When in doubt, chili crisp out

You should add more crunchy textures and spicy and savory flavors to your life.

Adding an egg to french fries totally makes it breakfast. Hot chili crisp on top turns it into brunch.

If you’re not familiar with chili crisp (sometimes called chili crunch), then I’ve got some things to teach you today. I’m not a chili crisp scientist or historian, nor do I consider myself to be an expert on the condiment, but I have eaten a lot of it and I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express at least once.

At its most basic, chili crisp is fried chili peppers mixed with crunchy fried garlic, onions, oil and other ingredients to make an oily, crisp, savory condiment. Many chili crisps will have an addition of something like mushroom powder or even MSG to add extra savory umami and flavor.

Many versions of chili crisp will have Sichuan peppercorns which have a mouth numbing effect and some will have soybeans, black beans or peanuts in the mix. I have about six or seven versions of chili crisp in my fridge now and they’re all different. It seems the main goal of all the recipes is to add crunch, savoriness and spice in that order.

Hate spice? If you’re not a fan of spicy/heat flavors, many chili crunches have a mild option available that offers a tiny bit of spice but mostly focuses on being a savory, crunchy condiment.

How to use chili crisp

Almost any time I’ve tweeted about chili crisp I get a question from someone asking, “I put it on eggs, but what else should I do with the condiment?” Hopefully some of the recipes below will help inspire you to try to use chili crisp in different ways.

The most often use of chili crisp in my house is when we are snacking on cheese and crackers. I spoon a tiny bit on top of the cheese on a cracker and get down to work. But chili crisp works great on lots of different dishes.

Here are just a few things that most chili crisp companies suggest you should put chili crisp on:

  • pizza
  • eggs
  • french fries
  • noodle dishes
  • ice cream
  • avocado toast (shout out to millennials)
  • breakfast cereal

Ok, the last one is a joke, but I guess you could try it. I suggest Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Anyway, let’s get down to business.

Passenger chili crisp


This blog post may look like it, but it’s not sponsored. My friend, Phil Wymore, started a new company this year that makes chili crisp. Passenger Foods makes three versions (heat levels) of chili crisp and I bought the mild and hot. I used Passenger chili crisp in all these recipes, but no money has changed hands. I’m just a fan of their flavors.

You can purchase Passenger chili crisp here or you can likely find another version of chili crisp in the Asian section of your grocery store, and you can definitely find many different chili crisp options online.

Some of the recipes I write about today are using the Hot version and some the Mild. When incorporated with cheese or bread, the spiciness of hot foods is dulled. But if you’re skeptical about heat, the Mild version is a condiment that adds savory flavors with crunchy textures.

These are the two flavors of Passenger Chili Crisp that I have in my fridge. They have recently released a Very Hot Chili Crisp version, but I haven’t tried that one yet.

Here are the ingredients in Passenger Foods Hot and Mild chili crunch.

The Hot version has jalapeno and serrano chilis.
The Mild version uses New Mexico hatch chilis for pepper flavor but less heat.

Hi. This is a sandwich blog, let’s make sandwiches

We’re going to make three sandwiches with a focus on chili crisp. First, it’s going to be a hot dog. I bet you folks have heard of hot dogs.

The chili crisp hot dog

Hot dog time. Let’s make a hot dog.

Hot dog with cream cheese, chili crisp and crispy fried shallots on a homemade toasted potato hot dog bun.

My chili crisp hot dog needs to have the emphasis on the chili crisp. To do this, I want at least one ingredient that accentuates the chili crisp and one ingredient that contrasts the chili crisp.

To accentuate, we’re adding crispy fried shallots, this will add even more crunch to the hot dog, and it will bring a shallot/onion flavor that will be similar to flavors in the chili crisp. To contrast the chili crisp we’ll add cream cheese, which will be cooling, creamy and smooth; all things that are not present in chili crisps. If you’re weirded out about cream cheese on a hot dog, someone invented this already in the 80’s or 90’s in Seattle. Cream cheese is a base ingredient in Seattle dogs and in my opinion, it’s a very underutilized hot dog ingredient that I will be fighting to bring into the limelight.

I have a super easy microwave fried shallot recipe that you can get done in less than 10 minutes. Crunch in a hurry is a great thing for sandwich enthusiasts.

13 minutes
Microwave fried shallots

Crispy, crunchy and flavorful. Yes, you can fry shallots in the microwave for a great sandwich or burger addition.

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And here’s my whole chili crisp hot dog recipe. It’s easy if you know how to add things to hot dogs, but I made a recipe anyway.

