Ronni Lundy’s Chili Bun

By: Hannah Lee Leidy
Photo by Johnny Autry

A delicious Appalachian chili bun from Southern culinary legend, Ronni Lundy. Dress ’em up however you like.

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5 chili buns

    Chili Bun
  • 1 hot dog bun
  • Yellow mustard
  • 3-4 heaping tablespoons chili (recipe at right)
  • Chopped white onion
  • Hot sauce
  • Chili
  • 1 cup flat beer or water
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 saltine crackers, finely crushed (1/8 cup cracker meal)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons New Mexico ground red chile, or cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

For the Chili:

  1. Put the beer and ground beef in an unheated medium saucepan. Use your fingers to gently break apart beef by rubbing pieces lightly until it makes a slurry with the liquid. You don’t want chunks or lumps.
  2. Stir in garlic, salt, and cracker crumbs and place over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to keep it from sticking to the bottom of pot. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Cook until liquid has largely evaporated. The chili should be a finely grained aggregate that holds its shape on the spoon.
  3. Stir in tomato paste. Remove from heat and stir in the spices. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

To assemble: 

  1. Lightly paint inside of hot dog bun with yellow mustard. Pack chili into bun, starting with spoonful in center that you smooth in with the back of a spoon. Add more, moving out to either end and smoothing lightly as you go, until bun is filled. (You’re not making a sloppy joe; chili should be firm in the bun.) Top with chopped onion and pass hot sauce on the side.
  • Recipe by
    Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes by Ronni Lundy
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