Cincinnati 5 Way Chili Recipe, My Way

Photo by Sally's Trove
Photo by Sally's Trove

If you are from Cincinnati, or if you search online for Cincinnati 5 way chili, you will find that my version of this spicy and hearty chili recipe may draw fire from purist Cincinnati 5 way gourmands. However, I stand by this recipe because I learned it from my Ohio family, and as far as I’m concerned, if they say it’s Cincinnati 5 way, then God love ‘em, who am I to argue?

I discovered this recipe at my Aunt Katie’s house in a small Ohio town whose name will remain undisclosed to protect its existence as a vital manifestation of what we can only envision as the dream of rural small-town American living. To get a hint of this magic, take a look at annemaeve’s HubPages avatar. That little building in the field is where my great-grandfather went to school.

It was Aunt Katie’s daughter Ann, after whom my daughter is named, who introduced me to her version of 5 way. With heartfelt thanks to my awesome cousin, and only one or two apologies for minor digressions from her recipe, I present Cincinnati 5 way chili, my way.

What Does 5 Way Mean?

The basic bowl of chili is the first way.  The remaining four ways refer to the additions of cheese, freshly chopped onion or scallion, sour cream, and rice. Inherent in the name of this recipe is the idea that you can pick and choose how you want to enhance that basic bowl of chili.

I do need to say here that the Cincinnati gourmand’s 5 way version uses spaghetti pasta instead of rice and does not include beans in the basic chili bowl. But remember, this is my way.

The Beautiful Jalapeño Pepper

Photo by Brybs at sxc.hu
Photo by Brybs at sxc.hu

The Basic Chili Ingredients

1 Pound (450 grams) ground beef

1 Cup (240 ml) diced onion

1 ½ Cups (350 ml) diced green bell pepper

* 3 Cups (700 ml) canned red kidney beans, drained

* 4 ½ Cups (1 liter) canned diced tomatoes

* 3 Cups (700 ml) canned tomato sauce

* 2 Bay leaves

* 2 ½ to 3 Tablespoons (37 to 45 ml) prepared chili powder

* 1 Jalapeño pepper, small to medium, finely diced, seeds removed (unless you want very spicy-hot chili)

* 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) brown sugar

* 1 Teaspoon (5 ml) salt (optional)

6 Garlic cloves, minced

½ Teaspoon (2.5 ml) black pepper, freshly ground

What’s in That Chili Powder?

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of varieties of chili powder including those that are homemade and those that are commercially prepared. As you can guess, the main ingredient is dried, ground chili peppers. Common additions are oregano, cumin, paprika, black and red peppercorns, nutmeg, and cinnamon. If you feel ambitious, try making your own chili powder with Alton Brown’s recipe.

Chili Powder Varieties for Sale

The Basic Chili Cooking Method

Brown the beef in a large cooking pot over medium-low heat. Break the meat apart into tiny crumbs as it browns. When done, drain off the grease and set aside. Transfer the hot cooked beef to a bowl.

Add a tablespoon or two of the reserved grease to the large cooking pot. Cook the diced onions over medium-low heat until they are transparent and turning golden.

Add the diced green bell peppers to the onions and cook over medium-low heat until the peppers are wilted. Return the cooked meat back to the pot.

* Now add all the “starred” ingredients.  

Place a lid on the pot leaving it slightly ajar, and cook the chili for two or three hours on very low heat. You want some of the liquid to boil off so that the chili thickens. Stir occasionally to avoid burning or sticking. The longer it cooks, the better. Slow cooking is the key.

Add the minced garlic and freshly ground pepper, stirring thoroughly, in the last half hour of cooking time.

When the basic chili is done, ladle it up into a large serving bowl and place on the table.

The 4 Remaining Ways

On the table, place additional bowls of:

  • Freshly diced sweet onions or scallions
  • Shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Colby cheese (or all three combined)
  • Cooked hot rice flavored with butter and salt
  • Sour cream

Let your guests make this a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 way chili, as they desire.

Try a Chili Dog

Chili isn’t just for eating out of a bowl. The next time you are in the mood for a grilled hot dog on a toasted bun, spoon chili on top of the dog and add some mustard, chopped onion, and grated cheese.

Accompaniments

On a separate plate, serve a fresh green salad with your dressing of choice. Russian dressing is good. It’s got a sweet and tart taste that complements the spice of the chili.

Crusty bread, toasted with butter and garlic, is another nice accompaniment. But even better would by Mary Lyles Wilson's southern skillet cornbread, fresh from the oven and slathered in butter.

Don't forget the beer.

