Skyline Chili

25 Feb

Cincinnati fans of kefi- today is your day.

photo (1)

BFKef and I had some friends over for dinner a couple Sundays ago and, as we were in the middle of another unbearably cold snap, decided on chili and biscuits for the menu. BFKef demanded that we try something meatier and spicier than my go-to pumpkin chili, and I immediately thought of the friggin’ awesome chili I once made with the Cooking Club at the youth center where I used to work. Those younguns loved some damn spice and meat, so I knew it would be a hit with BFKef, as well.

What I didn’t realize (but obviously should have) was that this delicious Midwestern tradition is actually another culinary gift from–who else?–  Greeks!

Everyone who has ever been to the Nasty ‘Nati raves about the bold, spicy flavor of Skyline chili and the unique way it’s served, but no one ever told me that it was created by a Greek immigrant. Add it to the running tab of things things my people have given the world. Democracy, Socratic method, baklava, and… the Midwestern equivalent of Ben’s Chili Bowl. Not bad for a dozen centuries’ work.

We made a meaty and a veggie version, plus gluten-free and gluten-filled biscuits. I wasn’t crazy about either result for the biscuit, so I’ll leave that out. Enjoy.

Skyline Chili


  • 2 lbs lean ground beef (if you’re into that whole omnivore thing)
  • 4 beef bouillon cubes (for meat version- no sub for veggie version)
  • 4 c water (for meat version)/ 4 c vegetable broth for non-meat version
  • 1/4 c chili powder
  • 1 TBS garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp red pepper (trust me- even 1 tsp has a kick!)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3 unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 TBS white vinegar
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) of dark red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) of black beans, drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) white beans, drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce (the can, not the jar)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1-2 TBS olive oil
  • shredded cheese, to taste
  • sour cream, to taste

1. With meat: in a large pan, heat the water and bouillon cubes over medium heat. Add the beef in small handfuls. Cover and eep the water at a low simmer (do not boil!) for about 30 minutes.

2. For both versions: heat oil in a saute pan over med-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft and fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Combine all the spices in a side bowl, mix, and then add the spices to the onions. Mix well and cook for another minute or so. Add tomato sauce and the bay leaf and give another good mix.

3. In a large soup pot, combine the tomato/onion mixture with beans and the meat broth OR 3-4 cups vegetable broth. Add vinegar, mix well.

4. Leave to simmer until desired consistency is reached- I love a dark, smoky chili so we left ours over the lowest heat for hours. This chili is even better if you let flavors set overnight- but who really has time for that? Serve warm with cheese and sour cream. Cincinnati-style spaghetti optional 🙂

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