Cincinnati Chili (Skyline Chili Copycat)

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Cincinnati Chili can be described as being chili, but it is a unique blend of spices and ground beef, cooked without beans, and typically served atop of a pile of spaghetti noodles with a heap of shredded cheese to finish it off. There is a chain of restaurants that serve it called Skyline Chili, and this recipe is a copycat of their famous unique chili. 
chili on a bed of noodles in a bowl
Did you know that October is National Chili Month? What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t share a new chili recipe with you this month? Cincinnati Chili is unique, and I have always wanted to post a Cincinnati Chili recipe on my website, but I wanted to make sure I got it right. The real thing, like really authentic. So I messaged our friend, Joe, that lives in the Cincinnati area to see if he had a tried and true recipe he could share with me. 
He told me, “I don’t need one.” 
Thinking to myself, “that doesn’t really help me much, Joe.” He went on to say that he doesn’t need one, because they always go to Skyline Chili when they crave it, because it’s the best around. So now I had a starting point. But we don’t have chili parlors where we live, so it was time to do some research. I started my research and this is the copycat Skyline Chili Recipe that we found to be as close to their secret recipe as possible. 

bowl of chili with noodles

Where Is A Skyline Chili Near Me?

The original Skyline Cincinnati chili recipe is actually a very well guarded secret. In fact, not even the Skyline franchisees know the recipe. So this required some serious detective work. There are those quiet and mysterious websites I went to in far-flung corners of the internet to do a little digging…

I wasn’t going to let this one go. Only the real deal. To make it authentic. But if you want the original, then you can find one of the franchises around the country. Since there isn’t one close to me, deciphering the clues of the recipe was my only option. With my husband, who has been to Skyline Chili, as my taste tester, I feel like this is a really close copycat! And if you have never eaten at Skyline Chili – then you’ll just cue in those taste buds for a really great plateful of Cincinnati Style Chili!

bowl of chili with cheese on top

What is Cincinnati chili?

Yes, there are people who deny Skyline chili is in fact chili. Haters always going to hate as they say. The last time I looked, and I will look again just for good measure, the recipe includes meat and chili powder. Sure, there are plenty of other ingredients, and an unusual blend of spices in there as well. But those just make it interesting chili.
So, sure, it is a bit soupier than traditional chili, and it doesn’t include beans unless you wish to add them. It is often served over spaghetti, but yes, it is still chili. Call it spaghetti chili, if you like.

bowl of chili with beans onion and cheese on top


Why is it called Cincinnati Chili? Well, although the Cincinnati Chili recipe sounds like it was invented in Ohio, that might not be totally accurate. In fact, looking at the ingredients provides some clues. The original Skyline recipe was the brainstorm of its founder, who originally called Greece home. So, while Skyline certainly looks and smells like chili, the ingredients suggest a Mediterranean-style stew. 

However, because the founder, Greek immigrants Nicholas Lambrinides, not only knew how to cook, he understood good marketing. Chili was popular at the time, so I am sure given the choice of convincing people to try Mediterranean stew vs. getting them to come in for “Ohio Chili,” he kept things simple. 

Since he could view the Cincy skyline from his restaurant, why not call it “Skyline Chili?”  Yes, it had a ring to it.

ingredients in bowls on table


For the actual Cincinnati Chili, which is also known as “Ohio Chili,” you need a few ingredients common to every chili. But, stay tuned, because there are also a few unusual ingredients in this great recipe!


  • water
  • tomato paste – some prefer using tomato sauce, if you opt for it, omit the water.
  • ground beef – use lean ground beef
  • onion – white or yellow is fine
  • chili powder
  • apple cider vinegar
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • unsweetened cocoa powder – can also melt unsweetened chocolate
  • cinnamon
  • cumin
  • cayenne pepper – adjust to your liking of heat. My recipe is a bit on the spicier side.
  • allspice
  • cloves
  • garlic cloves
  • bay leaf
  • sugar or brown sugar


Depending on how you are serving your Cincinnati chili, here are the serving toppings and options.

  • cheddar cheese – shredded cheddar cheese is not optional if you want authenticity. 
  • diced raw onion – I used yellow onion, but if you prefer white onions or red onion, go for it!
  • red kidney beans 
  • oyster crackers
  • spaghetti noodles 
  • on top of a hot dog on steamed buns
chili cheese dog

The two most popular ways to serve Skyline Cincinnati chili are over spaghetti noodles, and coney style. Which is hot dog + bun + chili + cheese, mustard + raw white onion option.

Make sure you steam those hot dog buns to make them warm and soft!


ingredients and spices on a plate


There is! Cincinnati chili contains a sweetness that cuts the spicy/savory flavors of cumin and chili powder. The sweetness comes from cocoa powder or unsweetened chocolate, cinnamon, and a bit of sugar that are added in.


Cincinnati-style chili benefits from low and slow cooking just like any other chili or stew recipe. 

collage cooking chili

irst, In a large Dutch oven, whisk together water and tomato paste.

Add the raw ground beef to the mixture by breaking it apart and crumbling it with your fingers.

collage cooking chili ingredients

Next, add in all of the other ingredients, and stir to combine. Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover the pot and let simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Now, we wait. Remove the chili from the stove, and cool. Transfer the covered pot to the refrigerator, and chill overnight.

