People Can’t Get Enough Cincinnati Chili. Here’s Why It’s the Best.

Cincinnati—aka Cincy or Queen City—is well-known for its chili. We're here to tell you why the Chili Capital of the World earned this prestigious culinary title.

When it comes to chili, we all have our favorite recipe—here are our fave chilis from coast to coast! But have you ever tried the distinctive twist on this hearty stew: Cincinnati chili piled on top of spaghetti? Find out what this Midwest classic is and where it came from.

What Is Cincinnati Chili?

Cincinnati-style chili starts with a base of spaghetti, or in some cases, hot dogs. It is then topped with a blend of ground beef, tomato paste and a striking blend of aromatic spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, cumin and chili powder. In some recipes, unsweetened dark chocolate is added for a unique sweetness.

Then a mountain of grated cheddar, kidney beans and diced onions are added for extra, essential flavors and textures.

Unlike most types of chili, the meaty part of Cincinnati chili has a thinner, more soup-like consistency, rather than a stewy one.

How to Order Cincinnati Chili

To order this Cincinnati chili like a true Cincinnatian, you’ll want to use the proper lingo. There are a few different “ways” to order your ideal bowl with confidence:

  • 2 way: chili + spaghetti
  • 3 way: chili + spaghetti + cheese
  • 4 way: chili + spaghetti + cheese + onions or beans
  • 5 way: chili + spaghetti + cheese + onions + beans

The Origins of Cincinnati Chili

Now, you might be wondering how Cincinnatians adopted this unique take on chili. Well, that’s thanks to Macedonian immigrants Tom and John Kiradjieff who opened up a restaurant, The Empress, back in the 1920s. There the Kiradjieffs started serving up their version of chili, now known as Cincinnati chili.

Since then, the chili has grown in popularity and is now one of the region’s most iconic, ubiquitous dishes. You’ll find it at many restaurants and more than 180 “chili parlors” around Queen City as well as other parts of the U.S.

Where to Get Cincinnati Chili

A few of the most famous dining establishments that serve Cincinnati-style chili are Skyline Chili, Camp Washington Chili, Dixie Chili, Blue Ash Chili and Gold Star Chili.

If you want to try this classic at home, try our Cincinnati Chili recipe or even Cincinnati Chili Dogs. And remember—to do it like a local, always eat Cincinnati chili with a fork, not a spoon!

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Ceara Milligan
Ceara “Kiwi” Milligan is a professional marketing strategist and copywriter who is proud to call Milwaukee home. She loves baking, cooking, writing, listening to music, dancing, playing and hosting trivia, watching college basketball (Go Marquette!), telling lame jokes, and petting every dog that crosses her path.