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All Purpose Hot Dog Chili Sauce Recipe

Meathead's All-Purpose Chili Sauce Recipe

"Although the frankfurter originated in Frankfurt, Germany, we have long since made it our own, a twin pillar of democracy along with Mom’s apple pie. In fact, now that Mom’s apple pie comes frozen and baked by somebody who isn’t Mom, the hot dog stands alone. What it symbolizes remains pure, even if what it contains does not." William Zinsser

Right up front you've got to understand that hot chili sauces bear no resemblance to real Texas Chili. Zero. Zip. Nada. They are closer to Sloppy Joes, if anything.

The Greeks and Macedonians who spread the concept of the chili dog, commonly called the Coney, from coast to coast each had a proprietary meat sauce that they made from cheap cuts of ground beef, beef heart, kidneys, and trimmings. Much the same stuff used to make the hot dogs, in fact.

They seasoned their sauces with Mediterranean flavors, the brown spices (cinnamon, allspice, clove), herbs (oregano especially), tomatoes and tomato sauce, and amped it up with American chili powder and red pepper flakes. Every joint has its own recipe (except for the lazy ones who buy it frozen).

I've tasted a lot of their recipes. I've even reproduced a number of them on this site (see The Detroit Coney and the Cincinnati Cheese Coney). Now here's my all purpose recipe, good for hot dogs and even Carolina Style Hamburgers. A little less brown spice, a bit more tomato. Yes, I know it looks a lot like Sloppy Joe meat, but it's not.


Makes. Enough for about 8-10 hot dogs. Even if it is more than you need, make a full batch and freeeze it. It's good on a bun all buy itself.

Preparation time. About 90 minutes.


1 pound lean ground sirloin or lamb or mixed

1 large onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons American chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon ginger powder

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 cups water

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

4 ounces tomato paste

2 teaspoons inexpensive balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco Chipotle Sauce

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Controversial. Now this mix-in has been known to start fights, so I offer it without opinion, but many hot dog chili sauces have beans in them. If that's the way you like it, then just add a 15 ounce can of drained and rinsed pinto beans.

To make kick butt Sloppy Joes. Stir in 1/4 cup Kansas City style barbecue sauce.


1) In a small bowl assemble the dry ingredients: American chili powder, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, mustard, ginger, salt, and pepper. In another bowl mix the wet ingredients: Water, Worcestershire, tomato paste, vinegar, and hot sauce.

2) Crumble the meat into a medium hot pan that is not non-stick. Stir it around and break it up with a wooden spoon until it is tan all over, about 15 minutes. Keep it simmering until all the water evaporates and the meat begins to fry. You'll hear it sizzle and it will start turning dark brown. Push the meat to one side of the pan. Add the onions and peppers to the bare metal side of the pan and fry them for about 5 minutes until the onions are limp. Add the garlic and fry it for 1 minute. Mix everything together.

3) Push everything to one side and add the olive oil on top of the bare metal and then pour the spices on the oil to allow their oil-soluble flavors to bloom in the oil for about 1 minute. Mix the spices in with everything else.

4) Add the wet ingredients and mix. Let everything simmer on medium low with the lid off for up to an hour. When it dries out, add more water. Cook it down to the whatever thickness you like. I like mine on the crumbly side, not the drippy side as they do in Detroit and Cincy.

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