20 minutes
Chili crisp and crunchy shallot hot dog

Change up your hot dogs with a focus on spicy and crunchy. Cream cheese and chili crunch are the pairing you never knew you needed.

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The chili crisp brie and apple burger

That’s quite enough hot dogs. Now we can burger.

Third pound patty with green apple and melted brie. Topped with chili crisp. Everything on a homemade potato burger bun.

This is a good burger combination. The texture added from the green apple and the crunch of the chili crisp make each bite a different experience. Brie is very melty and creamy which contrasts in a good way with the chili crisp.

I suggest that you change things up and make this super flavorful recipe next burger night at your house.

25 minutes
Chili crisp and green apple brie burger

Green apple provides texture and sweetness to balance the spice from the chili crisp. Add a little creamy brie and you're all set for a fantastic burgering experience.

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The chili crisp grilled cheese

More cheese please!

Shredded fontina and gouda cheeses melted with hot chili crisp on griddled homemade harvest grains Pain de mie bread.

A basic grilled cheese is the perfect platform for interesting condiments. Adding chili crisp brings savory flavors and spice that works well with the creamy cheese. If you have problems getting the cheese in your grilled cheese to melt before the outside is brown, this recipe has a trick where you steam the cheese to melt it as the first side of the sandwich cooks.

15 minutes
Chili crisp grilled cheese

Gooey, melted cheese and crispy crunch from the chili crisp leads to an almost perfect combination in this grilled cheese.

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The extra

Chili crisp popcorn

Now on to some not sandwich recipes. Add chili crisp to popcorn. You can do it with the microwave type or the kind you pop on the stove. Here’s a recipe with instructions for both options. You also don’t have to follow a recipe and you can just spoon some chili crisp on top. But the recipe incorporates things a little better.

Chili crisp popcorn

Popcorn is a perfect vessel for chili crisp flavors. You could just sprinkle some chili crisp on a small serving of buttered popcorn, but these recipes integrate the flavors into a whole batch.

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Chili crisp ice cream

You can just put a teaspoon or tablespoon of chili crisp on your next bowl of ice cream, or you can use this recipe to flavor a whole batch of ice cream. This ice cream is great, with a fun somewhat crunchy texture. It pairs very well with chocolate brownies or cake. Add some chopped walnuts or pecans on top for extra flavor and texture.

40 minutes
Chili crisp ice cream

Sure, you could just spoon chili crisp on top of a couple scoops, but you can also use this recipe to make a whole batch of chili crisp flavored ice cream!

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Chili crisp is awesome.

Buy some chili crisp if you haven’t already.

Chili crisp adds crunch, spicy heat, and savory flavors to everything it touches. Buy some and add it to your next sandwich. Check back next week when I’m tacoing about other sandwiches.

You ain’t nothin’ but a corndog.

Any sandwich is paw-sible if you put your mind to it.

This week I turned corndogs into sandwiches.

Yeah, that’s it. That’s the tweet. I turned corndogs into sandwiches.

If you’re from a foreign country or planet that doesn’t have a corndog, they are pretty simple. A corndog is typically a hot dog or sausage, battered in a sweetened cornmeal batter and fried until the outside is crispy and golden brown. Then you squirt mustard on the outside or you find condiments to dip in and go to town eating a corndog on a stick.

There’s no need to turn a corndog into a sandwich but I did it anyway because no one tells me what to do.

The corndog

This week is extra corny, so we’re changing things up and instead of starting with the bread, we’ll start with the corndog recipe I use. This recipe is for making actual corndogs on a stick, but as you’ll soon see, you could turn any sort of sausage or meat patty into something that is corndog battered and fried until crispy and still soft between the outside and the dog.

Recipe Card
32 minutes

Corndogs are great and when you make them at home you have full control of the sausages used. Try a polish sausage, your favorite local hot dog brand or even turkey dogs if you want something a little healthier (healthy corndogs - hah!).

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I have typed the word corndog so many times at this point it’s out of control. Just wait.

A crazy person.

For my corndog sandwiches I used both hot dogs and also some breakfast sausage that I cooked up into circular patties. Here are some of the pictures of the buildup and frying process.

Butterflied half dogs on the left and cooked patties of breakfast sausage on the right. I didn’t fry all these at once. I did one type one day and one type the next day. I’m not fully crazy. Just a little bit.
Frying some of the butterflied hot dogs.
The post fried cooked sausage patties.

