Authentic Coney Dog Sauce

Authentic Coney Dog Sauce – Did you know that Coney Island Hotdogs didn’t originate in Coney Island Amusement Park in Brooklyn, New York? The recipes were brought to the U.S. by Greek and Macedonian immigrants who settled in the Midwest. The first Coney Island Hotdog shop appears to have been in Ft. Wayne, Indiana or Jackson, Michigan – they both opened in 1914, but no one knows the actual date for either. Apparently, there are lots of debates about the actual “authentic” recipe, but I don’t care. I’m dropping the “island” and calling mine “authentic” because it tastes just like I remember from my Indiana youth. It appears the original Michigan recipe contains ground beef hearts – something I’d have a very hard time bringing myself to eat. You can read more of the historical debate here if you feel so inclined. ๐Ÿค”


I knew there had to be a secret ingredient in the coney sauce, but I couldn’t figure out what it was for the longest time. When I considered what a restaurant might do with their leftovers, it occurred to me they might want to use up cooked, but unsold, hotdogs. What a perfect place to “discard” them. ๐Ÿ˜€ If you’ve never had real coney dog sauce, then you’re in for a treat. This sauce is so good, you’ll want to just eat it with a spoon!

Authentic Coney Dog Sauce | Culinary Craftiness
Absolutely best with fried mushrooms or the french fries from The Bear’s Den in Shelbyville, Indiana. So sad we can’t get either one of those down here in Florida. Not that we can’t get fried mushrooms or big fat crinkle fries here. They just don’t taste like those served at The Bear’s Den. But at least we now have the coney dog sauce!
Authentic Coney Dog Sauce | Culinary Craftiness

This recipe makes a large batch. Cut the recipe in half or freeze leftovers in pint or 1/2 pint containers. It makes a perfect topping for wiener roasts. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Authentic Coney Dog Sauce

2 lbs. ground chuck or round
1 large onion, finely diced or grated
9 oz. tomato paste (1-1/2 cans)
9 oz. water (1-1/2 cans)
5 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cumin
1/2 to 1 tsp. allspice, to taste
1 tbsp. jarred minced garlic
2 Tbsp. prepared mustard
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 packages cheap pork with chicken hotdogs, ground in food processor

Put everything except for hotdogs in a large skillet. Do NOT brown and drain ground beef first. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring to break up meat into fine crumbles. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Add ground up hotdogs and cook for another 15 minutes. This sauce shouldn’t be runny.

Serve on your favorite hotdogs and buns.

Best as is, but optionally, you can add a sprinkle of chopped onion, shredded cheddar cheese, and/or a squirt of mustard. A favorite use for leftovers is to make Baked Coney Cheese Dogs! YUM!

Happy eating! ๐Ÿ˜Š


  1. Thank you for the recipe. I live in Franklin Indiana and have been wanting a bears den coney dog really bad because they are closed for the season.


  2. Actually that is Flint style Coney Sauce.
    The Original Coney Sauce came from the Detroit area, and had beef heart in it. Instead of leftover jot dogs.


    • There seems to be a lot of debate about where the “original” coney sauce originated. I included a link to the Wikipedia article. I also mentioned the Michigan recipe contains beef heart which I can’t bring myself to even consider eating. LOL Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment! ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Hi, Parker!

      Authentic coney sauce or what is served up by a particular restaurant? Whatevs. Mine tastes fantastic! Give it a try and see if you like it. You might not, and that’s okay. We all have different tastes. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • The Kalamazoo coney Island location did use ground hot dogs in their sauce. ..i’m making this today to see if it’s the same. I have a feeling it is. Can’t wait to try it. I’ve been searching for it.


      • In Saginaw Mi the A&W made there’s with grounded up hot dogs onions green peppers and chili sauce and chili powder ๐Ÿ˜‹


      • Hi William,

        Thanks for the confirmation of the ground up hot dogs! I’m sure restaurants wouldn’t want to waste any dogs leftover at the end of the day so found a brilliant way to use them. I think it makes the sauce taste amazing. My coneys really do bring back all my great memories of home in Indiana.

        Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! ๐Ÿ™‚


      • You look real familiar I want to thank for the recipes your help in recreating what I love as a teen and as a child . My father had a chance to by bears den when it was a&w if he had we would still own it today. We would have passed it down to relatives to keep the tradition of the drive in a live for generations to come. You seen to have that spirit and Paul and Bev would be proud of you. The husband and wife who own it now have made a joke of it and will prise them selves out of business . This was a land Mark and they will never get their money out of it that they have put in it . I won’t even eat there for some reason they think the coney sauce is gold because they cheap out on putting it on the hot dog,they must have at least 35 cents in each one and what 2.50 or more a piece they not making their own root beer. Thank again the good memories I had when I was younger


