Chef Notes: Cincinnati Chili - Sweet Potato Chronicles - Sweet Potato Chronicles

Chef Notes: Cincinnati Chili

I love to make a big pot of chili on a cold week­end day where lying around the house in your flan­nel paja­mas and cozy thick socks is the only item on the agenda. Chili is one of those one pot meals that can be as sim­ple or as com­pli­cated as you care to make it. I have recipes that require noth­ing more than canned beans, toma­toes, shred­ded chicken and sea­son­ings and every­thing is dumped in a crock pot for a cou­ple of hours and you’re off. I have oth­ers that I’ve spent years devel­op­ing. The recipe below is for my famous Cincin­nati chili. I was intro­duced to Cincin­nati style chili at a pot luck about twenty years ago. I loved the dif­fer­ent spices, the almost Indian note to it.  I also love that it is often served on pasta and then piled high with shred­ded ched­dar cheese, raw white onion, chopped raw jalapeno’s, and a big dol­lop of sour cream.  Sooooo deli­cious!  But what’s also ter­rific about a big pot of chili is that there are so many other meals that can be derived from one – one pot meal.  How about the fol­low­ing menu for the week:

  1. Day one – Chili over pasta with all the fixings
  2. Day two – Chili dogs with a quick mac & cheese made from the left over pasta & grated cheese
  3. Day three – Taco salads
  4. Day four – Chili omelets with sour cream and salsa and steamed broccoli
  5. Day five – Nacho’s (OMG, yummy nacho’s for din­ner I’m in heaven)
  6. Day six – thin out the chili with a lit­tle stock and serve with corn bread muffins

That’s a whole week peo­ple!!!  You can make one big pot of chili and prac­ti­cally have din­ner ready every night of the week.  Any­thing that easy and that deli­cious is a win­ner in my book. The fol­low­ing recipe is the one I made for a pre-swim meet party I threw for Logan’s high school swim team last week.  They ate almost 3 gal­lons of it. I made my own dried beans but you should feel free to use canned and to use a vari­ety of beans if you choose.  Gar­banzo and black beans make great alter­na­tives.  You can eas­ily make this veg­e­tar­ian by omit­ting the meat and adding extra beans and/or meat sub­sti­tute. Another thing I some­times throw in is a cup of raw peanuts. They get par­tially soft­ened and add a really inter­est­ing crunch. Chili is a very per­sonal thing but with one decent recipe you can eas­ily cus­tomize it to fit your fam­i­lies’ palate.

Cincin­nati Chili

1 lb bag dried dark red kid­ney beans
1 large yel­low onion, finely minced
1 large green pep­per, finely minced
1 table­spoon finely minced gar­lic
1 lb ground beef
1 can/bottle of beer (or 12 oz stock)
2 table­spoons espresso grounds or instant cof­fee
1 lb 13 oz can diced toma­toes
1 table­spoon chili pow­der (or more if you pre­fer a spicier chili)
1 tea­spoon ground all­spice
1 tea­spoon ground cin­na­mon
1 tea­spoon ground cumin
½ of a nut­meg, grated
1/2 tea­spoon cayenne pep­per (or more to taste)
1 tea­spoon salt
1 tea­spoon black pep­per
2 table­spoons unsweet­ened cocoa or 1 ounce grated unsweet­ened choco­late
1 table­spoon Worces­ter­shire sauce


Pre­pare the dried beans per the pack­age instruc­tions.  Tra­di­tion­ally the beans are served sep­a­rately but I pre­fer to drain them and add them with the toma­toes and other ingre­di­ents so that they absorb the fla­vors of the chili.  See below for more information.

Over medium high heat sauté onion, green pep­per, gar­lic and ground beef until the meat is cooked.  Deglaze the pan with the bot­tle of beer.  Add the cof­fee and stir well.  Add all remain­ing ingre­di­ents.  Reduce heat to low and sim­mer about two hours.  Adjust sea­son­ings and serve.

By the way if you’re ever in Cincin­nati you’ll find that chili lovers order their chili by num­ber; Two, Three, Four, or Five Way.

Two-Way Chili:      Chili served on spaghetti

Three-Way Chili:    also topped with shred­ded Ched­dar cheese

Four-Way Chili:      also topped with chopped onions

Five-Way Chili:      also topped with kid­ney beans


One Comment

  1. Gail Shapiro says:

    Looks good. I am won­der­ing what the choco­late does for the flavor?

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