Cincinnati Black Bean Chili

Published on Nov 15, 2018

  by   Kristina Stosek

2 reviews

Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 75 minutes Serves: 6
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This naturally gluten free Spicy Black Bean Cincinnati Chili is a unique and flavorful chili dish originating in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Cincinnati chili is known for its distinctive taste and preparation, which sets it apart from traditional chili recipes. 

cincinnati black bean chili topped with avocado, sour cream, cheese and jalapeno in a bowl


Ingredients in Black Bean Cincinnati Chili


Black Beans and Ground Meat:

The primary protein source in this chili is black beans and ground beef. They are hearty and nutritious and add a rich flavor to the sauce.

Spices and Seasonings:

Cincinnati chili is known for its unique spice blend, which includes ingredients like cinnamon, cloves, and cocoa powder. These spices give the chili a sweet and savory flavor with a hint of warmth and complexity. Additional spices like chili powder, cumin, and paprika enhance the chili’s spiciness.

Tomato Sauce:

Tomato sauce is used as a base to create a rich, thick sauce that coats the beans and meat and provides a tangy element to balance the sweetness of the spices.

Coffee and Chocolate:

The depth of these two ingredients complements the sweetness of the chili and creates a deep, earthy flavor.

Gluten Free Bacon:

The bacon adds magical smokiness to this most delicious chili.

uncooked black beans in a bowl

What’s the recommended meat-to-bean ratio for chili?

The recommended meat-to-bean ratio for chili can vary depending on personal preference and regional traditions. Chili is a versatile dish, and the ratio has no strict rule. However, here are some common guidelines and variations:

Traditional Chili:

Traditional chili recipes often use a higher ratio of meat to beans. A typical ratio might be about 2:1 or even 3:1, meaning two or three parts meat to one part beans. Ground beef is a common choice for the meat.

Bean Chili:

If you prefer a chili with more beans and less meat, you can use a 1:1 ratio or even more beans than meat. This is an excellent option for those looking to reduce their meat intake or for a more budget-friendly chili recipe. You can use a variety of beans like kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, or a combination.

Three-Bean Chili:

Some chili recipes incorporate multiple types of beans, such as kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans, in equal proportions. The meat-to-bean ratio may be closer to 1:1 or lean more towards the beans in these cases.

Serving suggestions for Cincinnati black bean chili

You can enhance the meal by offering various toppings and side dishes when serving Black Bean Cincinnati Chili. Here are some gluten free serving suggestions to complement this flavorful chili:

Classic Cincinnati Chili Style:

For a classic Cincinnati version, serve the chili over gluten free spaghetti with grated cheddar cheese and chopped red onions.


Diced red or white onions add a nice crunch and a touch of freshness. Hot sauce or chili flakes for those who enjoy extra heat. Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt provides a cool contrast to the spice.

Gluten Free Cornbread:

Serve slices of warm cornbread, such as this Gluten Free Vegan Sweet Cornbread on the side to complement the chili’s flavors. You can also make Gluten-Free Jalapeño Cheese Corn Muffins for individual servings.

Gluten Free Tortilla Chips:

Gluten free tortilla chips are great for scooping up the chili and adding some crunch.

Avocado or Guacamole:

Sliced avocado or a dollop of guacamole adds creaminess and a touch of freshness.


Offer a side of Simple Rice With Parsley for those who prefer a heartier meal. Some people enjoy chili served over rice.

Pickled Jalapeños:

If you love spice, pickled jalapeño slices are a zesty addition.

Sliced Lime or Lemon:

A squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice can brighten up the flavors of the chili.

Fresh Cilantro or Parsley:

Sprinkle some fresh chopped cilantro or parsley over the chili for a burst of herbaceous flavor.


A small side of fresh homemade coleslaw can provide a refreshing contrast to the chili’s spiciness.

Gluten Free Garlic Bread:

Serve Tear and Share Gluten Free Garlic Bread or Garlic Cheese Monkey Bread for a savory accompaniment.

Sliced Radishes:

Radish is often overlooked, but fresh radish slices add a crisp, peppery bite to your chili.

So feel free to mix and match these gluten free options to bring the chili to another level of deliciousness.

Can I make Cincinnati black bean chili vegetarian?

