Hearty Slow Cooker Cincinnati Chili

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This Slow Cooker Cincinnati Chili is loaded with rich, savory flavors to create a dish everyone will love. Kick your decision fatigue to the curb and make this chili the next time you need a new meal idea.

This Skyline chili recipe is the epitome of comfort food. The unique seasoning blend and addition of chocolate to this thick, saucy meal make it different from other traditional chili dishes.

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If you are missing beans or more onion found in other chilis, don’t fret, you can top your Cincinnati Chili with generous amounts of either or both! Pile on the shredded cheese to round out this dish and balance the spice.

Using the slow cooker makes preparing this dish a breeze! Simply toss your ingredients into the crock pot, turn it on, and walk away. It’s that simple. Whether you need a hearty dinner on a busy night or are feeding a crowd, this dish is easy to make and customize.

Looking for more easy slow cooker recipes? Try slow cooker country style ribs, Olive Garden gnocchi soup or slow cooker spiral ham for delicious and easy dinners.

What Makes Cincinnati Chili Different?

A major difference between this chili and other alternatives is the overall flavor profile. The unexpected blend of spices and the use of chocolate, cinnamon, and allspice gives this chili a sweeter flavor than traditional chilis.

The lack of beans is the another difference between Cincinnati-style chili and traditional chilis. While beans can be added or served on the side, they are not commonly included.

🥘Ingredient Notes

For exact amounts needed see the recipe card below

  • Ground Beef— Use lean ground beef fully cooked with the fat drained.
  • Onion—White or yellow. Finely chopped.
  • Tomato Sauce—To add some sweetness to the dish.
  • Unsweetened Baking Chocolate—Boosts the meat’s natural flavor and is the secret ingredient in Cincinnati chili.
  • Spice Mix—An aromatic combination of spices includes chili powder, cinnamon, garlic powder, cumin, allspice, cloves, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
  • Sugar— A bit of sugar helps balance the dish’s acidity by adding extra sweetness. Use white or brown sugar.
  • Vinegar—Amplifies the flavor of the spices and helps infuse the flavors together.
  • Optional Toppings—Shredded cheese, red kidney beans, diced onion, and spaghetti noodles.
labeled ingredient photo for slow cooker chili

🥣How to Make Slow Cooker Cincinnati Chili

  1. Brown the ground beef: You must brown and drain it before adding it to the slow cooker. You can do this ahead of time and refrigerate it until time to make the chili.
  2. Mix: Add all ingredients to your slow cooker and stir until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  3. Slow cook: Cook on high until the chili is bubbly and heated through about 2-4 hours. The chili can cook on low heat for 4-6 hours.
  4. Add toppings: Top with optional toppings, like cheese, onions, and beans.
Chili before cooking.
Before slow cooking
Chili after cooking.
After slow cooking

🍴Serving Ideas

It is traditional to serve Skyline chili in “ways.” The number of ways determines the toppings you get.

  • 2-way chili: Served over spaghetti noodles.
  • 3-way chili: Served over spaghetti noodles with piles of cheddar cheese.
  • 4-way chili: Served over spaghetti noodles with cheddar cheese and onions.
  • 5-way chili: Served over spaghetti noodles with cheddar cheese, onions, and beans.

Of course, you can add whatever toppings you like to a big bowl of chili, such as sour cream, fresh avocado, or hot sauce. I also like to serve this with freshly made cornbread or oyster crackers.

This homemade chili is an excellent topping for baked potatoes, hot dogs, or potato skins. No matter how you serve this chili, it will be a hit and become a family favorite recipe.

Closeup of slow cooker Cincinnati chili topped with cheese and beans.

💭How to Store

While I doubt you’ll have much leftover chili, you can store your leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Or you can keep this chili in the freezer for up to 4 months.

If you are freezing your chili, it should be thawed in the fridge overnight and then heated on the stovetop for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Refrigerated chili can be reheated in the microwave for a few minutes.


Be sure to check out the step by step instructions

  • Once your chili has finished cooking, you should avoid keeping the crock pot on the “warm” setting for extended periods. This can cause the chili to lose too much liquid and dry out.
  • Make sure you drain the ground beef as much as possible to avoid adding too much moisture to the chili.
  • While chocolate may seem unconventional, it is a great way to amplify the natural flavors throughout the chili.
  • Use a crock pot liner for easy cleanup.
Easy Cleanup
Reynolds Kitchens Slow Cooker Liners, Regular (Fits 3-8 Quarts), 6 Count
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topping a hot dog with Chili and cheese.


Can I use ground turkey instead of ground beef?

Of course! Ground turkey makes a great healthy alternative to ground beef. While the texture might change slightly, the flavor will not be significantly affected. Either way, cook the meat thoroughly before adding it to the crock pot.

Can I prepare this chili ahead of time?

If you are short on time, you can prepare this dish ahead of time by cooking the beef and combining the ingredients in a large airtight container. Store the chili in the fridge for up to 24 hours before cooking it in the slow cooker. If you aren’t short on time but would like to deepen the flavor of chili, this is a great way to do it.

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plate of Cincinnati chili topped with cheese, beans and onions.
4.25 from 8 votes

Slow Cooker Cincinnati Chili Recipe

Published By Anne
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time6 hours
Total Time6 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 6
Print Save Rate Pin


  • 2 pounds ground beef browned and drained
  • 1/2 onion diced fine
  • 1 cup water
  • 12.5 ounces tomato sauce 1 can
  • 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/4 cup chili powder 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar

Traditional Toppings

  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Red kidney beans
  • Diced white onion
  • Cooked spaghetti


  • Combine the browned beef, onion, water, tomato sauce, chocolate, chili powder, cinnamon, garlic powder, cumin, allspice, ground cloves, red pepper flakes, black pepper, salt, sugar, and vinegar.
    2 pounds ground beef, 1 cup water, 12.5 ounces tomato sauce, 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate, 1/4 cup chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1/2 onion
  • Stir it all together and cook on low for 4-6 hours or high for 2-4 hours.
  • Serve over hot dogs or spaghetti noodles.
  • You can serve this in many ways, just on the noodles, topped with kidney beans, onions, and a generous serving of cheese. Any combination of those is equally delicious.
    Shredded cheddar cheese, Red kidney beans, Diced white onion, Cooked spaghetti


  • Depending on your slow cooker, this can either get thick or thin, so if it gets too thick, add a splash of water. If you want it thicker, add a tablespoon of cornstarch to ¼ cup cold water until you get your desired thickness.
  • Use a crock pot liner for easy cleanup.
  • Store this chili in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • This is the perfect freezer meal. Place it in a freezer gallon bag or airtight freezer container in the freezer and enjoy this delicious chili anytime!

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Nutrition Information

Calories: 576kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 107mg | Sodium: 3359mg | Potassium: 2405mg | Fiber: 13g | Sugar: 23g | Vitamin A: 5511IU | Vitamin C: 42mg | Calcium: 157mg | Iron: 11mg

Nutrition facts are estimates.

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top view of Cincinnati chili on a plate with lots of cheese.

Hi, I’m Anne!

I love to cook and I want to share my recipes with you. I believe cooking should be approachable and fun, not a chore. I want to make simple recipes using everyday ingredients that you can make again and again, whether it is for a busy weeknight, a summer cookout or a special dessert. Read more...

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