I like to use chopsticks as the stick in my corndogs. I believe the food genius Alton Brown taught me this. The disposable chopsticks that haven’t been separated from each other are solid and just wide enough to be a great handle for a fried corndog. This is the batch of chopsticks that I have purchased (Amazon affiliate link) and you can also use them to work on your General Tso chomping technique in your non-corndog time as well.

Or if you need some chopsticks, you can just order delivery Chinese and make sure to click the “no utensils required” and they will send you some anyway! Sorry, this is my specific annoyance, please ignore. Next.

The bread

For some of these sandwiches I had a few leftover potato rolls from past sandwiches. I also always have homemade biscuits in the freezer waiting for their turn to be baked. In this case they were my savory cheddar cheese biscuit recipe.

Biscuits baked from frozen

When I make a batch of biscuits, I often will only cook two or three and immediately put the rest in the freezer to firm up. Basically, I take two sheet pans both lined with parchment. One is headed to the oven and the other goes into the freezer with the uncooked biscuits I want to save. After three hours or so the freezer biscuits are pretty firm and you can take the sheet pan out and package all the biscuits up in freezer safe packaging. Freezing them on a sheet pan like this makes it easy to reach in and grab one or two biscuits for cooking later.

If you want to cook a homemade frozen biscuit, you can bake at the same temperature (I use 475 F/245 C) and I cook for two or three minutes longer than the time I would cook a fully thawed biscuit. The one thing you need to pay attention to is the bottom of the biscuits; they tend to darken quicker than the tops in my oven. Often if I’m making biscuits straight out of the freezer, I will double stack two sheet pans to give the bottom a bit more insulation and protection from the heat.

Here’s my savory cheddar cheese biscuit recipe that makes a fantastic sandwich.

40 minutes
Super savory cheddar cheese biscuits

These savory biscuits are great on their own and even better with chicken or pork for a breakfast sandwich.

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The sandwiches

These first two sandwiches are on the same batch of cheddar cheese biscuits. They are corndog battered breakfast pork sausage patties topped with maple mustard. This was better than I expected. The corndog exterior had just the right amount of crunch and the texture of the sausage patty beside the soft interior of the cooked cornbread led to a great experience.

Corndog battered and fried breakfast sausage patty with maple mustard on a cheddar cheese biscuit.
After you pull out the chop stick you’re left with a hole that makes it look like you made a sandwich with a jelly doughnut in the middle. Hrm, that gives me an idea…

As you saw in the photos above, I also butterflied some hot dogs that I had cut in half and fried those in corndog batter as well. These I sandwiched with some maple mustard and topped them with pickle relish. This sandwich was also a lot of fun to eat. Corndogs are just plain fun, sandwich or no sandwich.

Butterflied hot dog, corndog battered and fried with maple mustard and sweet pickle relish.
A little cross-section time. This is not the same as the other corndog sandwich in a bun. The butterflied dog gives you a wider section to the sandwich which ends up taking up more bun space. In this case it actually gave space for the relish to spread out.
Another corndog battered and fried breakfast sausage patty with just plain yellow mustard this time.

If you’ve read this far, I bet you thought I was finished for the week.

Maangchi’s Gamja-hotdog sandwich

AKA: the Goblin Club sandwich

If you’re a reasonable sandwich person you can stop here and come back and read about sandwiches next week.

If you’re like me and have mostly lost your mind, please continue and read about how I attempted to turn Maangchi’s recipe for a Gamja-hotdog into a sandwich. If you’ve never heard of Maangchi, you need to go watch some of her videos. She’s great.

I mentioned in passing that I was writing a blog post about turning corndogs into sandwiches with my friend JP and she immediately sent me Maangchi’s “Korean french fries corndog” video. In the video Maangchi mentions that sometimes this style of fried hot dog on a stick is referred to as a goblin club because of how it looks like a lumpy club a fictional goblin might carry when the gamja-hotdog is cooked. Here’s a video you can watch of Maangchi making hers.

So I watched the video and then attempted it.

First I sliced a hot dog 2/3rds of the way through all the way down. I broke apart my chopsticks and I skewered the butterflied hot dog in two places (there’s a photo of this below). I did it this way because I felt it might be tough to flip over in the hot frying oil. This turned out to be a pretty good idea.

Then I followed Maangchi’s instructions and par-boiled some very small squares of potato. I also prepared the batter which is really nothing like corndog batter. It’s much more like a sticky very hydrated bread dough.

I set my batter, the pre-cooked potatoes and some panko breadcrumbs on my counter and this became my breading station. You can see below or in Maangchi’s video how the “batter” isn’t really much like pancake or corndog batter.

