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This easy hot dog chili recipe is the perfect addition to your next football tailgate, cookout with friends, or family movie night! The simple chili sauce is made with sweet ketchup, hearty ground beef, and zesty seasoning for a flavorful condiment that elevates an American classic. Add other toppings like cheese, onions, and pickle relish for the best chili dog ever!

Hot dog chili on a ladle

How to Make Hot Dog Chili | 1-Minute Video

Chili Hot Dog Recipe

Whether you’re cheering for your favorite team or hosting a football watch party to enjoy time with friends, there’s no denying that good food is a huge part of any celebration this season. For a crowd-pleasing option, set up a hot dog bar at your next gathering and let everyone help themselves to a variety of toppings — including the best hot dog chili recipe!

What is a Chili Dog?

The classic American “Chili Dog” is simply a hot dog served in a bun and finished with meat sauce. Additional toppings might include grated cheddar cheese, diced onion, pickle relish, or mustard — but the true star of the show is the sweet and spicy hot dog chili. It’s just like the old-fashioned hot dog chili sauce that you grew up loving from your favorite small town diner.

Ketchup and tomato sauce are the base of this hot dog chili recipe, so the condiment is full of rich tomato flavor. It’s important to note that this particular chili is a sauce designed to be used as a condiment (like ketchup) on hot dogs — so it’s sweeter and thinner than a pot of traditional ground beef chili that you would eat on its own with a spoon.

Close front shot of chili dogs in a basket with pot of hot dog chili in the background

Ingredients for a Chili Recipe for Hot Dogs

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a pot of hot dog chili. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Lean ground beef: the base of the meat sauce.
  • Onion and garlic: give the sauce savory flavor.
  • Water: to thin the sauce.
  • Tomato sauce: gives the chili sauce rich tomato flavor.
  • Ketchup: gives the hot dog chili sauce a sweet taste, since this sauce is typically used in lieu of sweet ketchup alone.
  • Sweet paprika and chili powder: zesty seasonings.
  • Worcestershire sauce: for savory, salty, umami flavor.
  • Yellow mustard: adds a touch of tang and acidic bite to the sauce.
  • Salt and pepper: to enhance the other flavors and balance the sweetness.
Red Gold ketchup and tomato sauce

How to Make the Best Hot Dog Chili Sauce

This easy chili sauce simmers on the stovetop and is ready in less than an hour! You can make it ahead of time and then just keep it warm on the stove or in a Crock Pot. It will be ready and waiting to dress up your hot dogs whenever you need it!

  1. Cook the ground beef and onion in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until the meat is no longer pink and the onion is soft. Then stir in the garlic, and cook for one more minute.
  2. Add water, tomato sauce, ketchup, paprika, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper.
  3. Simmer for about 25-30 minutes to thicken slightly, and then the sauce is ready to enjoy!
Ground beef onion and garlic in a pot with a wooden spoon
Hot dog chili ingredients in a cast iron Dutch oven

What goes with chili and hot dogs?

Again, it’s important to note that this hot dog chili is designed as a condiment sauce to be served on top of hot dogs. It is not a traditional beef chili that you would eat in a bowl with a spoon. Instead, this chili sauce has a much sweeter flavor (like ketchup), and is reminiscent of the meat-based condiments that you’d find in an old-fashioned diner. Spoon it on top of hot dogs, and finish them off with minced onion, pickle relish, and grated cheddar cheese!

If you’re hosting a tailgate or picnic, here are a few great options to pair with the chili dogs:

Don’t forget the cold drinks to serve with your chili dogs, too! We love Sweet TeaHomemade Lemonade, and Blackberry Lemonade!

