The Best Chili Hot Dogs Recipe

Chili cheese dogs in a basket with all the toppings.

Chili cheese dogs are a right of summer passage, and these chili cheese hot dogs are the best. These grilled hot dogs are topped with homemade hot dog chili and plenty of cheese with a few extra secret ingredients. Keep this chili hot dog recipe on hand for all your summer cookouts.

A bowl of hot dog chili.

A humble grilled hot dog may not sound as exciting as a BBQ Bacon Burger, or Smoked Beer Can Chicken, but you’ll change your mind when you try this chili hot dogs recipe.

It uses frankfurters with a snappy casing, my chili for chili dogs, (a featured recipe in Brian Baumgartner’s famous Seriously Good Chili Cookbook, affiliate link) and freshly grated cheddar cheese.

My husband calls these “chili cheese dilly dogs” since they’ve got a spear of dill pickle tucked into each one. I call them delicious!

Why you’ll love this recipe:

  • It’s quick and easy to make.
  • It’s a sloppy, 2-handed affair that will take you back to your childhood.
  • It’s as simple as grilling hot dogs and dressing them with all the chili cheese dog toppings.
  • The recipe can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled for a crowd.
  • You can make the hot dog chili ahead of time and prep the toppings in advance, so it’s easy for entertaining in the back yard by the pool, down by the lake or beach.
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  • Chili for Chili Dogs – This all-beef hot dog chili recipe has a finer grain and texture with no beans and is perfectly seasoned for hot dogs. Made from ground beef, cumin, chili powder, onion and onion powder, cayenne pepper, ketchup, yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and apple cider vinegar. It only takes a quick, 15-minute simmer
  • Natural Casing Hot Dogs – Skip the cheap frankfurters and go for something special with a snappy casing. Our favorites are Boar’s Head, Sabrett’s or Hebrew National.
  • Cheddar Cheese – Skip the pre-shredded cheeses and grate a block of sharp cheddar on a box grater for better melting.
  • Vidalia Onion – or other sweet onion. Most people don’t like onion on their grilled hot dogs because of the sting factor. I use sweet onion for the flavor without the bite.
  • Dill Pickle Spears – I like Claussen refrigerated pickles because they’re snappier but you can use your favorite.
  • Soft Hot Dog Buns – I recommend Martin’s Potato Rolls or Pepperidge Farm top sliced hot dog buns.
  • Yellow Mustard – French’s. It’s non-negotiable.
Links of hot dogs in a casing.

Assemble the ingredients before you begin because things come together quickly once the grilled hot dogs are done.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Prepare the chili for chili dogs (you can do this several days before), grate the cheddar cheese, finely dice the onion, and slice the dill pickles into thin wedges – so they’ll fit on the bun.
  2. Preheat the grill to 350°F-400°F.
  3. Grill the hot dogs until they blister and char, but don’t split.
  4. Transfer the grilled hot dogs to a bun, tuck in the pickle spear, and top with yellow mustard and ¼ cup of hot dog chili.
  5. Add cheddar cheese and sprinkle with diced onions.
Setting up the toppings and buns before grilling the hot dogs.


For the best chili cheese dogs use the best frankfurters you can find. Bon Appetit conducted “scientific research” on the best supermarket hot dog brands you can buy.

Their recommendation is Boar’s Head natural casing franks. They come packaged as one continuous string of frankfurters. Talk about “wow” factor.  

These hot dogs have just the right flavor and juicy snap.  Other top contenders are Sabrett’s and Hebrew National.  They’re longer than the bun and the perfect size for piling on more chili and cheese.

Grilling the hot dogs.

Tips on how to grill hot dogs

  • Preheat the grill and use a wire brush to scrape off residue of anything you had cooked previously. You don’t want your chili cheese dogs to taste like last night’s fish dinner.
  • Use a lower grill temperature (350°-400°) to avoid splitting the frankfurters. You want to keep all the juicy goodness inside, and if you use an ultra-hot grill, you run the risk of bursting through the casing.
  • Turn the hot dogs regularly to get grill marks on all sides.
  • You can grill your hot dog buns or heat them in a low oven if you like warm buns.
Grilled hot dogs in their buns with toppings on the side.


