Why People Can’t Get Enough of Cincinnati Chili

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—even one to make Wendy’s chili at home! But have you ever tried the distinctive twist on this hearty stew: Cincinnati chili complete with spaghetti? Now, 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.

Ways 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 Enjoy the Best 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.

And remember—to do it like a local, always eat Cincinnati chili with a fork, not a spoon! Here’s why you should bring instant pot chili to your next potluck.

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Ceara Milligan
Ceara Milligan is an avid people fan and an unabashed brand geek. Her true passion lies within research, where she unveils consumer, brand, and industry insights and discovers the many ways in which people shop, communicate, search, and design a unique presence both online and offline. She loves staying informed about trends that affect the outlook of businesses every single day. She has extensive experience in developing digital and brand strategies and inspiring creativity across all channels and touchpoints. She has implemented strategies for brands in various industries, including healthcare, agriculture, food and beverage, travel and tourism, CPG, nonprofit, insurance, financial services, beauty, education, retail, B2B, and automotive. Ceara graduated cum laude from Marquette University in 2012, where she studied Marketing, Information Technology, and Advertising. When she isn't in marketer mode, Ceara can be found listening to Third Eye Blind, cheering on Marquette Golden Eagles basketball, playing trivia, petting strangers' dogs, and baking up a storm.