While A&W Root Beer stands of the past have most always had some sort of food served at them, it was usually up to the discretion of the stand owner / operator as to what would be served. Prior to "A&W Restaurants" franchise chain spreading in the 1960s and 1970s, the recipes for the menu items were not standardized. An owner in one region might sell a completely different brand of hot dog than one from another. This individualized recipe method extended into the sauces and toppings as well, and this would include the famous chili and coney dog sauces that are usually associated with the nostalgia of A&W.

My attempt here is to collect as many regional recipes for the A&W chili / coney dog sauce as I can find, because a small but growing number of them have been made public by previous employees, or people connected to A&W in some way.
Today, A&W locations get their ingredients all from a centralized distributor, and the chili sauce is not cooked on site, just re-heated from a can or bag.


The earliest appearance of an old-school A&W chili dog recipe seems to have been published in a Louisville, KY radio station newsletter in 1979. A user on Instructables.com posted it HERE.

A&W Coney Island Chili Sauce
REVISED:(On Sept. 12, 2015, Lloyd sent the recipes that I left behind in 1987, this was one of them). In 1979 this recipe was published in the WXOX Radio Station’s (Louisville, KY) newsletter at Christmas Time.

1 pound ground chuck, uncooked
1 (12 ounces) can Hunt's tomato paste
1 (8 ounces) small can tomato sauce
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups water
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. cumin
2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a heavy duty saucepan, mix to combine. Over medium heat, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until thick, about 1 – 1½ hours. Stir often to avoid sticking.


In 2000, the Fort Worth Star newspaper out of Texas published a little article talking about a copy-cat recipe site they had found that had some A&W chili dog recipes. The author states that these came from someone who knew someone who "worked at A&W years ago". This article was posted to a number of other newspapers nationwide. These are usually the recipes you find on the numerous copy-cat recipe websites currently, usually without background or sources listed.
Scan of the original article HERE.

Recipe Exchange - A Recipe Site and A&W Tastes, To Root For

Perusing the internet the other day, I came across a terrific recipe site.
It's called www.kitchenlink.com, and it's a great place for cooks looking for recipes, food news, hunger relief agencies, and even specialty diet information and recipes. (I discovered the site when looking for gluten-free recipes for a reader.)
Another solid link on the site is for copy-cat recipes from restaurants around the country. Some are from the restaurants themselves; others have been concocted by home cooks trying to duplicate a dish.
The first two chili dog recipes were posted by people who said they knew someone who worked at A&W years ago, and that's how they got the recipe. I'm sure that nowadays, the sauce for these dogs is made at a central factory and shipped to stores. But if you'd like to try these at home, here are some decent versions.

A&W Chili Dogs

2 cups finely chopped onion
3 pounds ground beef
1 cup vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons celery seed
106-ounce can tomato puree
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon pepper

Saute onion and brown the hamburger .
Add remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring often, until desired consistency. (The simmering step can also be done in a crockpot on low.)

A&W Coney Island Sauce

5 pounds hamburger
2 small onions, finely chopped
64-ounces can Hunt's tomato paste
64-ounces can tomato puree
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon celery seed
3 tablespoons salt plus 1 teaspoon salt

Brown hamburger and onions in very large skillet, drain.
Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 3 1/2 hours.
Stir frequently, as it will tend to stick. This freezes well.
Author's note: To get that authentic taste, use only Kogel franks and rehydrate dry minced onions in boiling water.


In 2013, Julie Rothman from The Baltimore Sun newspaper in MD, posted an article in the Recipe Finder section. This one is specifically linked to Hank's A&W Root Beer Stand in Wabash, IN. It has evidently been tweaked a little but the details of the tweaks weren't mentioned.

Scan of the original article HERE.

Recipe Finder: Coney dog sauce
Julie Rothman, For The Baltimore Sun
John Van Meter from Dickeyville sent in a recipe for the sauce that was given to him by his late sister. He said the recipe is attributed to Hank's A&W root beer stand in Wabash, Ind. He sent the recipe to me exactly as it read, but he thought it needed a little tweaking, which I did without much difficulty.

Makes: 14-20 servings

2 pounds ground chuck, fine grind
2 large onions, finely diced
4 teaspoons chili powder
4 pinches of red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
24 to 32 ounces tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute ground chuck and onions in a saucepan.
Add remaining ingredients once the meat has browned.
Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens, 30 to 40 minutes.
Top with shredded cheese and onions if desired.


Also in 2013, a user named "jjspartan" on a sports web forum called "247Sports", posted a thread about how he found an original A&W coney sauce recipe.
Original forum post link HERE.

So I am at this guys place and he tells me a long story how he came into possession of the A&W original recipe. He seemed to be real nvervous about having it and explaining that I shouldn't tell anyway. So when he went to the bathroom I did what every good RCMBer would do and snapped a pic. If the pic is too small when I attach it, I will follow it up with a another post.
Oh, and yes, it was good.
OK, difficult to read in photo so here it is.

1 lb. hamburg
12 oz can Hunts tomato paste
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1-1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped onion
2-1/4 tsp celery salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp Accent
3 cups water

Brown hamburg and onion then add all the rest of the indgredients. Bring to boil and simmer for 3 hours. Stir often.


In 2020, popular recipe finding website "Hungry Browser" posted a submission from user "Timm". It is unknown if these actual A&W recipes, but the submitter does say "modified for home use". It also states "two recipes" but the other one was for barbecued beef sandwiches.
Link to original post HERE.

As you may already know, A&W Restaurant recipes varied from region to region
using what was available in their respective region.
Here are two recipes from Oregon, modified for home use.

For the A&W Coney Island Chili Dog Sauce:

1 pound ground chuck
6 ounce can Hunt's tomato paste
1 cup water
1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin heaping
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

In a 2 quart saucepan, brown the ground chuck, breaking into very small pieces.
Season with salt and pepper lightly while cooking.
Do not drain the fat.
Add the remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to  45 minutes until it thickens.
Stir occasionally.