Chef John's Cincinnati-Style Chili


You'll love this chili recipe if you tend to like foods from the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Greek food, or Indian food, because of the spices and flavor profile. If you don't, you won't. If you finish this dish off with some diced onions and grated Cheddar cheese like I did, you'll be enjoying what they call in Cincinnati a "Four-Way," because of the four components, but feel free to serve as you like.

Prep Time:
20 mins
Cook Time:
1 hrs 5 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 25 mins


  • 2 pounds lean ground beef

  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste

  • 6 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 yellow onion, diced

  • ¼ cup chili powder

  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • teaspoon allspice

  • teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 2 teaspoons white sugar

  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 6 cups cold water

For service:

  • 1 (16 ounce) package spaghetti

  • 1 tablespoon diced onion, or to taste

  • 4 cups grated Cheddar cheese, or to taste


  1. Combine beef and tomato paste in a large pot. Rinse out tomato paste can with a couple tablespoons of water and add to the pot with garlic, onion, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, allspice, cloves, black pepper, bay leaf, sugar, and salt. Add apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire, and cold water. Mash and stir with a potato masher or a large whisk to break up the meat into fine pieces.

  2. Place the pot over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until flavors come together and chili reaches your desired thickness, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti in the boiling water, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 12 minutes. Drain.

  4. Taste chili and adjust seasoning. Remove and discard bay leaf. Ladle over spaghetti into serving bowls. Top with onion and Cheddar cheese. Cut and scoop the noodles up with a fork like you're eating a casserole.

Chef's Notes:

If you have a choice, the finer the grind of the ground beef, the better.

You can use 2 teaspoons of fine salt instead of kosher salt, and white vinegar instead of apple cider if you like. All the spices can and should be adjusted to taste.

I thought this was a little too dry and that I had reduced it a little too much, so I added a little more water, tomato paste, and another pinch of salt, brought it back up to temperature, and served it the same way as before. It was pretty much the same experience, with more juices on the bottom of the bowl. But the video I've seen of the real stuff looks more similar to the second, saucier version.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

753 Calories
38g Fat
53g Carbs
48g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 8
Calories 753
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 38g 49%
Saturated Fat 20g 102%
Cholesterol 152mg 51%
Sodium 1444mg 63%
Total Carbohydrate 53g 19%
Dietary Fiber 5g 16%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 48g
Vitamin C 9mg 47%
Calcium 559mg 43%
Iron 6mg 33%
Potassium 812mg 17%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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