Learn how to make a homemade version of Instant Pot Cincinnati chili - a Mediterranean American fusion meat sauce - served over hot spaghetti or linguine and topped with shredded cheese and pickled onions. Bring a taste of this iconic diner dish to your family and friends. Please note, this is an adaptation of a classic dish with ingredients you have at home so it's not exactly the same you might get at a diner (e.g. we used red onions instead of white and linguine over spaghetti as that's what we had around).
Cincinnati chili meat sauce is a great recipe to cook in the Instant Pot as you can throw in all the ingredients and set to cook and forget for a while. The sauce is usually slow-cooked for a long time but the pressure cooker speeds up that process resulting in equally rich and well-developed flavors in a fraction of time.
What is Cincinnati Chili?
Cincinnati chili is a rich and hearty meat sauce similar to a regular chili con carne or a Bolognese with added spices of cinnamon and allspice, Worcestershire, lots of tomato paste, a touch of vinegar and in many cases some dark chocolate. Made with ground beef, this sauce is braised for a long time and cooked down to thick, aromatic, complexly and beautifully flavored chili.
It was developed by Macedonian Greek immigrant restaurateurs in the 1920s but has gained so much popularity over the years that it is now considered one of the most iconic foods in America. The dish is the Cincinnati area's best-known regional food, and that's where it has drawn its name.
HOW TO SERVE CINCINNATI CHILI
In chili parlours and diners, the Cincinnati chili is usually served using the "ways" system:
- Two-way: spaghetti topped with chili
- Three-way: spaghetti, chili, and grated cheese
- Four-way onion: spaghetti, chili, raw onions, and cheese
- Four-way bean: spaghetti, chili, beans, and cheese
- Five-way: spaghetti, chili, beans, onions, and cheese
Some places will serve the dish "inverted": cheese on the bottom, so it melts. The Cincinnati-style meat sauce can also be served on hot dogs with mustard, onions and a heap of cheese.
In our recipe, we are serving Cincinnati-style meat sauce over cooked linguine pasta, topped with a mix of Cheddar and Parmesan cheese (you can use any style cheese you like or have) and lightly pickled red onions. which is a nice twist on raw onions but you can keep it simple.
HOW TO MAKE CINCINNATI CHILI IN THE INSTANT POT
You will find the full list of ingredients, instructions and nutritional breakdown for this meal in the recipe card below. Here is a handy video showing you how to make this Cincinnati recipe in the Instant Pot.
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Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili
Part 1: Cooking the sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion medium, finely diced
- 5 cloves garlic finely diced
- 6 oz. tomato paste 170 g
- 2 cups water 500 ml
- 1 cup diced tomatoes tinned/canned
- 2 lbs. ground beef 1 kg
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cloves optional
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Part 2: Thickening the sauce
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 oz. dark chocolate 25 g, chopped (we love 70% cocoa content rather than 100% for some extra sweetness)
- 1 tablespoon plain flour or cornstarch for thickening
To serve the sauce:
- Cooked spaghetti or linguine
- Finely diced red onions or pickled red onions see notes below
- Grated cheese we used a mix of Cheddar and Parmesan
- Optional: cooked red beans can be out of a can
- Turn the Instant Pot on and press the Saute function. Once hot, add the olive oil and onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Turn the Saute function off.
- Add the beef, all spices, salt, tomato paste, tinned tomatoes and water and stir everything through really well. Pop the lid on top, lock and make sure the top valve is set to Sealing.
- Pres the Meat Stew Button, which will set the Instant Pot for 35 minutes of cooking at HIGH pressure. Alternatively, press Manual/Pressure Cook and adjust the timer to 35 minutes. The Instant Pot will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure and the timer will begin. Once done, allow the pressure to release naturally, about 10-15 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the sides and pickled onions, if using (see notes).
- Once the pressure is released, open the lid and stir the sauce. It will seem a little watery at this stage but we're not done yet. Press the Saute function again. Add the apple cider vinegar and chopped chocolate and stir to incorporate. Cook for 12-15 minutes, cooking frequently, allowing some of the liquid to evaporate and the sauce to thicken and infuse with chocolate and vinegar.
- Press Cancel to stop the Saute function. Mix a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch with a tablespoon or so of water into a slurry and stir into the sauce for the final thickening magic. You can leave the sauce to sit while you cook the pasta or you can do that during the final Sauteing stage.
- Serve the Cincinnati chili meat sauce over cooked spaghetti or linguine with a generous sprinkle of grated cheese and diced onions. You can also add some cooked beans on top.
MORE GROUND BEEF INSTANT POT RECIPES
- Versatile Taco Meat Recipe
- Rice & Beef Burritos
- Delicious Cheeseburger Pasta
- Rich Tomato Bolognese Sauce
- Healthy Sloppy Joes With Sweet Potatoes