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This homemade copycat recipe for authentic tasting Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili will become a quick and easy family favorite. The sweet and savory sauce is spiced with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and garlic, all infused with beef hamburger and tomato sauce.

The chili is served piled high on top of a big plate of spaghetti, then traditionally topped with cheddar cheese, beans, oyster crackers, diced onions, and shredded cheese. It’s a delicious recipe your entire family will enjoy.

Authentic Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili on a plate with cheese and crackers on top

Cincinnati Chili History: Coming To America

Cincinnati-style chili was born when brothers Tom and John Kiradjieff left Macedonia, to start their new lives in America. They brought with them their Macedonian recipes with the traditional combination of spices and opened a restaurant on October 24, 1922.

They named it Empress Chili Parlor. They boldly created their own version of chili using the spices of their homeland. They sold chili dogs, chili spaghetti, coffee, cigars, and some grocery items. 

Since their location happened to be right next to the Empress Burlesque theater the restaurant was provided a steady stream of customers. “The Empress” became the model that later chili parlors would follow. Many of their friends came to American and working at the chili polar became their first job in America.

What is Cincinnati chili like today?

There have evolved many different variations of the original chili. It is typically a type of chili con carne characterized by the use of seasonings such as cinnamon, cloves allspice, and sometimes chocolate.

It is usually an all-beef chili that is simmered with water or broth, a tomato base, and a unique mixture of savory and sweet spices and seasonings. It is commonly served over spaghetti or as a hot dog sauce.

Also, it’s normally a thin, sauce-like consistency, unlike most chili con carne. The most famous restaurant today that serves Cincinnati chili is called Skyline Chili. Skyline began as a chili parlor on Glenway Avenue. This restaurant overlooked the Cincinnati skyline, inspiring the name of the parlor.

Why Cincinnati Chili Is A Great Dinner Idea

  • Using an electric pressure cooker helps infuse all the spices and meat flavors together much faster than traditional stovetop chili.
  • After many trials and taste tests, I have found what seems to be the most authentic combination of flavors, like what you would purchase at the Skyline Chili restaurants today.
  • This is a great recipe to serve guests because many people have never had the Skyline Chili they now serve in the Ohio area. I have served it many times, and people always comment later on how surprised they were by the dish and how much they liked it. It’s the perfect medley of unexpected spices in chili.
  • This easy recipe got the attention of South Your Mouth, I guess everyone loves a good bowl of chili, no matter what part of the country you live in.

🛒 Ingredient Notes

ingredients for cincinnati chili copycat
  • Ground beef: You will want to use an 80/20 meat to fat ratio. The fat enhances the flavor, but don’t worry. You can easily remove the excess by chilling the chili after it is done cooking in your Instant Pot.
  • Seasonings: Always be sure your seasonings are fresh. If they have been in your pantry for more than 6 months then they will start to lose their flavor and strength to season your recipes
  • A-1 sauce – I personally buy store brand for this and it works just fine.
  • The original recipe had kidney beans as a topping, but for my recipe pictures, I used pinto beans that I canned myself. My hubby does not like kidney beans due to the fact he was forced to eat them as a child in traditional chili; bad memories. Black beans would also be a good choice if you prefer.
  • I have found it is better to use garlic powder instead of fresh cloves garlic for the copycat version. The skyline chili does not have a noticeable garlic taste.
  • The same goes for onion powder vs raw onions. The powder is more subtle.
  • Be sure and use a combination of white sugar and brown sugar.

⭐️See the recipe card for a complete list and quantities.

💭 Tips for making the recipe

The original restaurant boils the meat right in the sauce and leaves the fat in it. This gives it the fine meaty constancy that makes it like the original. I personally feel that is too much fat so for this Instant Pot Skyline chili recipe, I do a lower fat version and boil the hamburger in water and then drain all the water and fat off of it.

🔪 Step by step instructions

  1. Add your ground beef to the Instant Pot pan. Turn the Instant Pot to the saute function. Cook hamburger in the pink is gone. It should take 7 to 8 minutes. Be sure to stir several times throughout the cooking process. The hamburger should be small and crumbly.
  2. Turn off the sautee feature and spoon out any grease. Then use paper towle to blot up any excess. Discard the paper towel.
  3. Add the seasonings, tomato paste, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt, black pepper garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, paprika, and A-1 sauce. Stir well to mix in all the seasonings.
  4. Add the liquids, tomato sauce, white vinegar, and water. Stir so all the ingredients are blended together evenly.
  5. Lock on the lid, bring the Instant Pot to high pressure and cook time for 30 minutes. When the time is up let the pressure come down naturally. Unlock the lid.
  6. Serve over cooked spaghetti noodles and toppings of your choice.
  7. Combine all spices into a large bowl and mix thoroughly into lean ground beef.

