White Bean Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati chili. My namesake. My mother ship. Packed full of cinnamon and warm spices like chili powder, cloves, allspice and nutmeg, it’s served over spaghetti and topped with raw onion, cheddar cheese and kidney beans. It’s a meal plus one onto itself. 

This, in fact, has been on my radar for quite a long time. I don’t for the life of me know why it took so long to make it. Maybe it was the odd (for chili) mix of spices or the spaghetti or my picky family who might not like it. What would I do with a pound and a half of chili, pray tell? But all went well and it was gobbled up, quite happily I might add, not one but two nights in a row. It’s surprisingly delicious, incredibly hearty and very filling.

If you ever find yourself in Cincinnati ordering up some chili here’s how it’s done, according to Saveur: served alone with just the spaghetti (two-way), plus cheese (three-way), plus onions (four-way) or plus beans (five-way).

I fancy the five-way, how about you?

I omitted the cocoa powder and added chipotle chile powder for heat. These are entirely optional.

Cincinnati Chili

Rating: 51

Yield: 4 servings

Cincinnati Chili


2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea or Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 + 1/2 lbs. ground beef
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 + 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder or cayenne pepper, optional
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed between fingers
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 bay leaf
1 can (14 ounce) diced tomatoes with juices
1 cup tomato sauce
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, optional
3/4 pound spaghetti
1 (15-ounce) can red or white (cannellini) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Oyster crackers


  1. In a large, deep-sided skillet or sauce pan saute half the onions (season well with salt and pepper) over medium-low heat in oil until tender, add garlic, saute until fragrant.
  2. In a separate skillet brown ground beef over medium heat, drain and add to onion mixture along with the spices* including bay leaf, tomatoes and tomato sauce (and cocoa powder, if using). Season well with salt and pepper. Stir well and add 1 cup water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered, until some of the water evaporates and chili thickens, about 25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cook spaghetti according to package directions. Heat beans. Remove bay leaf from chili. Serve by layering beginning with spaghetti at the bottom topped with chili, cheese, onion and beans. Serve with oyster crackers.
  4. *Measure out the spices ahead of time and combine in a small bowl for ease.


Adapted from Saveur


I’m linking this to the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop hosted by Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen.

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