Hot dog chili in a white serving bowl with spoon

Storage

Hot dog chili sauce will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. The leftovers should be discarded, however, if it’s left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

How to Freeze

This chili sauce freezes really well, making it an ideal prep-ahead option when you’re hosting a gathering. To freeze, allow the chili to cool completely. Package in smaller portions (if desired) in airtight containers and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

How to Reheat Homemade Hot Dog Chili

Thaw frozen chili in the refrigerator overnight. Place the hot dog chili in a saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover and warm over low heat, just until hot, about 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, place the chili sauce in a Crock Pot, cover, and keep it on the “warm” setting for the duration of your party.

Overhead shot of chili dogs alongside a bottle of Red Gold ketchup

Hot Dog Chili Sauce Recipe Variations

  • A traditional hot dog chili does not include beans; however, you can add a can of drained, rinsed pinto beans, pink beans, or kidney beans if you like.
  • Swap out the ground beef and use ground chicken, ground turkey, ground pork, or even a combination that includes ground pork sausage or ground chorizo.
  • Add diced bell peppers to the skillet with the ground beef, onion, and garlic.
  • If you like a richer, meatier flavor, you can use beef broth instead of water.
  • For spicy hot dog chili, add cayenne pepper.
  • Substitute ¾ teaspoon of garlic powder for the fresh garlic cloves.

Tips for the Best Hot Dog Chili Recipe

  • This chili sauce is designed to be a condiment that you serve on top of hot dogs, and therefore has a sweet flavor that’s similar to ketchup. It is not a chili that you eat on its own in a bowl. If you’re looking for a more traditional beef chili recipe that’s not very sweet, try this or this Crock Pot version.
  • Use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to break up the beef into very small pieces as it cooks. A classic hot dog sauce doesn’t contain any large chunks of meat.
  • Is hot dog chili gluten-free? Yes! Always check your labels on individual products, but this chili recipe can be made gluten-free.
  • Is hot dog chili Keto-friendly? This chili recipe has about 6 grams of carbohydrates and 72 calories per ¼-cup serving, so use sparingly if you’re following a Keto diet.
  • How much hot dog chili do I need to feed 50 people? or 100 people? If you’re preparing a big batch of this chili for a crowd, I recommend planning for about 2 hot dogs per person. Each hot dog is topped with about 2 tablespoons of chili, so you’ll need ¼ cup chili per person. For a crowd of 50, that’s about 12 ½ cups of chili (or this recipe multiplied by 3). To serve 100, I would estimate about 24-25 cups of hot dog chili sauce (so multiply this recipe by 6).
Hot dogs topped with hot dog chili cheese and onion in a serving basket

More Easy Chili Recipes to Try

Hot dog chili on a ladle

Hot Dog Chili

4.75 from 12 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
Servings 16 people
Calories 72.3 kcal
This sweet, tangy, and zesty hot dog chili sauce is the perfect topping to turn regular hot dogs into the best chili dogs!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (I used 90% lean)
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • cup water
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • For serving: cooked hot dogs, hot dog buns, grated cheddar cheese, diced onion, pickle relish, mustard

Instructions

  • Cook ground beef and onion in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until meat is no longer pink and onion is soft (about 7-10 minutes). Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat into very small pieces as it cooks. Add minced garlic and continuing cooking and stirring for 1 more minute.
  • Add water, tomato sauce, ketchup, paprika, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper.
  • Bring to boil; reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 25-30 minutes (or until chili thickens slightly).