Follow Your Nose

Should you ever find your way to that special town in the middle of the Ohio cornfields, sniff the air for the rich aroma of Cincinnati 5 way chili and follow your nose to Aunt Katie’s house.

Recipes appearing in Sally’s Trove articles are original, having been created and tested in our family kitchens, unless otherwise noted.

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Comments 57 comments

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for a super recipe. Thank you for sharing.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

This sounds so good. I love Chili. Honestly never heard of putting rice in it before. I'm gonna have to try it.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Hello, hello, thank you so much for reading and commenting. It's my pleasure to share. :)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

alekhouse, you got me laughing, because now I'm wondering why my Ohio family doesn't make corn, instead of rice, one of the 5 ways. They sure grow enough corn out there, and to the best of my knowledge, there are no rice fields. I think I'll try corn next time, and then let Aunt Katie and Cousin Ann know what I think about that. lol


Cathy profile image

Cathy 6 years ago from Oregon, USA

Yummeee! My stomach's growling. The rice is a great idea. I've put it on noodles before and tortilla chips. Great winter comfort food. Fun camping, too. - cathy


annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 6 years ago from Philly Burbs

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm... I'm having mine 4 ways tonight. No scallions for me! It IS odd that we don't put all this over corn... but corn wouldn't absorb all the slimy melted sour cream goodness quite as well as rice does. Would gnocchi be too much?

Great hub! I want a road trip to an unspecified midwestern town now!!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Oh, oh, oh, Cathy! Tortilla chips! You've given me a great idea. I like to lay out a big microwave-proof glass dish of tortilla chips, sprinkling grated cheese and diced onions into layers of the chips. Why not the chili, too? Awesome. Sort of like super nachos. Sounds like some guacamole might be in order here as well, on the side.

Thanks so much, Cathy. So nice to see you.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

annemaeve, gnocchi is over the top. Put that underneath tomato sauce. On the other hand, it's just another version of the Cincinnati spaghetti. Hmmmm, thinking. We will make that next road trip.

Love you, love your avatar, and respect your avoidance of diced onions.


sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 6 years ago

As with all your recipes ST, I shall hand this over to my wife and let you know the results soon, although I have some inkling already. Thanks for sharing.


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 6 years ago from India

They eat chili in Ohio?!!! I thought only the doughty people closer to the Mexican border had the gumption to eat spicy stuff! :P

For an Indian who thrives on spicy food, your recipe doesn't sound too fiery but it has my taste buds tingling anyway! I love the idea of adding cheese, and I guess the rice neutralises the effect of the jalapeno peppers! Maybe I should try to make it? :)


Linda Myshrall 6 years ago

Bookmarked and CAN NOT wait to try it. It looks like it will be delicious. Thanks, Linda


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Sabu, since you are continuing to enjoy reading my recipes, I think it's time for you to do some of the cooking and give your lovely wife a break! :) Thank you, always, for the good words.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

FP, they eat chili all over the USA and I'm sure in Canada, too. It's a mainstay cold-weather meal, especially popular fare for football parties where guys sit around the TV and drink a lot of beer to wash the chili down.

I think my recipe would be very mild for your tastes, so I hope you'll share with me how you doctor this recipe once you make it. Hmmm, then maybe you can write a Hub featuring "5 Way Chili the Indian Way"!

It just occurred to me that a mildly flavored kheera dahi might be a delicious substitute for the sour cream. What do you think?


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Linda, you are so welcome. You'll love it!


FlyingPanther profile image

FlyingPanther 6 years ago from here today gone tomorrow!!

YUMMYYYYY, I love chili sally! And yes I did have it a few times with rice it is out of this world. Again my friend great hub and Thank you for sharing with us. I hope to hear from you soon!


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 6 years ago

my dear friend,

This needs to go on the menu when I come out for my visit. I don't believe I've ever had your chili.

I agree about the beans. As you know, I love all beans, and chili without beans is just, well, meat sauce :)

I have had chili over rice and it's delicious. Can't wait to try yours.

The added plus here is you will have me to do my assigned job, chopping :)


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 6 years ago from India

ST, you continue to amaze me! How did you hear about kheera dahi? And it's quite an interesting idea. Let me see if I can come up with an Indian version! :D


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

FlyingPanther, thanks so much for your continuing support. I love your comments, especially since you are such an accomplished chef. I'm always pleased that you like my stuff!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Trish, you said the magic word--chop! My knives, chopping boards, kitchen table, and coffee pot are dedicated to you. I agree completely about chili without beans--meat sauce. Well said.

