Have you ever had Authentic Cincinnati chili? It’s totally unique, and not like Texas-Style or traditional bean-style chili, but it’s an iconic delicacy in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s also really easy to make at home, freezes wonderfully, and can be served in so many ways!
In the Roaring Twenties, a new star would emerge on the food menu of the Cincinnati-based Empress Lunch Room owned by Greek immigrants Tom and John Kiradjieff. That recipe is what has been known for 90+ years as the famous Authentic Cincinnati Chili made right in the heart of Cincinnati.
This Cincinnati Chili is a delightful iconic concoction made famous by its ingredients and Mediterranean vibe of flavors, which included lean ground beef, beef stock, tomato paste, and a variety of Mediterranean spices that were piled on top of a plate of spaghetti noodles and later topped with cheese, beans, and even onions in various spinoffs at other restaurants trying copy the Empress Lunch Room’s famous recipe.
“Cincinnati Chili” has long been said to be confusing to those that have never had the pleasure of eating this Iconic dish made famous by the two Kiradjieff brothers. Many unsuspecting folks expect the flavor to be like that of a Texas-Style chili, or any chili for that fact. I’m sure they were confused by the Mediterranean spices they were tasting in this Cincinnati Chili. You will either love the unique flavor like I do or hate it, but I think given a fair chance, you’ll fall in love with Cincinnati Chili just like I did.
The unique Chili was made famous by the brothers’ Tom and John Kiradjieff would inspire Greek Nicholas Sarakatsannis, who worked at the Empress Lunch Room in the late 1920s, to open his restaurant called Dixie Chili in Northern Kentucky. Serving a version of the Cincinnati Chili concocted by Tom and John. Then later, the Cincinnati Chili would yet again inspire another worker from the restaurant, Nicholas Lambrinides, in 1949 to open Skyline Chili in Price Hill and serve his spinoff of the popular recipe.
They say more than eight decades later, the popular Roaring Twenties Empress recipe for Cincinnati Chili remains a family Kiradjieff secret, and it has never been modified once. Most find the Empress version of Cincinnati Chili to be a bit spicier than its competitors in the area serving variations of the Chili recipe, and that’s okay with me because I love my Cincinnati Chili a little more on the spicy side myself.
All over the net, you will see recipes claiming to be the copycat version of the original Cincinnati Chili Recipe of the Kiradjieff family of bloggers claiming their family member received the method from a reputable family member of the brothers, past employees, or they were very close to the Kiradjieff family. Are they honest? One really cannot be sure? Sometimes a story is just that, friends, a story.
Rumor has it that shaved chocolate or cocoa powder was never an ingredient that the Kiradjieff brothers used—again, we ask fact or fiction? I have heard that chocolate was later added by one of the past employees who opened his restaurant featuring a spinoff of the coveted Cincinnati Chili recipe of the Kiradjieff brothers. What do I believe, you ask? I think that chocolate may not have been added by the Kiradjieff family, being their recipe has always been the spicier version of the bunch. However, I added the unsweetened cocoa powder to my recipe to be on the safe side Y’all.
The other ingredient that usually causes a battle between folks is the use of oregano. Did they add it? Didn’t they add it? Well, if we are going to continue to compare this recipe to Saltsa Kima, which also uses very similar ingredients and is served over pasta, we might want to remember dried Greek oregano is usually an ingredient used in authentic Saltsa Kima. So again, one will never honestly know unless they are privy to the original recipe of Tom and John Kiradjieff.
Do you have a version of your own Authentic Cincinnati Chili?
If so, let me know in the comment section. I always love hearing from all of you that have your versions of recipes and exactly how you came upon your version.
Let’s talk a little about The Authentic Cincinnati Chili Recipe, and it’s many “Ways.”
2-Way: The original way of serving, Spaghetti noodles with the Cincinnati Chili sauce, aka Chili Spaghetti.
3-Way: Spaghetti noodles covered with Cincinnati Chili, topped with a mound of finely shredded cheddar cheese.
4-Way: A 3-Way with onions or beans added as a topping.
