Cincinnati Lamb Chili





Now that the weather is starting to turn, or supposed to be anyway, we finally can get to some comfort food and this is one of my favorites, Cincinnati Chili.  For those of you who thought chili was strictly a southwestern dish that Texans and Arizonans feuded over you are in for a treat.  The story of Cincinnati Chili, made famous by the world recognized Skyline Chili which now boasts restaurants all over Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, begins with a Greek immigrant who wanted to incorporate the tastes of his native country.  Cincinnati Chili is a bit different than what many of you might be used to.  First, there are no beans although you can add them if you want to the recipe or as a garnish.  Most versions use a bit of chocolate or cocoa to enhance the flavor but we will skip that in my recipe.  Lastly, most Cincinnati Chili recipes will use ground beef instead of ground lamb but I remember many days going to the food courts in Grand Central Station and ordering the Cincinnati Lamb Chili at the now defunct Manhattan Chili Company and I got hooked.  I always prefer the taste of lamb to beef so out first Chili entry will be made with ground lamb.

Cincinnati is the first city in this series I’ve yet to visit which is a shame.  I had a great aunt who lived there her entire adult life and loved raising her family there.  Of course, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been able to sample some of the good stuff at a Skyline Chili Restaurant in another part of the great state of Ohio.  Believe me it’s worth the stop.  Our chili recipe is very similar to what they serve at Skyline and of course it’s served over spaghetti and not rice as I suggest.  After all this is a Mediterranean dish not a Southwestern.  I also use some of toppings they use at Skyline although cheese is always the key topping for any chili.  Because we use lamb instead of beef I do not recommend the more traditional Cheddar but it works fine if that’s your preference.  So, get that chili pot simmering on the stove this weekend while you take in some games and get ready for some great easting during the second half!





2 TBSP Olive Oil

2 lbs. Ground Lamb

2 medium Yellow Onions finely chopped

4 Garlic Cloves finely chopped

Salt, to taste

Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste

2 TSP Dried Oregano, divided

2 TBSP Tomato Paste

3 TBSP Red Wine Vinegar

1 15 oz. can Crushed Tomatoes

6 cups Lamb or Beef Stock or Water

¼ cup Dark Brown Sugar

3 TBSP Pure Chili Powder

½ TSP Cayenne Powder

1 TSP Ground Cinnamon

½ TSP Ground Allspice

¼ TSP Ground Cloves

1 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce



  1. In a large stock pot heat the Olive Oil over medium high heat
  2. Add the Ground Lamb and brown a bit while breaking up the meat. About 5 minutes.
  3. Add the Onions and cook another 10 minutes or so until the Lamb is brown and the Onions are soft
  4. Season the Lamb and Onions with Salt, Pepper, and 1 TSP Oregano
  5. Make a well in the middle of the pot and add the Tomato Paste. Stir into the Lamb and Onions and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add the Vinegar and cook for 1 minute longer
  7. Add the Tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes
  8. Add the Stock or Water and raise heat to high
  9. Add the Sugar, Chili Powder, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Allspice, Cloves, 1 TSP Oregano, Salt, Pepper, and Worcestershire and stir
  10. Heat to boil and then cook on very low simmer uncovered for about 2 ½ hours until desired consistency. Add more Stock or Water if needed or cook longer if too watery.  You want the Chili to be able to simmer at least 2 ½ hours for the flavors to blend.


Serve over Cooked Spaghetti.  Top with any combination of; Shredded Provolone or Asiago Cheese, Chopped Red Onions, Red Kidney Beans, Scallions.


My recommendations in BOLD type


WINE PAIRING:  This is a Mediterranean dish as I keep mentioning so you could certainly drink this with a red wine.  However, it’s still chili so I would still recommend your favorite Beer or Ale.  Even a fruity beer or ale would go nice with this recipe.  If you only drink wine I would suggest a nice Tuscan Red Table Wine which is usually a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other regional grapes.

Author: Steve Melchior

I am a lover of many eclectic things; food, wine, art, music, travel, sports, movies, literature and of course The Grateful Dead. I combine all these interests into great ideas for food preparation and entertaining with friends and family.

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