Cincinnati-Style Chili

Growing up in the Cincinnati area meant I had my fair share of coneys and 3-ways.  Cincinnati-Style Chili dates back to the 1920’s  when an immigrant from Macedonia started serving it in his Greek restaurant. It is a Mediterranean spiced meat sauce that definitely isn’t your typical chili. For the full history, check out this page.  Most of my life, my hometown, about 20 minutes west of Cincinnati, had a Skyline chili.  GoldStar came to compete several years later, and I think in the early days there was even an independent chili restaurant too.  We spent lots of Friday nights at Skyline after football or basketball games. We also held fundraisers there for various sports and cheerleading. It was pretty much a staple in our diet.

I’m not sure why but for some reason they always served oyster crackers alongside all the other carbs too, which as a kid was a great snack while you awaited your meal. Fast forward to now, times have changed a bit for us and our diet, but when I think of comfort food, this is it for me. The best part about this meat sauce is I can still enjoy the comfort of childhood without the high carbs by serving it over Spaghetti Squash topped with cheddar cheese. And just for the experience, I gave the kids some Simple Mills Crackers on the side. A little bit to my surprise, my kids love this dish too. My daughter said it tastes better than cake! This week I’m making it for a potato bar at the Victory Project, which should be yummy too!

To all my fellow Cincinnatians or those ready to try a new dish.. enjoy! It’s perfect to try for any Super Bowl festivity.

Dr. Hartzler

Cincinnati-Style Chili

For a taste of what everyone in Cincinnati is eating, check out this recipe. It's easy to make-ahead and warm up during the week on top of squash or any veggie. If low carb isn't needed try it over gluten free pasta or potatoes.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Low-carb
Servings 12
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours



  1. Place the ground beef in a large pan, cover with about 1 quart of cold water, and bring to a boil, stirring and breaking up the beef with a fork to a fine texture. Slowly boil until the meat is thoroughly cooked, about 30 minutes, then remove from heat and refrigerate in the pan overnight.
  2. The next day, skim the solid fat from the top of the pan, and discard the fat. Place the beef mixture over medium heat, and stir in tomato sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, chocolate, chili powder, salt, cumin, cinnamon, ground, cloves, allspice, crushed red pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1.5 hours. Add water if necessary to prevent the chili from burning. Remove Bay leaf before serving. Best if refrigerated overnight.
  3. One hour prior to eating, heat oven to 400 F. Slice squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place squash cut side down on baking sheet and roast until tender, 45-50 minutes. Use a fork to scrape out “spaghetti.” I generally add a bit of water to the pan.
  4. Lastly to make a true "3-way" top with cheddar cheese, we like white cheddar, but any cheddar will do. For dairy free try topping with onions or beans, or add those to your cheese for a 4-way or 5-way!

Recipe Notes

  1. If you don't have time to cook the meat overnight, you can still boil the meat and drain it, or you can just sauté in a pain and rinse afterward. The boiling process gets the meat a bit finer than cooking in a pan.
  2. Slow Cooker- Cook the meat in advance with one of the options above, then mix all the other ingredients in the crockpot, then add the meat and stir well.  I put it on low for 3-4 hours then turn it down to keep warm until ready to serve! (Remove bay leaf prior to serving & make sure to stir again so the chocolate gets mixed in after it melts!) I doubled the recipe to fill a crockpot.
  3. Thrive Market Tomato Sauce link. , if you aren't saving money using Thrive Market now, you should be. Use this link for a 30 day free trial.

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