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Recipe: Hot Dog Chili Sauce

I want you to think back to the last chili dog you ate. Not homemade, but the last chili dog you had from a street cart vendor, at the county fair or from your favorite hot dog joint. Chances are, that chili had a different texture and consistency than the chili you’d eat out of a bowl. Well, folks, this recipe is just that.

This Hot Dog Chili Sauce isn’t your traditional chili plopped on hot dogs. Nope. This sauce is made specifically to be a hot dog topping. In this chili the meat has a finer texture and it has a thinner sauce, but it still has tons of chili flavor, which makes it perfect for a chili dog.

The delicious chili sauce makes up to 10 hot dogs. (Stacey Little / Southern Bite)

What makes this Hot Dog Chili Sauce different from regular chili?

To start, this chili sauce has a much finer texture than the chunky chili made with recipes like my Bloody Mary Chili. And this is because we cook the ground beef a little differently for this than we would for standard chili. Cooking the meat in liquid causes it to break down more, giving us that fine texture that we find in hot dog chili.

Starting with a lean ground beef or ground sirloin, like 90/10 or even 93/7, means we don’t have grease to drain away. Having to do that would mean we would also drain away a lot of the flavor, so we start with ground beef that doesn’t have lots of fat.

What do ground beef ratios mean?

In the grocery store, you’ll find ratios on the ground beef like 70/30, 80/20 and 90/10. These indicate the amount of lean versus the amount of fat in the ground beef. Typically you’ll find them with names:

  • Ground beef is usually 70% lean and 30% fat.
  • Ground chuck is usually 80% lean and 20% fat.
  • Ground round is usually 85% lean and 15% fat.
  • Ground sirloin is usually 90% lean and 10% fat.

You might also find labels like “lean” and “extra lean.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires using those terms on packaging. Lean means that 100 grams of beef (about 3 1/2 ounces) has less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol. Extra lean means that 100 grams of beef has less than 5 grams of fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.

Do I really have to use MSG (Accent) in this recipe?

I’m going to head this one off at the pass … no. You do not have to use MSG in this recipe. But it won’t taste the same. I understand some folks are concerned about using MSG in food. It occurs naturally in many foods, but I’m not going to argue the point. In this case it is used as a flavor enhancer and gives the chili the punch of umami it needs – just like with my Best Ranch Dressing recipe. I wouldn’t include it if I didn’t think the recipe needed it, but you are absolutely welcome to leave it out.

Is this recipe really better left over?

I know what you’re thinking … “This bozo is telling me to serve leftovers.”

Yep. Y’all know I’m a culinary rebel, right? Well, I actually did write the recipe to tell you to serve this a day or two after making it. Here’s why:

Science tells us that in some cases leftover food tastes better. As leftovers sit, a few different things happen. The food begins to oxidize and the proteins in the food releases glutamates. Both of these things help to add flavor. The reheating process makes food more flavorful, too. So, in many cases, leftovers taste better than when they’re first cooked.

In my opinion, this is certainly the case with chili. So, making it a day or two before you’re going to use it means it’s going to taste better and it frees up time for cooking other stuff the day of. With all that being said, it’s great the first time around, too. So you don’t have to make it in advance if you don’t have time to plan ahead. But if you do, you should certainly do it that way.

Can this be used only on hot dogs?

Hot Dog Chili Sauce can be served over crispy french fries, baked potatoes and mac and cheese for a quick chili mac. (Stacey Little / Southern Bite)

While this recipe was created specifically for hot dogs, that’s not the only place it can go. We love it over hot, crispy french fries and baked potatoes, and Jack has been known to stir some into mac and cheese for a quick chili mac.

Hot Dog Chili Sauce

Serves: 8


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or ground sirloin (90/10 or leaner)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon MSG* (I use Accent brand)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar


  1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or deep skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook until translucent.
  3. Add the ground beef and beef broth. Use the spoon to break up the meat.
  4. Cook, uncovered, until the meat is cooked through. Do not drain.
  5. Add the tomato sauce, garlic powder, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, cumin, MSG and vinegar.
  6. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  7. Cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to your preference.
  8. For added flavor, make a day in advance, cool, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight.
  9. When ready to serve, add the chili sauce to a skillet or Dutch oven, cover and bring to a simmer. Add more broth or water if desired.
  10. Serve warm.


  • Makes enough to top eight to 10 hot dogs.
  • MSG is not required in this recipe but sure does make it taste great.

This recipe originally appeared on For more great recipes, visit the website or check out ”The Southern Bite Cookbook.”