Each dog (I just made two this time) would go through the batter first, then get rolled into the potatoes and finally dusted with the panko breadcrumbs prior to submerging into the hot frying oil.

My breading station. From top, Gamja hotdog batter, par cooked potatoes and at the bottom are panko breadcrumbs.
Hot dog on a stick going into the very sticky batter.

Once fried, your Korean Gamja-hotdog will look very lumpy and a little bit crazy. Apparently, it’s supposed to look like that. Maangchi dusts hers with white sugar and then squirts ketchup and mustard on them, so I did that as well. You can see the finished product still on the sticks below.

BEFORE the battering and frying
AFTER the fry and condimenting

The final Gamja-hotdog sandwich.

Oh no. That crazy sandwich guy put it on a bun. Why do they let him do this.

I’m not sure why anyone allows me to do this, but for once, it worked out and this was a fun sandwich to eat. It’s crispy fried french fries and a hot dog on a bun! What could go wrong?

The Maangchi Gamja-hotdog turned into a sandwich. Literally batter fried hot dog and french fries all rolled into one thing. How can that be bad?

Why did I make corndog sandwiches? No one will ever know. Will I do it again? Probably not. BUT I will be making corndogs again because they really are easy and allow you a lot of freedom to incorporate different sausages. Corndogs are just fun!

We’ll see you all next week when I have a little bit more sense and make a much more normal sandwich. Maybe.

Carolina on my dog

“I always look for a hot dog wherever I go.” – Martha Stewart

Controversial statement incoming.

I’m one of those people who consider hot dogs to be sandwiches.

That sound you just heard was my friend, JP, reading the last sentence and closing down her internet browser in disgust.

Sorry JP! All the rest of you, please keep reading:

One of my favorite regional hot dog styles is the one from North Carolina where I grew up. The Carolina dog is made up of chili, coleslaw, chopped onions and sometimes mustard (it’s better with mustard). This regional hot dog style is basically considered standard “all the way” in parts of North and South Carolina. If you’ve never had one of these, the chili and the slaw might be different from versions you’ve seen or experienced. We’ll discuss those in full with my recipes below.

The origin of the Carolina Dog is pretty much up in the air. Wikipedia claims that a place in Wilmington NC, called Merritt’s Burger House, has been serving this style since 1958, but there’s nothing else online to back that up. Even the linked article doesn’t really say they’ve been serving this style of burger or hot dog since that time. Melvin’s in Elizabethtown NC, claims that they have been making a burger with chili and slaw for 80 years, but I’ve found nothing really saying when or where the Carolina style hot dog started. We’re going to have to hire some food detectives to figure this out. I’m not the guy to do it.

If you’ve never cooked a hot dog before, Nathan’s Famous has a pretty good guide for cooking hot dogs. I cook my hot dogs on a grill outside or inside on a grill pan or skillet. Nathan’s Famous does tell you that it’s ok to microwave a dog, but not ok to boil one. As a kid I remember a lot of microwaving of hot dogs for quick lunches that didn’t require turning on the stove or oven. I just remember putting a hot dog in a bun and wrapping it in a paper towel. Forty five seconds later I was enjoying a hot lunch (with just ketchup probably).

Here are the ingredients I like to prepare for my favorite hot dogs.

Hot dog potato rolls

Consistent readers already know I’ve talked about the King Arthur’s Potato Bun recipe a few times recently. I whipped up the same recipe again this week, but I shaped them into torpedoes or hot dog shapes.

Here’s a video I made of how I shape dough into that shape. The video is for a longer roll than a hot dog roll, but it’s the same technique. The recipe in the video is for rolls that are similar to my sub sandwich rolls.

I like to make my buns fit my hot dogs. I don’t want any extra bites of just bun if I can help it, so I usually weigh my dough into 80 gram (or even 75 gram) portions. Then I shape that portion into a ball and let it rest for a few minutes (while I shape the rest). Then I flip the ball over, exposing the bottom tucked side to the top and leaving the smooth top on the surface of the counter. This means the smooth part will end up on top when you’re done.

Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle about the length of your hot dog. I make my dough rectangle about a quarter inch thick. Then I roll from the side closest to me away from me to make a log.

Then the most important part is getting the seam sealed tightly by pinching your fingers. Once the seam is very tightly pinched, I flip the dough log so that the seam is on the bottom touching the counter and I roll the log back and forth on top of the seam to flatten out the places where I pinched the dough. Then you place the dough log seam side down on your pan and press it down a little to keep if from being a perfectly round cylinder.

