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Never tried anything like this before. Still not sure what Im eating and what other stuff to pair it with. It just seems incomplete. Overall Im confused by it, but it is interesting.
Thanks for trying it! There are traditional ways to eat this, but otherwise there are no rules. If you don’t want to have it on a hot dog, or on spaghetti, or with oyster crackers, then just do your own thing. I like it on french fries or roasted potatoes, and it makes a very hearty chili omelet.
I am planning on making this Friday night to serve after trick or treating with the wife and kids on Saturday (Cincinnati Chili Mac for a damp and “chili” day in the Chicago ‘burbs).
My question is this: Do I have to wait until the next day (when reheating to a rapid simmer) to add the unsweetened chocolate and vinegar? IIn the “Method”, you have it listed as the last step under “Warm and serve”. Will there be any problem with taste profile if I add it at the end of the 2 to 3 hour simmering stage (immediately before allowing it to cool to room temperature and refrigerating overnight)?
Note – I have made Cincinnati Chili once before (supposedly the original Skyline Chili recipe), and it don’t believe it had the unsweetened chocolate. I am excited to try this recipe with it because I think it will help deepen the flavor.
Hi Bryce, you are correct: not all Cincinnati chili has chocolate. In fact, most do not. It’s a controversial addition. I had tasters taste a version with it, and without, and everyone preferred the version with the chocolate–you don’t taste it; it just ties everything together.
Re: the chocolate and vinegar, you can add it the day you make it at the end of simmering (especially if you are afraid you’ll forget later). I just like how it’s all a little brighter when you add it the following day.
Is it tacky to comment on my own recipe? I wanted to give an update that I made a vegetarian/vegan version. In Step 2, instead of the beef I added 1 cup lentils (green or brown, the kind that are sturdier than the ones typically used in American-style lentil soup) and about 10 ounces of minced cremnini mushrooms. I needed to add 1 or 2 more cups of water, and to make it vegan, I used vegan Worcestershire. The cook time was maybe 2 hours, and of course it was not necessary to defat the chili. I normally like serving this as a 5-way with beans on top, but the combo of the lentils and beans made it a bit too beany, so next time I’ll skip that. Anyway, if you are a vegetarian looking to make this without expensive fake meat and unprocessed whole foods instead, I recommend this route–it’s still quite tasty and enough like the real deal I won’t get barred from Cincinnati.
question, if you do the slow cooker do u have to brown the ground beef first before you put it in the slow cooker?
Nope, no browning needed, Erin. Just dump it all in there! You can even skip the step of browning the tomato paste, but I prefer the flavor if it’s browned.
Could I sub cocoa powder? I can’t find unsweetened chocolate without dairy and soy. We can’t have either of those in our house.
Hi Brittany, I did this just the other day! Use 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder. It *is* very tricky to find chocolate with no soy lecithin that’s processed in a facility that does not process other allergens…wish I knew a brand to recommend. Happy chili making (from Cincinnati, no less).
Perfect recipe!!! It’s like I’m back in Cincinnati at Skyline
Only one issue with this recipe.
I worked at a Cincinnati chili parlor and was privy to the entire ‘secret’ process of course except the contents of the spice packet which was added to the meat sauce behind closed doors by the owner.
The difference concerns the fat. Our restaurant added beef suet to the pot in order that the meat be completely immersed in oil. It was then placed into gallon or 2-gallon tubs, with at least an inch or two of orange fat acting as a cap to the meat sauce as it cooled.
The entire contents were then dumped into a steam table insert, fat and all, and when we served up a bowl we would simply ladle out a combination of mostly meat with some oil.
Usually for a 5-way it went like this:
Put the spaghetti in a bowl, it should be dry.If the customer ordered beans, put them in atop the spaghetti, and ladle in a small amount of bean juice. Not swimming, not dry. If the customer did not order beans, just add a half-ladle of bean juice. If the customer orders it ‘dry’, then skip it.Next comes the meat sauce. One level ladle for mild, a heaping ladle for medium, and two ladles for hot. The ladle should be all meat sauce, with enough oil as to where the meat is in suspension.
Savvy customers know, the oil is where the flavor is!
Hi Landon, thanks for sharing your behind-the-scenes knowledge. I really like hearing how the spaghetti got anointed with bean juice even when the customers didn’t order beans, and than only the owner added the mix of spices. The fat cap also helps the chili keep better under refrigeration–if any readers want to keep the fat in there when they reheat it, then go for it!
Did up a vegan version using Gardein-brand “Ultimate Beefless Crumble” and it was phenomenal! Topped it off with a plant-based “cheddar” that actually doesn’t suck (I know, right?) and dove right in. No oyster crackers though, sigh…
Thank you for sharing this! Definitely saving to my collection – this is literally as close to the original as I’ve found. Maybe not QUITE to Skyline standards, but somewhere between it and Goldstar. A keeper however you look at it.
Thanks for commenting, David, this made me so happy! Quite the compliment. I’m making vegan Worcestershire sauce soon so I can do my own vegan version, as it happens.
It is just like eating at Skyline. This is the best Cincinnati chili recipe south of the Ohio river! For those of us living several hours from the real thing- thank you for this posting from the bottom of my heart!
