Chili Wars: 10 Chili Recipes from Every Region

Everybody loves chili, but everybody makes it a little bit differently
10 Regional Chili Recipes


Chili con carne can be a simple stew of beef and chiles, or can involve such other ingredients as tomatoes, beans, even beer and/or chocolate.

Deep dish, thin crust, or grandma-style? Bratwurst or franks? Brisket or pulled pork? Americans can’t decide on the right way to make so many of our most beloved American foods. While pizza, hot dogs, and barbecue are without a doubt part of the American food canon, our food tastes are specifically defined by the regions in which we live.

Click here for the Chili Wars: 10 Chili Recipes from Every Region slideshow.

If we are going to discuss regional wars over food, then we would be remiss not to mention possibly the most contentious food battleground of all — chili.

Chili isn't Mexican, as you might have assumed. There's no dish that exactly corresponds to it in real Mexican cuisine. Chili con carne as we know it today made its debut in San Antonio in the early twentieth century.  Since then, it has spread around the country (and the world) taking on regional accents.

Cincinnati has its own version, made famous by the Skyline restaurant; St. Louis serves up a dish called slinger —eggs, hashbrowns, and a hamburger patty covered in chili; and then there are variations like green chili, red chili, and white chili.

Even how you serve your chili is defined by region. We find Frito pies across the South, chili mac in the Midwest, and coney dogs in Michigan.

If you are looking for a breakdown of regional chili styles, we have the history and the recipes you need to make your own educated decisions about which side of the chili wars you'd rather be on.

Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili

Photo Modified: Flickr / Breville USA / CC BY 4.0

Cincinnati chili was made famous by the Skyline restaurant.

One name come to mind when you talk about Cincinnati-style chili — Skyline, the restaurant that made this unique style of chili famous across the country. Cincinnati-style chili consists of ground beef, a Mediterranean spice blend, water/stock, and tomato paste. cooked together for hours to develop the flavors. Cincinnatians have even developed a unique ordering system for their chili called the “way-system”. It is uncommon to see someone order a bowl of Cincinnati chili solo; they start with two-way, which is spaghetti topped with chili, then three-way (spaghetti, chili, and cheese), four-way (spaghetti, chili, onions, and cheese), four-way bean (spaghetti, beans, chili, and cheese), and five-way (spaghetti, beans, chili, onions, and cheese).

Recipe: Cincinnati Chili Mac

Cincinnati Chili Recipe

Photo Modified: Flickr / jeffreyw / CC BY 4.0

This Cincinnati chili recipe is flavored by a complex spice blend.

I liken this regional style of chili to an American version of bolognese. A deeply flavorful meat-tomato sauce with a complex spice profile, served over spaghetti and topped with shredded Cheddar and chopped onions. If you're thinking, chili...on spaghetti? Really? Believe it. Even this devout Texas chili fan has been made a convert. — Maryse Chevriere

For the Cincinnati Chili recipe, click here.

Angela Carlos is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Find her on Twitter and tweet @angelaccarlos.