Cincinnati Chili

Every city it seems, has its signature dish.  In Boston, it’s that eponymous Cream Pie; in Baltimore, it’s crab cakes. For Philadelphia, it’s cheese steak, and in Saint Louis, toasted ravioli.  In my home town, rich in culinary traditions, it could be any number of dishes, from gumbo to jambalaya, to po’boys and muffulettas, to beignets and pralines.

Here in Cincinnati, chili carries the day, with residents swearing their allegiance to one of two local brands.  Just as I-75 divides the city into East Cincinnati and West, chili divides the city between Gold Star and Skyline.

But after two months living here, I still had not tried either of the nearly ubiquitous chili shops.  So when Caitlin came to Cincinnati a few weeks ago, we decided to make our version of Cincinnati chili.

I say our version because true Cincinnati chili is usually served over spaghetti. We omitted the spaghetti and added some maple-roasted squash, befitting the fall season.  Though I can’t speak to Gold Star or Skyline, our Cincinnati chili was delicious!

Cincinnati Chili

PREP TIME: 30 minutes
COOK TIME: 40 minutes
YIELD: Serves 6

1 butternut squash, peeled, chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 acorn squash, peeled, chopped into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Vegetable oil
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup low-sodium broth
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 heaping tablespoons semisweet chocolate
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
Avocado (optional)


1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the squash, oil, syrup, salt, and pepper.  Mix well, so that the squash are well-coated.  On a baking sheet, roast for 30 minutes, flipping the squash after 15 minutes.  Allow to cool.

2.  Meanwhile, heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Coat the pan with  vegetable oil, and add the turkey.  Cook for three minutes, stirring to crumble. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and  sauté for three minutes. Stir in all the spices and tomato paste, and cook for one minute.  Add the broth, beans, and tomatoes, and bring to a boil.  Once it boils, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.  Remove from the heat, and stir in the chocolate, salt, and roasted squash.  Top with avocado or shredded cheese.


One response to “Cincinnati Chili

  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog. The donut eyeballs are indeed fantastic, and I love the looks on people’s faces when they see them LOL

    That said, beautiful job on the Cinci chili! My ex was from Cinci, and I recall the two ways, three ways etc..cheese, spaghetti and all those fixings 🙂 Nice idea to serve it with yummy maple squash!

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