Vegan Cincinnati Chili

Try the 4 way!

I made you guys some vegan Cincinnati chili! Mostly, because it is absolutely necessary cold weather food. Served over spaghetti and topped with shredded vegan cheese and onions. It literally doesn’t get any better than this. It’s definitely budget-friendly. It is mostly tofu, water, a bit of tomato sauce and some spices. This whole meal cost me only about 7 bucks at Trader Joe’s. Don’t we all need cheap, easy vegan comfort food?!

Have you ever tried Cincinnati chili? It is so unique. It is traditionally a super simple chili made with ground beef. I crumbled a block of extra firm tofu that I pressed all the liquid out of. It makes the perfect substitute for the ground beef. 

Simply saute the crumbled tofu until brown. Then, simmer with the tomato sauce, water and spices for about an hour. It gets thick and makes your whole house smell so good you will be able to skip the candle. Hmmmm…a Cincinnati chili scented candle? I’d buy that!

This Vegan Cincinnati chili has almost no active cooking time. Just throw everything into the pot. Cover it, then sit back and relax. Kick up your feet and wait for the most perfect meal ever! Layer this chili however you want, but I recommend the 4 way or 5 way. Either with vegan cheese and onions or vegan cheese, onions and beans! 

Vegan Cincinnati Chili
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
1 hr 40 mins

The most delicious vegan version of the classic Skyline chili!

Course: Main Course
Servings: 4
Author: Lauren Hartmann
  • 1 Block(15oz.) Extra firm tofu, pressed
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive oil
  • 1/2 a Sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Tomato sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Chili powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Cocoa powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon All spice
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 16 oz. Spaghetti
  • Vegan cheddar style cheese, I used Daiya FarmHouse Block Cheddar style
  1. Press your tofu first, using a tofu press, or by placing on a plate and placing something heavy on top. Press for at least 30 minutes, but the longer the better. You want to make sure the tofu is nice and firm and most of the liquid is out of the tofu. 

  2. When ready, heat the olive oil on medium high in a large pot. Crumble the block of tofu into the pot. Finish breaking up the tofu with a spoon until it is in small crumbles that resemble ground beef. 

  3. Season the tofu with a bit of salt and pepper. Then brown the tofu, reducing heat as needed for 5-10 minutes. Or until the tofu is lightly browned and very firm. If some gets stuck to the bottom, no worries. 

  4. Next, add the chopped onion, stir to combine and saute for another minute. 

  5. Now add the apple cider vinegar. Stir.

  6. Then, pour in the water and tomato sauce. Stir everything together.

  7. Next, add all the spices, the cocoa powder, the bay leaves and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Then reduce heat to low.

  8. Cover and simmer the chili on low, just so it is slightly bubbling for 1 hour and 15 minutes- 1 hour and 30 minutes. Stirring every once in a while. Or until it is the thickness you want. It will thicken a lot as it cooks. This is classically a thinner chili, so don't worry if there is still a lot of liquid. 

  9. Now, taste and adjust seasoning. Serve over spaghetti with vegan cheese and onions. Or add beans to that for the classic 5 way!

Recipe Notes

This chili reheats very well, so you can make ahead of time!

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    December 11, 2018 at 3:30 am

    I made this tonight. I had Skyline Cincinnati Chili years ago and loved it so I was so excited when I saw this vegan option! It was so good!!! I made one sub…I had tofu/soy crumbles on hand…that saved a bit of time. And I did add the can of red kidney beans cuz I like the classic 5 way. This will be in the rotation from now on. Thanks for posting!

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