How to make Cincinnati style chili (Skyline Chili)

Picture of How to make Cincinnati style chili (Skyline Chili)

This is a very different style of chili from the traditional southwest style chili, but personally I think it is waaay better.  I know that there are chili purists out there, but seriously, give this stuff a try and you won't be disappointed.  Traditionally this is made only with kidney beans, but I like to add a variety of beans to give it a little more flavor.  And yes, that is spaghetti under the chili.  That's how they serve it at Skyline Chili (famous place that serves this style of chili) in Cincinnati.  Trust me...yummm! 

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Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients

What you will need...This can be a bit pricey the first time only because spices are not cheap! Once you have everything though, you will have plenty of leftover spices for other batches!
-2 lbs lean ground beef
-4 beef boullion cubes
-4 cups water
-1/4 to 1/3 cup chili powder
(to taste)
-1 tablespoon garlic powder
(I tried this once with fresh garlic and it wasn't as good)
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
(depending on how spicy you like it.  1 teaspoon will make a milder chili, but it will still have a bit of kick)
-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
-1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
-1 bay leaf
-1/2 square unsweetened baker's chocolate
(yes, chocolate in chili...delicious)
-3 tablespoons white vinegar
-4 cans of beans,
rinsed and drained ( I like to use 2 cans of dark red kidney beans, one can of black beans, and one can of white beans)
-1 15 oz. can tomato sauce (just use plain old tomato sauce from a can. Do not use prepared spaghetti sauce as it will affect the ratios of spices and flavors)
-1 large brown/yellow onion (I have seen these called both brown or yellow, just don't use white onion.  Red onion is good too, but it gives the chili a different flavor.)
-1-2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil (for cooking the onion)
-One package Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese (not in the picture...oops) 
-one package of spaghetti or angel hair (optional, but if you want the authentic Cincinnati chili experience, this is how you do it.  Either that or chili dogs)

First time I'm cooking this from scratch.I've used the package mix before and loved it.It's been probably 10 yrs since I've had it. I had forgotten all about it. Will let you know how it went. I'm simmering right now to thicken it up.

Michael_oz9 months ago

I tried this, staying close to the recipe, just added some sliced fresh chillies, and some Dave's insane source ;) (minus spaghetti...) turned out very nice. The boiling meat technique makes more of a difference than I thought. The chocolate smell is wonderful.

smarques31 year ago
Love the recipe! Getting ready to start another batch. Made it the first time for a group of high-school students: a double batch of regular and a full batch of "veggie" (along with the fixings) almost all got eaten by about 15 students! I made up the "veggie" variant for the Indian students: just substitute veggie broth for the bullion & water and veggie "hamburger" for the meat. Turned out great! Also, for the lazy, you can cook the meat in a crockpot on low overnight and add the rest of the ingredients in the morning. Ready to eat that night!
jmorabito11 year ago
This turned out fantastic! Just stopping by to leave kudos - this recipe won my roommate and I $100 in our office's chili cook-off. I sent out the link to this Instructable afterward.

Thanks again!
spraynard (author)  jmorabito11 year ago
Awesome!! I'm thinking of entering it in a local chili cook-off myself, but I just haven't gotten around to it. Grats on the $100!!
janiebelle1 year ago
Reporting back... This recipe ROCKS! It's the closest I've ever found and it will definitely become a staple at my house! The result seamed a little more greasy than the canned. I bet if I used a less fat ground beef (I used 85/15) it would help, and I may have used too much vegetable oil when cooking the onions (so that's on me). Oh, and the first night the chili seemed REALLY salty so I went and bought a couple of potatoes to put in the next morning, but it no longer tasted too salty the next day so I didn't use them.

Yes, I'm sure about the sour cream [ 3-way: spaghetti/chili/cheese 4-way: add either beans or diced onions 5-way: add both beans and diced onions]

For all who are curious, I've included a link to Skyline's menu at the end of my comments. I must say I'm really disappointed to see they've added things like burritos, wraps, and baked potatoes... I know they're trying to keep up with the trends but it seems like a dilution of the original concept. Regardless, I LOVE this recipe and love that you posted the link in Food Network's Cinti chili recipe cuz that's how I found you!!
spraynard (author)  janiebelle1 year ago
Hey Janiebelle, I just wanted to make sure you aren't using garlic salt instead of garlic powder, because that will make a HUGE difference and it will be way too salty. Hopefully it was just a fluke, because I've made this so many times and never had a saltiness issue. Anyway, thanks for the awesome comments and 'm glad you like the chili!!
janiebelle1 year ago
I spent my childhood in Cinti and my fam still lives there so whenever I visit I drive my family and friends crazy b/c I make them go to Skyline almost every day! I can't get enough of the stuff! I've been on the hunt for a Cinti chili recipe for years and nothing's ever came close. I finally gave up and started ordering cans of Skyline Chili on Amazon, but the prices just doubled - no idea why - so I'm eager to try this recipe (will report back with my results later :-) ).

