The Very Best Hot Dog Chili Recipe

No chili dog is complete without the Very Best Hot Dog Chili! Quick and easy, this homemade hot dog chili sauce is better than anything you’ll ever buy at the neighborhood hot dog cart. Sweet, tangy, meaty….this recipe has a secret ingredient that just makes it explode with epic flavor.

Overhead shot of three chili cheese dogs from

Everyone has their favorite comfort foods….the food that you turn to to make you feel good from the inside out. Mine is the Chili Cheese Dog. I don’t know why but I kind of have a love affair with hot dogs….and have since as far back as I can remember.

And you can all keep your lectures about what’s in hot dogs to yourselves. I’m aware…and that’s why I’m super picky when it comes to shopping for my dogs. We’ll talk about that later.

The BEST Hot Dog Chili Sauce in a white bowl on a blue background from


I LOVE a good chili cheese dog but what makes a chili dog seriously amazing is the actual hot dog chili sauce that’s blanketed on top. It can seriously make or break your dog so it’s best when you take matters into your own hands.

Sure, I’ve topped my dogs with canned chili sauce in the past and I have to say I’m not really a fan so I came up with the very BEST Hot Dog Chili recipe so you, too, can have a seriously epic homemade chili cheese dog. And never leave the house again.

A chili dog is just a hot dog topped with a simple chili sauce, also known as chili con carne. It’s, basically, a chili made without beans. You can top your hot dog with additional toppings like onions, relish, pickles and peppers but classic cheese sauce is my favorite.

Hand placing shredded cheese on a chili cheese dog from


Homemade Hot Dog Chili sauce is pretty simple to make with easy to find ingredients you may already have in your pantry. To make this the best hot dog chili sauce ever….I threw in a few extra things to amp up the flavor like never before.

To start, I used a lean ground beef and mix it’s with a bit of Italian sausage. I love the sweetness the sausage brings to the party and it just makes people wonder what you put in there that makes it so flipping delish!

Undressed hot dogs with grilled hot dog rolls, a bowl of chili and shredded cheese from


Then, I added some aromatics like onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, paprika….and the super secret ingredient that will make you think I lost my mind…..espresso powder. Yep, that’s it.

It totally added another level of flavor that took this chili over the top. I’m even thinking of adding it to my reader favorite Chili recipe that already has won tons of awards!

After all that gets a chance to blend together, I stir in the tomato sauce, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. It’s really the best thing you’ll make all summer that doesn’t require a grill.

My husband ate the rest out of a bowl because we ran out of hot dogs….it’s just THAT AMAZING!

Overhead shot of three chili cheese dogs with potato chips on a blue background from


This isn’t really a recipe for Chili Cheese Dogs but since you’re already here I’ll give you the quick and dirty…..basically, top your hot dog with the homemade hot dog chili sauce…..then top the chili sauce with grated cheddar cheese or your favorite cheese sauce.

Melt it if you want…but I like the cool, creamy texture of the cheese against the chili. AND the chili will actually melt the cheese a bit so you do you.

Chili Cheese Dogs on a wooden board from


When it comes to topping hot dogs, the possibilities are endless.  You could just make your epic chili cheese dog with the very BEST Hot Dog Chili Sauce or you can go classic New Yorker with a pile of this New York Style onion sauce.

Chili Cheese Dog on a blue and white square plate from

Take a quick trip to Philadelphia with one of my favorites, Philly style Italian Hot Dogs. Go classic with a little homemade ketchup and a side of pickles. It’s totally your dog your way.

We’re also totally digging these easy Corn Dogs….they’re ready in minutes and sooooooooo good!

But if you’re curious as to exactly what I’m eating on my dog….follow me over on Instagram where I’m sharing just about everything I’m eating lately.

If you’re looking for a more traditional chili recipe you have to try these reader favorites:

The Very Best Hot Dog Chili Sauce Recipe

Kellie at
Sweet, tangy, quick and easy, the very BEST Hot Dog Chili Sauce will be the hit at your next party or tailgate!
4.95 from 18 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Condiment
Cuisine American
Servings 12
Calories 124 kcal


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 4 ounces sweet Italian sausage casing removed
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the ground beef and sausage to the pot breaking it up into small pieces with a fork. The smaller the pieces, the better your chili will be!
  • Continue cooking the meat until browned and no longer pink, approximately 7-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the pot and transfer to a large bowl. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of fat.
  • Add the onion to the pot with the reserved fat. Cook the onion for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking for 1 minute.
  • Add the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, paprika and tomato paste to the onion mixture stirring to combine. Continue to cook the onions until the tomato paste turns a deep Burgundy color, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomato sauce, brown sugar, espresso powder and vinegar. Return the beef and sausage back to the pot and stir to combine.
  • Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Check for seasoning again adding salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve immediately.



Hot Dog Chili Sauce can be made up to 48 hours in advance and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. The Chili Sauce can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.


Calories: 124kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 10gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 30mgSodium: 337mgPotassium: 366mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 500IUVitamin C: 4.5mgCalcium: 20mgIron: 1.8mg
Keyword hot dog chili
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

22 comments on “The Very Best Hot Dog Chili Recipe”

  1. My husband asks for chili dogs at least once a month! I can’t wait to make these next time!

  2. This is such a brilliant idea for a backyard BBQ!

  3. SO perfect for Summer! Can’t wait to make this!

  4. Yum! I am using this for my cookout this coming weekend.

  5. With this sauce, I just might eat hot dogs! Love it!

  6. My fav bbq party eats!!

  7. Homemade is always better! This hot dog chili looks amazing and so easy to make!

  8. I tried this on company. It was a hit.

    Now filed under “keepers.”

    I had the chili cheese onion option. 

  9. I followed the recipe to the T “except” I halved the 1/2 tsp. of cayenne pepper. I think next time I will cut it again, or even omit it. Otherwise, it was great!!

  10. I’m 65, and have been looking for a great hot dog chili for years. I liked the sounds of this and tried it, following the recipe as close as I could. ( I didn’t have instant espresso powder, so I substituted some really strong coffee. LOL) I LOVED IT!! Told both my daughters and my sister, and they have all made it now, with the same rave reviews. I have since purchased the instant espresso powder, and am about to make it again. It’s definitely a keeper. I just made some cheese sauce to top it with, that turned out really well. I could be eating Nathan’s Hot dogs with chili and cheese sauce for a week. 🙂 

  11. We LOVED this!  I am a stickler for natural ingredients – so we NEVER buy canned chili or seasoning packets.  All of these ingredients are already in my house, so I proceeded.  And it was GREAT!!!  Really tasted like a commercial chili.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.