      • You’re welcome, Mark! Thank you for sharing your memories and thoughts. I love my home county and all the great people who share a love for the great food the county’s historic landmark restaurants put out back in the good old days. I want my recipes to live on forever for everyone to enjoy. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Hi Kathy, I’d add another pound of ground beef so the seasonings aren’t overwhelming. Or back off of the seasonings by 1/3. Ground hotdogs are what makes it taste like the old-fashioned coney dogs. No matter what, I believe it’ll taste great with just the ground beef though. ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. I’m definitely trying your sauce after I finish a batch of North Jersey Wiener Sauce from Cook’s Country I made a couple of days ago. I can see you’ve given your recipe a good deal of thought and I appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into this.
    I’ve got my own sauce based on what’s served in the Detroit and NW Ohio area by Greek immigrants. I love it but now I’m chagrined that my wife now prefers the NJ wiener sauce.
    I tell everyone about the technique of mixing up all the ingredients and then heating up the pot. Do people think the old Greek guys used a giant blender or immersion blender to break up the meat? They made 100 gallons at a time. Even the people at Cook’s Country got that detail wrong.
    Did you know that the old time hot dog joints mixed white bread and water to use as a thickener?
    Here’s a link to a Library of Congress mp3 that contains a short interview with a couple of old timers.
    Hope you find it interesting.
    I think I’ve spent too much time thinking about hot dog sauce, too.


    • Thanks for visiting and commenting, Jimmy! Now I’m going to have to look up the North Jersey Wiener Sauce recipe! lol I’m definitely going to try the bread and water as a thickener. I can imagine a good potato bread making a great pot of sauce, even Sloppy Joes. Thanks for sharing the link – I’ll head over and give it a listen. I love the history of food! If you try my recipe, let me know what you think. ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. Finally! I grew up in Mt Clemens Mi, I’ve tried to recreate this recipe multiple times. This is the best one by far. THANK YOU!


    • Yay! Thanks for validating my recipe, Kurt! We love it and even make a coney dog casserole with it by layering the sauce, cut up hotdogs, low carb tortilla shells, and shredded cheddar. ๐Ÿ™‚


  5. I left a comment above and more I talk the hungrier I get. Remember how you get each hotdog rapped up in it own piece of white paper like it was just made for you. Once in July I worked at Skyine drive in ticket taker, you could get 6 coney dogs for a dollar I eat 12 in one nite plus a large hot fudge Sunday in same nite. I never did that again it was always a treat to go there.


    • I loved the Skyline Drive-in and really miss it! What a great memory you’ve shared, but that many coneys in one night would’ve made me sick! LOL I just made a batch of my sauce last week. I sent 1/3 of it home with one of my sons and put another 1/3 in the freezer for my bestie to take home with her the next time she’s over. She’s never tasted authentic coney dog sauce!


  6. Made this tonight to take camping with us this weekend. The kids LOVED it and my husband, who was born and raised in Detroit and misses his Coney sauce all the way out here in Idaho, even said it was good. He says nothing’s like the real thing, but this was as close as we’ve gotten.

    My big question is this- The hot dogs have 3 carbs per dog in them, so if I’m adding 16 dogs to the recipe and the tomato paste as well the carb count starts to rise. Is there a sub for the dogs at all? Can I use 1 package instead and add like lard and salt or broth or something?


    • Hi Jes,

      I’m so happy to hear my recipe for coney sauce seems to be on the right track! I haven’t tried to sub anything for the cheap hot dogs, but you might try turkey franks – the Oscar Mayer brand is only 1g carb per dog. We could go with all beef franks with 0 carbs, but they don’t taste as much like pork/chicken hot dogs as do turkey franks. I’ll put this on my grocery list to make next week and measure out how many servings one batch makes and get a good nutrition count on it with the turkey franks.

      Thank you so much for posing this question! I, too, am looking for the lowest carbs I can get. ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. Thank you for posting this. Use to love Bears Den! Ate there every Friday! Either a coney dog with onion rings or hurriburger with squeezy cheese. My family owns Myers Frozen Foods in St Paul. They make their own hot dogs, brats Italianโ€™s. Etc. But they also make coney sauceโ€ฆ. May have to ask my brother what they put in theirs. Canโ€™t wait to try this.


  8. This is another common adaption touted as โ€œoriginalโ€ but actually only a household version. Coney sauce from Angeloโ€™s or any Flint style coney shop uses Abbott Meats prepared Coney Mix that uses beef heart and suet, plus a dry protein binder. Check out Dave Liskeโ€™s Flint Coney book for a detailed history and recipes.


    • Thanks for weighing in, Thomas! If it was your intention to insult me, well done. ๐Ÿ™‚ “Common adaption touted” sounds terribly snobby. My “household” version tastes amazing and is the closest I’ve come to the coney dogs served up at my favorite drive-in in Shelbyville, Indiana, way back in the good old days. My recipe is adapted from a vintage handwritten recipe from Flint, Michigan, I found on the net many years ago. Take it up with that author. Please read my very first paragraph. No beef hearts. LOL People like me want a really really good recipe for coney sauce. Don’t knock mine until you try it. ๐Ÿ™‚ P.S. I posted this recipe in 2015. The Flint Coney book came out last year. That’s almost 8 wonderful years of coney dogs my readers have had the great good fortune to enjoy while waiting for you to come and tell us it’s “common” household quality. ๐Ÿ˜œ Have a blessed night!


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