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.


  1. Looks great. Have you every had Cincinnati style chili? I love it – although most chili purists would probably abhor it.

  2. I’ve eaten at Skyline so yeah, I’ve had Cincinnati style. Or at least the fast-food version of it. I just had to keep telling myself, “This isn’t real chili … this isn’t real chili … don’t expect it to taste like chili … “

  3. If you haven’t tried it, try Tommy’s chili. A few good recipes on the web, I still feel mine is the best. I have a cardinal rule that condiment chili shouldn’t have any tomato whatsoever in it. I’m very much a chili con carne person when it comes to hamburgers and hotdogs.

  4. Beth, I’ll definitely be trying that. I wanted to leave the tomato out, but I couldn’t get enough flavor. The beef broth is what I’ve been missing. Thanks for the pointer.

  5. I have been looking through your blog and I love it. When I saw the title, it intrigued me because I remember some things Grandma cooked that I can’t find recipes for. So, I will be checking your recipes out very thoroughly. :)

    Thank you for having this here!!

  6. Here in India, something very like your ground-beef-tool is used to break up curds for a drink called lassi. So you can relax, it isn’t a single-use tool :)

  7. Jaz, what are you looking for? I have a lot more recipes on file that what I’ve posted so far.

    Uzma, have you got a recipe for lassi? Yes, I’m the kind of person who will try a new recipe just so I have an excuse to use a specific kitchen gadget. :-/

  8. joLassi is a mixture of curd and water which is whipped (the tool is held between palms and rotated – don’t quite know how to describe this). The proportions depend on the thickness of the curd, but the final drink is supposed to be thick, not as liquid as milkshake.

    Any other additives are optional, usually either sugar or salt is added. Fruit can also be added, but in that case probably a mixer would be needed to blend it fully.

    The texture comes out best if full cream curd is used.

  9. forgot to add: serve chilled :)

  10. Thanks, now all I have to do is find a store that has curd.

  11. hi! i'm from bangladesh and i never imagined that thing could be used to grind meat! we use it to cook 'dal'[lentil etc i think]- to break it when it's half boiled, to make the thing smoother.
    also, my mother adds both salt and sugar in lassi, and most importantly, lemon's not too think either, you can drink it with a straw. but i think Uzma's account might be more authentic.
    thanks for the recipe :-)

  12. Interesting. I’ve been experimenting with different ways to make bolognaise sauce; there’s a lot of similarities.


  13. Given the same easily-available ingredients, I think it’s inevitable that the same combinations keep showing up. They work well, and most people are going to like them.

    Look at Italian and Mexican food: wheat or corn based dough in various shapes; with tomatoes, meat and spices; and cheese. Shape the dough differently, put the meat and cheese inside, outside or on top, and add chile peppers or crushed red pepper to taste. You’ve just described 90% of all Italian and Mexican food. (And quite a lot of several other cuisines, by the way.)

  14. The men in my family believe themselves to be chili connoisseurs… grandparents used to have the midway houses on the golf courses in Southern Pines & Whispering Pines NC. He would make tremendous batches weekly. Try a dash of cumin the next time you make some. We also put a little more water and let it cook down lo0nger. The longer it cooks the more the flavors meld and come out.

    You cab use your kitchen gadget to mash potatoes too!

  15. Cumin is a requirement for chili chili, but for the stuff I put on my hot dogs, I actually prefer without.

    And you’re right about the thingy being good for potatoes. It’s much better than a regular potato masher.

  16. This looks sooooooo good, i feel like i am going to eat my computer screan just by looking at it!!!!!!!

  17. now my brother HATES onions. is there anything i can replace the onions with?

    • You could always leave it out and it will just be chili sauce. Anything I would think to replace onion with would taste like onion. If you want to go a little different, try other aromatics like celery, carrots or bell peppers.


  1. […] be really difficult (and tedious) to get it evenly crumbled. I really like the tool I used for the chili sauce and mashed roasted potatoes recipes. (Turns out it’s the Pampered Chef Mix ‘N Chop.) […]

  2. […] be really difficult (and tedious) to get it evenly crumbled. I really like the tool I used for the chili sauce and mashed roasted potatoes recipes. (It’s the Pampered Chef Mix ‘N […]

Tip Jar

Like what you see? Buy me a drink.