Cincinnati Chili is also known as Coney Chili and Greek Chili. Cincinnati Chili is not made like a traditional western style chili, yet it is one of the most popular chili recipes of them all. The flavor is completely different than Southwestern Chili.
There is no chile powder or spicy chile peppers of any kind in Cincinnati Chili! Technically, this means that Cincinnati Chili is not a real chili. By definition, real chili has to be made with Southwestern chile peppers. So what is Cincinnati Chili? It is stewed ground beef that is highly seasoned with Greek spices.
The Cincinnati Chili recipe has its origins in Greece, Armenia and Macedonia cuisines. There are many traditional meat recipes that are made in those countries that share the same spices that are used to make Cincinnati Chili. The spices used to make Cincinnati Chili are nearly the same as what is used to make Moussaka.
The original recipe for Cincinnati Chili was created by a Greek immigrant in America about 75 years ago. The Greek immigrant operated a street vendor food stand. He wanted to create a unique new kind of street food that had a Greek spice flavor, because Middle Eastern and Greek street food was popular back in those days. It took several years for him to perfect his chili recipe. His successful Cincinnati Chili recipe venture soon led to the opportunity to open a restaurant, which is still open to this day in Cincinnati.
The original Cincinnati Chili recipe is a secret recipe that has never been published. Many chefs have been able to figure out the recipe. It helps to have a background in Mediterranean cooking or Greek cooking when figuring out the spice mix.
The cooking technique for making Cincinnati Chili is not what one would expect. The ground minced beef is only gently simmered in water, instead of being browned in a skillet. Basically, this chili is prepared like a meat slurry.
Cincinnati Chili was originally created as a cheap yet profitable street vendor style food. The amount of meat in the chili is usually low and the chili looks like it is diluted with water. Cheap street vendor style diluted runny Cincinnati Chili is what many folks settle for, but increasing the proportion of meat will increase the appeal.
Ketchup was originally invented to be used as a cooking sauce. Ketchup is what gives Cincinnati Chili a slightly zesty flavor. Chocolate or cocoa powder is also on the ingredient list. Cinnamon is a key flavor in this recipe.
There is no mention of mint being used to make Cincinnati Chili from historical accounts, but mint is required for some of the other kinds of street vendor style Greek Chili that are found in the northeast. The main thing to keep in mind is that absolutely no spicy chiles or chile powder are in this recipe. Not even paprika! However, many folks do add green bell pepper to the recipe.
This recipe yields 3 to 4 portions, depending on the application.
Cincinnati Chili is rarely served on its own. It is usually served with macaroni or spaghetti pasta. Cincinnati Chili os also used to top hot dogs.
Step 1: Place 1 pound of ground beef in a wide sauce pot. (Cheap ground beef with 15% fat is best for this recipe.)
Add enough water to cover the ground beef with 1" of extra liquid.
Step 2: Place the pot over medium/medium low heat.
Use a whisk to break up the uncooked ground beef. No pieces of ground beef should be clinging together. The ground beef and water should look like a wet slurry.
As the water and ground beef starts to gently boil, skim the excess grease off of the liquid.
Gently boil till most of the grease is released and the ground beef is about 3/4 fully cooked.
Step 3: Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Add 3 tablespoons of very finely minced onion.
Add 3 tablespoons of finely chopped green bell pepper. (optional)
Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced garlic.
Add 3 tablespoons of minced canned whole plum tomato and a proportion of the tomato juice from the can.
Add 1/3 cup of organic ketchup.
Add 1 teaspoon of yellow mustard.
Step 4: Add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon.
Add 1 tablespoon of cumin.
Add 1 teaspoon of allspice.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg or mace.
Add 1 teaspoon of marjoram.
Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Step 5: Add 3 tablespoons of fine chopped dark bitter chocolate or 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
Stir the chocolate into the chili as it melts.
Step 6: Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
Gently simmer for about 45 minutes. Add water if the chili becomes too thick too soon.
Step 7: Allow the chili to simmer and reduce to a medium thick consistency. (Or just serve it runny like most street food venders do!)
Keep the Cincinnati Chili warm over very low heat. (Or refrigerate the Cincinnati Chili and reheat it when it is needed.)
Plain Cincinnati Chili Presentation:
Ladle about 1 1/2 cups of the Cincinnati Chili into a soup bowl.
Serve with Oyster Crackers on the side.
The flavor of Cincinnati Chili is indescribable, unless Greek food is part of your daily diet!