, but remember i wouldn’t even try any other chili but my parent’s. i remember knowing that the other pots of chili would be far too sweet and tomato-y for my taste. my parents hit it dead on. i have no idea if it was my mom or my dad who made the chili, or if there was even a recipe they followed. i would love if i could pry it out of their hands… (HINT!)

this is not my parent’s, but here is my favorite chili recipe. the addition of cocoa powder may look horrible and offensive to some people, but cocoa is traditionally used in mole sauces, chili, and many mexican dishes. same goes for cinnamon. just give it a whirl, i promise you will love it. this is a good one to cook, let it cool over night, and have the next day for dinner. reheating, as i said in my soup post, is the key to good soups and chili. people love serving cincinnati chili over noodles, but i like mine with a ton of cheese on top. and no, this is not a skyline chili duplicate. their chili is weird.

-vegans, this recipe is for you, too. simply use ground tempeh in place of beef and vegetable broth in place of chicken broth. be sure to fry the crumbled tempeh in a little oil and over low heat.

-meat eaters, i used ground buffalo last time i made this, but you can use any ground chuck or round, bison or buffalo.. whatever you got. just be sure to use a little oil to fry the beef in if the fat content is low.

i’ve simplified this recipe by grouping the ingredients together in order of their use. enjoy this tasty chili all week, i swear your hard work will pay off!

cincinnati chili

serves 6


group 3

1 lb ground beef

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 green pepper, finely chopped

a few minced cloves of garlic

2 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

small sprinkle of dried crushed pepper flakes

group 2

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground allspice

group 1

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 can diced tomatoes, in juices

1 tiny can (14 or 15 oz) tomato sauce

1 can of chili beans, drained (the beans are optional)

2 tbsp molasses

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp sriracha hot sauce (optional, but highly recommended)


in a large pot, combine all wet ingredients (group 1) and stir well. pot should be cool, you’re not cooking this yet.

combine group 3 ingredients (meat onions etc) in hot, deep skillet. i always use cast iron for this. keep ingredients moving so nothing burns. once meat is browned, dump contents into a large pot with a lid and set aside.

next, in a dry skillet, toast spices in group 2 for just a few minutes over low heat, just until they become fragrant. dump the spices over group 1 & 3 in the pot, combining all ingredients. stir well. i usually let this mixture sit in the refrigerator overnight, but you could also cook it up right away.

bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn heat to low and cook with lid on for one hour, stirring well. turn heat off and let it hang out for an hour without heat. (letting it cool like this before you reheat to serve is what thickens the chili by pulling the pectin out of the tomatoes. yes, there is a science to thickening chili, this is why it’s best served as leftovers!)

to serve, reheat chili with lid off.

place crazy amounts of cheese on top of your bowl of chili and dig in! YUMSVILLE.


9 thoughts on “3-2-1 cincinnati chili

  1. Group 3 is cooking as I type this. I’m tempted to cook it tonight but I’ll stick to your recommendation to let it rest overnight. The aroma being put off by group three right now is amazing…

    I’m cooking it exactly as posted minus the beans and sriracha.

    I’ll let you know how it turns out tomorrow. Thanks for the recipe!

  2. trevor:
    yes, i tend to pick around the beans anyhow! brian really likes them in there, and they also soak up a lot of juice and thicken the whole deal… other than that, they are useless to me. i’m in it for the meat. be sure to season as you heat it up, too. the flavors change quite a bit overnight. i found myself adding a pinch of brown sugar to add a little depth of flavor.
    please let us know what you think, thanks for stopping by!

  3. Just finished cooking it as per your instructions and ate my first bowl (with a pile of cheese on top, of course). Wow. So good!

    I’ve made a few different batches of chili over the past couple months (mostly variations on a basic chili con carne), so this Cincinnati Chili is quite a change. The cocoa adds a dimension that’s hard to put into words and I’ll tell you what, whatever is going on with the cinnamon and cocoa in that pot is making my little apartment smell amazing.

    I’d love to report more than one positive review of this recipe, but alas, I’m living alone while I finish me B.A. here in San Fran. On the other hand, I look forward to having the pot all to myself over the next week! 🙂 I can see this being an excellent topping for my scrambled eggs tomorrow…

    I agree about the beans, Liz. I’m mostly into chili for the meat as well. Thanks so much for the recipe. I really look forward to making this for my family next time I’m home for a visit.

    • really glad you liked the chili! i was actually just thinking about this last night, wondering if it had turned out well or like you expected. yes, the cocoa and cinnamon really smell amazing, and create such unique flavors together.
      toppings for scrambled egg is a great idea. i also thought it would be wonderful over a sweet potato with a little bacon!
      thanks for the comments, and enjoy san fran! it’s one of my favorite places in the world!

      • This stuff on top of a sweet potato w/bacon (and cheese of course!) would be amazing. I’m going to have to try that soon.

        Thanks! I’m definitely enjoying my time up here in San Fran. I’ll probably be done with my degree in May of next year, so my time is quickly coming to a close. Then it’s back down to Southern California for me.

        I look forward to more recipes! Though I don’t have an oven at my place, so unfortunately the baking recipes will have to wait…

  4. Just as an aside, I do love Skyline chili. 🙂 But this recipe looks very good. Also, Cincinnati folks do their chili 2-way (chili and spaghetti), 3-way (2-way plus beans) and 4-way (3-way plus cheese). Chopped onions on all of it. I think that’s how it goes. Wonder how this would be on spaghetti squash…….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s