A little while ago, I went for a walk with a friend of mine who brought up one of her husband’s favorite meals – Skyline Cincinnati Chili. Although I’ve never eaten authentic Skyline Cincinnati Chili, I made a version of it a few years ago and the kids seemed to like it, so this time around, I reached out to friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook and asked for their favorite recipes.
There are some spices that everyone seems to agree goes into Cincinnati Chili, like chili powder, cinnamon and allspice. Then there’s the unsweetened chocolate or cocoa that gives the chili a nice deep richness, and vinegar to give it some tang. Some recipes use tomato sauce, others use tomato paste. Some people add ground cloves. One friend suggested adding some vanilla. Cayenne or black pepper also add some heat. One recipe added some steak sauce, another used barbeque sauce, and others use Worcestershire sauce. As for the cooking method, some recipes called for browning the meat first, others said that was a big no-no – that the meat should be cooked in water to give it a softer texture. Most people agreed that the key to an authentic Cincinnati Chili was the texture of the meat – it should not be chunky, but should be fine.
So, off I went to take all the bits and pieces that I picked up from different recipes to come up with my East Coast rendition. Although traditionally, Cincinnati Chili is served over pasta with optional toppings of warm Red Kidney Beans, Onions and Shredded Cheese, I decided to throw the beans in with the chili because I wanted to make sure my kids didn’t opt-out of this topping. I broke with tradition the first time I made this, using ground chicken instead of beef. To get the fine texture that everyone was talking about, I cooked the ground chicken in water first, then pulsed it in my food processor a few times before adding all the spices and sauces. Since this chili needs to be cooked for a long time, I let it simmer away in my crock pot all day for the flavors to develop.
The second time I made this, I used organic lean beef (90%) and did not need to pulse it in the food processor. Although the original Skyline Chili is high in fat and calories (I’m guessing the beef used is higher in fat and the fat may not be strained off; also, pictures I’ve seen of Skyline Chili are piled high with cheese), this version is a lighter version. Not only did I use leaner cuts of meat, but I strained the juices off after cooking the meat, leaving behind most of the fat. In addition, by using extra extra sharp cheddar cheese (from Trader Joe’s), which packs a lot of flavor into a smaller portion, you can use less and still get that intense cheddar flavor. I shredded my own cheese using a fine shredded disk on my food processor (so much better than the pre-shredded cheese you buy from the store). Of course, portion size plays a big part as well, so I was also mindful of the amount of pasta I served this with (the kids got bigger portions).
According to Calorie Count, one serving of 5-way Skyline Cincinnati Chili has 790 calories, and is not only high in fat, but extremely high in sodium too. By watching portion sizes, using leaner cuts of meat and serving the chili with a modest amount of cheese, you can substantially improve the nutritional profile of this popular chili dish.
One serving of this skinnied down Cincinnati Chili made with ground chicken and served with 1 cup cooked gluten-free pasta and 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese has 540 calories, 14.6 grams fat, 4.9 grams saturated fat, and 767 mg sodium. If you like more cheese, just know that doubling the amount of cheese per serving to 1/4 cup will add 50 more calories, 3 grams fat, and 90 mg sodium. Made with 90% lean ground beef, one serving would have 600 calories, 100 calories less than if you use 75% ground beef.
Skyline serves their chili five different ways so you can choose your favorite toppings (or not):
1-way: Chili only
2-way: Chili served over spaghetti
3-way: Chili served over spaghetti with grated Cheddar cheese
4-way: chili served over spaghetti with grated Cheddar cheese and onions
5-way: chili served over spaghetti with grated Cheddar cheese, onions, and beans
I served this “Skyline” Cincinnati Chili 5-ways, along with a big green salad and a bowl of raspberries for dinner. For an even healthier meal, try serving this chili on top of quinoa or a baked sweet potato.
This chili would be great for Super Bowl – it’s different from your typical chili, a little sweet and tangy, but oh so good. And, don’t forget to check out the Skinny Philly Cheese Steak Dip and Healthy Italian Sub/Hoagie Dip recipes that I posted earlier this week – these dips will satisfy the foods people crave for Super Bowl without all the fat and calories.
For more Super Bowl recipes that are on the healthier side, check out these recipe roundups:
Healthy Chili Recipe Roundup, Jeanette’s Healthy Living
A Super Healthy Gluten-Free Super Bowl Recipe Roundup, Tasty Yummies
A Healthy Super Bowl Sunday Recipe Roundup, The Spicy RD
Have A Low Carb Gluten-Free Super Bowl, All Day I Dream About Food
25 Super Bowl Recipes – Cookin’ Canuck
Healthy Super Bowl Recipe Roundup – This Mama Cooks
Healthy Super Bowl Recipes & Menu Ideas – Danica’s Daily
Today, Food Network and a group of bloggers is featuring Chili for this week’s Comfort Food Feast event. Please stop by and see what everyone made:
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Crock Pot Cincinnati Chicken Chili
The Heritage Cook: Gluten-Free Green Chile and Chicken Taco Bowls
The Cultural Dish: Crock-Pot Chili
Big Girls, Small Kitchen: Healthy Chicken Chili With Barley
What’s Gaby Cooking: Smoky Chipotle Chicken Chili
Feed Me Phoebe: Chicken and White Bean Chili
Dishin & Dishes: Lean Mean Game-Day Chili
The Lemon Bowl: Beef Chili With Black Beans
Devour: 4 Twists on Chili for the Super Bowl
Thursday Night Dinner: 3 Most Favorite Chili Recipes
Mooshu Jenne: Pinto Bean Chili
FN Dish: 7 Chili Recipes for the Big Game
More Cincinnati Chili Recipes:
About.com Cincinnati Skyline Chili (a friend who lives in Cincinnati referred me to this recipe)
What’s Cooking America Cincinnati Style Chili
Cooking Light Cincinnati Turkey Chili and Cincinnati Five Way Chili
Bunkycooks Cincinnati Chili
What’s Cookin’ Chicago Cincinnati Skyline Chili