Cincinnati Chili 5-Way Is A Variation Full of Plant-Based Goodness with Real Cincinnati Flavor. We Finally Figured Out How To Go All-the-Way While Keeping Kosher And Vegetarian
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I was introduced to Cinncinati Chili 5-way in 1980 during a trip to that city (along with my other favorite, Graeter’s Ice Cream). As a native New Yorker, I have very definite ideas about how certain foods should be served. (Don’t get me started on the proper condiments for hot dogs: Okay, sauerkraut and mustard, never ketchup. Chili is fine) Putting aside the beans versus no beans chili debate, what they serve in Cincinnati is very different from traditional chili. It is thin like a sauce, not thick like a stew. You would never sit down to a bowl of it. ( I suppose that would be a 1-Way which you will never see on a menu). Instead it is used to top hot dogs or served on spaghetti. This is what led to the various serving options known as the “Way” System. Well, that is what I call it. I am not sure the system actually has an official name. This is how Cincinnati Chili is ordered in chili parlors in Ohio:
2-way: Chili and Spaghetti
3-way: Chili, Spaghetti and Cheddar Cheese
4-way: Chili, Spaghetti, Cheddar Cheese and Diced Onions
5-way: Chili, Spaghetti, Cheddar Cheese, Diced Onions and Beans
So, you see the problem: All of the toppings are fine with meat except for the cheese. We could use vegan cheese, but I have yet to find one worth eating. Even my vegetarian daughter won’t touch it. (I have since been told that there are very tasty options available but I am still researching this.) I am optimistic these products will continue to improve, but until then our only option is to swap out the ground beef for something vegetarian. If we just left the beef out of the chili, we would end up with only a bowl of spices. We could omit the cheese and use the other toppings, but I think the cheese is the best part. There is one other topping that is often included which are oyster crackers. Despite the name, they are actually certified kosher and very tasty with this dish. They have not yet been elevated to “Way” status and are completely optional, except that custom says they must be crushed before adding to the chili.
Well, I am sure you are all on the edge of your seats wondering how we solved this problem. (No? You have a much more exciting life than I do. Congratulations.) . We used a new product called Beyond Meat which is certified kosher and vegan. It looks a lot like a meat burger in the package and is sold both fresh and frozen. The fresh packages are shelved with the traditional meat products. It is currently available at Whole Foods Market and various other retailers as well as some restaurant chains. You can learn more about where to find Beyond Meat here.
If you prefer to use real meat and leave out the cheese, it will also be delicious. This version, with the beans and plant-based protein is much healthier, and my husband liked it so much he ate it for dinner three nights in a row, and took it for lunch the third day. (If I doubled the recipe I probably would not have to cook again for months.) This was not because there wasn’t anything else ready to eat. It is also less greasy than the traditional meat-based version and thicker. Feel free to thin it out with water if you want a more authentic sauce.
Note about the Nutrition Facts for this recipe: Beyond Meat is so new that it is not in the nutritional database that I use. The Nutrition Facts were calculated using the values from generic vegetarian burgers which are not exactly the same. The actual nutrition information for the Beyond Meat ingredient alone is available at the Beyond Meat website.
Each Beyond Meat patty has 20 grams of pea-based protein. It is safe for most people, but those with an allergy to legumes should use it with caution.
Is this authentic Cincinnati Chili?
Not really, but we think it is better. Traditionally the meat is boiled for several hours before being combined with the spices.
Does it matter which order I put the toppings on?
Only if you are actually in Cincinnati. Apparently, a 4-way is always diced onions, so if you are offered beans instead you are in an inauthentic chili parlor. In your own kitchen, it will be our secret.
Who invented Cincinnati Chili?
It depends on who you ask. Although this is not a Jewish dish, there is a lot of controversy over its origins which makes it a good fit for Jewish cuisine (see 10 rabbis = 11 opinions.) It is agreed that the dish first made an appearance at a Greek restaurant in 1949, which is why the spices are more mediterranean and less like the spices we consider typical of Texas Chili.
Products Used in this Recipe:
Beyond Meat Beef Free Beefy Crumbles, 11 Ounce – 8 per case.
Cuisinart CTG-00-BG Boxed Grater
OXO Good Grips Wooden Spoon Set, 3-Piece
Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar USDA Organic – Plastic Bottle (16 Ounces)
5-way Cincinnati Chili
- 1 cup onion minced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon allspice ground
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves ground
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 patties Beyond Meat
- 1 can tomato sauce 15 ounces
- 1 cup tomatoes, diced fresh or canned
- 2 tablespoons A-1 sauce or your favorite steak sauce
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 16 ounces spaghetti
- 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
- 2 cups kidney beans tossed with 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 cup onion diced
- 1 cup oyster crackers optional
Saute onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes or until soft.
Add chili powder, paprika, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cloves and bay leaf to pan. Stir until onions and garlic are well-coated and spices look pasty.
Add Beyond Meat and saute for 1 minute. Stir to coat with spices over low heat.
Add tomato sauce, tomatoes, A-1 sauce, cocoa powder and apple cider vinegar to pan. Gently combine. Mixture should not be too thick. Add water if necessary to thin.
Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. While sauce is simmering, cook and drain spaghetti.
Remove bay leaf before serving.
Top cooked spaghetti with chili and add as many toppings as desired.
This recipe was adapted from Beyond Meat.