Slow Cooker Cincinnati Chili


This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

If you’ve never had Cincinnati Chili, then you are in for a real treat. This iconic regional dish benefits by being cooked in the slow cooker allowing all the spices to meld together.

This dump-and-go recipe is low prep and can be done in as little as 3 hours of cooking time. If you’re looking for other pasta recipes that are unique, you must try my Chicken Enchilada Pasta and Angel Chicken.

Cincinnati chili on a plate with a fork in it.
Save Recipe
Save this recipe!
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

What is Cincinnati Chili?

It might be easier to at first explain what Cincinnati style chili isn’t.

The name alone evokes a particular flavor profile: regular chili or a traditional chili con carne.

Or when looking at pictures, it appears be a plate of pasta with an Italian-style meaty spaghetti sauce then sometimes a generous helping of cheddar cheese.

But it’s neither.

Origins of Cincinnati chili

In 1921, two brothers who emigrated from Greece opened a hot dog stand next to the Empress theater (a burlesque theater) in Cincinnati, Ohio. They created a Greek style spaghetti sauce full of Mediterranean spices as a hot dog topping.

As it grew in popularity, the brothers began to serve it over spaghetti noodles with a side of oyster crackers thus creating spaghetti chili.

A former Empress Chili parlor employee opened his own restaurant naming it Skyline Chili. Then another rival opened in the 1960’s under the name Gold Star Chili. There are now many chili parlors in Ohio and in neighboring states.

Recipe Ingredients

Ingredients for cincinnati chili on a table.
  • Ground Beef: 2 pounds of 80/20 ground beef is the perfect amount of meat without it being too overwhelming. Cook the ground beef in a dutch oven or large pot, then drain the renderings before adding it to the crockpot. If you use a leaner ground beef, you may need a little bit of olive oil while browning the meat.
  • Tomato: Both tomato paste and tomato sauce help create the chili base. The tomato products add depth to the flavor along with thickening the sauce.
  • Beef Stock: Using beef broth or stock instead of water further increases the depth of flavor in this recipe.
  • Onion: A large onion is what you’ll need for this Cincinnati chili recipe. You can use a large yellow onion, sweet onion, or white onion. Plus you will want some diced onions for serving.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Another ingredient that adds to the depth of the flavor profile.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Using this type of vinegar serves as an extra flavor and texture enhancer. Don’t worry, you won’t taste the tartness of the vinegar at all.
  • Spices: Freshly minced garlic is best for flavor). Then warm spices of chili powder, salt, freshly ground black pepper, unsweetened chocolate (or cocoa powder), brown sugar, cayenne pepper, ground allspice, ground cloves, dark chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, onion powder, and garlic powder are makes Cincinnati chili have its unique taste.
  • Toppings: Shredded cheese (traditionally cheddar cheese),diced onions, and red kidney beans (light or dark red kidney beans). All three is the best way to serve Cincinnati chili. Your favorite hot sauce or crushed red pepper is perfect to add a bit of heat to the recipe.
  • Spaghetti: Cooked spaghetti if you’re not serving as a hot dog topping.
four images showing how to make cincinnati chili in a slow cooker.

Step One – Add the cooked ground beef, chopped onion, garlic, sugars, and spices to the crock pot.

Step Two – Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, beef stock, and apple cider vinegar.

Step Three – Stir everything together until combined.

Step Four – Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours or LOW for 5 hours.

overhead shot of cincinnati chili in a slow cooker.

How to serve:

Authentic Cincinnati chili is traditionally served on top of a bed of cooked spaghetti noodles, also known as spaghetti chili. When you enter Empress chili parlor or any other chili parlors, there’s a particular “way” to order your meal:

  • Two Way: Just the spaghetti and chili (chili spaghetti).
  • Three Way: Add a very generous helping of shredded cheddar cheese atop the chili served over spaghetti.
  • Four Way: Add the cheese and diced raw onion.
  • Five Way: Add cheese, chopped onion, and kidney beans.

