The Best Way To Dress Up Canned Chili For Hot Dogs

It's one of the best hot dog toppings out there: Chili. While they certainly can't be eaten neatly, chili dogs are a staple of summertime, barbecues, and baseball games. But when you don't have the time to make that homemade low-and-slow chili, canned chili is here to save the day. There is only one problem: It's usually not that good.


It gets the job done, but sometimes you need to jazz up canned food a little bit to get it where you want it. And in the case of canned chili, don't be afraid to freshen it up with anything from onions to jalapeños, or — hear this out — even a little pineapple.

The beloved hot dog was born in Europe during the 15th century, but didn't make its way to the United States until the mid 1800s. The chili dog's origin is a little more unclear, as many American families have claimed to invent it over the years. Regardless, it's here and it's perfect — but if you're using canned chili, you don't have to sacrifice flavor just because that chili isn't coming straight from the slow cooker.

How to liven up your canned chili

It's fast and easy, but for the best canned chili flavor, you'll need to do a little tweaking. When building flavor, you need to consider balance. Canned chili is salty and savory, so adding a sweet element will send your taste buds into a frenzy. Finely diced pineapple might sound unconventional, but it actually adds just the hint of sweetness that the hot dog needs. For something less bold, try adding sweet onion; chili is rich and heavy, so the onion's acidity plus its mild sweetness will contrast nicely. It also adds textural crunch, since every other element (the chili, the hot dog, and the bun) is soft.


You can add crunch coupled with a little spice by incorporating some fresh jalapeños. For less spice, halve the jalapeños to easily remove the membrane, which is where most of the spice is, then finely chop them to spread them out better throughout the hot dog.

Seasonings and fresh herbs will build chili's flavor, too

Canned chili often tastes a little dull. Fresh herbs like cilantro are a great way to pack in some flavor; cilantro's peppery but bright taste also pairs well with other ingredients in the canned chili, like tomatoes, onions, and beans. But you can still add plenty of seasonings to chili without everything needing to be fresh. Chili powder, paprika, and garlic powder are great ways to build up the chili, and the dried spices are perfectly fine.


If you want a smokier spice, you can also incorporate some canned chipotles in adobo sauce. They're hot, so chop them finely, and take a little of the adobo sauce and mix it into the chili to evenly distribute spice throughout. Once you've built the chili dog of your dreams, don't be afraid to add some cotija or queso fresco on top. It's feels a little lighter than melted cheddar, plus it brings texture into the mix along with a pop of brightness against the dark chili.