How to Make Cincinnati Style Chili (Skyline Chili)

131,206

82

50

Introduction: 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! 

Step 1: 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)

Step 2: Non-food Supplies

A large pot to cook the chili
A skillet or frying pan for the onion and spices
A pot for the pasta (optional)
 

Step 3: Preparing the Stock

-First, add the 4 cups of water to the pot along with the four beef boullion cubes.
-Set the stove to medium and begin adding the beef. The best way to do this while maintaining consistency is to grab a small hanfull of beef, pull off small pieces and add them to the water/boullion.
-You don't want this to be boiling on high heat, or else the meat will cook too fast and become rubbery.  Instead, let it simmer at a very low boil for at least 30 minutes.  If you cover the pot, you will lose less water by evaporation.
-Cooking the meat by boiling as opposed to frying in a pan allows the meat to stay tender and juicy.

Step 4: Mixing the Spices

Combine all of the spices (Chili powder, Garlic powder, Cumin, Cinnamon, Cloves, Allspice, Red pepper)  in a small bowl and mix together.  This just makes it easier to add to the chili when needed.  Also, the spices will be more evenly distributed, allowing them to mix into the sauce better.

Step 5: Prepare the Sauce

-Chop the onion fairly small (doesn't need to be minced) and add about 1 1/2 to 2 cups to a heated frying pan that has about one or two tablespoons of vegetable oil (oops, forgot to list that in the ingredients).  Save the rest of the chopped onion to put on top of the chili.
-Let the chopped onion cook until it is clear and just barely starting to brown,
-Add the can of tomato sauce to the cooked onion and mix well.
-Add the combined spices and the bay leaf  to the tomato sauce/onion mixture and stir until evenly mixed.
-almost done!

Step 6: Put It All Together!

-At this point, pour the tomato sauce/onion/spices mixture into the pot with the beef stock (which has been simmering for at least 30 minutes) and mix it all together. Try to get as much out of the pan as possible.  I add a little bit of hot water to the pan and stir up anything that is left in there to make sure I get all of the spice/sauce mixture out.
-After combinig the sauce and the stock, add the three tablespoons of White Vinegar and the 1/2 square of Unsweetened Baker's Chocolate to the mix.
-Add the drained and rinsed beans to the pot, and let simmer for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to cook together. This will be difficult, because you will want to eat it right away!  It will still be really good if you eat it at this point, but if you wait it will be even better!
-This chili is not going to have a thick sacue like most traditional southwest chili, but if you let it cook longer it will thicken up a bit. 

Step 7: Enjoy!

After simmering for a while, serve the chili over pasta with shredded cheddar cheese and some chopped raw onion. Obviously, you can just put it into a bowl by itself and forgo the pasta which is also delicious.  Chili dogs are also amazing with Cincinnati chili.  However you eat it, I hope you enjoy this recipe, and share it with your family and friends.   

Share

    Recommendations

    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • Organic Cooking Challenge

      Organic Cooking Challenge
    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest

    50 Discussions

    this was wonderful,, thanks so much

    0
    None
    JcT3

    2 years ago

    I grew up in Cincinnati in Western Hills eating Skyline, Gold Star and all the others genius. FYI: :Variations" are not "copycat"
    Get a new hobby

    1 reply

    I never claimed this to be a "copycat" recipe. It's just closer to Cincinnati style than southwestern style chili. Did you even try this recipe? My dad went to University of Cincinnati and I got the recipe from him. Again, I never even remotely claimed that this was a "copycat" recipe.

    I know about the sour cream, and like I said, it's a VARIATION on traditional Cincinnati chili. I never claimed it to be an exact reproduction of skyline. I personally prefer the beans cooked in, but it's all matter of preference.

    Did you try it? If not, you can't really say that. I've had Skyline chili in Cincinnati, and personally I think it's pretty close. Yes, you can do it with the beans on top, but I like it better when the beans soak up the chili flavor.

