No chili dog is complete without the 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

Homemade Hot Dog Chili

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

What is Hot Dog Chili?

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

How To Make Hot Dog Chili

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

How To Make a Chili Cheese Dog

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.

But, above all, make sure you top a perfectly cooked hot dog!

Chili Cheese Dogs on a wooden board from

More Hot Dog Topping Ideas

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.

Or go for a classic with this iconic Coney Island Hot Dog!

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.

Our Favorite Chili Recipes

Get the Recipe: The Very Best Hot Dog Chili Sauce Recipe

Sweet, tangy, quick and easy, the very BEST Hot Dog Chili Sauce will be the hit at your next party or tailgate!
4.88 from 25 votes


  • 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.


YouTube video


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: 124kcal, Carbohydrates: 6g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 30mg, Sodium: 337mg, Potassium: 366mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 500IU, Vitamin C: 4.5mg, Calcium: 20mg, Iron: 1.8mg