Feline, I've actually made it from a recipe sent to me by a friend, to accompany a biryani. The idea of the dahi with the chili appeals to me because it is lighter than sour cream and has the fresh, cooling taste of the cucumber. But I'm going to wait to try your test chili version first!


FlyingPanther profile image

FlyingPanther 6 years ago from here today gone tomorrow!!

sally, Like your stuff!?! I love your stuff LOL,and my dear friend I will always support that great work you are doing on hubs!

Love.

FlyingPanther


Jaspal profile image

Jaspal 6 years ago from New Delhi, India

Good to read another recipe of yours Sally ... and, like the previous ones, it makes my mouth water!

Somehow it reminded me of Burmese khowsuey, though that is very much different ... probably the method of serving, mix and make it your way, is common to both.

Gotta try this one, it doesn't seem to be too difficult!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Jaspal, you got my curiosity going about Burmese khowsuey, and I found a number of recipes (along with the history) on the web, any of which I can experiment with. True, the ingredients are different than those in the chili, but the idea of making it "My Way" is the same. Thank you.

This chili recipe is not difficult, but you may want to wait for Feline's version, which I am sure will not be as tame as mine.


manlypoetryman profile image

manlypoetryman 6 years ago from (Texas !) Boldly Writing Poems Where No Man Has Gone Before...

Chili...with multiple added ingredients...Can't go wrong with that. Enjoyed reading on 5 way Chili...and especially learning how they enjoy their chili up in Cincinnati!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

You put a smile on my face, manlypoetryman, with the reference to Cincinnati being "up". To me, it's sort of across, and then I saw that you are in Texas.

Please keep in mind that my 5 way is not necessarily Cincinnati's 5 way, and that you in TX would make this dish a whole lot spicier.

Thanks for reading and commenting.


2patricias profile image

2patricias 6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Pat writes - very different from how I learned to make Chilli in Nebraska. But different can be good! Might give it a try. (Wish I hadn't planned tuna casserole for tonight.)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Pat, there must be thousands of versions of chili, don't you think? I'll bet yours is fantastic, just like mine. ;p And I love tuna casserole, btw. It's one of those easy, old fashioned, comfort foods. I could go for some of that tonight! Thanks, always, for reading and commenting.


lovelypaper profile image

lovelypaper 6 years ago from Virginia

Yummy. That sounds goooood!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, lovelypaper.


proudgrandpa 6 years ago

I was born and raised in Cincy and 5 way Chili at Skyline Chili is probably responsible for my Cholesterol meds now.

HOWEVER, you nailed it. A lady of lesser culinary prowess would have left out the Brown Sugar. Way to go. Thanks for making me hungry AGAIN. NEIL


Video Express profile image

Video Express 6 years ago from Boston, MA

I can't wait to try it. I love Chili.


blognuts profile image

blognuts 6 years ago from San Francisco

thanks for sharing! cant wait to try it!


Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 6 years ago

I am going to bookmark this one. It looks easy. I have had a craving for chile.


RGraf profile image

RGraf 6 years ago from Wisconsin

Sounds good except for the spice. Me and heat do not get along.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Neil, your words mean a great deal to me, coming from Cincy as you do and also being the awesome person and proud grandpa you are. My family's great cooks have always improvised, and I was a tad bit concerned that this improvisation on C5WC might be too far off the mark. Thanks so much for your affirming words. May your cholesterol be under control, but may you always have a bowl of great 5 way whenever you really, really want it.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Video Express, blognuts, and Tammy, thanks so much for reading and commenting. It's a very easy recipe, and the kitchen smells so good when the meat and onions are cooking.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

RGraf, I know what you mean. I am not a fan of really hot spicy foods. However, there are some pepper combinations that put warmth in your throat and not fire in your mouth. This chili recipe showcases one of them. In fact, you could add a half-teaspoon of freshly ground white peppercorns to the mix already up there, and still not get fire in the mouth. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

I got all the ingredients! I'm making this tomorrow night!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

You're gonna love it, habee!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis

Hi Sally: I read this quite some time ago, commented, and guess I forgot to post it. Anyway, I love trying all kinds of chili and have never have Cincinnati 5 way. Can't wait to try it. I too like my chili served over rice, and we must leave the seeds and membrane in the jalepeno, otherwise, you're just adding more bell pepper, in my opinion. And I like it hot!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Chris, did you hear about the German school boys who decided to have a chili sauce drinking contest and wound up hospitalized? It was in the news recently, I'll have to go find a link.

