Copycat Skyline Cincinnati Chili

Homemade copycat Skyline Cincinnati chili… unique and flavorful, this regional delicacy is easy to make at home for way less than the restaurant charges!

Have you ever had Cincinnati chili?  It’s totally unique, and NOT like a traditional chili, but it’s an absolutely delicacy here in the Midwest.  It’s also really easy to make at home, freezes wonderfully, and can be served in so many ways!

Copycat Skyline Cincinnati Chili | Unique and flavorful, this regional chili is rich, meaty, packed with spices, and can be served in so many ways!  Try Cincinnati's spin on chili! | | #dinner #cincinnati #chili #copycat #homemade #easyrecipe

It’s no secret that I adore hometown things… no matter where I live in this life, I will always be a Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals, and University of Cincinnati fan.  I will always prefer the auto-mechanic in the small town I grew up in, Graeter’s Ice Cream is the BEST, Montgomery Inn has the BEST ribs, Larosas Pizza is divine, and Skyline Chili is the one chili that will truly always have a place in my heart.

In case you couldn’t tell… I grew up in the suburbs of Cincinnati!  For those of you who haven’t been here, or don’t have a clue what I mean when I say Cincinnati chili… let me tell you, it is NOTHING like any chili you’ve had before.  To most people, chili is something like this.  For us Cincinnatians… this is our chili:


Copycat Skyline Cincinnati Chili recipe three way

A meat sauce full of unique seasonings that is served on top of spaghetti and topped with cheese (which we call a 3 way… no, not THAT 3 way, you dirty one you!), and sometimes onions and/or beans will be added with the cheese (4 or 5 way).  Another classic way we enjoy this chili is on top of a hot dog, with some mustard and onions and a mound of cheese.

Copycat Skyline Chili Cheese Coney

That delicious looking dog is called a coney.  And they are heavenly… seriously.

Some of you are probably looking at your screen thinking, “woman, you are crazy.  Chili doesn’t go on noodles or a hot dog!”

I know, I know… the term chili is confusing, because this dish is completely different… but wonderful (as most Cincinnatians are as well!).  I urge you to try it, at least once.  Most people who try it, love it 🙂  If you don’t like it, then call me a crazy woman and go back to your usual chili.

Classic Skyline chili recipe three way with oyster crackers

Around here, you can buy Skyline (and Gold Star) chili in cans, packets, and frozen trays.  Which is convenient, but p-r-i-c-e-y!  So I wanted to find a recipe that starts from scratch… for a few reasons.

  1. The price.  I’m a cheap you know what, and refuse to pay that much for one can of chili.
  2. I don’t want the preservatives and whatever is in those packets.
  3. The most important reason… unless you live here, you probably won’t be able to find those cans, trays or packets in your grocery store.  Bummer huh?  Everyone should be able to enjoy this fabulous chili, no matter where you live!

It’s really simple to make too, just add water, tomato paste and chocolate to a large pot and cook over medium heat for a few minutes.  That’s right, you read that correctly… chocolate.  Not the milk chocolate we all love to snack on mind you, but unsweetened 100% cacao bakers chocolate.  My turkey chili uses this chocolate as well!


Add your spices, vinegar, and your beef.  Crumble it using your fingers, then use a potato masher, whisk, or mash the beef against the side of the pan.  Basically you want the meat all broken up into fine pieces.  I mainly used the fork and went to town with my whisk.  Get mad at it, break up that meat! 🙂

Now just bring it to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and let it cook, uncovered for 1 – 1 1/2 hours (you want a low boil).  It will thicken up and become a wonderful meat sauce.  And the smell that fills your house…. incredible!!

Big pot of Cincinnati chili simmering

It’s up to you how you would like to serve up your chili… do you want coneys?  A “way”?  Or just chili in a bowl with cheese and oyster crackers?  It’s your house, your rules!  I typically go for “ways” and coneys.  Remember, here’s the breakdown.


  • 2-way = spaghetti and chili
  • 3-way = spaghetti, chili, cheese
  • 4-way = spaghetti, chili, onions OR beans, cheese (my fav is with onions!)
  • 5-way = spaghetti, chili, onion AND beans, cheese


  • Bun, hot dog, chili
  • Bun, hot dog, chili, cheese
  • Bun, hot dog, mustard OR onion, cheese
  • Bun, hot dog, mustard AND onion, cheese (my fav!!)