  • If you prefer sweet pickles, bread and butter or garlic pickles to the dill variety, make the switch.
  • I will not stand in your way if you insist on adding tomato ketchup, though there is some in the hot dog chili recipe.
  • For a leaner hot dog chili, substitute lean ground turkey for the beef.
  • Though the hot dog chili isn’t overly sweet or spicy, you can adjust the flavors and tame the spices by adding about ¼ cup of beef broth before simmering.
The grilled chili cheese dog in a basket with potato chips.


  • You can make the hot dog chili several days in advance and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave or in a covered saucepan over medium heat.
  • Shred the cheese, chop the onions, and slice the pickles up to one day before serving and keep covered, separately, in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat.
  • I don’t recommend reheating grilled hot dogs because they’ll dry out during a second cook. Grill the hot dogs at the last minute.


  • You can freeze the chili for chili dogs for up to three months in an airtight container. Thaw before reheating.
  • Don’t freeze the other ingredients.
The chili dog in a paper lined basket.

I recommend making this chili hot dogs recipe for 4th of July celebrations.

It goes so well with fireworks… We like to decorate with DIY patriotic bunting banners and streamers, ice down adult and kiddie drinks in a cooler and serve a refreshing black bean dip and Florida smoked fish dip for snacking with tortilla chips or crackers to start.

The chili cheese dogs go perfectly with chips, french fries, potato salad or pasta salads.

4th of july fireworks.

More 4th of July recipes you’ll love:

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Two chili dogs in a basket.
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5 from 2 votes

Chili Hot Dogs Recipe

If you love chili cheese dogs, this is the best recipe. Start with grilled hot dogs, my easy homemade hot dog chili, plenty of cheddar cheese, sweet onions and dill pickles. Perfect for picnics and cookouts.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword chili cheese dog, chili dog, hot dogs
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 8


  • 2 cups chili for chili dogs
  • 8 natural casing hot dogs (Boar’s head, Hebrew National or Sabrett’s)
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded
  • 1 medium vidalia onion finely chopped
  • 8 spears dill pickle sliced in half or quarters so you have a thin strip of pickle
  • 8 soft hot dog buns (Martin’s potato rolls or Pepperidge Farm)
  • yellow mustard



  • Because this recipe comes together quickly after the hot dogs are grilled, it’s important to have the other components ready to go. Be sure to have 2 cups cheddar cheese already shredded, 1 medium vidalia onion, finely diced, 8 spears dill pickle, sliced in half vertically, so they’re smaller than the hot dog. Have 2 cups chili for chili dogs warmed in a saucepan.


  • Heat the grill to a low heat (about 350°-400°) to prevent the hot dogs from splitting as they cook.
  • Place 8 natural casing hot dogs on the hot grill grates and cook, turning every few minutes to ensure grill marks on all sides of the frankfurters. This should take between 5-8 minutes to grill. Transfer the grilled hot dogs to 8 soft hot dog buns.


  • Tuck 1-2 pickle spears into the bun beside the hot dog. Add mustard to the hot dog and spoon ¼ cup of chili for chili dogs over each hot dog. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and chopped onions. Enjoy.


Calories: 498.44kcal | Carbohydrates: 26.18g | Protein: 28.01g | Fat: 30.83g | Saturated Fat: 13.79g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.91g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11.63g | Trans Fat: 0.38g | Cholesterol: 91.89mg | Sodium: 906.38mg | Potassium: 372.32mg | Fiber: 1.15g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 285.73IU | Vitamin C: 2.56mg | Calcium: 281.34mg | Iron: 3.54mg

“Pin It” For Later!

This chili cheese dog recipe uses a homemade hot dog meat sauce & other classic hot dog toppings for the epitome of comfort food. A Chili Cheese Dilly Dog. #chili #chilidog #hotdogchili #chilicheesedog #hotdogs #grilledhotdogs #hotdogtoppings #4thofjuly #memorialday #laborday #picnic #barbecue #potluck #cheese #dillpickles #dillydog #cheesedog #onions #chiliforchilidogs #hotdogchili

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    1. More than a snack — one of these eats like a meal!

  1. Tara Bench says:

    Fun recipe to try out for the summer!

  2. 5 stars
    Looks sooooooooo delicious! I love chili dogs! Perfect for BBQ hosting too!

  3. 5 stars
    these look amazing! I’m a huge summer hot dog fan and this is a fun take on the traditional chili dog