Cincinnati Chili Recipe

This Cincinnati chili recipe is perfect for your next bowl of pasta or homemade burger!

Cincinnati chili is a Mediterranean meat sauce that is generous with spices. It’s traditionally used as a pasta sauce or a topping for burgers or hot dogs.

A close up view of a yellow casserole dish containing some pasta on the bottom level, Cincinnati chili in the middle, ad some grated cheddar cheese on top.

We don’t really do hot dogs around here, but we definitely do pasta and burgers! This is superbly delicious over either and quite filling as well.


People who are expecting a regular bowl of chili will be disappointed. This is not really chili at all. It’s served more like a sauce or condiment and is much heavier on spices than traditional chili. The cocoa powder, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves give it a different flavor profile than regular chili as well.


There are many ways to serve this delicious meat sauce. These are just a few to get you started:

  • Ladled over pasta.
  • Spooned over homemade fries
  • In a bowl with cheese and chopped, red onions over the top. (You can even add hot sauce!)
  • Spooned on top of a burger before adding your top bun. (Think, “sloppy joe”)
  • Stirred into rice.
A yellow casserole dish filled with Cincinnati chili covered pasta, sits next to a wooden sign that says, "eat".


“The Mediterranean influence is a result of Macedonian immigrants inventing the dish. Woellert says the origins of Cincinnati chili can be traced back to a small burlesque theater called The Empress where, in 1922, several Macedonian brothers started serving chili on top of spaghetti, labeling it “chili mac.” (source)”

I should also add that this meat sauce is kid-friendly! While heavy on the spices, it’s not actually “spicy” in the heat sense. So the littles will enjoy this too. Particularly over pasta!

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More Healthy Chili Recipes

Cincinnati Chili Recipe

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A close up view of a yellow casserole dish containing some pasta on the bottom level, Cincinnati chili in the middle, ad some grated cheddar cheese on top.

Cincinnati Chili Recipe

A delicious meat sauce you can serve over pasta or on burgers! Note that this is typically made with beef. This recipe uses ground turkey, but notes are made in the recipe if you prefer to use ground beef.
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Course: Burgers, Pasta, Sauce
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 250kcal


  • 1 lb. ground turkey (or ground beef)
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 2 cups chicken broth (no sugar added, low sodium is best – If using beef, use beef broth instead of chicken broth)
  • 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. salt (plus more to taste if needed at serving)

Optional Toppings for serving:

  • chopped onions
  • cooked pinto beans (stir them in)
  • grated cheese


  • Using a medium pot, place the oil and turkey into the pot and, over high heat, stir the turkey until it's browned.
  • Now add all other ingredients and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until the meat is cooked through and the spices have had a chance to impart their flavors. About 5-10 minutes.
  • Serve over pasta or burgers with any optional toppings you care to use.


Please note that the nutrition data given here is a ballpark figure. Exact data is not possible. Data does not include optional toppings.


Serving: 0.25the recipe | Calories: 250kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 1371mg | Potassium: 1070mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1819IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 114mg | Iron: 6mg

Author: Tiffany McCauley

Title: Food and Travel Journalist

Expertise: Food, cooking, travel


Tiffany McCauley is a nationally syndicated journalist and an award-winning cookbook author and food blogger. She has been featured on MSN, Huffington Post, Country Living Magazine, HealthLine, Redbook, and many more. Her food specialty is healthy comfort food recipes.

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  1. Christine says:

    Cincinnati girl here and there is nothing my kids and husband love more than chili. Seriously though they could eat chili everyday of their life! Three way, chili, spaget with cheese, Four Way those three with either beans or onions, Five way is all the above. Can’t wait to try this recipe out on the family!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Christine – Haha! That’s awesome!! I’ve never been, but I’ve heard it’s a fun place! 🙂 I hope my recipe holds up to your family’s standards. Let me know how it turns out for you!

  2. Kim Meyers says:


    The actual chili and also the recipe when buying the seasoning packet do not brown the meat. The meat is whisked into the water and tomato paste. Then cooked down. It is not a thick chili. It is generally has more liquid than most chili’s.

    This recipe will capture the Balkan flavor of the chili. I just wanted to let you know the meat is not usually browned.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Kim – Awesome! Thanks! It actually does have more liquid in it, but the pasta covers it and probably soaked a little up too.

  3. I’m from Cincinnati as well! I’m excited to try this recipe because actual “skyline” chili is so salty from a can, or going to the restaurant. I’ve also never had it on a burger, I wonder if they serve it that way in the restaurant at all. I’ve never hear of anyone here trying it like that, sounds good though 😁

    1. Amy – From what I understand, they do serve it that way! But having never been myself, I can’t really confirm that. I’m sure this is probably a different flavor from the highly processed stuff, but let me know how you like it!

      1. Katherine says:

        Hello, neither Skyline nor Gold Star serve burgers. They just serve their chili over spaghetti or their coney dogs. The beef is normally extremely small chopped and there is much more liquid. Also, I’m pretty sure Skyline has brown sugar in it, but I might be wrong. However I’m also excited to try this recipe and see if it’s a great homemade version. The ingredients look delicious!