Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce

Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce

I remember having my first taste of a Chili Cheese Dog when I was a kid. It was from Joe’s in my hometown and it was a foot-long, hanging off the bun on either side and smothered with chili and melty cheese. It was heaven! I can’t go back in time, but I can make this Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce & recreate that memory as best I can.

Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce

Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce


So if you’re missing your fave smothered hot dog with chili and cheese from wherever you usually get your fix, you can do the same!

About Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce:

If you grew up (or live) anywhere in the Midwest or the South, you might be familiar with all the flavors in this hot dog sauce. And you might have had similar ones at ballparks, games, fairs, and so on. I have noticed in the South, the chili often has just a bit of sweetness, but hey, I have y’all covered, too.

This is a fabulous basic Chili Sauce, easy to make and it has the perfect luscious texture. It’s flavorful with just the right hint of spice – that makes it classic and of course, family-friendly, too. And btw, no beans allowed! Save those for your regular chili you serve in a bowl (unless you’re from Texas, lol!)

Make this hot dog chili sauce once, and you’ll never, ever, ever want to resort to a canned version again! I urge you to give this simple sauce a try, but if for some reason you decide you’ve got to have canned sauce, at least check out this link by FoodGuy on the Seven Best Canned Chili Sauces for Hot Dogs.

I always break up my ground meats with the type of masher on the right. The other I use in this recipe to very finely work the ground beef into tiny bits.

Making Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce:

For this recipe, you’ll get a smoother hot dog chili sauce if you use loosely packed ground beef instead of anything in a roll or chub pack. Use a lean ground beef because it will be difficult to drain any fat using this method of cooking.

The real key to making this sauce is to simmer the onions and ground beef (after the onions are sauteed with a little oil) with water; that breaks down the beef and is what gives the real classic texture to the sauce, and the texture is really just as important as the taste!

I’m gonna talk about two “gadgets” here, both potato mashers, that will really help you get the perfect texture. Neither is an absolute necessity but will save you some work. If you don’t have one, use a large fork, like a serving fork, to kind of mash your ground beef up.

  • The first is a potato masher with loops of metal; I use one whenever I’m cooking and breaking down ground beef or ground pork for a recipe. They have gadgets you can buy for six to 10 bucks, but why, when a potato masher works so well and does double duty?
  • The other is a potato masher, too, the kind that has a grid. You can get by without but this, for me, is a double-duty gadget. I use it for potatoes sometimes, but mostly I use it when I make refried beans or other items that I want to mash smoothly and it works great on this Hot Dog Chili Sauce.

Once the ground beef/onion mixture is cooked down and the water is mostly gone, you’ll add in all your spices and let them cook for a minute or two, then just dump everything else in and let it simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes to marry all the flavors and thicken up a bit.

This sauce will be a little looser than (most people’s) regular chili you’d eat from a bowl, and it’s done just about right when you can scrape the bottom of the pan and it fills in after about half a minute.

  • You can make it thicker (I usually do if I’m serving kids – less messy) by simmering a little longer. I also think a little thicker is great in most recipes because whatever it is served on doesn’t get soggy.
  • You can thin the sauce by adding in a little additional water. This sauce does get thicker as it sits and when it’s stored. Just add a little water bit by bit as you reheat.


Adjusting the Flavor & Seasoning:

The most important thing to know about this recipe is to taste and adjust the seasonings! Add more of anything, but know if you’re looking for some heat the best time to do that is when you add all the spices in at the beginning – it helps them lose that “raw” flavor.

If you want a good amount of heat, in addition to adding more of the hot spices, the chili powder, and cayenne, you can dice up a little of your fave peppers, maybe a serrano or a jalapeno, and saute with the onion and can add a few dashes of hot sauce at the end.

If you’re from the South or used to eating the canned chili sauce, you might appreciate a little sweetness. Use your choice of brown or white sugar, a tablespoon or so. There’s nothing wrong at ALL with that play of spicy/sweet and I love it; it just wasn’t something I grew up with being from the  Midwest.

Most of all, know that this is a great recipe and the perfect jumping-off point if you want to tinker and make it your own!