5-Way: A 3-Way with both onions and beans added as toppings.
I’m a 5-Way Cincinnati Chili girl, yes I like my toppings, and I use all of them, dark red chili beans, loads of Cincinnati Chilli sauce, gobs of Colby-Jack cheese, a healthy dose of those diced onions. Then I need oyster crackers to soak up all that delicious sauce on my plate. You can make yours any way you like. Toppings are optional, of course.
For 5-way Cincinnati chili, start with a layer of the dark red drained and rinsed beans that have been heated; you can add as many or as little as you prefer. I add a decent amount, but not too many, as you see here.
Then don’t be shy with that deliciously yummy homemade Cincinnati Chili sauce. Ladle it on nice and thick. Trust me; you’ll have oyster crackers to soak up the lovely sauce left on your plate of goodness.
Now, add a healthy helping of Colby-Jack cheese on the top of your Homemade Cincinnati Chili sauce. Too much Colby-Jack Cheese is never enough in my book. I love how the thinly shredded Colby-Jack Melts into my warm sauce in just a few moments. It’s so darn good, Y’all!
If you enjoy onions as I do, add a fair amount of diced uncooked onions to the top of your Cincinnati chili, it’s ok you can always brush your teeth later and pop a mint in, and you’ll be as good as new.
The last and final stage to pure Cincinnati Chilli heaven is those Oyster crackers. Grab a nice handful plus more for soaking up that delicious homemade Cincinnati Chili left on your plate or heck, you can even sprinkle them around the top if you like, and the choice is yours, my friend.
Authentic Cincinnati Chili
Four cups of beef stock
Two cups of water
Two bay leaves
Two pounds extra-lean ground beef
One large onion, finely diced
Two- 6-ounce-cans of organic tomato paste
One tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
One tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
One tablespoon of sugar
1/2 of a tablespoon of garlic powder
1/2 of a tablespoon of unsweetened baking cocoa, optional
One teaspoon of ground cumin
One teaspoon ground cinnamon
One teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 of a teaspoon of allspice
1/2 of a teaspoon of ground coriander
1/2 of teaspoon oregano, optional
1/4 of a teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
One pound of cooked thick spaghetti noodles
finely grated Colby-Jack cheese
drained, rinsed, heated kidney beans
Add 4 cups of beef stock and 2 cups of water to a large saucepan, place on high heat until the liquid starts to boil.
Meanwhile, place 2 pounds of uncooked lean ground beef in a food processor and pulse about 4-5 times, then add the uncooked meat to the water and beef stock; I do mine when it’s still cold and start breaking down the meat by putting small amounts in and stirring till the meat breaks up into little tiny bits. The meat should look like small flecks of meat versus chunks. Once broken down, start the meat and liquids on high heat and let boil for about 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium heat. Cook for another 30 minutes. Do not drain the liquid from the meat.
Once the meat has cooked on medium heat, about 30 minutes, turn off the heat source and let cool slightly before refrigerating for 6 hours or better yet overnight. This makes all the excess fat come to the top so that you may skim off that excess fat before cooking. This step is optional but recommended even for lean ground beef.
Once you have skimmed all the excess fat off of the meat the next morning, don’t be too alarmed, as the meat does have a bit of a gelatin look to it; that’s ok. Once you heat the liquids again, it will turn back into broth again. I know it doesn’t look pretty, but I promise it will be ok.
Once the ground beef has been reheated, add one large onion, finely diced, 2- 6-ounce-cans of organic tomato paste, one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, one tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, one tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 of a tablespoon of garlic powder, *1/2 of a tablespoon of unsweetened baking cocoa, 1/2 of tablespoon ground cumin, one teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 of a teaspoon of allspice, 1/2 of a teaspoon of ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, *1/2 of a teaspoon of oregano, 1/4 of a teaspoon ground cloves, one teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Bring all the ingredients to a low simmer, and reduce heat to low heat, cook at least 3-6 hours on low heat. If need be, add a little more water or broth if it becomes too thick.