Thank YOU, Sarah! Reading your comment makes me so happy.
This is sooo close to the famous Skyline Chili. Only difference is that the original Skyline recipe has no chili powder. There is chocolate in the original also The Cincinnati Enquirer had an article and the recipe in their archives from the Greek gentleman that founded Skyline. The original article was written in the mid 1940’s. Of all the Cincinnati chili recipes I have seen, this is the best and most accurate. Well done!
Oh my! I consider myself a big fan of American cooking, and this is a new one on me. The chilli is a great recipe to cook for the spice fiends in the household. Although I didn’t get to the chocolate or the vinegar part (served it immediately after stewing), I will give it a burl next time.
Call it spaghetti bolognese for adults.
Glad to hear your enjoyed this! Thank you for giving it a try. If you have any leftovers, you can sprinkle a little vinegar over the chili and stir it in…it wakes up the spices in a really cool way.
We LOVE Cinncy Chili and used to try to schedule flights through the airport that served the chili and dogs. Then we found the packets and the canned chili in local grocery stores. Not quite the original taste. Today, I made the chili from your recipe without the allspice (I don’t care for it and we didn’t have any). It was delicious! Thank you!
Right on, Tammy!
Looking forward to trying this recipe next time I go shopping! I’m from Winnipeg, Manitoba and we have a nearly identical dish called fat boy sauce and it’s fabulous on burgers.
Cedric, hope it’s a hit! I bet this will have a different flavor than the fat boy sauce because f all the spices, but I bet it’ll be totally worth it, and a fun way to marry two similarly storied iconic regional diner dishes.
Any readers wanting to learn more about Fat Boy burgers can read here.
Fat Boy chili Sauce is also what brought me here. I am a from Winnipeg as well but
I’ve been through Cincinnati many,many times while I was a long distance truck driver 20ish years ago.
I Sooo miss a good 4 way from Skyline!!
I had heard of Cincinnati Chili on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, but never have cooked or eaten it. Thought this would be a fun project while puttering around the kitchen in coronavirus isolation. Followed the recipe( including chocolate) and LOVE it. Made a second batch to deliver to neighbors along w/the fixings. Thanks for a great recipe. It will be a go-to in the future, for sure!
Kaye, this makes my day. Thank you for sharing! I have a batch I’m thawing to enjoy this week on spaghetti with all the ways. How kind you are to share with your neighbor. We wish you many safe and satisfying coronavirus cooking adventures.
I am going to make this tonight! However, I don’t have chocolate. Can I use unsweetened cocoa powder?
If you like, you can add 1 tablespoon of unsweetened natural (not Dutch-processed) cocoa powder instead of the unsweetened chocolate. But you can skip it altogether, if you like. I prefer it with the chocolate, but some of the oldest chili parlors in Cincinnati don’t use it at all. Enjoy!
Thanks for sharing! As a a Cincinnati native that’s been living out of state for many years, I’ve been looking for a good homemade recipe to help hold me over between visits home and I’m excited to give this a try. Just a quick note – you mentioned a 4-way being onion only but it is actually a choice between onion and beans and then a 5-way is both. A couple other recommended serving options are over a baked potato, over fries, in a tortilla (a chilito), or the crowd pleasing chili dip – a layered dip with cream cheese as a base then topped with chili and cheese (baked or microwaved if short on time) and served with tortilla chips, Fritos, or crackers. It’s the easiest and best appetizer to bring to any party and always a crowd pleaser!
I boiled the meat in 5 cups of water and then drained it saving the water in a fat separator. Cooked the tomato paste for 3 minutes and then poured the water from the fat separator back into the pan and added the meat. Continued as written from there.
This was pretty awesome. We have a friend who introduced us to “Cincinnati chili” and really enjoyed it and wanted to try and make it at home. We made three adjustments, instead of water we used 3 cups of beef stock, instead of straight ground beef we did 1lbs ground turkey and 1lbs ground beef, and instead of chocolate powder we used 1oz of baker’s unsweetened chocolate (chopped in small pieces). I sautéed the tomato paste first and then made that “sludge” of ground meat, tomato sauce, spices, and beef stock. And then put it all in the instant pot for 30 min with natural release. I’ll be honest, I was pretty hesitant and thought the meat would be like meatloaf (usually recipes say to brown ground meat first), but this was awesome! The meat and the sauce were perfect! We then added the vinegar and chocolate on top to mix, it was great! Loved this recipe and the mode of cooking!
Great recipe! It’s the real deal.
A Cincinnati resident for 45 years here, who is a huge fan of Skyline Cincinnati Chili, so I must tell anyone making this that chocolate or cocoa is NOT an optional ingredient in our chili. It has to have it, or it ain’t Cincinnati chili!
I saw that one of the owners of Skyline came out and said there isn’t any chocolate/ cocoa in their chili. This information came out due to allergy concerns.
Thank you Sara!! I have in-laws from Cincinnati and they taught me how to make Cincinnati Chili from scratch one year. Of course I didn’t write anything down, but this is pretty much how they did it. This is authentic as it gets. Minus your grandma teaching it to you.