beef / recipes / savory / sides

Carolina Chili Sauce

Carolina Chili Sauce is different from other hot dog chilis I’ve seen. It’s kinda tangy and just a tad sweet (a TAD), and so smooth it doesn’t require much – if any – chewing.

bowl of carolina chili sauce on a black slate background

In Eastern North Carolina – I think South Carolina does it too – we put coleslaw and chili on our hot dogs and burgers. Well, I say we, but y’all know I’m picky so I don’t (just chili sometimes), but everybody else does!

Go to any restaurant in the state: if there’s a Carolina burger offering you can sure it has coleslaw, chili, and probably onions and mustard.

Not just any chili tho: it’s a chili sauce. It can’t have beans or big chunks of meat because it’s truly more of a sauce than a chili. I don’t know anyone who eats it by the bowl, but I’m sure they’re out there.

The most recent time I made it I used it for chili-cheese burgers (no slaw). My family used the leftovers to make hot dogs.

Carolina Chili Sauce


  • Make sure you use lean ground beef. If you don’t, take the additional step of draining the meat after it browns. Who wants a greasy condiment?
  • I attack my chili sauce with an immersion blender for a minute or so after it’s finished cooking because we like it to be pretty smooth. You can skip this step if you want it chunkier, but even then it shouldn’t add a chew factor to whatever you’re serving it on.
  • My recipe isn’t as sweet as some chili sauces I’ve had, and how my family we prefer it, so if you have a preference make sure you adjust it.

If you’re looking for a regular chili recipe, I have a great one in my first ebook As Seen On IG (there’s a photo of the chili in the product description!). It’s called Slow-Cooker Chili and you can watch me make it on IGTV.

I hope you’ll come back and let me know what you thought if you try this Carolina Chili Sauce. Here’s a graphic for your Pinterest board:

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Carolina Chili Sauce

Carolina Chili Sauce

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  • Author: María
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 12 1x


Another regional thang. 


Units Scale
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 C water
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dark chili powder
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Optional Thickening Slurry:

  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp cold water


  1. Start by placing a medium saucepan or saute pan over medium heat. Add your ground beef and onions, using a wooden spoon or potato masher to break the beef up into small pieces – as small as you can – and cook until the beef is completely browned.
  2. Stir in all of the dry seasonings (not the sugar!), then pour in your tomato sauce. 
  3. Pour the cup of water into the tomato sauce can and shake it a bit. Pour that into the pot and stir to combine. 
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir in all of the remaining ingredients except the cold water and cornstarch. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. 
  5. After 20 minutes if the sauce isn’t thick enough for you, combine the cold water and cornstarch to make a slurry, then stir that into the sauce. Cook for another 5-10 minutes. Dassit! 
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 30
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