I have seen many, many threads about the history of the coney island sauce for hot dogs that originated in the Detroit area and are served as “Michigans” in New York state and parts of Canada. The discussions also talk about the nuances between the sauces from the Detroit, Jackson, and Flint areas. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a recipe though, so here goes. This is supposedly the recipe for the secret sauce served for decades at the Caris Red Lion restaurant by the Greek owner who moved from Detroit in the 40’s. The story goes that he gave the recipe to his best friend, an elderly woman who lived next door, from his death bed. She later called the recipe into a local radio show where I got the recipe from. I have made it many times and it is a dead on match to the best sauces from Detroit. Enjoy…

  • Yield: 10 cups
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: 3 1/2 hours
  • Active: 15-30 minutes

Ingredients (9)

  • 3 lbs. very finely ground beef–sometimes called triple grind at meat markets or put yours in a food processor in small batches
  • 1 large can good quality tomato juice
  • 6 Tbs. chili powder
  • 4 med. onions–very finely diced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper


  1. Brown beef and onions in the cup of water.
  2. Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil
  1. Reduce to a simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thick—usually about 3 hours.
  2. About 1 and 1/2 cups generously sauces up 8 hot dogs. I split my sauce into zip lock bags, squeeze out the air, and freeze. This stuff keeps very well in the freezer for up to a year.