Original Tommy’s Chili No Beans (BEST Copycat recipe)

4.84 from 31 votes

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Make Instant Pot chili for dinner tonight. This Original Tommy’s chili recipe has no beans or tomatoes. As a result, it’s thick and hearty – the perfect chili for hot dogs!

close up of an Original Tommy's copycat chili on a hot dog

What is Original Tommy’s?

This Instant Pot chili is a favorite of Dave’s, as he grew up in the LA area where Original Tommy’s Hamburgers started. Los Angeles natives have been eating this up for years and if you lived there and moved away, this is one of those meals you’d miss.

Thomas James “Tommy” Koulax opened the first location in 1946, on the corner of Beverly and Rampart boulevards, and it grew from there.

Known as the best place to go for a chili dog or burger at the end a late night of festivities, it is also a great lunch spot.

Coming from San Francisco I had never heard of it until I was taken to one restaurant in San Diego. I had to have it all, too, as instructed; a hamburger with chili and a chili cheese dog with pickles.

bowl of Instant Pot chili recipe no beans or tomatoes - chili for hot dogs

I make a great Tex Mex Chili con Carne that’s chunky and delicious, but it’s a complete opposite of this chili recipe.

Tommy’s chili sauce, as it’s known, is a smooth, thick chili recipe, no beans or tomatoes. I think this copycat recipe comes pretty darn close to the original. Plus, it’s made in an Instant Pot for a quick meal in no time.

Thick, almost spreadable, my copycat Original Tommy’s Chili is made using no tomatoes, no beans, uses several chili powders and masa harina to hit the spot. Perfect to top hamburgers, hotdogs, fries and my favorite, crispy tator tots!

overhead of 4 hot dogs with Instant Pot chili, cheese, onions, and yellow mustard

Uses for Instant Pot Chili

Because it’s so thick and spreadable, I think the best use for this is chili for hot dogs.

What could be tastier than a chili dog with Original Tommy’s chili, cheese, a squirt of yellow mustard, and onions?! The kicker are dill pickles, a MUST to have on the dogs, as the brine from the pickles counters the heat and richness of the chili.

Other delicious ways to enjoy this chili include:


Another benefit of this chili recipe having no beans or tomatoes is, it’s lower in carbs than many others. This isn’t to say that it’s low carb chili, because it’s not. There is a little bit of brown sugar in it, as well as a tiny bit of carrot and masa harina (corn flour).


Instant Pot chili recipe no beans on a hot dog with cheese, onions, and yellow mustard

This recipe first appeared on Kevin Is Cooking June 2015 and has been updated with new photos and video.


Watch how to make the Instant Pot chili below!



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close up of hot dog in bun topped with the works

Original Tommy's Chili (Copycat recipe)

4.84 from 31 votes
Thick, almost spreadable, my Original Tommy's Chili (Copycat recipe) is made using no tomatoes, no beans, uses several chili powders and masa harina to hit the spot.
Servings: 8 servings
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Total: 50 minutes



  • Peel and cut the carrot into 2 inch pieces. Peel and quarter the onion. Cut the stem off the jalapeños and cut lengthwise. In a food processor add the carrot, onion, garlic and pepper. Pulse until almost a paste.
  • To the Instant Pot add the vegetable paste, 3 cups of water, ground beef, chili powders, cumin, paprika, salt, sugar, Mexican oregano and black pepper. Stir to mix and break up the ground beef (See Note 3).
  • Close lid and vent. Select Manual Pressure (High) and set timer for 18 minutes. Allow natural pressure release (10 minutes) not a Quick Release.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the flour, masa harina and 2 cups of water. Pour this in the chili mixture, stir to mix in and press the Saute option. This will sputter,so if your IP has the option, choose Saute Low, if not cover. Set for 10 minutes, stirring often. This will thicken considerably. Stir in the vinegar and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
  • Spoon over hamburgers, hotdogs, French fries, tator tots, or baked potatoes. I also like to have diced onions, mustard and dill pickles alongside.

Slow Cooker Method

  • Follow Steps 1 and 2 above. Add ingredients to a slow cooker EXCEPT the flour, masa harina, 2 cups of water and vinegar. Cook 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high in the slow cooker.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the flour, masa harina and remaining 2 cups of water. Pour this in the chili mixture in last 30 minutes of cooking, stir to mix thoroughly and cover. This will thicken and sputter. Stir in the vinegar and let rest 5 minutes before serving.


  1. I get a 80/20 ground beef, If you can find it at your market, or ask the butcher, use a "chili grind" ground beef, it's finer consistency than regular ground beef and perfect for this.
  2. Feel free to substitute Chimayo chile powder with any New Mexico red chile powder if you can't find it. I order online. 
  3. By adding the ground beef to the liquid and NOT browning it allows it to break down easier and the result is a smooth chili.


