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! | https://www.thechunkychef.com | #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:

MY LATEST RECIPES

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!

chili

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.

CINCINNATI CHILI “WAYS”:

  • 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

CINCINNATI CHILI CONEYS:

  • 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


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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! | https://www.thechunkychef.com | #dinner #cincinnati #chili #copycat #homemade #easyrecipe
Print
4.7 from 36 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
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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! | https://www.thechunkychef.com | #dinner #cincinnati #chili #copycat #homemade #easyrecipe

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58 comments on “Copycat Skyline Cincinnati Chili”

  1. Thanks a million, I live in Richmond, Virginia, and with relatives in Columbus, Ohio. I discovered a love for this stuff when I went to the Skylind parlor in Kings Island whilst on the way to visit them.

    Skyline Chili was sold at my local Kroger in cans, and frozen until earlier this year, it was pricey but it was good, and now I don’t have any way to get my chili fix. Thank you so much kind sir.

  2. How long do you recommend this can be stored(frozen) for? 

  3. This was DELICIOUS!!! I would say pretty much a spot on clone of Skyline…added a little hot sauce because… well its Skyline! We love our Skykine here in the Midwest. 😍
    Thanks for this recipe!

  4. It’s a HOT, sticky summer night here in the Midwest, but for some reason I was hankering for chili. We have a place here in Milwaukee called “Real Chili” that is essentially Cincinnati style. (there is even some debate that ‘ours’ is the original version of this style.) Anyway, it has been a MKE staple for 75+ years now and the place to go for late night eats. Always excellent. BUT, what hasn’t been so excellent is how much they are charging for it nowadays. The last time my hubby and I went it cost us almost $40 for 1.5 servings each. I can’t justify that price for some greasy college food, but it’s so good!
    This morning I came upon your copycat recipe and decided to give it a try. I just finished eating a serving and it did not fail to satisfy my craving! It was delicious. Hubby is still on the fence.. he says it’s not exactly like R.C., but it’s pretty darn close. (sigh) He ate it all though and tomorrow after it sits overnight, I’m sure it will be even better for lunch. Thank you for sharing this recipe. I’ll be making this again and again for sure!

  5. My kids are not huge fans of Skyline because they find it too spicy, so I toned down the red pepper flakes and my entire family loved it. Will be making this often!! As you noted, it is so much more cost-effective to make it ourselves than drive through the Skyline drive-thru!

  6. Amazing recipe!! It’s almost robbery what they charge for can or freezer chili. Another tip that I use with the ground beef is use your potato masher to stir it while it’s simmering. Breaks it apart more and more each time. Thank you for putting the recipe out.

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

  8. 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.  🙂

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

  10. Best Skyline recipe ever!

  11. 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.

  12. Love it!

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. 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!!

  16. 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! ☺️

  17. 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!!

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  19. 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!

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

  21. 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!

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  29. 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!

  30. 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!)

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

  32. 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!!!

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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!

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

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

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

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

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

  42. This chili looks absolutely delicious!

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

  44. 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!

  45. 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 ..:(

  46. 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. 🙂

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

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

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