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Slow Cooker Cincinnati Chili

Slow Cooker Cincinnati Chili is one of those easy to make, hearty, flavorful dishes that has to work it’s way into your recipe rotation.

Serve over spaghetti or a hot dog, this delicious meat sauce topping is 5 different ways of delicious and will quickly become one of your family favorites!

ladle of cincinnati chili

Cincinnati Skyline Chili

Slow cooker Cincinnati chili, also known as Skyline chili, is a staple amongst Cincinnatians. Originating in the 1920s by Mediterranean immigrant restaurateurs, this tasty meat sauce is used as a spaghetti or hotdog topping.

While most Cincinnatians will have a definite restaurant favorite, all will agree that this delicious, hearty chili must be topped with A LOT of shredded cheddar cheese, a touch of white onions, and possibly a side of oyster crackers.

And if you don’t have the opportunity to make your way to Cincinnati to try their iconic chili, let me tell you, this crockpot Cincinnati Chili is hands-down a must try (and keep!) recipe!

Chocked full of hearty pieces of ground beef, an explosion of bold flavors, and underlying notes of chocolate and cinnamon, this topping will make your senses dance!

Perfect for a cold winter day or spicing up those summer hotdogs, this Cincinnati chili is easy to throw together and can be served any of the 5 ways you choose.

labeled picture of ingredients

This chili recipe is unique because of the combination of spices included. And the secret ingredient!

Skyline Chili Ingredients

Ground beefIt’s chili and you want the best quality beef you can get. And because this is a crock pot recipe everything will stay in the pot. I recommend using 90/10 or 85/15 lean beef.

You will be browning the ground beef before adding to the crockpot so you can drain off a little of the fat. This also works well with ground turkey!

Beef broth – I think this adds more flavor to the chili but you can also use water if you prefer or don’t have any beef broth on hand.

Tomato – This recipe uses a combination of paste and tomato sauce. Some like to toast or cook the paste and spices in a pan before adding the ground beef as it adds a little smoky flavor to the final product. This step is not necessary so don’t feel like you have to do it.

Spices – This is really where the magic happens for this recipe. The spices hit all the right flavor spots. For this recipe I used the following: onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon (yes, you read that right), allspice, cayenne pepper, and cloves.

I don’t recommend using chipotle chili powder as it will drastically change the flavor from the original.

Chocolate – This is the secret ingredient! A little chocolate pairs well with the cayenne pepper in the recipe and actually enhances the flavor.

Garnishes – To serve the chili in the iconic different ways, you will need chopped onion, shredded cheddar cheese, kidney beans, and cooked spaghetti noodles.

Pantry staples – Light brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar.

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How to make Cincinnati Chili from scratch

First: Brown the meat in a skillet over medium heat and drain. Add to a slow cooker.

Second: Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, beef broth, spices, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and chocolate.

Third: Stir to combine. Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-5 hours.

Fourth: Keep warm until ready to serve it 1,2,3,4, or 5 way! Enjoy!

For the full recipe and detailed baking instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post.

fork of spaghetti

What makes Cincinnati Chili different?

Cincinnati Chili takes your basic chili base and elevates it to another level. The main elevator of this special chili is the rich, bold, flavorful spices that include chocolate, cinnamon, all spice, and Worcestershire sauce.

Once the chili has marinated, it is topped over pasta, specifically spaghetti and sometimes a hot dog! And any true chili lover knows that the toppings make the chili.

Cincinnati Chili is topped with a pile of shredded cheddar cheese, a smattering of onion, a few kidney beans, and a side of oyster crackers.

Oh, and the most unique part? Serving it 5 different ways means every one in your family will be pleased!

Slow Cooker Cincinnati Chili 5 Ways

There are no beans in the actual chili but you can serve it with a variety of different extras. At a chili parlor, diners call them “ways.” Here are the different ways to enjoy your Cincinnati Chili.

1 Way: Just eat the chili right out of the bowl with nothing else. I include this even though no one orders their chili “1 way.”

2 Way: Chili served over spaghetti noodles.

3 Way: Chili over spaghetti covered in shredded cheddar cheese.

4 Way: Chili over spaghetti with finely diced onion or beans and topped with shredded cheddar.

5 Way: Chili served over spaghetti, topped with dark red kidney beans, diced onion, and topped with cheddar cheese.

Other ways to enjoy this chili

Enjoy this on a hot dog, in a bowl (or 1 Way) or grab a plate and start layering all the ways!

