Have you heard of Cincinnati Chili? If you live here in Pittsburgh, maybe not, but I'm dropping in today to say you should absolutely try it. I mean, this is the epitome of comfort food! Thick, sweet and spicy chili meat sauce, drowning a pile of spaghetti, all smothered in cheddar cheese and diced onions. Sound healthy? It's not. But I spent some time working on a much healthier, but still just as delicious version using the Crock Pot! Say 'hello' to my Healthy Crock Pot Cincinnati Chili!
Don't be frightened by the ingredient list. It's mostly spices!
How to Make Healthy Crock Pot Cincinnati Chili
So, this is pretty simple. Take all the ingredients up to and including the cloves, and toss them in your Crock Pot. Stir. Cook all day. Dinner is DONE when you come home! Okay, so you'll still have to cook the spaghetti, so add another 10 or 15 minutes there.
But how did I make it healthier? The first thing I did was get rid of the meat. I know, I know. But ground beef is often very fatty (saturated fat, too!), and adds a lot of calories to the dish. I was able to get my hands on some split urad dal (split black lentils) from my local Indian grocer. These were amazing in this recipe! They make the sauce look very much like there's ground beef in it, and the texture was - while not exactly like ground beef - awesome! If you can't find split urad dal, you can easily substitute black or green/brown lentils.
The next thing I did was add some veggies into the sauce. I used red bell peppers, carrots, and mushrooms. Use whatever you like though! The great thing about a slow cooker for this particular recipe is that the long cook time breaks down the vegetables, so they're barely noticeable. Great for kids and spouses who won't eat vegetables!
I also used some very low, or no, sodium products. I recommend using homemade vegetable broth in this recipe. Otherwise, look for one with the lowest amount of sodium you can find. Same goes for the tomato sauce and tomato paste. There are no added salt varieties available at most stores for the same cost as the regular versions. You can always add your own salt if you think it needs some, but you can't take any out once it's there!
Using whole wheat spaghetti (or brown rice spaghetti, or quinoa spaghetti, or lentil spaghetti) is an easy substitute! More fiber and nutrients without the sugar crash. Note that a whole box of spaghetti is meant to serve 8 people. It's easy for portion sizes to get too big with pasta!
Lastly, I ended up making my own "cheese" for this. I used this Vegan Sharp Cheddar Cheese recipe from Sam over at It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken. It's very good, and as you can see, shreds up nicely, and even melts! I used ½ cup sunflower seeds instead of cashews, because that's what I had on hand, and it worked great. I recommend using something like this, since it's made from mostly whole, unprocessed foods. Non dairy cheese subs are alright in a pinch if you want something non dairy. Regular cheddar cheese is fine, too, but watch your portions. No matter which you choose, eat them in moderation, as they are typically high in calories.
Nutrition to Love
I want to just point out a few reasons to love this with your whole heart (bad pun intended)! A serving is only 373 calories (without the cheese), which is FAR below what a traditional recipe for Cincinnati Chili would be. Only 4 grams of fat, no cholesterol, and 166 mg sodium. #Winning! It's also got over half your daily intake of fiber and vitamin C, and ⅓ your daily intake of potassium, magnesium, and iron! Plus it's high in protein!
But none of that matters if it doesn't taste good! So does it? YES! But don't take my word for it. Cook it up for dinner or your next football tailgate!
Healthy Crock Pot Cincinnati Chili
- Slow Cooker
- 1 large Onion, chopped
- 1 Sweet red pepper, chopped
- 2 Carrots, chopped
- 1 cup chopped Mushrooms
- 8 oz (1 cup) Split Black Urad Dal (or black or green lentils)
- 3 cups Homemade (or no sodium) vegetable broth
- 2 cans (30 oz) No Added Salt Tomato Sauce
- 1 can (6 oz) No Added Salt Tomato Paste
- ½ oz Baking chocolate
- ¼ cup Chili powder
- 2 tablespoon Apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Sweet Paprika
- 1 teaspoon Garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon Crushed red pepper flakes (more or less, to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon Allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground Cloves
- 1 lb Whole Wheat Spaghetti, cooked according to directions
- Cheddar Cheese (see recipe notes for suggestion)
- Optional: Chopped onions and parsley to garnish
- Add all ingredients, down to cloves, to slow cooker. Stir and cook on high for 6 hours, or low for 10 hours.
- Ladle over cooked spaghetti, top with grated cheddar cheese (or substitute of choice), and sprinkle with chopped onions and parsley, if desired.