How To Make Chili Sauce For Chili Dogs

With apologies to Samuel Clemens, the difference between a hot dog and a chili dog is like the difference between a lightning-bug and the lightning. A hot dog is something you eat because you’re hungry. A chili dog is a meal. But, just like most canned foods, the chili you get in a can isn’t worth the time it takes to toss it in the microwave. (Oh, umm … don’t actually toss the can in the microwave. That’s not what I meant. That would be bad.)

This chili is not the same as what you’d put on nachos, or eat on its own. First the primary flavor is onion, not tomato or pepper. Second, and more important, is that the meat has to be broken up much finer than normal chili. It has to be chopped fine enough to spread almost like a condiment.


080503-142908_Lg1 pound ground beef
1 large onion (about one pound)
1/2 cup chili powder (or chile powder [1])
6 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste


Brown the ground beef with a few teaspoons of salt over high heat, making sure to crumble it very small.


That tool I’m using was a gift from my wife. When she gave it to me, I really wanted it to not work. I hate single-purpose kitchen tools, and the only thing this is good for is breaking up ground beef. But boy, does it work for that. My chili dogs were always lumpy before I started using this thing. (See that honey? You were right. Thanks for buying it for me.)

While the beef is browning, dice the onion. Add it to the beef …


… mix it in, and cook until the onion is soft.


Add the tomato paste.


If you’re wondering about why it looks like that, I stored the leftovers from the onion ring dipping sauce by freezing it in an ice cube tray. One tablespoon per cube — yes, I measured — makes it super convenient.

And if you notice that’s not six tablespoons’ worth up in the ingredients picture (very observant of you), that’s because the last time I did this recipe it was with tomato sauce instead of paste. I wasn’t sure how much I was going to need.

Add the chili powder.


Add enough water to dissolve the paste and stir well. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes.


And that’s it. Now make your hot dog and/or hot sausage.

No, that picture has nothing to do with the recipe. I’m just showing off my mad grillin’ skillz. Here’s some more:

Man, I love the return of spring.

1 “Chile powder” is a single type of chile pepper, dried and ground. “Chili powder” is chile powder plus other spices, usually cumin, salt, garlic and others. See this post for more.