This is a “complete meal” in my opinion but some like crackers crushed on their chili (like my husband). If you are cracker person, then the appropriate ones to use are oyster crackers.

How to Store Leftover Chili

Let chili cool to room temperature then store in an air tight container and put in fridge! Chili also freezes beautifully! Just cool completely and store in freezer sage containers for up to 3 months.

Just thaw and reheat when you are craving chili again!

bowl of chili and spaghetti

Tips for No Leftovers

  • Some recipes call for a bay leaf but I left it out.
  • For the spices, make sure you use ground allspice and ground cloves.
  • Tight on time? Brown the beef a day before and store in an air-tight container in the fridge until you are ready to combine with the other ingredients in the slow cooker.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

bowl of spaghetti and cheese with text "cincinnati chili"

Tried this slow cooker Cincinnati Chili? Comment down below and let me know which “way” you had it. I love mine 5 ways with extra beans!

bowl of chili

Slow Cooker Cincinnati Chili

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes

Slow Cooker Cincinnati Chili is one of those easy to make, hearty, flavorful dishes that has to work it’s way into your recipe rotation!

Ingredients

Skyline Chili

  • 2 pounds ground beef (85/15, browned, drained)
  • 1 medium onion (chopped fine/separated)
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 15 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice (ground)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves (ground)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups beef broth (or water)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate

For Serving

  • 16 ounces cooked spaghetti
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) dark red kidney beans (rinsed, warmed)
  • reserved chopped onion

Instructions

  1. Brown the ground beef with half the onion and drain. Add to a crockpot.
  2. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, spices, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and chocolate.
  3. Cook on low 4-5 hours or high 2-3 hours.
  4. Keep warm and serve your favorite way!
  5. Enjoy!

Notes

*If you love this recipe as much as I do, please leave me a comment and rate it 5 stars. Thank you!

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 624Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 129mgSodium: 1430mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 6gSugar: 8gProtein: 46g

This nutrition information was generated via a third party, Nutritionix, and can not be held liable for any discrepancies in the information provided.

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Anne Duncan

Sunday 12th of March 2023

Um, you need to ditch the apple cider vinegar; I understand the logic in using it, but it is not an authentic taste (if your aim is as Skyline-like as possible). Use two teaspoons of brown sugar instead, and increase the Worcestershire sauce slightly; you will notice the difference! And yes, I was born and raised in Cincinnati, have had lots of Cincinnati chili, and know whereof I speak! Other than that, you've got a great recipe there!

Jennifer

Monday 13th of March 2023

Thanks!

Dodie

Tuesday 31st of January 2023

Have tried other Skyline Chili recipes before but this definitely beats it all!! We ate it over black bean linguine and we couldnshovel it in fast enough. Delish, Thank You!!!

Jennifer

Monday 6th of February 2023

So glad you liked it!!

Kimberly

Friday 4th of March 2022

I have the actual recipe for Skyline Chili. It was printed in a California Newspaper in the early 80's and we still have the original clipping. It does not have any chocolate in it. I would be happy to share the recipe if anyone would like it.

beth

Wednesday 24th of January 2024

@Kimberly, hi! i'm from ohio and want to make a decent skyline replica; would you be willing to share the original recipe with me? Thanks, Beth.

Krig

Wednesday 15th of March 2023

@Kimberly, 100% agree on no chocolate. The unsweetened chocolate makes the chili bitter and tastes nothing like what is served at Skyline, Gold Star, Empress, etc. Does the recipe you have include powdered cocoa? I've seen it listed in other "copy cat" recipes but am not convinced it's part of the Skyline recipe.

Chris

Tuesday 29th of November 2022

@Kimberly, the real recipe has chocolate in it.

Randall

Monday 21st of November 2022

@Kimberly, could I please get the copy the original

Labrentha Stallworth

Wednesday 2nd of November 2022

@Kimberly,

I would love the exact recipe.

Thanks

Patti

Sunday 13th of February 2022

I thought that Skyline didn’t BROWN the meat

Jennifer

Monday 14th of February 2022

They don't technically but I feel safer with browning the meat before adding to the slow cooker.

MICHAELA KENKEL

Tuesday 29th of June 2021

This was the BEST Cincinnati Chili I have ever made OR eaten!! Thank you for the great recipe!

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