You want to get your dough logs about an inch or an inch and a half apart on your sheet pan. They don’t have to touch, but if you are looking for New England style split top rolls, put them a little bit closer together (like an inch). They will rise to about double after shaping and then rise again in the oven.

Some finished hot dog buns.

Hot dog chili

This is not typical chili. There are no beans, but it’s also not chunky with hunks of meat like Texas chili. Hot dog chili is made from ground beef that’s mashed or chopped and not full of beans or onions. In some recipes hot dog chili is sent through a food processor, but you can do the same thing with a potato masher.

Recipe Card
Hot dog chili

No beans in this chili, but it's perfect for topping a hot dog or burger. This type of chili is also superb for chili cheese fries.

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Hot dog slaw

This is sweeter than the slaw I usually make, but it’s similar to what you’ll find in a lot of Eastern North Carolina barbecue joints or hot dog stands. I enjoy it on occasion and it works really well with the chili, but feel free to omit the sugar entirely if you’re averse to a sweet slaw.

Recipe Card
15 minutes
Hot dog slaw

This is a fairly sweet slaw, but that's what is traditional in a Carolina Dog. You could easily just cut the sugar in half or omit it all together if you want a simple slaw that isn't very sweet.

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The Carolina dog

Let’s put all the pieces together.

Carolina dogs are typically bright red hot dogs with hot dog chili, a sweet slaw and chopped onions. They also often will have mustard added as a fourth item. The wikipedia page for “Hot dog variations” claims that people have been making Carolina style hot dogs since at least 1958.

When you study other hot dog variations on that page, you’ll learn that West Virginia is very very similar to a Carolina dog. Georgia also often has a dog with chili and mustard or sometimes only slaw. There are other regional hot dogs with chili like the Pink’s Chili Dog from Los Angeles and then you have a Coney dog from Michigan but Coney chili traditionally is made from ground up beef heart instead of regular ground beef.

I like to build my Carolina dogs with chili on the bottom, then slaw and then plain yellow mustard on top. About half of the time I leave out the raw chopped onions. I don’t think raw chopped onions add that much, but feel free to add them to yours.

Here are some of my finished Carolina dogs.

I ate a few hot dogs this week. Here are a few of them.

Split top potato bun stuffed with hot dog, chili, slaw and mustard.

The Glenn and the messiness problems

The Glenn

A friend named Glenn has commented on my hot dog photo tweets before and always recommends to put the mustard underneath the slaw and chili and that will help the hot dog not be so messy to eat. I tried it and named this version: The Glenn.

I do think he’s right, but the hot dog is way prettier with mustard on top. If you want to avoid messiness, build your dog like Glenn does.

Now let’s talk about the next logical step with these ingredients.

Wendy’s Carolina Classic Burger

The Wendy’s Carolina Classic Burger was first introduced at a Wendy’s in Rockingham, North Carolina. Wendy’s did not invent this style of cheeseburger, but they did a lot to add recognition outside of the small North/South Carolina burger joints and hot dog stands. Here’s a video of ol’ Dave Thomas being introduced to the Wendy’s Carolina Classic Burger from back in 1995.

Growing up in Eastern North Carolina, I learned early on that “all the way” for a burger meant chili, slaw, chopped onion and mustard. On family trips to White Lake, NC we’d visit a place called Melvins’ in Elizabethtown. Melvin’s is amazing. The line could be fifty people long and it just flies in minutes. Because they’re so busy and they’re cooking burgers constantly they claim that it takes just 10 seconds to get a burger made to order. They open up at 7:30 am and start selling burgers. No breakfast, just burgers. And the line starts that early too, proving that burgers are a breakfast food.

Since I had the slaw and chili and a leftover bun from Breaded Pork Tenderloin week, I decided to recreate the “all the way” burger I grew up with. I even went so far as to make my burger patty square in honor of Dave Thomas.

My own Carolina Classic burger with a square patty. Quarter pound burger with cheese, chili, slaw, chopped onions and mustard on a toasted bun.

Everything’s better with some pimento cheese

Couldn’t let this opportunity of hot dog buns and chili go to waste without using a little pimento cheese. Make some chili and slaw (and even pimento cheese) to have available for hot dog and cheeseburger toppings at your next backyard cookout! Fourth of July is coming up and so is the rest of your life! Put these easy recipes on your list of backyard necessities for burgers and hot dogs of all seasons.

Chili and pimento cheese dog.