Chef Notes: Cincinnati Chili

Chef Notes: Cincinnati Chili

I love to make a big pot of chili on a cold weekend day where lying around the house in your flannel pajamas and cozy thick socks is the only item on the agenda. Chili is one of those one pot meals that can be as simple or as complicated as you care to make it. I have recipes that require nothing more than canned beans, tomatoes, shredded chicken and seasonings and everything is dumped in a crock pot for a couple of hours and you’re off. I have others that I’ve spent years developing.

The recipe below is for my famous Cincinnati chili. I was introduced to Cincinnati style chili at a pot luck about twenty years ago. I loved the different spices, the almost Indian note to it.  I also love that it is often served on pasta and then piled high with shredded cheddar cheese, raw white onion, chopped raw jalapeno’s, and a big dollop of sour cream.  Sooooo delicious!  But what’s also terrific about a big pot of chili is that there are so many other meals that can be derived from one – one pot meal.  How about the following menu for the week:

  1. Day one – Chili over pasta with all the fixings
  2. Day two – Chili dogs with a quick mac & cheese made from the left over pasta & grated cheese
  3. Day three – Taco salads
  4. Day four – Chili omelets with sour cream and salsa and steamed broccoli
  5. Day five – Nacho’s (OMG, yummy nacho’s for dinner I’m in heaven)
  6. Day six – thin out the chili with a little stock and serve with corn bread muffins

That’s a whole week people!!!  You can make one big pot of chili and practically have dinner ready every night of the week.  Anything that easy and that delicious is a winner in my book. The following recipe is the one I made for a pre-swim meet party I threw for Logan’s high school swim team last week.  They ate almost 3 gallons of it. I made my own dried beans but you should feel free to use canned and to use a variety of beans if you choose.  Garbanzo and black beans make great alternatives.  You can easily make this vegetarian by omitting the meat and adding extra beans and/or meat substitute. Another thing I sometimes throw in is a cup of raw peanuts. They get partially softened and add a really interesting crunch. Chili is a very personal thing but with one decent recipe you can easily customize it to fit your families’ palate.

Chef Notes: Cincinnati Chili


  • 1 lb bag dried dark red kidney beans
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely minced
  • 1 large green pepper, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 can/bottle of beer (or 12 oz stock)
  • 2 tablespoons espresso grounds or instant coffee
  • 1 lb 13 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (or more if you prefer a spicier chili)
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ of a nutmeg, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa or 1 ounce grated unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce


Prepare the dried beans per the package instructions. 

Traditionally the beans are served separately but I prefer to drain them and add them with the tomatoes and other ingredients so that they absorb the flavors of the chili. 

See below for more information.

Over medium high heat sauté onion, green pepper, garlic and ground beef until the meat is cooked.  Deglaze the pan with the bottle of beer. 

Add the coffee and stir well. 

Add all remaining ingredients. 

Reduce heat to low and simmer about two hours.  Adjust seasonings and serve.

By the way if you’re ever in Cincinnati you’ll find that chili lovers order their chili by number; Two, Three, Four, or Five Way.

Two-Way Chili:      Chili served on spaghetti

Three-Way Chili:    also topped with shredded Cheddar cheese

Four-Way Chili:      also topped with chopped onions

Five-Way Chili:      also topped with kidney beans



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1 Comment

  1. Gail Shapiro
    February 23, 09:34 Reply

    Looks good. I am wondering what the chocolate does for the flavor?

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