Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili

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.

Cincinnati Chili in Instant Pot recipe



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.


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. 

LInguine Pasta With Cincinnati Chili Sauce

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Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili

Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili

  • Author: Instant Pot Eats
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Instant Pot
  • Cuisine: American


Hearty and rich Instant Pot Cincinnati chili meat sauce is great over spaghetti or linguine pasta and topped with grated cheese and raw onions (or lightly pickled in our case). It’s an iconic American-European fusion dish that will quickly become a family favorite.



Part 1: Cooking the sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, finely diced

5 cloves garlic, finely diced

6 oz (170 g) tomato paste

2 cups (500 ml) water

1 cup tinned diced tomatoes

2 lb / 1 kg ground beef

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon cloves (optional)

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Part 2: Thickening the sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 oz / 25 g dark chocolate, chopped (we love 70% cocoa content rather than 100% for some extra sweetness)

1 tablespoon regular 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.


Pickled red onions: Combine 1 finely diced red onion with 2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons water, a pinch of salt and sugar and set aside to pickle for 10-15 minutes or while the sauce is cooking. 


  • Serving Size: 1 cup meat sauce with 1 cup cooked spaghetti, 3 tablespoons grated cheese and 1/4 red onion
  • Calories: 628
  • Sugar: 10.2 g
  • Sodium: 1203.5 mg
  • Fat: 23.2 g
  • Saturated Fat: 10.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 57.7 g
  • Fiber: 4.7 g
  • Protein: 46.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 117 mg

Keywords: Beef, Ground Beef, Chili




Instant Pot Recipes
By Instant Pot Eats

About us: We are a team of Instant Pot enthusiasts, who love good food and cooking. Our blog is dedicated to delicious Instant Pot recipes you can make using your trusted pressure cooker.

PS. This post may contain Amazon affiliate links, which means we receive a small commission for purchases made through these links. 

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Recipe rating


  1. Turned out great on first try! Liked it better than the Cinci brands due to more ground beef in this recipe. Will definitely do again, great job on this one!

  2. This is delicious and simple! We made Frito pie with it, and it was amazing! Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  3. Your printing function does not function. The recipe itself doesn’t print — the other stuff I don’t want does.

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