    I realized later that my dad (who I got this recipe from, and went to school at university of Cincinnati) used to serve it with sour cream, which they do not do at Skyline. I removed that sentence to avoid further confusion and nitpicking. :)

    Need to rename this to "How to make chili with kidney beans" and remove the name Cincinnati from it

    1 reply

    I disagree. Have you ever had Cincinnati chili? Have you tried this recipe? It's pretty close to the real skyline chili. Just because it has the beans in it doesn't automatically make it not Cincinnati style. Also, no one said you can't make it without the beans.

    spraynard, I think what's confusing people is that your last paragraph says, "Traditionally it is also served with sour cream, but I choose not to do it that way." As everyone keeps pointing out, it's not traditionally served with sour cream, and I don't know of any chili parlor in Cincinnati that offers sour cream as a topping. If you'd just take that one sentence out, you'd probably stop getting people coming in here to correct you. :) BTW, kudos for being one of the few recipes that cook the ground beef correctly. For some reason nearly everyone wants to instruct to brown it, which is never done with Cinci chili.

    1 reply

    Thanks for the heads up. I'll edit it right now. ?

    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 :-)

    2 replies

    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!! :)

    Definitely no sour cream! 3 way - chili, spaghetti, cheese, 4 way - chili, spaghetti, cheese, onion or beans, 5 way - chili spaghetti, cheese, onion, and beans. I'd always order mine as a 4 way, onion, since I'm not a fan of kidney beans.

    0
    None
    MistaJ

    3 years ago

    I've got to say this recipe is amazing and the closest damn thing to the real deal I've found online with a few modifications . I spent a lot of time in Cincinatti myself so not trying to be nitpicky here , just going for real authenticity . As others have said, I don't think there is any chopped onion cooked in Skyline chili. There is certainly a lot of onions served on top of the chili but I do not believe it is cooked within. Instead a substituted 1 tablespoon of onion powder and it worked great . Ultra smooth consistency is a trademark of the Skyline chili, and while adding the onions or different kinds of beans to the recipe certainly do add interesting variety to the texture, to cook it within the chili rather than using these additions as toppings takes away from the authenticity for me . As the author has stated, it is very important to cook the meat on a low boil otherwise the meat gets rubbery. I like the idea someone posted of cooking it over night on low in the crockpot. Also I really like the idea of using meat substitute crumbles rather than beef for a vegetarian version, I will definitely try that next time. Aside from omitting the onion and beans I pretty much followed the recipe exactly and it is indeed a near perfect combo of spices. The only problem I encountered was with using a generic store brand tomato sauce . It was very watery and bland I think . and even after the recipe to cook for several hours on a low simmer it still lacks that tomato tang to balance out the precarious balance of sweet and savory that makes this chili so unique. I had no more tomato sauce so I went out on a limb and tried adding a little ketchup. Wow , it really did the trick , it brought everything together and balanced the taste perfectly . All together I used approximately 3 tablespoons of ketchup. I think that I may not have had to use the ketchup if I bought a higher-quality tomato sauce though , but just letting you folks know . Thanks for this recipe and all the comments .Thjs made a great chili for a cold winter night and took me right back to my childhood in Cincinnati

    0
    None
    MistaJ

    3 years ago

    I've got to say this recipe is amazing and the closest damn thing to the real deal I've found online with a few modifications . I spent a lot of time in Cincinatti myself so not trying to be nitpicky here , just going for real authenticity . As others have said, I don't think there is any chopped onion cooked in Skyline chili. There is certainly a lot of onions served on top of the chili but I do not believe it is cooked within. Instead a substituted 1 tablespoon of onion powder and it worked great . Ultra smooth consistency is a trademark of the Skyline chili, and while adding the onions or different kinds of beans to the recipe certainly do add interesting variety to the texture, to cook it within the chili rather than using these additions as toppings takes away from the authenticity for me . As the author has stated, it is very important to cook the meat on a low boil otherwise the meat gets rubbery. I like the idea someone posted of cooking it over night on low in the crockpot. Also I really like the idea of using meat substitute crumbles rather than beef for a vegetarian version, I will definitely try that next time. Aside from omitting the onion and beans I pretty much followed the recipe exactly and it is indeed a near perfect combo of spices. The only problem I encountered was with using a generic store brand tomato sauce . It was very watery and bland I think . and even after the recipe to cook for several hours on a low simmer it still lacks that tomato tang to balance out the precarious balance of sweet and savory that makes this chili so unique. I had no more tomato sauce so I went out on a limb and tried adding a little ketchup. Wow , it really did the trick , it brought everything together and balanced the taste perfectly . All together I used approximately 3 tablespoons of ketchup. I think that I may not have had to use the ketchup if I bought a higher-quality tomato sauce though , but just letting you folks know . Thanks for this recipe and all the comments .Thjs made a great chili for a cold winter night and took me right back to my childhood in Cincinnati

    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.