The Absolute Best Chili Dogs for Your Backyard BBQ

updated Jul 2, 2020
4th of july
Easy Chili Dogs

A super-shortcut chili makes these dogs a party hit.


Prep25 minutes

Cook30 minutes

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Credit: joe lingeman

The only thing that can make a snappy hot dog on a toasted bun better is a thick layer of savory chili, some sharp cheddar cheese, and onions. If you haven’t discovered the absolute pleasure of serving chili dogs at a backyard get-together yet, let me introduce you.

Chili dogs have become synonymous with amusement parks and college dining halls. But really, they’re an ingenious meal for feeding a hungry crowd or family — and they’re more delicious than you might remember. Here, we’re sharing a recipe for a shortcut chili made with just a pound a beef and a few pantry staples that will cover hot dogs aplenty.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

The Best Chili for Chili Dogs

Depending on where you’re from, you might be partial to a very specific chili for chili dogs — I’m thinking specifically of Texas chili and Skyline chili out of Cincinnati. Personally, my main objective for homemade chili is to keep it simple: one pan and just a few ingredients. I’m also a firm believer that the chili should be beef only — no beans or vegetables. This one is a classic combination of beef, spices, and tomato sauce with a bit of ketchup and Dijon mustard, which compliment all-beef hot dogs perfectly.

You can grill, sauté, or boil your hot dogs for chili dogs, but do not skip toasting the bun — it keeps the chili from softening the bun too quickly. Personally, I’m a stickler for sharp cheddar cheese and diced red onions on my chili dog, but my husband usually asks for some relish too. If you’re feeding a crowd, ask your friends to bring toppings, and hope that someone has the brilliance to bring Fritos!

Credit: Joe Lingeman
Chili Dogs pin

Easy Chili Dogs

A super-shortcut chili makes these dogs a party hit.

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Serves 8

Nutritional Info


  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1 pound

    lean ground beef

  • 1 teaspoon

    onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    chili powder

  • 1 (15-ounce) can

    tomato sauce

  • 1/4 cup


  • 2 tablespoons

    Dijon mustard

  • 8

    all-beef hot dogs

  • 8

    hot dog buns

  • Optional for topping: grated sharp cheddar cheese, finely chopped red onion


  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the beef, onion powder, garlic powder, kosher salt, and chili powder and cook until the beef is browned, mashing and breaking up any large pieces, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, ketchup, and mustard and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes to let the flavors meld. Meanwhile, grill the hot dogs.

  2. Heat an outdoor grill to for direct, medium-high heat. Scrape the grill grates clean as needed. Place the hot dogs on the grill and grill until well-marked and heated through, about 2 minutes per side. Turn the heat off and gently toast the buns on the still-warm grill, about 2 minutes.

  3. To serve, place a hot dog in each bun and top with the chili, cheddar cheese, and red onions, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.