I'm a chili pepper weenie, no doubt about it.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting. It's wonderful, always, to hear from you.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

Hi Mam, are you making me hungry -- I am now, seems yummy to me, nice and now I understand the 5 hehe,I love rice as well, I am an Asian, Maita


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

I wish we had more of a variety of rice here in the US at a reasonable cost. Basmati, for example, is so expensive and hard to find, that I use it only for special occasions, when I can find it. Mostly, for Americans, rice is just rice. But it isn't, is it?

Now you are making ME hungry! Thanks so much for reading and commenting.


Harvey Stelman profile image

Harvey Stelman 6 years ago from Illinois

Sally,

Cincy chili is boring; chile was not meant to be sweet. You should attend a chili cook-off in Texas, that's where chili originated.

You had better watch out, they take their chili very seriously. If you think you've had "HOT SPICY" food, you haven't until you've tried Texas Chili.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Well, Harvey, to each his own. The nice thing about American chili is that it has freedom of expression. :)

Thanks so much for reading and commenting.


Harvey Stelman profile image

Harvey Stelman 6 years ago from Illinois

Sally,

Texas Chili expresses itself much better, ha.


Lgali profile image

Lgali 6 years ago

thanks for sharing nice recipes


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

You are very welcome Lgali. Nice to see you!


cbris52 profile image

cbris52 6 years ago

I love a good bowl of chilli and will most definitely be giving your recipe a try! Thanks so much for sharing.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

And thank you for reading and commenting, cbris52! If you are a heat and spice lover, you'll want to pump up the jalapeno pepper count!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

I love it!!

Having been born & grown on the Texas/Mexico border, I had a fairly fixed idea of what "chili" meant. Tex-Mex Chili. Delicious stuff, too. Then I married someone from Southern Indiana. Their interpretation of what they call "chilla" was so bland, it almost hurt me to eat it, except by thinking of it as meat-bean-macaroni soup – such as might be served in the hospital. There wasn't so much as a flyover of black pepper or chili powder in it, much less any of the wonderful seasonings which make chili - well - chili! Certainly no onion, garlic, cumin, chipolte, jalapeno - well, you get the idea. One of the episodes leading to divorce was when I made it "my way" and refused to apologize OR to say I didn't prefer it! Seriously!

Later I was to experience a bit of improvement, Arizona style & California style chilis. Still didn't supply all that my mouth craved, but at least more tolerable.

Well much later I married a Cincinnati man and on a visit to meet his folks up there, was introduced to Cincinnati 5-Way Chili. I loved it ,- though it was a just a wee bit mild, but it had a real personality of its own - the slightly sweet taste, some obviously more dessert-like spices (maybe it was garam masala - but something in that fall spicy category) - plus those lovely additions one could choose, especially fresh chopped onions & a pasta) – it had me hooked.

Thereafter I made my chili as a sort of hybrid – a bit hotter than Cincinnati's but with those subtle additions (sometimes cloves & cinnamon or garam masala) and the yummy toppings, plus some of my Tex/Mex seasonings. Now I see that in many ways your "MY WAY" variation of 5-Way has the adddions of jalapeno & garlic, along with the cloves (maybe that was what it was I tasted in Cincy) - and bay leaves - that I've never tasted in it - but sounds interesting!

I’m craving some just thinking about it!!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Nellieanna, what a great comment! Or is it a story? :) Just goes to show how even the simplest thing from the pen of a good story teller can so beautifully be made to show its true worth. You have elevated the humble chili to quite a pinnacle. I never thought of adding garam masala, but what a fine idea!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

It is a chili type of day here, with early winter moving in! Great recipe and I'm sure my family will love "5-way chili" ;-) Cheers!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

It definitely is a kids' favorite, Steph. Part of the appeal is that they get to pick and choose what they want to put on top or underneath. :) Enjoy!


rorymullen profile image

rorymullen 5 years ago from Maine

Amazing Chili recipe. I enjoy my chili with chicken beef and sausage mixed in with onions and green peppers and corn. Mix in some homemade seasoning and some garlic. I slow cook the beans until they are semi soft and then mix them in. I continue with the overall slow cook and enjoy some of the best chili there is.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

rorymullen, thanks for sharing your chili version and preparation method. For sure, chili recipes are like snowflakes...no too are exactly alike!


2patricias profile image

2patricias 3 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

This looks delicious, and the ingredients can all be obtained in England.

I am adding this to my Recipe Index for HubPages.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 3 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

2patricias, what a wonderful tool your HP recipe index is! It's a great way to find dishes based on ingredients and cooking styles. I'm looking forward to seeing it expand, but meanwhile I have it bookmarked for easy reference. Will be sharing on FB.

Thanks so much for including my Cincinnati 5-Way Chili Recipe. :) Up and very, very useful.

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