Oven Chili Cheese Dogs

Oven Chili Cheese Dogs with Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce

How to Use, Besides in Chili Cheese Dogs:

While this makes incredible Chili Cheese Dogs, you can use the Chili Sauce in a whole bunch of different ways! Preferably with cheese! Here are a few to get you started, but if you have your own ninja way with Chili Sauce I’d love to hear it!

  • Make Chili Cheese Fries: Smother cooked fries with the chili sauce and add cheese. If the sauce is warm enough it will melt the cheese. If you use chunky cheese, like cheese curds, or if the cheese doesn’t melt, toss the dish in the oven, under the broiler, or in the microwave.
  • Make a Chili Cheese Baked Potato or Baked Sweet Potato: No brainer. Just open your potato, top with the sauce and cheese! Add a dollop of sour cream if you lean that way.
  • Chili Cheese Burgers: Smother your burger with the hot sauce (immediately before serving) and add cheese, your fave condiments and you’re done! You may need a fork!
  • Chili Cheese Rito: While it’s not the same as the old famous Taco Bell version, try a schmear of chili across a flour tortilla, add cheese, roll up, and microwave for about 30 to 40 seconds for an ooey, gooey treat.
  • Chili Grilled Cheese: Just make your regular grilled cheese but layer in some of this chili sauce. Go easy on it because once it is hot it will make a mess if you use too much.
Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce

Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce ready to freeze.

How to Store Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce:

Store your Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for three to five days.

If you are not going to use all of your Hot Dog Chili Sauce, freeze it for another time. It freezes beautifully and will keep several months in your fridge’s freezer and closer to a year in a deep freeze.

Saving Money:

Ground Beef freezes extremely well and it goes on sale often. There’s really no reason to pay full price. Keep tabs on the pricing in your area so you know what a good price is and what is the rock bottom sales price (usually about once a quarter) and stock up then. Generally, the larger family packs are less per pound. Divide up in portions before freezing. Most recipes will call for a pound of ground beef.

Tomato Sauce and other Tomato products are another item I generally keep on hand. I’ll pick them up as they go on sale just about any time they hit a rock bottom price.

As far as condiments like the ketchup, summer is the best time to buy. Watch all the sales before any of the major summer holidays (check out this page on Summer Savings) and stock up for the year. If you miss the summer sales, around the Superbowl is when you’re next likely to see great competitive pricing.

So I hope you enjoy this Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce whether you serve it with hot dogs or not! Using it to make your Chili Cheese Dogs can take a simple, basic item and turn it into a real treat – it might be something to think about for cookout.


Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce

Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce – I like mine on the thicker side but you can make yours as thick or as saucy as you’d like.


Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce

  • Author: mollie kirby
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: about 3 cups 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Cuisine: American


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/3 cup Ketchup
  • dash or two Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • dash or two of hot sauce (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon or to taste, brown or white sugar (optional)
  • additional water as needed


Add oil to a saucepan and heat to medium-high. Add in the onion and stirring now and then, saute until softened. Add the ground beef and cook for several minutes, breaking up the ground beef. Do not brown. Add the water and continue to break up the beef as the water simmers.

When the water is nearly gone, add in the chili powder, salt, pepper, celery salt and dry mustard and stir in. Cook, stirring for about a minute. Add the ketchup, Worcestershire, tomato sauce and if using, to taste, a dash or two of hot sauce and the sugar. Continue to cook 15 to 20 minutes until desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust any seasonings.

Once cooked as it cools and later if refrigerated, the sauce becomes thicker. Add additional water to bring back to desired consistency.

Keywords: Bargain Meal of the Week, Beef, Brown Sugar, Ground Beef, hot dogs, ketchup, Tomato sauce, Tomatoes

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Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce is so easy to make and so delish you'll never turn to a can again! Use it on hot dogs, burgers, baked potatoes & wrapped in a tortilla! #HomemadeHotDogChiliSauce #HomemadeChiliSauce #HomemadeHotDogSauce #HomemadeHotDogChiliSauce #HotDogs

6 thoughts on “Homemade Hot Dog Chili Sauce

  1. AJ

    My husband grew up in western PA and chili hot dogs are an institution there. Every year when we go back to visit we make a “pilgrimage” to the New Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe. My boys have fond memories of watching their dad & uncles have hot dog eating contests (standing recorded is 15). Have always tried to recreate the recipe but never quite succeed. Will give your recipe a go; it sounds delish! Reading your blog brought back fond memories

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