Stern's Cincinnati-Style Five-Way Chili
PREP TIME: 90 Minutes


In Cincinnati, chili bears no resemblance to the con carne style seen in Texas and most of the rest of the world. Here, chili is a layered meal, normally served in a large oval bowl. The chili sauce is often ladled over spaghetti and then topped with a spicy, sautéed ground beef mixed with kidney beans. The whole bowl is then topped off with mounds of grated cheddar and garnished with oyster crackers.


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup thick barbecue sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ ounce unsweetened chocolate, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • tomato juice, as needed
  • 9 ounces spaghetti, cooked and lightly buttered
  • 1 (16-ounce) can kidney beans, heated and drained
  • 1 pound cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • oyster crackers (garnish)

Brown meat with half the chopped onion and the garlic, stirring to keep it loose. (Set the remaining onion aside to top the chili when it’s done.) Drain any fat from the pan. Add barbecue sauce and water and bring the mixture to a boil. Add all spices. Cover pan, reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The chili will thicken as it cooks. Add tomato juice as necessary to create a brew that ladles up easily. Allow the chili to "rest" at least 30 minutes in a covered pan at room temperature. (Chili can be refrigerated and reheated to serve.) To serve, put a layer of spaghetti on each plate, top spaghetti with hot chili, then a few beans, then the reserved chopped onions (to taste). Pat on the cheese so the chili’s heat can begin to melt it. Serve immediately with oyster crackers.

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