Cincinnati Chili Recipe – 5-way, lower carb!

This Cincinnati chili recipe takes a non-traditional twist by swapping out the spaghetti for roasted spaghetti squash. Ditching the refined grains and adding in veggies makes this a low-calorie, lower carb dish that does not skimp on taste. And if you are not familiar with Cincinnati 5-way chili (also known as Skyline chili), keep reading. You don’t want to miss out on this one!

Plate of Cincinnati Chili Recipe, 5-way, lower-carb (long Pinterest image)

Whenever my family travels for work or leisure, we do some research to learn about the food specialties at our destination. My husband has been through the Cincinnati, Ohio area several times for work trips in the past few years. That is how we first became acquainted with the deliciousness that is Cincinnati chili.

Are you familiar with the classic Cincinnati chili recipe? The original dish is a meaty chili, spiced with unusual ingredients such as cinnamon, and served over spaghetti. A plate of just the chili and the spaghetti is said to be served “2-way.”

But if you are ever in the area, I recommend going all out and ordering the 5-way. Yes, there are several ways that you can enjoy your chili. It is truly a dish that you can customize to fit your taste preferences.

Here are the “ways” you can order your chili:

  • 2-way: chili on top of spaghetti
  • 3-way: cheese on top of chili on top of spaghetti
  • 4-way: chopped onions OR chili beans on top of cheese on top of chili on top of spaghetti
  • 5-way: chopped onions AND chili beans on top of cheese on top of chili on top of spaghetti

Got it? Cincinnati chili is also sometimes referred to as Skyline chili, named for a chain of chili restaurants in the greater Cincinnati area.

It’s easy to make a twist on classic Cincinnati chili at home

No worries if you don’t live in Ohio. I’m going to show you how I make a healthy and delicious version of this chili at home.

The most significant change is that I used roasted spaghetti squash instead of a refined grain spaghetti. This may be one of the tastiest ways to prepare spaghetti squash that I have ever had. So good!

If you don’t want to turn on the oven, you can also prepare spaghetti squash in the microwave. Pierce the squash all over with a sharp knife and microwave on high for 6-8 minutes. The squash strands are easy to remove with a fork when they are fully cooked.

Microwave heating times vary, so your squash may need a little more or less time. Larger-sized squash may also require a longer cooking time.

That said, having the squash roast in the oven while the chili simmers works well for this recipe. The chili needs to simmer for about an hour, so roasting the squash does not add to the cooking time.

I chose to skip the cinnamon and allspice that you might find in a classic Cincinnati chili recipe. Feel free to add those in if you feel you’d enjoy them.

Also, instead of the traditional chili beans of the 5-way, I used Trader Joe’s Cuban-style black beans. These canned beans have no added sugar and no added oil. It’s fine to use chili beans if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s in your area.

I’ve been aiming to feature balanced meals this December, rather than the typical baked goods and treats. I find that preparing healthful, nutrient-rich meals helps to curb my dessert cravings during the holiday season. Try adding this modified Cincinnati chili recipe to your healthy eating plan to see if it helps you too!

And now for the disclaimer…

All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.

The calorie information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.

For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to this post. Let’s get cooking!

Plate of Cincinnati chili recipe (5-way) on a white plate with a fork on the side

Cincinnati Chili Recipe – 5-way, lower carb!

summer yule ms rdn - Cincinnati Chili Recipe – 5-way, lower carb!Summer Yule
This 5-way Cincinnati chili recipe takes a non-traditional twist by swapping out the spaghetti for roasted spaghetti squash. Try this low-calorie and lower-carb spin on the classic. It's delicious!

0 from 0 votes
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 2 hrs
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 477 kcal


  • 2 small spaghetti squash (about 4 c of strands per squash)
  • 1 lb ground beef, extra lean (96/4)
  • 1 c water
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped (divided)
  • ½ T chili powder
  • 1 t cumin
  • ½ t salt
  • ¼ t crushed red pepper
  • ¼ t garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 t cider vinegar
  • 5 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 14.5 ounces canned flavored beans with no added sugar, no oil (chili beans or I used Trader Joe's Cuban-style black beans)


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut each squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds (see the pro tip in the notes below).
  • Fill a large metal roasting pan with 1" of water. Place the squash halves cut side down in the pan. Roast for one hour while you prepare the rest of the meal.
  • Put the ground beef and water in a Dutch oven over medium heat on the stovetop. Stir them together, and then add the tomato sauce, half of the onion, the chili powder, cumin, salt, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, bay leaf, and cider vinegar.
  • When the contents of the Dutch oven reaches a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.
  • When the squash halves have finished roasting, remove them from the oven. Scrape the stringy flesh of each squash out with a fork. Divide the squash between four plates.
  • Remove the bay leaf from the chili when it has finished cooking. Top the squash with the chili, dividing it evenly between the plates.
  • Drain your can of beans.
  • Top the chili with the cheese, the rest of the chopped onions, and the beans, in that order. Savor the delicious meal you have made!


This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). It may come as a surprise, but this cheesy, beefy plate of deliciousness clocks in at under 500 calories. Swapping out refined grain noodles for spaghetti squash is an easy way to lower the calories and carbs in this dish. Try spaghetti squash in other pasta recipes to create new, better-for-you family favorites.
Pro tip: Spaghetti squash seeds can be roasted just like pumpkin seeds. I love to roast the edible seeds from a variety of squashes. It helps to reduce food waste and makes a nice snack.


Calories: 477kcal
Keywords beef, cheese, chili, Cincinnati chili, Cincinnati chili recipe, dinner, low-calorie, real food, Skyline chili, spaghetti squash, squash, weight loss recipes
Did You Make This Recipe?Tag @SummerYuleRDN and hashtag it #SummerYule

Have you tried a Cincinnati chili recipe before? If so, do you prefer it 2-way, 3-way, 4-way, or 5-way?

Also, please don’t forget to leave a rating if you try this dish. I think you’ll love it. Thank you!

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links set by the author or by VigLink. By purchasing items through these links, you are making a small donation to support the mission of this website at no additional cost to you. (Note: Links set by VigLink may not necessarily reflect the nutrition philosophy of Summer Yule Nutrition. Thank you for your understanding.)

Summer Yule

Summer Yule, MS, RDN is the face behind Summer Yule Nutrition, a resource for those looking for recipes with no added sugars and no refined grains. As a registered dietitian as well as a person who sustained a 70-pound weight loss, Summer understands both the science and the struggle involved in healthy weight management after age 30. Let her show you how to create nutritious meals that will keep you feeling satisfied!

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