An Ohio-favorite dish gets the crock pot treatment with this Skyline Chili copycat recipe. Eat like a Cincinnatian with a chili made with hints of cinnamon and chocolate (that’s NOT sweet!) and serve it like the locals do using the authentic “ways:” two-way, three-way, four-way, or five-way.

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Crock Pot Cincinnati Chili! An Ohio-favorite dish gets the crock pot treatment with this Skyline Chili copycat recipe. Eat like a Cincinnatian with a chili made with hints of cinnamon and chocolate (that's NOT sweet!) and serve it like the locals do using the authentic "ways:" two-way, three-way, four-way, or five-way. | HomemadeHooplah.com

About Crock Pot Cincinnati Chili

For those that know it, Cincinnati chili is a food phenomenon and a cherished local dish. The most recognizable name is Skyline Chili, and if you’re in Ohio (and some of the surrounding area) you’ve no doubt passed their restaurants or seen their items at your local grocery store.

But as for the rest of the country, they have no idea what all this fuss is about over Cincinnati chili.

And, up until four years ago, I was one of those people. Growing up in Virginia and living in Phoenix, I never had the opportunity to cross paths with this food craze.

But then an Ohio-based company bought the local business I worked for.

Because, you see, before I started this little food blog, I worked at a small payment processing company for six years. The office was very tight-knit and I thought I’d be working there for years to come – but I missed all the signs. I didn’t think anything of it when we moved to a brand new building, far swankier than we ever needed for the type of work we do. I wasn’t alarmed when we kept having “company” at the office to view the grounds and ask questions about our departments. I didn’t think it was odd when my boss was cagey about discussing any staff changes.

But when we were told we were having a very important and mandatory company meeting conveniently scheduled for just after the stock markets closed, I knew.

The business had been sold.

Flash forward to a month later and the same “company” I had seen walking around the office was now standing at the front of our largest meeting room, talking about all the changes they had in store for the business I had come to think of as a second family. Needless to say, it was an awkward meeting from start to finish, and it was made all the more awkward by their grand finale:

They had brought fresh Skyline Chili with them on the plane over for us to enjoy.

And no one in the room had any idea what they were talking about.

I have to admit that I refused to try the chili that day – as if my food protest would somehow change decisions that had already been made (spoiler: it didn’t) – but I have had more opportunities to try other versions of Cincinnati chili.

I now wish I had taken my chance to try true Skyline Chili that day, because ever since then I’ve been trying to recreate the recipe at home.

How to make Cincinnati chili at home.

What makes Cincinnati chili different?

Cincinnati chili has a style all it’s own, and you can easily identify it in two main ways:

The taste – Unlike classic or Texas chili (which tends to have thick meats, veggies, and Mexican-inspired spices) Cincinnati chili has a milder taste with hints of chocolate and cinnamon. However, don’t let those ingredients fool you; this chili is not sweet.

The consistency – One of the trademarks of this chili is how it’s served, and that’s because it’s treated like a condiment. Locals typically serve it with spaghetti or hot dogs. Plus, it has a more watery consistency than your average chili.

How do you serve Cincinnati chili?

If you’re going to serve this chili the “right” way, you have to learn the unique lingo Cincinnatians have come up with for serving their beloved chili. This is typically broken down into five different methods they simply call “ways”:

Two-way – Spaghetti or hot dog topped with chili.

Three-way – Spaghetti or hot dog topped with chili and cheese.

Four-way – Spaghetti or hot dog topped with chili, cheese, and onions (my favorite, which is pictured here).

Four-way bean – Spaghetti or hot dog topped with chili, cheese, and beans.

Five-way – Spaghetti or hot dog topped with chili, cheese, onions, and beans.

A copycat Skyline Chili recipe.

Can you freeze chili?

When properly stored in a sealed container, this chili can be frozen for four to six months. When ready to serve, just thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and warm it up on the stove or in a crock pot.

