Cincinnati Chili...5-Way!

Chili is a very regional dish!  Like cornbread, it can also be a very controversial dish.  In some areas, like Texas, I am told you do not put beans in chili and some tell me you don't even use ground beef or meat, but chunks of beef.   Some Texans can get very adamant about this issue and since about one fourth of my readers are from Texas it seems, let me be clear that this is not a traditional chili recipe, but a very specialized chili recipe that the concept for originated in Cincinnati, Ohio!  

This idea of serving chili over spaghetti and topped with beans, onion and cheese or 5-way began at a restaurant called "Skyline Chili" and it was founded in 1949 by a Greek immigrant named Nicholas Lambrinides, which accounts for the unique flavor of this chili.  The flavor and seasoning is just a bit different than usual traditional Tex Mex chili, but it's really delicious.   It's actually more of a sauce to be served over pasta than a soup or chili, but can be eaten either way.   This is definitely an Ohio and Northern Kentucky concept that has spread somewhat to other states where Skyline has restaurants.  Their chili is now being sold in some grocery store chains also. 

This recipe is in no way a reproduction of the Skyline recipe either, because no one has that authentic recipe, but the owners.  This is my own take on it and it does vary somewhat in texture and flavor, but for us, it works well.  

Here is what you will need:

2 lbs. ground chuck
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 (15 oz.) can of tomato sauce
1 (15 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
2 (15 oz.) cans of beef broth
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbs. chili powder (add more if you like more spice)
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 Tbs. cider vinegar
2 cans chili beans, undrained
1 lb. spaghetti
1 cup sweet onion, chopped
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

In a large Dutch oven, brown the ground chuck, onion and garlic together until it is done.  Drain any excess fat.   The actual Skyline, boils the beef in the cooking liquid instead of browning it, but I prefer to brown mine.  Boiling ground beef seems unappetizing to me!  That's just me!

 Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, beef broth, all of the spices, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, chocolate and brown sugar.  This chili has a slightly sweet flavor. Bring up to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 2 hours on low.  Stir this every now and then to blend and be sure it does not stick. 

I add the beans and cook them with the sauce since we all like the beans in the chili.  Traditionally, the beans would be added on top of the sauce in the 5 way layering, so you can warm them in a individual pan if like.  I think adding them to the sauce thickens it and is better.  

Cook the spaghetti al dente according to the package directions and drain well. 

To serve, layer spaghetti, chili, beans, onion and shredded cheese for a 5-Way or whatever variation you like!   A 3-way is spaghetti, chili and cheese, a 4-way is spaghetti, chili, just onions or just beans and cheese!   Let everyone prepare their own as they like! 


  1. I think this sounds terrific and am going to make it tomorrow!

  2. You know if you could open a restaurant, I'm sure you'd be as famous as Paula Deen.

    1. lol...that would be fun, but sooo much work! Thank you!

  3. No, you're right, you don't "boil" the ground beef, what you do is put all the ingredients together in a large pan or slow cooker and slowly simmer until the meat is cooked and the sauce is thickened. The spices then infuse the beef and the meat imparts its flavor to the sauce. It takes longer but it's worth it, rather like a good Italian meat sauce. There are also questions about whether chocolate is traditional, some add it, some don't. I think it puts the sauce slightly in a Mexican mole category but it is good too.

  4. I have 24 coming to dinner, what would the quantities need to be?

    1. I would at least triple the recipe for that many. If they are really big eaters, like mostly adults, you might even times it by 4. I always would rather have leftovers than not enough and this is good the next day also!



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