Detroit’s Coney Dog

By on May 20th, 2012 / / 7 Comments


What makes a Detroit Coney Dog a TRUE Detroit Coney? Well, for starters the hot dog itself. Michigan has incredibly high standards for hot dog making and they are truly delicious! The Coney Dog is typically a beef/pork combination with a natural casing that has a little snap to it when you bite into it. These hot dogs are also smoked with natural woods and if you ever taste a Michigan hot dog, you will never want to have anything else! These are hard to come by if you don’t live in Michigan (they sell online but you have to buy in bulk). We decided to go with the next best thing and found Nathan’s beef hot dogs with natural casings in our grocery store (Gelson’s in Los Angeles). Hoffy sells their all beef natural casing hot dog on Amazon, but you also have to buy in bulk (Pink’s in Los Angeles has people lining up day and night for their custom Hoffy all-beef with natural casings).

After you secure the right hot dog, the next step is the Coney chili sauce. It’s a beanless with greek spices (the Detroit Coney Dog was brought into Michigan by Greek immigrants who first saw them as they passed through Coney Island on their way to Michigan). Some establishments in Michigan use beef hearts (not my thing) and some use ground up hot dogs (!!) in their sauce. Since I am a wimp, we are using all ground beef in our recipe. The recipe below is a variation of a Coney Chili recipe that is almost 100 years old and passed through many generations. The original recipes are said not to use any tomato, vinegar or mustard in their sauce. I used a little tomato but you certainly can omit it if you’d like!  After the chili is the mustard and then chopped onions.


Here’s the recipe:

Yield: Serves 4

Detroit’s Coney Dog

Detroit’s Coney Dog


  • 4 regular hot dog buns
  • 4 natural casing hot dogs (we used Nathan's purchased at the grocery store, which are delicious- if you want real Michigan dogs, Koegel's Viennas are sold online and are considered among the very best in hot dogs, but you have to buy a minimum of 6 packs of 8 so we went with Nathan's)

For the chili sauce:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed then minced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (optional- the original Coney doesn't have tomato sauce in it, but I like a little tomato)
  • 3/4 cup cracker meal (plain,or crush up Saltines)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (if you don't like it too spicy you can season this to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 cups water


  • yellow mustard
  • 1/2 onion, chopped


  1. Saute' ground beef, onion, and garlic in a large pot until meat is cooked. Drain off half the fat. Add salt and black pepper. Add tomato sauce (optional).
  2. In a small bowl mix the cracker meal with the rest of the spices. Add to the meat and cook until the cracker meal or crushed crackers are browned. Add water and simmer for about 1 hour. Add more water if this gets too thick. Season again with salt to taste.
  3. You may skip this last step if you like the texture of your chili, but many people say the traditional Coney Sauce is blended to make a smoother sauce, you may use a traditional blender or food processor, but I like to use an immersion blender. Blend until you reach the desired consistency.
  4. When the chili is close to being ready, heat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap hot dog buns in foil and place them in oven for about 10 minutes until they're warm.
  5. While the buns are warming, get the hot dogs ready. The original Coney Dogs are grilled but you can steam or boil if you'd prefer. Put the hot dog in the bun, top with chili, yellow mustard and chopped onion.

Somewhat Simple

show comments 7 responses

  • Gena says:

    Bravo! I’m from Michigan and I can tell you that this is quite an authentic recipe…yes, you’re correct about the tomato not being in there, but I do know some who put a little tomato in their sauce too. Thanks for sharing!

  • Bob Bilicki says:

    I love Chili dogs! I am going to try this recipy.

    Thank You,


  • Lynda says:

    You can go on and get a whole kit including the awesome hot dogs. You don’t have to buy in bulk, you can get a kit and even extra sauces. I buy about 5 extra and keep them in the freezer. My husband is from Sterling Heights and he loves his Detroit coney dog fix now and then. It is authentic, yummy and comes right to your door! just heat and eat.

  • Larry says:

    Great recipe, Erika! I was RAISED on Kogel’s hot dogs, so when I saw that, I knew this recipe ‘was the real deal!

  • Judy says:

    Your recipe is right on. I am fortunate to live in Mich. At a Coney Island I used to work at the owner added cracker meal to the sauce. Customers told him that the sauce was better than Lafayette. He never told them the secret.

  • Judy says:

    Koegel dogs are sometimes difficult to find, even in Michigan. I get mine at Gordon Foods which originally only serviced the food service industry.

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