Place a serving of cooked thick spaghetti noodles on a plate and ladle Cincinnati chili sauce over the pasta, add a layer of drained heated dark kidney beans, a thick layer of the Cincinnati chili sauce, a thick layer of finely shredded Colby-Jack cheese, and a healthy sprinkle of diced onions.
Serve with Oyster crackers to soak up all that delicious sauce.
Authentic Cincinnati Chili
- 4 cups Beef stock
- 2 cups Water
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 2 pounds Ground Beef Extra Lean ( 97/6)
- 1 large Onion diced
- 2 -6-ounce-cans Organic tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Organic Apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Sugar
- ½ tablespoon Garlic powder
- ½ tablespoon Unsweetened baking cocoa optional
- 1 teaspoon Ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon Ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon Allspice
- ½ teaspoon Ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon Oregano optional
- ¼ teaspoon Ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon Black pepper
- 1 pound Cooked thick spaghetti noodles
- Colby-Jack cheese Finely grated
- kidney beans Drained, rinsed, heated
- onions Diced
- Oyster crackers
- Add 4 cups of beef stock and 2 cups of water, to a large saucepan, place on high heat until the liquid starts to boil.
- Meanwhile, place 2 pounds of uncooked lean ground beef in a food processor and pulse about 4-5 times, then add the uncooked meat to the water and beef stock, I do mine when it’s still cold and start breaking down the meat by putting small amounts in and stirring till the meat breaks up into little tiny bits. The meat should look like small flecks of meat versus chunks. Once broken down start the meat and liquids on high heat and let boil for about 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium heat. Cook for another 30 minutes. Do not drain the liquid from the meat.
- Once the meat has cooked on medium heat about 30 minutes turn off the heat source and let cool slightly before refrigerating 6 hours or better yet overnight. This lets all the excess fat come to the top so that you may skim off that excess fat before cooking. This step is optional but definitely recommended even for lean ground beef.
- Once you have skimmed all the excess fat off of the meat the next morning, don’t be too alarmed, as the meat does have a bit of a gelatin look to it; that’s ok once you heat the liquids again it will turn back into broth again. I know it doesn’t look pretty, but I promise it will be ok.
- Once the ground beef has been reheated, add 1 large onion, finely diced, 2- 6-ounce-cans of organic tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon of sugar, ½ of a tablespoon of garlic powder, 1/2 of a tablespoon of unsweetened baking cocoa, ½ of tablespoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 of a teaspoon of allspice, ½ of a teaspoon of ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, ½ of a teaspoon of oregano, ¼ of a teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper. Bring all the ingredients to a low simmer and reduce heat to low heat; cook for at least 3-6 hours on low heat. If need be, add a little more water or broth if it becomes too thick.
- Place a serving of cooked thick spaghetti noodles on a plate and ladle Cincinnati chili sauce over the pasta, add a layer of drained heated dark kidney beans, a thick layer of the Cincinnati chili sauce, a thick layer of finely shredded Colby-Jack cheese, and a healthy sprinkle of diced onions.
- Serve with Oyster crackers to soak up all that delicious sauce.
Although themccallumsshamrockpatch.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and how ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Under no circumstances will themccallumsshamrockpatch.com be responsible for any loss or damage resulting from your reliance on nutritional information.
If you like this recipe for Authentic Cincinnati Chili here are some others you might enjoy
- Crock-pot Beer Chili with Beans; is a delicious, hearty, comforting combination of dark Beer, extra-lean ground beef, quality ground pork, red peppers, yellow peppers, diced tomatoes with green chiles, crushed tomatoes, light red kidney beans, dark red beans, pinto beans, fresh minced garlic, and special spices to get your Tailgate Party or casual dinner kicked off Southern-Style.
- This Wendy’s Copycat Chili is one of the best renditions you’ll eat to date. It truly satisfies even the biggest Wendy’s Chili Fan. Made from lean ground beef, kidney beans, pinto beans, tomatoes, onions, green chilis, and the perfect amount of spice.
- Southern Chili Cornbread Casserole is the perfect meal to serve at your next gathering, or it makes for a delicious meal any night of the week.
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