My family moved around a lot when I was growing up, a tradition I’ve continued into adulthood. I think I’m on my 13th state-t0-state move (I just turned 24). Anyway, for the last 2 1/2 years of high school, my family and I lived in a teeny-tiny, itty-bitty town in Ohio. It was actually classified as a village it was so small. Just over 800 people, one stoplight, and a k-12 school. We LOVED living there.
My dad once got tickets to a Cincinnati Reds game through work and he took my younger sister, brother, and I to the game. We had a box all to ourselves. My dad ordered Cincinnati Skyline chili dogs for us. They were incredible. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the baseball game, but I remember how much FUN we had up there together in a private box eating chili dogs at a major league baseball game with my dad.
What makes Cincinnati chili different from other chili is the spice blend. Traditionally, Cincinnati chili doesn’t have cumin (practically a staple in most chili recipes), isn’t particularly spicy, and contains a few peculiar secret ingredients.
Are you ready for this? Cocoa powder and cinnamon.
Sounds a little bit crazy, right? Well, don’t write it off until you’ve had a chance to taste it. It doesn’t taste chocolatey or cinnamon-y, rather it just has a little sweetness that I find perfect.
Traditionally, Cincinnati chili is served with spaghetti (another seemingly strange tradition, until you give it a try). The way you eat it is designated in one of these dishes:
- As a hot dog topper
- Cincinnati Two-way: chili over spaghetti
- Cincinnati Three-way: chili over spaghetti with shredded cheese
- Cincinnati Four-way: chili over spaghetti with cheese and either kidney beans or diced onion
- Cincinnati Five-way: chili over spaghetti with cheese, kidney beans, AND diced onion
We chose to picture the whole she-bang. I put my own twist on the chili, adding the beans INTO the chili mixture, rather than serving them as a garnish.
I just LOVED it! If you’re looking for a way to change up your chili night, give this one a go. It’s delicious! It freezes well and can be eaten plain, over pasta, or to make your own chili dogs.
- ¾lb ground beef (I used extra lean)
- ½ large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp oregano
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
- 1c chicken broth
- 1c water
- 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 (15oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- salt and pepper to taste
- To serve: extra diced onion, shredded cheese, and cooked spaghetti or hot dogs and buns
- In a large pot, cook ground beef and onions in a small drizzle of olive oil and cook over medium heat until beef is cooked through and onions are tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain any fat.
- Add garlic, and cook 1-2 minutes more, or until fragrant. Add chili powder, cocoa powder, brown sugar, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, and cayenne. Stir to coat beef/onion mixture. Add tomato sauce, broth, water, vinegar, and beans. Stir to combine (mixture will look rather watery).
- Bring chili to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 30-40 minutes, or until thickened and deeper in color.
- Serve over spaghetti or hot dogs with diced onion and cheese as desired.