cincinnati chili with parmesan spaghetti squash

healthy cincinnati chili

This spicy Cincinnati chili with parmesan spaghetti squash is a healthier take on the midwestern favorite. Traditionally, Cincinnati chili is made with spiced ground beef and beans and poured over white spaghetti noodles. I left out the beans and swapped in a vegetable (spaghetti squash) for the noodles. Authentic Cincinnatians might find these swaps blasphemous but that is the beauty of living in the Bay Area. We love to take traditional classics and make them our own with diverse twists!

healthy Cincinnati chili

Cincinnati chili was created by Macedonian immigrants who brought their flavors to the states with them. The mediterranean roots of this dish appealed to my Iranian heritage and I loved using familiar spices from my childhood to create a delicious meal for my loved ones!

If you’re ready to try chili with a totally new twist, give this cincinnati chili a try and make it California-healthy by using roasted spaghetti squash as a base to soak up the chili goodness!

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cincinnati chili with parmesan spaghetti squash

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  • Author: Sep Esmaili


A healthy California twist on a midwestern favorite!


  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion (finely diced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 lbs ground beef (85% lean)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½  teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 (28 ounce) can unsalted crushed plum tomatoes
  • 1 ½  cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 23 cups shredded cheddar cheese for topping
  • 56 scallions, cleaned and sliced into small pieces for topping


Roast the spaghetti squash:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Prepare the spaghetti squash by rinsing and drying the outside of the vegetable. Use a sharp knife to cut off the bottom of the squash, to create a flat side for easy chopping.
    1. If the spaghetti squash is too thick to cut, use a small sharp knife to pierce some holes on top of the squash and microwave the vegetable whole for 3-5 minutes. This should soften the squash enough to slice in half with ease.
  3. Rest the flat side of the squash on a cutting board, and carefully cut the squash in half lengthwise.
  4. Brush the cut sides of the spaghetti squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Place the spaghetti squash on the baking sheet (cut side down) and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a fork easily pierces through the skin of the spaghetti squash. The fork should slide out easily.   
  6. Remove the squash from the oven and allow to cool until it’s easy to handle. Use a fork to shred as much of the squash as possible. Discard the shells and transfer the strands to a large bowl.
  7. While the strands are still hot, add the parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste.



  1. While the squash roasts, prepare the chili.
  2. In a dutch oven or large heavy bottom pot, heat the oil over medium high heat until shimmering but not yet smoking. Add the onion plus ½ tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the onions are translucent and starting to brown, 8-10 minutes.
  3. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the ground beef, increase the heat to high, and cook as you break up the meat with a wooden spoon until the meat is fully cooked and browned, about 10-12 minutes. Allow the beef to simmer over medium high heat until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  4. Add 1 tsp salt, chili powder, smoked paprika, cocoa powder, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and cayenne pepper to the meat and stir to distribute evenly. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken stock, vinegar, and black pepper.
  6. Bring the sauce to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium low. Allow the sauce to simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes while the spaghetti squash continues to roast.
    1. If the sauce is getting too thick or starting to burn, add ¼ cup to ½ cup water and stir to loosen up the sauce.
  7. Divide the spaghetti squash strands into bowls, top with chili, and garnish with shredded cheddar cheese and scallions.
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