If keeping the chili in the refrigerator, it can be stored in a sealed container for up to three or four days.

How do you thicken chili?

This chili recipe includes a fair amount of water in order to prevent burning & assist with evening cooking, so once it’s finished, it may be too watery to serve in the traditional Cincinnati ways. If you find this is the case, you can thicken the chili with a quick slurry:

  • Scoop out 1/4 cup of the more watery part of chili, and transfer to a small mixing bowl.
  • Add in 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or a different thickening agent of your choice) to the mixing bowl.
  • Whisk together thoroughly.
  • Pour slurry back in with the chili, then stir.
  • Repeat these steps until chili reaches the desired thickness.

Notes & tips for this copycat skyline chili

  • If you’re in the market for a new slow cooker, I’m a big fan of this crock pot – it has three sizes in one! Perfect if you’d like to adjust the serving size of this recipe to something smaller (and have a smaller pot to clean up once you’re done.)

More great chili recipes

How to make Cincinnati chili in a crock pot.

Recipe Details

Crock Pot Cincinnati Chili! An Ohio-favorite dish gets the crock pot treatment with this Skyline Chili copycat recipe. Eat like a Cincinnatian with a chili made with hints of cinnamon and chocolate (that's NOT sweet!) and serve it like the locals do using the authentic "ways:" two-way, three-way, four-way, or five-way. | HomemadeHooplah.com
3.52 from 37 votes

Crock Pot Cincinnati Chili

30 mins prep + 7 hrs cook
390 kcal
Yields: 8 servings
Crock Pot Cincinnati Chili! An Ohio-favorite dish gets the crock pot treatment with this Skyline Chili copycat recipe. Eat like a Cincinnatian with a chili made with hints of cinnamon and chocolate (that's NOT sweet!) and serve it like the locals do using the authentic "ways:" two-way, three-way, four-way, or five-way.

Ingredients 

Instructions

  • In a skillet over medium heat, warm vegetable oil. Add 1/4 cup onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Remove skillet from heat and set nearby.
  • In a large crock pot, add water and ground beef, then stir until ground beef is broken up.
  • Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, chili powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cumin, and allspice, as well as the cooked onion and garlic. Season with salt, pepper, and cloves, to taste. Stir ingredients thoroughly until combined.
  • Cover crock pot and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.
  • Serve Cincinnati chili immediately as desired. See the post above for the authentic "ways" that this chili can be served. If chili is watery, make a quick slurry by whisking together 1/4 cup of the chili and 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Mix slurry back in with the chili and test the thickness. If needed, repeat slurry step until desired consistency is reached.

Nutrition

Calories: 390kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 80mg | Sodium: 373mg | Potassium: 658mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 290IU | Vitamin C: 10.9mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 3.8mg

I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I'm not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.

Author: Chrisy

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Recipe Rating




28 comments

    • WenDell
    • 5 stars

    I seen this recipe a few days ago and decided I was gonna make it. MANNNNNN, it was good! I wasn’t sure about some of the ingredients, but I did it anyway and loved it. I only used 2 1/2 Cups of water and 1 1/2 pounds of meat (thats what I had thawed out), incase I didn’t like it, but it’s more than enough and I didn’t want it to be to watery and I didn’t want to have to keep adding flour to thicken it up. Time to look for another recipe from Hooplah.

    • Joann

    I did not care for this chili. There is not enough spiciness to it. Will not be making this again.

    • Mareth

    Well this was a mistake! I love Cincinnati chili, we make it a lot, I was excited to have a crockpot version. I made it to the letter despite my reservations, and it is absolutely inedible. We can’t get a bite down. Completely watery and wayyyyy too much vinegar, and no matter how much flour slurry I’ve added it just looks and tastes like fatty water with way too much vinegar and chili powder and tomato flavor. Yuck! Please learn from my wasted time and money! We’re ordering pizza!