💭 Tips for making homemade Skyline Chili

The original recipe for Skyline chili hamburger has a very small crumble consitancy. I use a Heat Resistant Meat Chopper.

How to serve

One of the most memorable parts of eating this chili is the ordering process. No, it’s not just a bowl of chili, you have decisions to make, and you must know the Cincinnati Chili language. You step up to the counter and tell them how you want it. 

The traditional way to serve the chili is two-way, chili over spaghetti, but you must decide if you want cheese, onions, or beans added to the chili.

Also, don’t forget hot sauce and oyster crackers are served on the side with each plate. 

  • Two-Way: Chili on top of spaghetti
  • Three-Way: Chili on top of spaghetti with tons of cheese shredded on top
  • Four-Way: Chopped onions are added to the three-way
  • Five-Way: Beans added to the four-way
  • Coney: Vienna sausage or hot dogs with mustard, topped with chili, onions, and cheese on a steamed bun

Original Recipe Questions

Is there Cocoa in Cincinnati chili?

There is no cocoa in Cincinnati chili. The original owner, Mr. Lambrinides died in 2015 at 87, and the recipe had been locked away until then. Even franchise owners weren’t allowed to know what’s really in the chili. However with the concern for allergies these days, an owner let it slip; there is no chocolate or cocoa powder in the recipe.

What makes Cincinnati chili different?

What makes it different is the way the meat is cooked and the spices used. Cincinnati Chili has a thinner consistency with very small pieces of hamburger throughout. Also, the spices are sweet because the recipe was created by a Greek immigrant using his native spice blend of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

Authentic Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili on a plate with cheese and crackers on top

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Authentic Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili on a plate with cheese and crackers on top
5 from 2 ratings

Quick Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili; Skyline Copycat

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
boil hamburger: 10 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 10
This homemade copycat recipe for authentic tasting Instant Pot Cincinnati chile will become a quick and easy family favorite. The sweet and savory sauce is spiced with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, garlic all infused with beef hamburger and tomato sauce.

Note: Be sure to read through the recipe’s post for tips and details about this recipe.

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Ingredients
 

Instructions
 

  • Add your ground beef to the Instant Pot pan. Turn the Instant Pot to the saute function. Cook the hamburger until all the pink color is gone. It should take 7 to 8 minutes. Be sure to stir several times throughout the cooking process. The hamburger should be small and crumbly.
  • Turn off the sautee feature and spoon out any grease. Then use paper towle to blot up any excess. Discard the paper towel.
  • Add the seasonings, tomato paste, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt, black pepper garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, paprika, and A-1 sauce. Stir well to mix in all the seasonings with the cooked hamburger.
  • Add the liquids, tomato sauce, white vinegar, and water. Stir so, all the ingredients are blended together evenly.
  • Lock on the lid, bring the Instant Pot to high pressure, and cook time for 30 minutes. When the time is up let the pressure come down naturally.
  • Unlock on the lid and serve over cooked spaghetti and toppings of your choice.

Notes

How to serve
The traditional way to serve the chili is two-way, chili over spaghetti, but you must decide if you want cheese, onions, or beans added to the chili. Also, don’t forget, hot sauce and oyster crackers are served on the side with each plate. 
  • Two-Way: Chili on top of spaghetti
  • Three-Way: Chili on top of spaghetti with tons of cheese shredded on top
  • Four-Way: Chopped onions added to the three-way
  • Five-Way: Beans added to the four-way
  • Coney: Vienna sausage or hot dogs with mustard, topped with chili, onions, and cheese on a steamed bun
Serving: 2cups, Calories: 359kcal, Carbohydrates: 17g, Protein: 21g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 81mg, Sodium: 832mg, Potassium: 657mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 822IU, Vitamin C: 8mg, Calcium: 46mg, Iron: 3mg
Cuisine: American
Course: Soup
Author: Gina Dickson

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Update Notes: This post was originally published in 2014, but was republished with new photos, step-by-step instructions, and tips, in October of 2021.

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