Breakdown collage of Cincinnati chili 4 way

Traditionally, people top their “ways” with oyster crackers and hot sauce.  They’re great additions, I use them both 🙂  For your coneys, the traditional way is a hot dog with mustard, diced onion, chili and cheese… but you can omit either or both of the mustard and onions if you prefer.  Psssst… this chili is also fantastic over crispy french fries or even a baked potato!!  I’ve also got a great party dip recipe coming up that uses this chili… people go crazy over it!!

Twirl of Cincinnati Skyline chili on fork

This chili season, I hope you give this non-traditional Cincinnati chili a try!  Let me share this piece of my hometown with you all… I think you’ll LOVE it 🙂

Here are some other versions of chili to try too!

Cincinnati chili cheese coney on plate




Copycat Skyline Cincinnati Chili | Unique and flavorful, this regional chili is rich, meaty, packed with spices, and can be served in so many ways!  Try Cincinnati's spin on chili! | | #dinner #cincinnati #chili #copycat #homemade #easyrecipe
5 from 15 votes
6 -8 servings
Copycat Skyline Cincinnati Chili
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
1 hr 35 mins

Homemade copycat Skyline Cincinnati chili... unique and flavorful, this regional delicacy is easy to make at home for way less than the restaurant charges!

Calories: 226 kcal
Author: The Chunky Chef
  • 5 cups water
  • 6 oz can of Tomato paste
  • 1/2 oz baking chocolate (unsweetened - I use Baker's brand)
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or less, depending on your desired heat level
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 lb lean ground beef
  1. Add the 5 cups of water in a large pot.  I like to use my dutch oven for this.

  2. Add the tomato paste and chocolate and heat over medium heat stirring to combine for about 3 minutes. (I stir with a whisk to really break up the tomato paste)

  3. Add chili powder, cinnamon, garlic powder, cumin, allspice, cloves, red pepper flakes, black pepper, salt, sugar and vinegar.

  4. Next, crumble the raw ground beef into the pot with your fingers, then use a potato masher, whisk or fork to break up the meat into very fine pieces.
  5. Turn heat to high to bring to a boil.
  6. Once boiling, turn the heat down to med-low.
  7. Cook, uncovered, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, at a low boil.. stirring occasionally until sauce has thickened quite a bit.
  8. Serve over thin spaghetti or a hot dog.
Recipe Notes

Optional toppings include shredded cheddar cheese, diced white or yellow onion, kidney beans, oyster crackers and hot sauce.

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Copycat Skyline Cincinnati Chili | Unique and flavorful, this regional chili is rich, meaty, packed with spices, and can be served in so many ways!  Try Cincinnati's spin on chili! | | #dinner #cincinnati #chili #copycat #homemade #easyrecipe

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51 comments on “Copycat Skyline Cincinnati Chili”

  1. When’s dinner, I’m there! Nothing better on a cold Winter’s Day!

  2. Delicious! I love about any kind of chili and find it fascinating how it varies every where.

  3. I LOVE Cincinnati Chili! I’m excited to now have a recipe to make it myself- looks amazing!

  4. My mom suggested putting the ground beef in cold water for about 30-45 minutes, worked like a charm! Didn’t have to break up the beef at all. 🙂

  5. I’ll try anything once but I’m afraid my whole family didn’t like this chili. Guess we’re spoiled to the chili with beans and cornbread or in a frito pie. The spices were just to overwhelmingly different. Wish someone liked it so I didn’t have to waste it ..:(

  6. YESSS! This looks SO good- I think I could eat an entire batch in a single day. Okay, don’t tell anyone I said that. But it really looks THAT good!

  7. I LOVE Cincinnati Chili. It is so unique and tasty! Can’t wait to introduce my family.

  8. This chili looks absolutely delicious!

  9. I’ve always wanted to visit Cincinnati and try this chili! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to try it at home!

  10. This chili looks so good! I was sold when you said it was served over spaghetti!!

  11. I haven’t heard of this before and it sounds awesome!

  12. This looks so yummy! Need to try it!

  13. This looks like Skyline, but does it truly taste like Skyline? I will be trying this recipe because I am an avid Skyline fan and can’t wait to try it.

  14. I went to school out in Cincinnati area (Miami Univ) for two years coming from Boston. When I first heard about Cincy chili I was “what the heck? That’s not chili!” But after awhile and trying Skyline Chili, I loved it. My husband worked at Skyline for awhile while finishing grad school and would always bring leftovers home. I do miss it.

  15. I haven’t had a chance to try this yet, but I will soon. Looks like a great recipe. I loves me some Skyline, and really just any Cincinnati chili. So yeah, I definitely look forward to this. Thanks! Your site has been bookmarked!

