Michigan Sauce

June 14, 2011

I am from Upstate NY and in Upstate NY we have Michigans. I am talking about UPstate NY. Not Western or Central NY…. Think NYC- now go UP. Go up some more. That’s where I am from.

Anyways, we have Michigan’s. In Michigan they have chili dogs, not Michigan’s, isn’t that funny? So what is the difference you are probably wondering? Well, take all the extra stuff out of the chili dog and you’re basically left with a Michigan. Just a deliciously seasoned, very flavorful, fine meat sauce for your hot dog. So in essence, the Michigan is a hot dog with meat sauce. But! Quite possibly one of the best way’s to eat your hot dog. Even my Husband, who has a hard time eating anything out of the very ordinary and boring realm loves these Michigan’s. Trust me, that is saying something.

Now if you want to take things seriously with your Michigan, you must eat it with mustard and finely chopped white onion. If you don’t want to, no sweat, you’ll still have one amazing hot dog.

Unlike with baking, any savory recipe can be adjusted to your own personal tastes. If you want more garlic flavor, add an extra clove. You like heat? Add in cayenne pepper instead of red pepper flakes, or even just up the amount of red pepper flakes. Go ahead and add hot sauce if you want. Try to resist adding onion or anything to this recipe though. Once you do that, it is no longer michigan sauce. For a true Michigan the onion belongs chopped and sprinkled on top, not in the sauce.

2.3 from 3 reviews
Michigan Sauce
Serves: makes about 2 cups
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp salt (or sub 1 tsp garlic salt for salt and garlic clove)
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped (preferably made into a paste with the salt, using the back of your knife blade against the cutting board- that way it will melt right into the sauce!)
  • 1½ tsp cumin
  • 1½ tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes or ¼-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup to 1 cup beef broth, tomato juice, or water (this will depend on fat percentage of meat)
  1. In a medium sized saucepan (I use a small dutch oven) combine ground beef, tomato sauce, garlic, seasonings, and ½ cup beef broth or liquid of choice; bring to a boil, while breaking up the ground beef with a spatula. Once all the meat has broken up, immediately turn the heat down to low and let the mixture begin to simmer for 3 hours, covered. Check on sauce every once and a while to make sure it is not burning on the bottom of the pan, stirring occasionally, and to check to see if more liquid is needed. If the sauce is drying out before the time is up, add more liquid to loosen up the mixture. You don't want it to get too thick too early. By the third hour you should be left with a moist meat sauce that is fairly thick.
I like to use 1 (14.5 oz) can beef broth instead of tomato juice or water. Then I let it simmer a good 3 hours until it's nice and thick.


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Amber January 8, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Thanks for the recipe…..can’t wait to try it! I am also from way UPstate NY. Like border of Canada upstate. I’m gonna have to order some Glazier hot dogs…cause I just don’t think a michigan is the same without them. Thanks!


Erin Marsh February 3, 2013 at 8:23 pm

I know I’m writing this a year or more after your post, but I thought you should know that Michiganders actually call hot dogs like this Coney Island hot dogs. There are numerous restaurants competing for the title of best Coney dog. Isn’t it funny that we named them after a spot in NY and you named them after MI? My favorites are Lafayette Coneys in Detroit.


lmachell February 11, 2013 at 11:12 am

haha that is funny. It really doesn’t make much sense, does it?


Rebecca April 8, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I’m excited to try this recipe even though the summer stands are opening early.


Kristen May 31, 2013 at 4:24 am

Found this on Pinterest and I was astounded! My mom is from Port Henry… slightly more North of you and I have NEVER seen any post about Michigans before. We live in Missouri and people are always leery of them when we make them 🙂


lmachell May 31, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Haha yeah, they can be a little daunting at first if you’ve never had them- but I think the majority of people realize this after they try them : ) And I tried searching for michigan sauce online before posting this and couldn’t find anything either! It’s one of the best kept secrets I guess.


Sam July 27, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Port Henry is almost exactly where I was introduced! The north country is famous for Michigans. I worked at a summer camp 10 minutes down the road from Port Henry in Westport, NY. Small world!


Donna Bruno February 1, 2014 at 10:14 pm

I’m from Plattsburgh, New York and I live to visit back home to go to MCsweaney’s for a michigan or two no one makes them like they do except maybe Claire and Carl’s. Do any of you know theses places back home. I went to Peru High school and lived in Schuyler Falls. Thanks for your post . We are having them tonight for dinner with fries.


lmachell March 5, 2014 at 8:37 pm

Yes! I know both places. Nothing like it. My parents our both from Plattsburgh and I went to PSU. I am from Glens Falls, NY.


Fran May 23, 2014 at 4:26 pm

I’m from Plattsburgh but now living in California. ( Waaaay before there was McSweeney’s. Only Gus’, Clare & Carl’s, & Ronnie’s.) I’ve been trying to duplicate their recipe for over 20 years, but it’s just not the same. Whenever I come home for a visit I have to get my “fix.” I’ll have to give this version a try and see how it stacks up.


Annette April 16, 2014 at 4:48 am

I grew up in upstate NY town called Port Henry and lived for Genes michigans and french fries once a year I take my trek back for the scenic beauty in the fall and to fulfill my michigan craving….I’m sorry to say the sauce you describe isn’t michigan sauce of the adirondacks adding chili powder and cumin just isn’t a michigan sauce…the beauty of the adirondack michigan sauce and what sets the true michigan apart from coney sauce or chili sauce is the adirondack michigan is a bit of a sweet sauce….


Christina September 4, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Can you tell me if this recipe is close to Claire and Carl’s? My boyfriend said he would do ANYTHING for me if I made Michigan sauce close to theirs.


Cheryl Allen July 1, 2015 at 8:49 pm

In response to Annette who says the recipe above is nothing like the michigans she is used to at Gene’s in Port Henry, she is correct. But, on the other hand, the ones trying to emulate McSweeneys and Clare & Carl’s Michigan sauce, which is a very spicy sauce in comparison to a sweet Michigan sauce, they are way way off. There is NEVER tomato sauce of ANY kind used in Michigan sauce!!! I’m a full-time resident of Florida but I have lived through the Nitzi’s era, Clare & Carl’s to McSweeney’s take-over of Nitzi’s and I’m also a fan of Gene’s. I lived in Elizabethtown so liked them all. My husband had the recipe for McSweeney’s since he worked for the Dept. of Corrections & got the recipe from a fellow CO who had worked at McSweeneys. NO TOMATO SAUCE of any kind was used. My daughter has Clare & Carl’s original recipe. Again, NO TOMATO SAUCE of any kind used. These are spicy sauces and Gene’s is a sweet sauce. However they are ALL Michigan sauces. It’s your own personal taste as to what you prefer. I like BOTH types. I can’t wait to go back to E-town and sample all of them!!! I make my own but it’s not the same. However, the recipe submitted is way off course.


Jennifer G July 12, 2016 at 11:06 pm

We were just back in Plattsburgh for a visit last week… McSweeney’s was our 1st and last stop in and out of town! I would love to know how to replicate their recipe… It’s just so unlike any of the recipes I’ve tried, even my own momma’s!!!


linda July 29, 2015 at 4:44 pm

ty for the recipe I live in Plattsburgh ny that way upstate and I love michigans


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