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Leftover Chili Cheese Dog Boats

These chili cheese dog boats are a great way to repurpose leftover chili when you’re craving a chili cheese hot dog. Swapping hot dogs for chicken sausage and using a lower fat turkey chili makes these boats surprisingly Kinda Healthy. Each chili dog boat has 20 grams of protein with only 320 calories, and you’d never be able to tell with all the melted American cheese and crispy toasted buns!

Chili Cheese Dog Boats Recipe Walkthrough

These leftover chili dog boats are a remix of Alvin Zhou’s recipe. I’ve included a visual walkthrough below but if you’d like a video example, particularly with the buns, Alvin has a Tasty-style video in his post. After the buns, however, my recipe goes in a slightly different direction. So let’s dive in!

Use a knife to cut a rectangle in the top of hot dog buns and press the centers down with your finger. Brush with olive oil, garlic powder, and parsley before baking for 5 minutes at 350ºF.

hot dog buns hollowed out and brushed with olive oil, parsley, and garlic powder

I tested all kinds of hot dog buns, sausage buns, and even hoagie rolls for this recipe. Ultimately, I settled on top-sliced hot dog buns from Pepperidge Farms. If you’d like to use a lower carb option or another type of bun, they should all mostly work fine. Though I will add that buns with higher protein content will have more spring in their crumb and might be difficult to press down for deep chili dog boats.

You’ll notice the olive oil that’s brushed on the buns is labeled optional in the recipe card. I tested the buns both with and without any oil or butter, and they work perfectly fine just toasted without anything brushed on. If you have an oil sprayer, you could spritz on a bit of oil for a light layer and a little extra crisp. You’re not after golden brown perfection with the first bake, just enough to hold up to the chili dog filling.

Pan fry sliced chicken sausages for 5-6 minutes to brown before adding leftover chili.

chicken sausage wedges pan fried before adding leftover chili

Unlike Alvin’s original chili cheese dog boats, my version calls for chicken sausages. They’re a much higher protein, lower fat option compared to traditional hot dogs. The problem with chicken sausages, however, is that they’re much larger than hot dogs.

So fitting a chicken sausage in a bun, at least with any additional chili, isn’t happening. I tested sausage buns and hoagie rolls, but I felt there was simply too much bread in the final product. The solution? Slicing up the sausage, pan frying, and going straight in with leftover chili.

For the chicken sausage, I used the same Trader Joe’s garlic herb chicken sausage from my 5-ingredient chicken sausage pasta recipe. And for the chili, I used my Instant Pot turkey chili, which is bean heavy. If you wanted to use a bean-free chili like my slow cooker Texas chili or something pre-prepared, go right ahead.

Add a slice of American cheese to the baked hot dog buns before adding the chili dog filling.

American cheese slices inside baked hot dog buns and filled with the chili dog mixture

Are you really making chili cheese dogs without American cheese? Probably not. That said, you could use any type of cheese for your chili dog boats. You’ll notice in the photo above, I used some colby jack cheese as the optional ninth slice on top of the boats before going in the oven.

Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350ºF until the cheese is melted and chili starts to brown on top.

You’ll know when they’re ready to come out of the oven. Top the finished chili cheese dog boats with fresh parsley, diced white onion, and depending on your style, a little mustard. In case you want to explore your toppings options, here’s a list of regional hot dogs.

Whatever you end up topping your boats with, I’d love to hear about it. Let us know what you thought about the recipe in the comments or with a star rating. And before you grab the recipe and get cooking, I’d like to plug my air fried brussels sprouts and garlic parmesan carrot fries as healthier sides you could pair with this recipe. Enjoy!

Leftover Chili Cheese Dog Boats

Leftover Chili Cheese Dog Boats

Yield: 8 Chili Dog Boats
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Leftover chili, pan fried chicken sausage, and American cheese inside a toasty garlic parsley bun.


  • 8 Hot Dog Buns
  • 1 Tbsp (16g) Olive Oil (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 handful Parsley, minced
  • 9 slices American Cheese, cut in half
  • 4 Trader Joe's Garlic Herb Chicken Sausage, cut into wedges
  • 12 oz Leftover or Prepared Chili


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and place the hot dog buns in a quarter sheet pan or baking dish. Use a knife to cut a rectangle into the top of the buns, leaving a little room around the edges. Use a finger to firmly press the centers down to create a bun canoe. Mix the olive oil with the garlic powder and parsley before brushing on the buns.
  2. Bake for 5-6 minutes to toast the buns.
  3. While the buns toast, add the chicken sausage to a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage for about 5 minutes before adding the chili. Stir everything together and set aside.
  4. Once the buns have toasted, line them with American cheese, followed by the chili dog mixture. Place pieces of the 9th slice of cheese on top in random spots.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Top with fresh parsley and diced white onion, if desired.


Each chili cheese dog boat has 11 WW SmartPoints (blue).

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 Chili Dog Boat
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 320Total Fat: 13gCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 20g

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