I have a couple of comments about the recipe/instructions... You can't sense the onions in Skyline (no onion in the texture) so I'd suggest mincing them. While I love sour cream on traditional chili, it is NEVER used on Skyline. And, mild cheddar is always used, not sharp. I've tried sharp on my canned Skyline and it changes and hides some of the flavors. Also the picture showed coarsely shredded cheese, I recommend finely shredded mild cheddar and if you have a rotary grater by Zyliss or a roto slicer-shredder attachment for your Kitchen-Aid mixer that's even better (right on the mark for what's served at Skyline Chili ~ and mounds of it!). If you decide to make chili dogs try putting a little mustard on the bun and consider slicing your hot dog lengthwise and using only half (I don't know where Skyline gets their skinny hot dogs but the smaller dog allows for more of the chili flavor to be tasted). Please don't consider me knit-picky, I'm just a desparate Skyline fanatic hoping to find a great substitute while living on the West coast :-)
spraynard (author)  janiebelle1 year ago
Hey Janiebelle, Yes this is a little different than the actual Skyline Chili, but I like the changes. The onion gives it a little texture, but it cooks down so much in the chili that it is barely noticeable. Also, I generally like to finely grate my own cheese, but when I made this batch for this 'ible, I already had the coarse in a bag at the house. Are you sure about the sour cream thing? I thought that was the 5th thing in Skyline's "5 way" chili. Again, this is not an exact recipe for "Skyline" Chili, but its the closest Ive had since I moved to California. My dad has been making this since I was a kid, and he went to UofC. Either way, experiment and try your changes and I hope you enjoy it!! :)
Wow. Many materials.
Made a pot of this on Friday. It was a huge success and popular with the family and friends. A little sad this morning, because I am eating the last of it for lunch today.

Very easy recipe to follow, cooks up nicely and makes the house smell great while doing so.

Adding this to my list of repeat recipes.

denverrob4 years ago
I am from ohio but now live in Denver and we don't have Skyline chili. I've tried about 20 different recipes and this is the best. Adding beans to the chili isn't traditional--they are usually put on top at the end, but I think it tastes better to cook them in the chili like this recipe calls for.
spraynard (author)  denverrob3 years ago
Yeah, I've had actual skyline chili before ( in cincinnatti) and I agree that it's better with the beans cooked in. They absorb a lot of the flavor of the sauce. Glad you like it!
I must say this has got to be the best chili ever! My girlfriend and I make this all the time and everyone loves it!
spraynard (author)  nickstewartroc4 years ago
Awesome! I'm glad you like it.
lignaur4 years ago
ClayOgre4 years ago
You might mention what size that can of tomato sauce is.  Looks like about a 16oz. can, but I could be wrong.
spraynard (author)  ClayOgre4 years ago
I think it is 15 oz.  I'll have to double check at the store, but I'm pretty sure.
spraynard (author)  spraynard4 years ago is 15 oz.  Fixed ingredients list.  Thanks ClayOgre.  : )

What do you mean by following?

1 can tomato sauce

Do you actually mean tomato puree or ketchup or cooked chopped tomatoes? 

1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper

Do you mean red pepper or cayenne pepper or paprika powder. 
spraynard (author)  www.microbike.ie4 years ago
Hey Microbike.  As far as the tomato sauce is concerned, just use plain old tomato sauce.  Not puree, ketchup, chopped tomatoes, or tomato paste.  I did include a picture in the ingredients step so check it out.  I just used Hunts brand tomato sauce. 
Also, for the red pepper, just use ground red pepper (which I believe is Cayenne pepper), definitely NOT paprika.
Hope that clears it up for you!   : )
Ben.land1014 years ago
 I decided to make this chili today, and i must say it has a different taste than what i'm used to, but it is some amazing chili.(i just used 3lbs. of beef instead of 2)
spraynard (author)  Ben.land1014 years ago
Sweet!  Glad you liked it!  Like I said, it is very different from a traditional southwest style chili, but delicious nonetheless. 
 and also my whole family also liked it, and of course i think the 3lbs. instead of 2 made it more to what i am used to. 
kelseymh4 years ago
Two comments on your ingredients list.  You wrote,

-1 tablespoon garlic powder (I tried this once with fresh garlic and it wasn't as good)

Garlic powder, despite the misleading name, usually has some salt incorporated. You've evolved to like salt (since it was rare while we were evolving).

-1/2 square unsweetened baker's chocolate (yes, chocolate in chili...delicious)

Yowza! You're making a mole chili. Two great tastes that can't help but taste great together. I will have to make this. I think even my wife will like it :-)
spraynard (author)  kelseymh4 years ago
Garlic powder does have a small amount of salt, but whatever you do, do NOT use garlic salt!  There is a big difference, and it will be waaaay too salty!  Also, I fixed the ingredients list.  Thanks, Kelsey!  : )
 Ahh... Skyline Chili makes me proud to be a Cincinnati-an.

And just something I think you should add--when making a chili dog, put a bit of mustard on the hot dog.
liljohn4 years ago

dis is awesome

takco4 years ago
I love it!
Ninzerbean4 years ago
There is a place in my town called Skyline Chili (Ft Lauderdale) and I went in there about 10 years ago thinking they would have all different types of chili, think veggie chili, green chili, steak chili, etc. I walked out once I found out they only had one type of chili. Now I know why, thanks, great 'ible.
kissiltur4 years ago
I had a work buddy who swore by this kind of chilli, although he always made it with meat so I never had any. Thanks for the recipe; I will have to give it a try!
Ambroziak4 years ago
MMMM.... pile that cheese up high, douse it with hot sauce, get some oyster crackers on there.... I can see it now. I've made this for some friends since i moved out to california, everyone is hesitant at first, but loves it in the end. Awesome instructable, everyone should know about Cincinnati chili.
kelseymh4 years ago
By the way, you know that you can go back and edit your I'ble once it's published, right?  So just add the veg. oil (how about olive oi?) to the ingredients list, eh?