  16. Ok, just had two bowls. It was a huge success with the family…. my 1 year old crushed it. The flavor was almost on point, seriously close. So close that it literally transported me to the first time I ate Skyline. I do think the salt needs to upped. I found myself salting each serving.

    Bravo. This is a great wintertime meal, and is incredibly flavorful for how simple it is.

  17. Thank You Chuncky Chef we will Definitely try this version because I agree the store price is ridiculous. Just came back from visiting Cincy my hometown and Skyline is always on my “to do List” . Skyline is definitely a MID west thing, you would have had to grown up on this type of chilli to truly understand it and how much you would miss it once you realized you can’t just go to a Skyline drive thru and pick it up anytime you want.

  18. Thank you! I love Skyline. I miss it too! I’m introducing Alaskans to this chili and it’s a hit! My daughter was born in Ohio and of course has been eating this since she was small! This is great!!!

  19. Delicious. My family loves Skyline chili. I thought it was spot on. Will definitely be making this again.

  20. I can’t wait to make this tonight. I used to drive a semi truck and I always looked forward to Skyline when I was driving through Ohio.

    Seeing as I am from Canada, I’d have to drive about 3 hours to find Skyline in a can…And coming out of a can does this chili no Justice! Now, just have to find oyster crackers somewhere around me and I’m set!( I can’t find them in Canada either. BOO!)

  21. I made this chili last weekend and it was everything I thought it would be! I made corn bread to go with it and it totally hit the spot. This recipe will now have a permanent place in my recipe book. Thanks!

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  29. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Ohio in general but I’ve always loved Skyline chili.

    A couple of caveats though. Don’t worry about melting the chocolate first just put everything together the tomato paste, water, spices… Then add the hamburger breaking up with your hands. You can make it smaller that way. I always wear latex glove whenever I’m dealing with raw meat but that’s a personal thing you could use your bare hand if you want to LOL.

    Then go ahead and start heating it up add the chocolate and stir. Also replace one cup of water with a cup of beef stock it makes it … heartier.

    Great recipe though!

  30. Really a 1/4 cup of chili powder I don’t think the jar comes close to a 1/4 cup?

  31. LOVE Skyline chili. A friend from the area introduced me to it when she moved to the Akron area. But you are so right…people either love it or hate it. I told my son to get some when he was working in Cincinnati, and he was NOT a fan!

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  33. This is very similar to what is called Chilli Mac in Illinois at Steak and Shake restaurants.Ingrediants are a little different,but it is servided over spagghetti the same.You can also order it in numbers 1-5 with same options.I make my own at home and everyone who tries it,loves it!!

  34. Thank you for the recipe! I made it with morning star meatless crumbles and it was delicious! We’re in California for work and there is no Cincinnati chili here. It was nice to have a taste of home. Thank you so much! ☺️

  35. A friend made this for yesterday’s Super Bowl party and I thought it tasted familiar. Now looking at the ingredients I see why. It’s got a lot of the same ingredients (chocolate, cinnamon, allspice) that are used in Mexican Mole sauce. Still good!!

  36. I am born and raised an Ohioan…after 55 years my husband and I moved to TN last year. He has mentioned on more than 1 occasion how much he misses Skyline. After paying an obscene amount for the frozen skyline and him not being overly impressed I started searching Pinterest. After reading many of the reviews your recipe seemed like the perfect one to try and PERFECT it is. I can’t wait for my husband to get home tonight to try it. Only changes I made was I used 2 pounds of ground beef and added just a slightly more salt. Great Job

  37. I am from Illinois and never knew that the Chili I grew up on was Cincinnati Chili. And never would have guesses I was a 3-way! But your recipe looked very interesting so I had to try it. Eureka!! Chili like I remember. Even my New York Italian husband thought it was great. It is now in my dinner rotation. Thanks

  38. Love it!

  39. Made it with ground turkey and couldn’t tell the difference… its so so so close… I think its a smell difference rather than a taste difference. My 10 year old helped me (this is his favorite thing ever on earth to eat)… and he couldn’t tell the difference! Great recipe.

  40. Best Skyline recipe ever!

  41. Ate at the Skyline when our daughter went to UC, her favorite place, and your recipe is spot on. Thanks for sharing. 

  42. Ridiculously good!
    Served 2 with pasta cheese and onions and coneys for me!  I did watch the temp and it thickened up quite a bit but just added some water and tomato paste to thin it back out.  I’d have a hard time telling them apart in a blind taste test.  🙂

  43. Good , really GOOD wish I could leave a picture … It was that GOOD