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Four-Way Cincinnati Chili

Warning! Warning! This is definitely not your typical chili recipe. If you’re dead-set in your chili-making ways—and they don’t include the use of cocoa or cinnamon—this may not be the recipe for you.

I’ve been hearing praises about this sauce-like chili from certain friends and family, but I was understandably skeptical because it’s served on top of spaghetti and includes a variety of spices more commonly found in desserts. And the fun doesn’t stop there. You also have to choose which “way” you like your chili by adding one or more of the classic toppings: onion, cheese, oyster crackers, or kidney beans.

I decided that my way is four-way chili, topped with onions and vegan soy cheese (the chili and spaghetti count as the other two ways). Stick with me here, because much to my surprise, the first bite did not leave me gagging. It left me craving more because of the richness and depth of flavor in this unique chili recipe.

My leftovers are destined to become part of a vegan “Coney”—the veggie dog, Cincinnati chili, and soy cheese wonder that’s served on sliced bread instead of your traditional hot dog bun. I guess the choice of bread really isn’t that surprising, since there’s not much about Cincinnati chili that is traditional.


Cincinnati Chili

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 12-oz. pkg. frozen veggie burger crumbles
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce
16 oz. cooked spaghetti
Shredded soy cheese (optional)
Diced white onion (optional)

  • Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté the onions until tender. Mix in the veggie burger crumbles and garlic and cook until the crumbles are no longer frozen.
  • Stir in the tomato sauce, water, vinegar, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, allspice, light brown sugar, cocoa, and hot sauce.
  • Heat over medium-high heat until the mixture begins to boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until thickened.
  • Serve over the cooked spaghetti and top with soy cheese and/or onions, if desired.
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  • Joe says:

    And for the truly lazy vegetarians like myself you can buy pre-made Cincinnati chili spice packets. Add it to veggie crumbles and bob’s your uncle.

  • Chili Recipe says:

    Amazing! Just when I think I’ve tried every chili recipe there is, I stumble across this one. I haven’t used cinnamon and cocoa together in a recipe so I’m anxious to see how it goes. I may add a few chopped jalapenos to give it a bit more heat.

  • IdaLupino says:

    this looks really good – it might be a good entry on the Cat Cora: Chef to the Rescue recipe challenge – it is sponsored by MorningStar and mostly about veggie food this year.

    The chili contest ends in early march but they have other ones thru spring:

    Chili : 2/18 – 3/2
    Quick veggie meals (30 min or less) : 3/3 – 3/16
    Salads : 3/17 – 3/30
    Southwestern (Tex-Mex?) veggie : 3/31 – 4/13
    Asian veggie food : 4/14 – 4/27
    Grilling/veggieburgers : 4/28 – 5/11

  • Angela says:

    The only thing I can “add” to this recipe, that I KNOW to be true, is that REAL Cincinnati Chili is made by BOILING the “meat” and onions (and all the rest)… NOT browning them…

    Background info on me:

    Having spent 6 formative years in Cincinnati, I definitely fell in love with “Cincinnati Chili”, and missed it during the first 18 years of being vegetarian. But a few years ago I researched the recipe and have been making a vegan-version ever since. YAY!

  • Sherri says:

    I loved seeing Cincinnati Chili on I am born and raised in Cincinnati and have always loved our chili. I would love to add that if you are a vegetarian and visit us here, Skyline Chili has great Beans & Rice chili and burritos! Enjoy!

  • charlie says:

    My brother inlaw is a vegetarian and i never know what to make him when he comes over to watch a game. I tried this and didn’t tell anyone but him that it was a vegetarian dish. It went over great.

  • joel says:

    i was on a plane last night in front of someone from Cinci talking about 3- and 4-way chili. i’d never heard of it before.

  • Jaclyn says:

    I am very eager to try out this recipe. I have always loved chili over spaghetti. YUM!

    I love the veggie crumbles but they have so much sodium! My boyfriend has high blood pressure, so when cooking, I’m always aware so sodium levels.

    I think if I fed him veggie crumbles in any meal, he would literally go to the hospital because of the high sodium content. What I do is I put them in a colander (is that the right word for those drain-your-spaghetti-things?)and give them a real good rinse. The veggie crumbles will start to lose some of its color, since you are rinsing off some of the flavor. But no worries, once you add them to your dish, they regain their color!

    I hope my tip helps! There is just way too much sodium in those things.


  • Trial Vegetarian says:

    How exciting! I am a newbie with the vegetarian way, and I just thought of the Chili that I would be leaving behind. Thank you so much for the entire recipe. I’m used to cooking it from the Cincinnati Packets which contain things I’ve never even heard of. I can’t wait to try it out.

  • Almost Vegetarian says:

    Okay, I shamelessly, wholeheartedly, and totally love the spaghetti bowl.

    It made me start what is promising to be an overwhelmingly busy week with a smile.

    It just doesn’t get better than that, does it?!


  • Mitchell Surface says:

    And the results are in…

    I made this this evening and it was quite tasty. I think I’ll reduce the amount of vinegar the next time but it was very enjoyable. Thanks again Amy!

  • Mitchell Surface says:

    Amy! I love you! I keep meaning to veganize a 5-way chili recipe but never get around to it. I am *so* making this this weekend! Thank you!

    P.S. Do I get extra points for gratuitous use of exclamation points?