HomeBilly-O Cooks Billy O’s Skyline Chili

Billy O’s Skyline Chili

Posted in : Billy-O Cooks, Recipes on by : Bill Atkinson Tags: , , ,

Skyline Chili 15 oz. canI was introduced to Skyline Chili when a co-worker asked if I wanted to buy some cans of Skyline chili on her trip to Cincinnati. When I asked what was so special about Skyline chili. She explained that it tastes like no chili I’ve ever had before and is beloved by almost every Cincinnatian. (See history below recipe.)

When she brought back several cans for me to try, I immediately went home and served myself a can. It looked like a can of meat product as there were no beans and the meat is finely ground. The smell of the chili and its unique blend of spices permeated my entire house with smells of cloves and cinnamon. At first I was wondering if this was a bad idea. But after eating a bowl of it I immediately went for another, this time over spaghetti noodles and I was immediately hooked on the unique taste.

Since then I have been addicted to Skyline chili. Going so far as to order cases and cases of Skyline chili from Cincinnati. But it’s expensive stuff. So my wife and I began to develop our own recipe and I think we have it pretty close.

TOTAL TIME 3 hours
PREP 30 mins
COOK 2 hr 30 mins


  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 2 cups white onions (diced)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce or Soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons chili powder
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (according to Dann Woellert, author of The Authentic History of Cincinnati Chili, “There is no chili parlor in Cincinnati that uses chocolate in its chili.”
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 4 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground red pepper or 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder.
  • 3-4 bay leaves


  • chopped onion (optional)
  • finely shredded cheddar cheese (certainly NOT optional)
  • kidney beans (optional)


In a large pot, add 1 1/2 quarts of water, and immediately add 2 lbs. of ground of beef to the cold water. Begin stirring the mixture in a back-and-forth motion vigorously to break apart the ground beef and fat until the ground beef is cooked and broken apart as much as possible without any chunks. Add beef stock. Let mixture boil for 30 minutes, covered.

skyline chili 1skyline chili 2

Finely dice 2 white onions and the minced garlic cloves, add to pot. Add 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce, add Worcestershire or Soy sauce, add vinegar. Stir.
Add chili powder, cocoa, cinnamon, cumin, salt, red pepper, allspice, cloves, garlic powder and bay leaves. Stir and let simmer, uncovered for 2 hours until water evaporates, stirring every 20 minutes.

Skyline chili 24

(Note: Some recipes call for refrigeration of the chili overnight and then scooping off the excess grease from the top of the pot. But if you use lean ground beef there is very little fat/grease left over anyway.)

Top it all off with cheese any onions or in the “ways” mentioned on the Skyline chili diner menus:

  • Two-way: spaghetti topped with chili
  • Three-way: spaghetti, chili, and cheese
  • Four-way: spaghetti, chili, onions, and cheese
  • Five-way: spaghetti, beans, chili, onions, and cheese
    Oyster crackers are usually served with Cincinnati chili, and a hot sauce such as Tabasco is frequently used as an optional topping.

Skyline chili 3 way

Have you made this recipe?
Do you have any tips or tricks to share?
We want to hear from you! Leave us your feedback and reviews below.


Skyline Chili is a chain of chili restaurants based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Founded in 1949 by Greek immigrant Nicholas Lambrinides.
Skyline Chili is unique in that it is not the meat dish that originated in (and is the state dish of) Texas. Instead, Cincinnati-style chili contains a unique spice blend that gives it a very distinct taste. Officially, the recipe for Skyline Chili is a well-kept family secret among Lambrinides’ surviving children. However, many Skyline patrons believe that the unique taste of Skyline Chili comes from chocolate and cinnamon, spices common in Greek cuisine’s meat dishes.
“Cincinnati-style” chili is sold by several chili parlors in the area including Empress, Dixie, Gold Star Chili, Camp Washington, Chili Time, Price Hill Chili, Dawson’s School House of Chili, and other chili parlors.