Absolutely, substitute the meat for more beans and extra veggies such as acorn squash, carrots, celery, and mushrooms.

overview of Cincinnati black bean chilli with toppings in a bowl

Flavor variations for Cincinnati black bean chili recipe

Black Bean Cincinnati Chili is known for its unique flavor with sweet, savory, and spicy notes. However, you can experiment with flavor variations to suit your taste preferences. 

Here are some ideas for flavor variations for Cincinnati Black Bean Chili:

Heat Level:

Adjust the spiciness by adding more or less chili powder, cayenne pepper, or hot sauce. 


Add smoked paprika, liquid smoke, or chipotle powder for a smoky undertone. Smoked ingredients can impart a rich, barbecue-like flavor to the chili.


Enhance the natural sweetness of the black beans and spices by incorporating a touch of brown sugar or molasses.

Citrus Zest:

Grate some orange or lime zest into the chili for a subtle citrusy brightness. A squeeze of fresh citrus juice can also add a refreshing twist.


Fresh herbs like oregano, thyme, or rosemary can bring herbal complexity to the dish. Add them during the cooking process for an aromatic boost.

Vegetable Variations:

Experiment with different vegetables. Bell peppers, corn, celery, or diced sweet potatoes can add contrasting textures and flavors.

Soy Sauce or Worcestershire Sauce:

A splash of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce will add extra flavor.

Nutritional Yeast:

If you want to enhance a vegan version, gluten free nutritional yeast can provide a cheese-like richness.

Different Beans:

While the recipe calls for black beans, you can use other bean varieties like kidney beans, pinto beans, or navy beans for a variety.

Ground Meat:

Ground beef, turkey, or pork for a meaty twist. Brown the meat before adding it to the chili for added depth of flavor.

Gluten Free Beer:

Substitute some of the liquid in the recipe for a unique flavor with gluten free beer. The bitterness adds depth and can complement the sweetness of the chili.

Remember, all ingredients must be gluten free!

chili in a bowl with toppings, gluten free

storing and reheating for chili

Storing and reheating chili properly is important to maintain its flavor and texture. 

Storing Chili:

Cooling: Allow the chili to cool to room temperature before storing it. 

Container: Transfer the chili to an airtight container. You can use plastic containers or glass containers with lids. Alternatively, you can use resealable freezer bags.

Portion Control: Consider dividing the chili into smaller portions before storing. This makes reheating only the amount you need easier.

Label and Date: Label the container or bag with the date the chili was made. This helps you keep track of freshness.

Refrigeration: Store the chili in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. If you don’t plan to consume it within this time, you can freeze it for longer storage.

Freezing Chili:

If you want to store chili for an extended period:

Cool and Portion: Cool the chili completely, and then portion it into serving-sized containers or resealable freezer bags.

Remove Air: If using freezer bags, remove as much air as possible before sealing to prevent freezer burn.

Label: Label the containers or bags with the date and contents.

Freeze: Place the containers or bags in the freezer. Chili can typically be frozen for 2-3 months without significant loss of quality.

Reheating Chili:

From the Refrigerator:

Transfer the desired portion of chili to a microwave-safe bowl or saucepan.

Reheat in the microwave in 1-2 minute intervals, stirring in between, until it reaches the desired temperature.

Alternatively, heat it over low to medium heat on the stovetop, stirring frequently until heated.

From the Freezer:

If the chili is frozen, it’s best to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight.

Reheat as you would for refrigerated chili, either in the microwave or on the stovetop.


When reheating, add a splash of water or broth to prevent the chili from becoming too thick.

Be cautious when reheating in the microwave, as hot spots can develop. Stirring and redistributing the chili helps ensure even heating.

Do not reheat chili more than once, as repeated heating and cooling can increase the risk of bacterial growth.

The unique combination of sweet and savory flavors and the use of beans and meat makes Spicy Black Bean Cincinnati Chili a popular choice for a satisfying chili option. It’s a comforting and hearty dish perfect for a chilly day or whenever you crave a unique twist on chili.

cincinnati black bean chili topped with avocado, sour cream, cheese and jalapeno in a bowl


And let’s not forget, the chili is always better the next day or the day after. Nothing beats a slowly simmered chili any day of the week!

If today is the day, you want something soothing and comforting, check out our 3 most viewed hearty stew recipes!

Country Style chicken Stew with Gluten-Free Dumplings

African Beef Stew Recipe

Louisiana Chicken Gumbo

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Many thanks!

Kristina xx

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