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Crockpot Cincinnati Style Chili Recipe

Ohio is weird. You can drive from the top to the bottom of the state in a couple of hours but there some things that only live in the northern or southern part of the state like Cincinnati style chili.

 Crock pot slow cooker Cincinnati style chili recipe
I have to skip the shredded cheddar cheese you usually find on top because I' can't eat dairy 
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After I moved past the Ohio Line of Demarcation (Columbus) my new friends were aghast I didn’t know what it was and insisted we immediately go to a Skyline Chili (one of the two chains that sell Cincinnati style chili. Gold Star Chili is the other. Both are good.)

Another Ohio weird fact: Ohio is the only state in the union that uses a pennant as a state flag. 

Cincinnati style chili is mild and sweet unlike the spicy hot Texas style chili most of us know. In fact, the first time I ate it I was not sure I liked it. I figured getting used to the taste of Cincinnati style chili was a lot like drinking martinis. It takes three times to decide if you like it or not.

I like Cincinnati style chili.

Cincinnati style chili is my ultra lazy comfort food. We have a Skyline sorta close by but a trip to Skyline means a long house hunt to find my shoes, keys, purse that are never where I left them. Am I the only one? Then I have to I hop in the car to drive over, either wait in the restaurant (I want food now!) or do drive through and wait until I get home to snarf it. That is more work that I want. 

The Lazy Budget Chef solution to make my own Cincinnati style chili in the slow cooker – my personal Mrs. Patmore. I can tailor the ingredients to my liking. I do not have to spend extra money for my favorite four way with bean style either.  Good thing, I have no idea where my car keys are right now.

Slow Cooker Skyline Chili Recipe

Crock pot slow cooker Cincinnati style chili recipe

I read a bunch of Cincinnati chili recipes and cherry picked ingredients until I came up with something that comes close to tasting like Skyline chili. We do not eat a lot of red meat as in the restaurant recipe. I substitute ground turkey for hamburger and whole wheat spaghetti for regular spaghetti but you are welcome to use those ingredients if that’s what you like!


2 pounds of ground beef or turkey

8 cups of water

1 chopped onion

2 cups of black beans (I use dried black beans but canned will work too.)

4 cups of tomato sauce

1 large clove of minced garlic

4 Tablespoons of chili powder

2 Tablespoons cinnamon (not so secret ingredient #1)

1 ½ Tablespoons of baking chocolate powder (or ½ a square ofa baker’s chocolate bar) (not so secret ingredient #2)

½ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 ½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce

2 Tablespoons vinegar

Cooked spaghetti

Grated cheddar cheese

Extra chopped onion

Oyster crackers

(Disclosure: I am including some big bold affiliate links for your convenience.)

Make it:

1. Pour the water, ground meat, and onion to the crock pot. Break up the ground meat with a spoon so it will further break up while cooking. If you want to shorten the overall cooking time, you can simmer these ingredients on the stove for 30 minutes to brown the meat first.

2. Add the black beans to the mixture. I don’t soak the dried black beans. I just pop them in the crock pot. You can soak your dried beans overnight or use canned beans if you want a faster cooking time. (Skip the beans if you like to eat Cincinnati chili as a three way – not that. See Step 5 for the explanation.)

3. Add the tomato sauce, garlic, dry ingredients, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar to the slow cooker.

4. Cook in the slow cooker on medium for four hours if you use precooked meat and beans or eight hours if you use unbrowned meat and dry beans until the meat is loose and beans are thoroughly cooked. Cincinnati style chili isn’t chunky. It looks a lot like spaghetti sauce.

5. Cook and drain the spaghetti. You are ready to experience eating chili the Cincinnati way!  Grab the cheese, onion, and crackers. You have the option of eating Cincinnati style chili as a:

  • 3 Way =  Spaghetti topped with (beanless) chili and cheese
  • 4 Way =  Spaghetti topped with  chili and cheese and beans in the chili or extra chopped onion on top
  • 5 Ways = Spaghetti topped with chili and cheese and beans in the chili and extra chopped onion on top.

I make my Cincinnati style chili with beans in the chili which automatically makes Husband’s chili a Four Way because he adds shredded cheddar cheese to the top of his chili. I don’t add the cheese anymore because I can’t eat lactose.

Both Gold Star and Skyline serve their Cincinnati chili with oyster crackers on the side. I usually skip them because I don’t buy them. However, I don’t turn down the crackers on the rare occasions we go to a restaurant (not often they look at me as if I have three heads when I order without cheese.)

If you'd rather buy than DIY this recipe, check out the following - and more! – below!
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We grew up in Columbus, married, had our four kids there, and I loved Cinncinnati style chili. We now live in Texas, but I have my own Cinncinnati chili here. It's good, isn't it??
Mary said…
I want to try this! - without the meat, though, I'm vegetarian, but I love beans! The sauce sounds like a mole sauce. Yum.
Unknown said…
Thanks for sharing at repurposed ideas weekly
Fluster Buster said…
Thanks for sharing at Fluster's Creative Muster. I'm looking forward to seeing what you link up next week.