    • Cathie

    Am trying this today. But you forgot the oyster crackers, my favorite topping!

    • Jennifer

    You should be able to order Cincinnati chili powder packets online from Skyline if you don’t think the clone recipes taste quite right. Just make sure you don’t brown the beef before cooking. I think the directions say to but it tastes better if you add it raw and cook all together.

    • ManFood
    • 3 stars

    Congratulations!

    Out of the top 3 recipes for Cincinnati Chili on Google, you’re the only one who gets that the beef is slow boiled, not browned in a skillet!

      • Terri Baer

      That is how my Mom always did it. Ground beef is not browned but cooked in water. I’m making this today!

    • Kenzie
    • 1 star

    Nope. This ain’t it folks 😣

    • Greyson
    • 5 stars

    You got pretty close for not being from Cincinnati yourself. You kinda got the “ways” right but the dog isn’t involved in the “ways” it’s:
    Chili Coney
    Chili&Cheese Coney
    Or simply a Coney with mustard and onion, that will get your best taste. It sounds complicated but really it’s not and boy is it wonderful!!!

      • Rebecca
      • 4 stars

      Cincinatti girl… totally agree. I was about to post this same comment!!! I was going to say if you order a “— way” you will get spaghetti, not a Coney. Too funny. This is a good effort does look more like gold star which seems to have more of a tomatoe base and less chili powder. Skyline is more of a brown tone than red and less spicy. They also grind the hamburger after cooking which changes the texture from all other types of chili.

    • Charlotte

    Why two medium onions if you only cook 1/4 cup off them?

    • Rebecca Farmer
    • 3 stars

    To much cinnamon, nutmeg and the other spices. I will try it with less of each and the ACV too.

    • Sheri
    • 1 star

    Waay to much vinegar for my family. Had to throw out.

      • Dee
      • 5 stars

      Deez nuts, sheri

      • sharon

      Mine too…. trying to figure out how to get the strong vineshgar taste gone. Mine was also way tooo watery….

    • Jill

    I’m making this now and it seems extremely watery 2 hours in. It doesn’t seem like chili/sauce at all. Will it thicken in the next few hours in the crockpot? I followed your recipe exactly. Thanks.

      • Chrisy

      Hey Jill! If you’d like the chili to be thicker, try making a slurry. Scoop out 1/4 cup of the more watery part of the chili and whisk it in a separate cup with about 2 tablespoons of flour. Once thoroughly mixed, pour the slurry back in with the chili, mix it together, then check the thickness. Repeat this step until you get the chili thickness you’d like.

    • Roger

    Can this be canned in glass Ball jars?

      • Chrisy

      Hey Roger! I’m afraid I have no experience with canning, so I can’t say for sure 🙁

    • Natalie

    Does this really call for 1/2 cup of chili powder?

    I worried that it will make it too spicy…

      • Chrisy

      Thank you for catching that, Natalie! I just double checked my notes, it should be 1/4 cup. I’ll update the recipe right now.

    • Debbie Morris

    Do you cook the ground beef before you place it in the water?

      • Chrisy

      Hey Debbie! For authentic-style Cincinnati, no, the ground beef is not cooked before putting it in the water.

    • Dianna

    You didn’t say when to add cooked onion and garlic! It’s on standby..lol…I added to cooker…

      • Chrisy

      So sorry about that! This is what I get for typing late at night 😀 Those go in the crock pot at the same time as the rest of the other ingredients. I’ll update the recipe right now.

        • Cortney Cline

        You also didn’t explain why I just chopped two entire onions when the recipe only calls for 1/4 cup of them.

      • Pam Greer
      • 5 stars

      I love Cincinnati Chili! I had no idea about all the different versions. But I like mine with everything!

      • Sandra Shaffer
      • 5 stars

      Hints of chocolate and cinnamon? Wow, that’s a delicious combination! Adding this on top of a hot dog would be delicious. I’m excited to try some of your other suggested options as well!