Video

Notes

  • This chili sauce is designed to be a condiment that you serve on top of hot dogs, and therefore has a sweet flavor that’s similar to ketchup. It is not a chili that you eat on its own in a bowl. If you’re looking for a more traditional beef chili recipe that’s not very sweet, try this or this Crock Pot version.
  • Use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to break up the beef into very small pieces as it cooks. A classic hot dog sauce doesn’t contain any large chunks of meat.
  • Is hot dog chili gluten-free? Yes! Always check your labels on individual products, but this chili recipe can be made gluten-free.
  • Is hot dog chili Keto-friendly? This chili recipe has about 6 grams of carbohydrates and 72 calories per ¼-cup serving, so use sparingly if you’re following a Keto diet.
  • How much hot dog chili do I need to feed 50 people? or 100 people? If you’re serving this chili to a crowd, I recommend planning for about 2 hot dogs per person. Each hot dog is topped with about 2 tablespoons of chili, so you’ll need ¼ cup chili per person. For a crowd of 50, that’s about 12 ½ cups of chili (or this recipe multiplied by 3). To serve 100, you need about 24-25 cups of hot dog chili sauce (so multiply this recipe by 6).
  • A traditional hot dog chili does not include beans; however, you can add a can of drained, rinsed pinto beans, pink beans, or kidney beans if you like.
  • Swap out the ground beef and use ground chicken, ground turkey, ground pork, or even a combination that includes ground pork sausage or ground chorizo.
  • Add diced bell peppers to the skillet with the ground beef, onion, and garlic.
  • For spicy hot dog chili, add cayenne pepper.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.25cupCalories: 72.3kcalCarbohydrates: 5.9gProtein: 6.1gFat: 2.6gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 17.5mgSodium: 397.9mgPotassium: 70.8mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 4.1g
Keyword: chili dogs, chili for hot dogs, chili hot dog recipe, hot dog chili
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

    1. Hi, Katelyn! I just made a batch last weekend for our family of 5, and then stashed the leftover chili in the freezer for another meal. Always a good option!

      If you just want to make less chili, though, I would suggest cutting all of the ingredients in half. That will give you about 8 servings, but it might be the perfect amount for your crowd of 6 (if you have some bigger appetites in the mix)! Enjoy!

      1. 5 stars
        This recipe was absolutely awesome.I did use some of my own seasonings but this recipe was WELL put together. This is my go to from now on. Thank you for sharing.

  1. I’m so sorry that you didn’t care for it, Kimberly. Hot dog chili is definitely supposed to be sweet (more like ketchup), since it’s used as a condiment — not like a regular chili that you would eat in a bowl. 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    This was great!!! I made it and froze the rest in little 2Tbsp dots so I can make one for lunch and I don’t have to heat up too much!!!! My favorite dinner this week!!!!

    1. Yay! So glad that you liked it, Rebecca! Thanks for taking the time to come back here and let me know. Enjoy those leftovers! 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    Recipe of chilli deserves a special recognition because it s delicious.I especially enjoy worcheshire flavoring in this chilli.

    1. Thank you, Dee! I’m so glad that it was a hit! Thanks for taking the time to come back here and let me know. 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    Delicious! I used beef broth instead of water and less mustard to fit my taste. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Awesome! Thanks, DeLisa! I appreciate you taking the time to come back here and leave a note. I bet the beef broth was great!

  5. 3 stars
    I agree. Kinda upset it turned out like sloppy joe instead. Luckily I had a can of castleberry up in the cabinet. I’ll eat it because I love sloppy joe, but hubby is picky. Maybe less ketchup would have been better.

  6. 5 stars
    I made a different recipe that had similar ingredients and it was awful, but I found your recipe and used it to doctor up the other one. 100% better, so good!

  7. Too much ketchup. Taste a lot like sloppy Joe’s.. and I’m my opinion, too sweet. I would leave out the ketchup if this isn’t what your aiming for.

  8. 5 stars
    Absolutely loved this recipe however it tasted more like sloppy joes. It was on the sweet side. Down in the south, our hot dog chili sauce isn’t sweet. I’m going to not use the ketchup next time and just use more tomato sauce. I had to add more chili powder to make it taste more like a chili sauce. It also didn’t make a lot for the serving you have listed. For a family of 6, 3 being adults, one teenager and two younger kids I need to double this recipe.

  9. 4 stars
    Like others have said, this chili tastes more like Sloppy Joes than what I imagine when I think of traditional hotdog chili, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good!! Next time, I’ll use half the ketchup. In the meantime, I’m gonna load my dogs up with chopped onion, cheddar cheese, and this lovely chili. Thanks for the recipe!!