Cincinnati Chili-Inspired Meatballs

If you guys have been following for a while, you know I love me a meatball! I made a batch of Cincinnati Chili a few weeks ago – had a random craving, thanks #pregnancy, and then thought, hey maybe this would be a good meatball. I was right. And if this is sacrilegious to you, I’m very sorry.

In my defense, I’m not from Ohio, though I went to college there. Skyline Chili isn’t part of my religion, so these meatballs were super exciting for me. If it makes you mad, look away! ha!

These definitely have the essence of Cincy Chili – in fact, they have all the same spices, cinnamon and cocoa powder included. You spice up the meatballs and the sauce and I gotta tell you, they really hit the spot!

It’s critical to do prep for this recipe, and not just wing it as you read through the recipe. This is a lot of different spices and you need them x2 for the meat and the sauce. It will save you so much time and a lot of “wait, did I add this?” as you are making these.

These meatballs come together so fast and have that perfect balance of sweet and heat. You make your meatball mixture and form them – then you brown them in a pan. Once the meatballs are browned, you make the sauce right in the same skillet. Then you BAKE it for 20 minutes in the SAME skillet. It’s really a win win.

To serve, you can pop these over some spaghetti and top with beans, cheddar and onions – however you like your cincy chili! I should have put these over spaghetti but forgot all about it since I can’t have pasta while I’m pregnant – but definitely do that. It would be delishhhh!

PS if these sound good, you’ll want to try my Turkey Enchilada Meatballs!

Cincinnati Chili Inspired Meatballs

These sweet and spicy meatballs are inspired by the classic Skyline Chili.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Dinner, Lunch
Servings 10 medium/large meatballs



  • 1.3 lb meatloaf mix
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c panko crumbs
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter


  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 15 oz canned tomato sauce
  • 1 c water
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 2-3 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp worchestershire sauce



  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a bowl, combine all ingredients except the butter. Combine until spices are well mixed, but being careful to not overmix.
  • Form the meatballs; I used an ice cream scoop and got 10 medium-large meatballs from this mix.
  • Melt the butter in a large oven safe skillet.
  • Brown the meatballs in the skillet over medium heat.
  • Once browned, remove the meatballs and set aside. Follow steps for the sauce.


  • In the hot skillet, add the onions to the pan (with drippings and butter). Sautee over medium heat until softened.
  • Add minced garlic and sautee until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
  • Add tomato paste and stir until onions and garlic are well coated and red.
  • Add tomato sauce, water, spices, apple cider vinegar and worchestershire to the mixture and gently whisk until well combined.
  • Bring to a boil. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.
  • Remove from the heat, and add the meatballs back to the pan.
  • Place skillet in the oven for 20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through and sauce is bubbling.
  • Remove from oven, serve over spaghetti, with cheddar, onions, beans – however you enjoy your cincy chili!

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