Cincinnati Chili


20 years ago, Brett and I lived in Cincinnati. At one of the first lunches with my coworkers, they took me to Gold Star Chili across the street from our office and introduced me to Cincinnati chili.

If you haven’t had it, it does not resemble traditional chili at all. It doesn’t have chunks of beef, spicy southwestern sauce, beans and tomatoes. It is a soupy concoction of fine ground beef with a strange array of spices that includes cinnamon, allspice and depending on version, chocolate. It is served over spaghetti and topped with mounds of cheddar cheese.

When you order chili in a Cincinnati chili parlor, you need to tell them the “way” you want it. “Two-way” is spaghetti topped with chili, “three-way” adds cheese; “four-way” adds kidney beans and “five-way” adds chopped onions. It is a unique dining experience. The parlors also have coneys on the menu. They are also not standard hot dogs. They are smaller hot dogs with the chili ladled generously over the top and then the “way” toppings of your choice.

I became a fan of Skyline Chili. I usually went to Gold Star since it was across the street from my office. During my 18 months in Cincinnati, I had the opportunity to visit several of the other non-chain chili parlors which have their own taste but respect the Cincinnati “way” of serving chili.

This recipe closely resembles the chili parlor taste. It came from a newspaper reader recipe submission column in the Columbus Dispatch. We replaced the ground beef with a healthier ground white turkey breast. If you want the true taste of Cincinnati chili, make a visit to the Queen city and experience it first hand.

Cincinnati chili can be bariatric friendly. The nutrition data below is for the chili only without any of the toppings. It is high in protein and low in sugar. The addition of kidney beans and cheddar cheese toppings adds more protein. We will leave it to you to decide if you can add the spaghetti. Many bariatric patients can not eat much pasta at all. I believe it would taste good ladled over spaghetti squash or sliced and steamed zucchini.

Nutrition Facts Cincinnati Chili

2 pounds ground white turkey
3 cups water
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 bay leaves
1 onion, minced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan (do not brown meat). Simmer 3 hours, breaking up meat as it cooks, and stirring occasionally.

Serve over spaghetti topped with your choice of grated cheddar sheese, kidney beans and onions. 

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