Five-Way Chili

According to David Rosengarten, author of It’s All American Food, this dish was invented in 1922 by a northern Greek immigrant who wanted to “bring all kinds of Old Country spices into chili.” He decided to layer other things with the spiced chili, creating five different options or ways (hence the title of the recipe) to eat the dish. One-way chili is the spiced chili by itself; two-way chili is the spiced chili on top of spaghetti noodles; three way chili adds cheese; four-way chili adds chopped raw onions; and finally, five-way chili tops it all off with beans.

Unusual? Maybe a little. Delicious? YES. 

Cincinnati Five-Way Chili

Yield: 8 servings


  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 (1 oz) square unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound spaghetti, cooked
  • Garnishes: shredded cheddar cheese (optional), finely chopped onion, kidney beans (drained and warmed)


  1. Grind the coriander seeds in a spice grinder, or put them in a plastic bag and use a blunt object to break them up. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, paprika, cayenne, cloves, nutmeg, and mustard seeds. Set aside.
  2. In a large soup pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add beef and brown, breaking up into small crumbles. I like to use a plastic utensil that looks kind of like a potato masher to do this.
  3. When beef is browned add onion, garlic, and the spice mix that you set aside earlier, and cook for 1 minute longer.
  4. Add the tomato sauce, water, barbecue sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, chocolate, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  5. Simmer uncovered for about 1 hour. You may have to stir occasionally, as the mixture gets  heavier and can stick to the pan.  Remove bay leaves before serving.
  6. To serve: divide spaghetti among bowls or plates. Top with chili mixture, and cheese, onion, and kidney beans. 

Source: Adapted from It’s All American Food by David Rosengarten


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