Serve this loaded Skyline Chili Dip at your next party, and I guarantee no one will go home hungry. (Although they might never want to leave!)
I don’t often post super-indulgy recipes, but food events like the Super Bowl mean exceptions have to be made, right? So let the indulgy dip recipes commence!
But first, I want to back up here a sec and talk about Cincinnati chili. It gets a strangely bad rap from other parts of the country — mostly, I think, because peeps can’t wrap their heads around eating a bowlful of thin, almost runny chili.
Here’s the deal: we Cincinnatians don’t actually eat our chili by the bowl. Seriously. I have a lot of Cincinnati chili fans in my life, and no one just ladles it into a bowl and goes at it with a spoon, the way you would with, say, Texas chili.
No, we eat our cozy chili like this:
- Poured over spaghetti, in what’s known as a 3-way, a 4-way, or a 5-way. That’s chili over spaghetti (2-way) with shredded cheese (3-way). With onions or beans (4-way). Or with everythang! For some reason, chili over spaghetti makes people go “ew” the first time they hear it. But think of it this way: it’s the same concept as bolognese, a seasoned meat sauce served over pasta. See the brilliance of it? Meat sauce over spaghetti is a meal, friends.
- Spooned into a hot dog bun, and topped with onions, mustard, and shredded cheese.
- Or, for the adventurers of tubular mystery meat, ladled over a hot dog in a hot dog bun, with onions, mustard, and cheese (a.k.a. “coneys” ’round these parts). Most restaurants use tiny little hot dogs that snuggle right in the bun, with plenty of room for the chili and toppings.
- My way, for the record, is off-menu, but they’ll totally do this for you at any of the Cincinnati chili restaurants: chili over spaghetti with onions, cheese … and a biiig dollop of sour cream. (Many thanks to my friend, Chris, for introducing this to me during one of our many lunches at Skyline Chili on E. McMillan St.) Oh, holy chilicheeseballs. All the tasty goodness, right there.
What is the “Skyline” in Skyline Chili Dip?
Skyline is the name of a restaurant (Skyline Chili, to be exact) that serves Cincinnati style chili. They’re probably the most famous, but are just one of an entire industry of Cincinnati chili restaurants, including Gold Star Chili, Empress, Dixie Chili, and Camp Washington. Although everyone’s chili have the same fundamental base — a Mediterranean spice palette seasoning a thin meat sauce, along with cinnamon and sometimes even chocolate — there are tweaks in flavor and texture that make each a unique chili experience.
You’re not a true Cincinnatian until you’ve sample the chilis from all of them. If you’re ever visiting Cincinnati and want to start a lively debate, just ask the natives who makes the best Cincinnati chili … and step back. 😀 (Learn more about the history of Cincinnati chili.)
So, now that you understand and can embrace the awesomeness of Cincinnati chili, let’s talk today’s dip. There are a lot of postings about Skyline chili dip on the interwebs, and they’re all basically the same thing: cream cheese, Cincinnati chili, cheddar cheese, with or without onions. My local Kroger even makes this stuff in-house and sells it in the deli, packaged and ready to microwave.
But I like to supercharge my version of Cincinnati chili dip with a few very tasty extras.
Ready? Set? Omaha!
Inside Loaded Skyline Chili Dip, the Super Bowl Version:
- I take an 8 ounce bar of full-fat (yaaas!) cream cheese and soften it. Say what, your cream cheese is a doorstop in all of this winter wonderland weather? Here are a few reliable ways to soften cream cheese:
- The first and best is to leave it out on the counter for an hour. But, in the winter, my kitchen is cooold, and it takes way longer than an hour.
- The second (and my preference) is to fill a bowl with very hot water and place the fully wrapped bar in the water until the package is nice and squishable (to speed the process even further, replenish the bowl once with newly heated water).
- Finally, if you’re in a hurry, remove the bar from the wrapper, slice into 6 or so nice big pieces, and microwave for short 7-10 second bursts (don’t overdo it, or the cream will break – one round will probably be enough).
- To the cream cheese, I stir in well-drained petite cut diced tomatoes, drained green chiles (hot or mild, your choice), and finely chopped green onions. Want to use sweet Vidalias or punchy red onions instead? Go for it! (If you’re feeling fancy and show-offy – and who doesn’t want to create a rockin’ Super Bowl spread – reserve a little bit of these fixin’s for topping.) Spread this mixture in the bottom of a pan.
- While the cream cheese is softening, heat up the chili (and preheat the oven). If you’re using canned chili, be careful not to shake the can first – open it, and then drain off any grease that’s pooled on the top. (Note that I’m not in any way trying to make this health dip. 😉 The extra grease is just sort of gross, imo.) Heat in a small sauce pot. If you’re using frozen, cook according to package directions, and drain off any grease that rises to surface. Either way, let the chili cool just a bit (it should be hot, but cool enough to comfortably eat).
- Pour the chili over the cream cheese mixture. Top with the reserved fixin’s and lots of finely shredded cheddar. This appetizer is pretty affordable as is, so, if your wallet moves you, I’d recommend a little bit of a splurge on the cheese. A quality sharp cheddar is always a winner. For extra cheesy goodness, mix in something melty, like fontina or quesadilla cheese.
- Aaaaand bake.
- Now, for the most important part: serve with Fritos. Fritos Scoops if you can find them. You need something sturdy that can dig down into the gooey layers of Cincinnati chili dip goodness and come away with a substantial sampling. Potato chips won’t hold up to the challenge. Thick tortilla chips might. But in this household, it’s Fritos or bust, baybee.
Cincinnati chili dip is the kind of guilty-pleasure appetizer that quickly draws a crowd around the bowl, and works equally well for backyard bbq’s as it does indoor board game night. But it’s February, folks, so that means one thing:
Are you ready for some football!
- 15 ounce can Cincinnati style chili drained of grease (or 13 ounce frozen package)
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 15 ounce can petite cut diced tomatoes with green chiles well drained
- 2 green onions chopped (or sub 1/4 cup chopped white, yellow, or red onions)
- 8 ounces finely grated cheddar cheese or a mix of cheeses
- optional: reserve a small portion of the tomatoes chiles, and onions for topping
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Heat the chili in a small sauce pot over medium heat until steam escapes when you take a spoonful and hold it up. Drain off as much grease as possible. Set aside to cool a bit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. (If using frozen, cooking according to package directions, then drain off any grease that rises to the surface. Set aside to cool.)
In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese with the half of the tomatoes and chiles, plus the onions until well-combined. Add more tomatoes and chiles, if desired. Spread into an 8"x8" oven safe pan (an offset spatula works great here).
Pour the chili evenly over the cream cheese mixture. Top with the grated cheese, plus the optional garnishes.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the grated cheese is melted.
Serve warm with corn chips on the side.