You can also serve crock pot Cincinnati chili (or copycat Skyline chili) with a side oyster crackers. There’s nothing wrong with serving this chili over hot dogs as it was originally done.

Chili on spaghetti on a white plate.

Recipe FAQs

How do I make a Cincinnati chili cheese coney?

Prepare a hot dog and hot dog bun like normal. Then, pour over a nice helping of Cincinnati chili. Next top it with optional toppings such as finely shredded cheddar cheese, onions, or beans.

Can I add raw ground beef to the crock pot?

You can but we don’t recommend it. The grease from the hamburger meat will overtake the chili, it’s best to cook it first, otherwise you’ll need to remove the renderings after it is cooked.

How do I store the leftover meat sauce?

Add any remaining chili to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Close up up cincinnati chili on spaghetti.

Want to make more magic in your crockpot? Stay up to date and subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on FacebookInstagramPinterest, Tik Tok, and YouTube.

Close up up cincinnati chili on spaghetti.

Slow Cooker Cincinnati Chili

4.75 from 4 votes
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 25 minutes
Servings: 8
This flavorful chili makes a great topping for spaghetti or hot dogs.


  • 2 lbs. 80/20 ground beef, browned and drained
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, Minced
  • 4.5 oz. tomato paste
  • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. dark chili powder
  • ¼ tsp. cloves
  • ¼ Teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ Teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

For serving:

  • cooked spaghetti noodles
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • diced white onion
  • canned kidney beans, drained, rinsed and warmed


  • Add the browned and drained ground beef to the slow cooker
  • Add in the onion, garlic, spices, tomato paste, tomato sauce, beef stock, worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar. Stir until combined.
  • Cook on HIGH for 3 hours or LOW 5 hours.
  • Serve hot by itself or over spaghetti with your favorite toppings. Enjoy!

How to Video

Sarah’s Notes

  • Other topping ideas are jalapeno, green onions, hot sauce and oyster crackers
  • Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
  • Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
  • Nutritional values do not include spaghetti or toppings; it’s just for the chili.


Calories: 350kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 927mg | Potassium: 856mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1100IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition info is auto-generated. This information is an estimate; if you are on a special diet, please use your own calculations.

Made this recipe? Leave a comment below!

More Regionally Named Slow Cooker

Other Chili Recipes to Try:

Other recipes you may like

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. Autumn Hardie says:

    5 stars
    I kept hearing rave reviews about Cincinnati Chili and everybody told me I had to try it, so I found your recipe yesterday late in the evening. It was too late to start meal prepping it, so I got a head start on mixing all the spices together last night and then did the meat and veggies and sauces in the crock this morning and just dumped the spices in. I work from home and had to sit here all day and smell these flavors blend together all day while I worked. It was so hard to concentrate. We just finished dinner and it was out of this world. I will make this again.

  2. Joe Gahan says:

    How much beef stock

    1. Sarah Olson says:

      2 cups.

  3. Darcie says:

    5 stars
    I have not made this yet, but I want to. I don’t have unsweetened chocolate. Is it necessary?

    1. Sarah Olson says:

      You can leave it out!

  4. Skipper says:

    4 stars
    I thought you traditionally browned the meat with liquid to break it up and give it that smooth texture.

    1. Patricia Rose says:

      I’ve made this chili many times and the best way (for me ) is to place ground beef into large pot with 1 qt water bring to gentle boil use potato smasher to break up beef (to make it smoother) keep stiring and breaking up pieces into small size , after 30 minutes let cool on stove then chill overnight the the morning skim off all fat, you can choose stove top, slow cooker etc but need to add all ingredients, spices to same pot for 3 hours to slow simmer/cook. (references Authentic Cincinnati Chili by Melissa Hamilton ) For the consistency thick, not so thick add a little beef stock if needed to your liking

  5. Jarrod Lampier says:

    5 stars
    I made this recipe two weeks ago and the house smelled fabulous for days after. Lots of aromatics in here. It tastes great! I’m from Texas, so biased, but I gave it a shot and it was delicious! We had friends and family over and they all loved this.