Calories: 257kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 1025mg | Potassium: 393mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 3660IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 66mg | Iron: 4.3mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Chili, Dinner, Lunch, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southwest, Western
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!


Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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  1. 5 stars
    Made the chili last night. Couldn’t find ancho chili powder at the supermarket, so I wound up subbing in pasilla chile powder that I found at the local Latino market. (Chile powders are way cheaper at those markets, BTW) I also used a generic New Mexico chile powder from the Latino market as well, because the supermarket didn’t carry Chimayo chile powder either.

    The consistency and heat level were spot on. The flavor was very close to the real Tommy’s chili as well. Something in the flavor needs a bit more kick (I did forget to add the vinegar at the end, so I’ll add that when I reheat the leftover chili).

    I was thinking that the suggestion to sub in some chorizo might be more of the right flavor to get it closer to the real thing. All in all, this is as close as I’ve gotten to recreating Tommy’s chili at home. The suggestion to not brown the ground beef and let it break up while cooking is spot on. Other recipes I’ve seen entail browning the meat and then draining the grease to create a roux. The consistency for those recipes ends up too runny.

    And cooking this in an instant pot is so much easier! Thanks for the recipe.

  2. 5 stars
    Excellent, I’ll have to try this!

    I tried a different recipe a few years ago. That recipe called for browning the ground beef, and then separating the grease and mixing it with flour to create a roux. Going through that recipe was how I noted that it subs carrots in for sugar (never noticed the carrots in Original Tommy’s chili, but indeed they’re in there). It was good, but I couldn’t get the consistency right and it had more of light color to it.

    I grew up in LA and now live in the Bay Area. Late night Tommy’s runs were the rite of passage for every native Angeleno. In-N-Out is what the rest of the world knows as the LA burger. Those of us who are from LA think of Tommy’s. Unlike other regional foods that have gone national, the Tommy’s-style chiliburger and chili dog have largely stayed local to Southern California. More like the Desi-style pizza (originated in San Francisco) or Philly pork loin sandwich, than the Mission-style burrito or cheesesteak.

    This video features Roy Choi (founder of the Kogi taco truck that helped spark the social media-fueled food truck craze) explaining the awesomeness of Tommy’s.


    Also, LA has the unique phenomenon of the fake Tommy’s restaurants. Not as many now as in past decades, but chiliburger stands with some variant of the Tommy’s name still dot the LA landscape. They vary considerably, and many of them have way more expansive menus that also include pastrami and burritos, and even pastrami burritos (add some chili plus 2 hot dogs and you end up with the infamous Oki Dog). There are other burger stands serving Tommy’s style chiliburgers, but don’t use it in the name.

    My understanding is that many of these imitators use a chili base that’s commonly available in SoCal. Just add yesterday’s leftover burger meat and you got Tommy’s style chili. Aside from Willie’s in Sacramento (which was founded by a fellow LA transplant/Tommy’s fanatic), I don’t know of any other fake Tommy’s locations outside of greater LA.

  3. 5 stars
    This is spot on Tommy’s chili minus the brown sugar. The carrots I’ve used are sweet enough on their own. If you can’t find masa harina (often labeled as just masa) in the Mexican section of the grocery, you can sub cornmeal that has been pulverized in a food processor, and once mixed with the water and flour, add 1-2 drops of lime juice.

  4. 5 stars
    This is seriously so good! I’m a vegetarian and have been craving Tommy’s burger so I used this recipe and subbed Beyond Meat ground and it was delicious. I had to add a little more salt due to the “meat” not having beef flavor but it was as close as I could get especially without beef!

    1. That flavor you get from the masa harina is so good, I would substitute the same amount of ground corn tortilla chips if you can, or otherwise plain flour.

    2. Go to a mexican market or at a Walmart in the Mexican food isle. There will be a big giant corn in the front of it

    3. It is typically NOT found where you would find flour, corn meal, etc. look for it in the Hispanic section of your market as masa is what is used for corn tortillas

  5. 5 stars
    I’ve never heard of original Tommy’s, and it looks like I’ve been missing out! This looks and sounds incredible!

  6. 5 stars
    Man this brings back memories!!! Let me just tell ya, ITS SPOT ON!!! Now that I have a decent batch made, I find myself wanting to make things that I pour this delicious all over it!! Kevin, you did it again!

  7. 4 stars
    I use beer or coffee instead of water and crushed red pepper to amp up the heat. Here in SW CT chili dogs are iconic, and thought to have been introduced in Coney Island, a NYC amusement park, around the turn of the century (20th).

  8. 4 stars
    Being an southern New England native I have been making what we call Coney Sauce (Coney Island) or hot dog 🌭 chili.
    I use either beer or coffee for some or all of the liquid (water), and add crushed red pepper to amp up the heat.