The next day, skim the grease from the top of the chili, before warming it to serve.


collage displaying various plating options for chili


Other unique aspects of Cincy Chili reflect in how you serve it. First off, beans are not in the chili. Those are served on the side or on top. Next, people in Ohio enjoy oyster crackers on their Cincinnati chili. A lot of grated cheddar cheese on top isn’t too weird, but how about serving the Ohio chili on top of spaghetti noodles?

Pretty far out, right? But not if you are at the ballpark or the football stadium, or any of the other popular locations Skyline chili operates franchises. There, they will only look at you weird if you expect there to be beans in the chili rather than on top of it. And sure, some people order it in a bowl, but most often, it’s over spaghetti, or atop hot dogs “coney style” with a whole lotta shredded cheddar cheese! 

So, this combination of ingredients is popularly referred to as “2 way”, “3 way”, “4 way” and “5 way”. And yes, I am sure there are plenty of funny looks whenever someone orders the 3 way. Let’s just be adults here okay? 

bowl of shredded cheese

Why Should you Grate Your Own Cheese?


cincinnati chili promo graphic


Can’t wait to try this Copy Cat Skyline Cincinnati Chili recipe? Pin it to your favorite Pinterest recipe board before you go to find it easily!



Close up of White chicken Chili

More Chili Recipes To Check Out

I am participating in a chili cook-off today with some other blogger friends, you can find all of their delicious contributions at the bottom of this post. I have several chili recipes and recipes that use leftover chili, too, of my own right here on my website. Here are a few of my favorites:

cincinnati chili promo graphic
So the next time you have a craving for some chili, whip up the best chili: Cincinnati Chili, my friends! 
M. logo An Affair from the Heart

Cincinnati Chili over spaghetti white plate
4.49 from 150 votes
Print Recipe

Cincinnati Chili (Skyline Chili Copycat)

If you don't have a Skyline Chili near you and you are craving the comfort of an authentic Cincinnati Chili I have you covered with this Skyline Chili Copycat recipe!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time2 hours
Additional Time8 hours
Total Time10 hours 10 minutes
Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: 3 way, 4 way, 5 way What is Cincinnati chili?, Cincinnati Chili, Cincinnati Chili recipe, cincinnati style chili, copy cat Skyline Chili recipe, how to make cincinnati chili, How to serve Cincinnati Skyline Chili - 2 way, ingredients in Skyline Chili, Ohio Chili, Skyline Chili
Servings: 6 -8
Calories: 522kcal
Author: Michaela Kenkel


  • 1 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 onion diced
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar or brown sugar

Toppings and Servings

  • Grated cheddar cheese is a must. Other optional toppings are chopped onions, kidney beans, oyster crackers and hot chili sauce. Serve in a bowl, on a hot dog or on top of the spaghetti noodles. Optional side: a traditional Greek salad.


  • In a large skillet or Dutch oven, whisk together water and tomato paste over medium-high heat.
  • Add the raw ground beef to the mixture by breaking it apart and crumbling it with your fingers.
  • Add in all of the other ingredients, and stir to combine. Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover the pot and let simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove the chili from the stove, and cool. Transfer the covered pot to the refrigerator, and chill overnight.
  • The next day, skim the grease from the top of the chili, before warming it to serve.


In a pinch, you can attempt to skim the grease from the top of the chili to serving it the same day, but I highly recommend refrigerating it overnight. It not only makes removing that grease easy, but it also does wonders for enhancing the flavor of the chili itself.
Chili leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
To make this recipe in your slow cooker, simply follow the cooking instructions, using your crock pot and slow cook for 6 hours before refrigerating.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 522kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 115mg | Sodium: 1186mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g
Welcome to our 2021 Chili Cook-Off! 

October is Chili Cook-Off month! We have delicious recipes from across the country to get your chili-making to the next level of deliciousness!

#ChiliCookOff is an annual blogging event that is hosted by Ashley from Cheese Curd In Paradise

Similar Posts


  1. I’m always game for trying new chili recipes, and this one was completely awesome! The right flavors and textures combined in one pot. So darn yummy!

  2. I love all the rich spices in this chili! It’s unlike any other chili!! And I have always put my chili on spaghetti because that’s how my Ma served it to stretch out her budget. I’m a five ways kind of girl with extra beans!!

  3. I cannot wait to try your recipe, I have made Cincinnati Chili a few times and have been somewhat underwhelmed, but yours looks amazing!!

  4. When I was a little girl, I spent summers with my grandparents in Hamilton, OH. Every Sunday we would go to Mass, then to the Skyline Chili on High St. My grandparents knew the owners well and my grandmother was given the recipe. Years later as an adult, my grandma shared it with me. Some of the ingredients in your recipe are in it, but some are not. I bet they both taste good. Every time I make it for my family, it brings back good memories of summers with my grandparents.

  5. It’s a good recipe but do not use a quarter cup of chili powder you will end up with something you can’t eat, I like hot that would be too much for me

    1. Hi, David. You are the first to tell me this recipe is too spicy. People’s preference for spice varies, I typically gauge the degree of spiciness by my son’s palate. He doesn’t eat spicy food and had no problem with this one. That is the beauty of recipes – you can change things like spices to your taste. 🙂

    2. Hi. It’s more than likely the brand of chili powder you’re using that makes it spicy. I’ve found a large variance in heat and flavor profile among different chili powders. 🤔

  6. 5 stars
    I live in Cincinnati. Less than a mile from a Skyline. This was spicier! Good but I will cut back on Chili powder next time. I added a bit more sugar and with my spaghetti, cheese and crackers it was fine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.