In a Dutch oven or stock pot, heat oil in over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, oregano, chipotle chili powder, thyme, coriander, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook until vegetables have softened, 7 to 10 minutes.
Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beef and cook, breaking up the clumps with a spoon, until the beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to simmer until the chili has thickened, about 1 hour longer (if chili sticks to the bottom of the pot, stir in 1/2 cup water and continue to simmer). Remove bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.
To make the chili dogs:
Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat, scraping the grill grates clean if needed. Score hot dogs on each side with a sharp knife.
Place the hot dogs on the grill, and grill until well-marked and heated through, about 2 minutes per side. Turn the heat off and carefully toast the buns on the still-warm grill, about 2 minutes.
To assemble, place a hot dog in each bun and top with the chili, cheddar cheese, and red onions, if desired.
Bell peppers: Or add or substitute carrots, celery, corn, or zucchini.
Chipotle chili powder: Substitute ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or omit if you don’t like spicy food.
Canned tomatoes: I love the flavor of fire-roasted tomatoes with green chiles, but you can substitute regular canned tomatoes and add 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies. Ro*tel tomatoes work, too.
Yield: This recipe makes 8 chili-topped hot dogs. If you're serving fewer than 8 portions, grill as many hot dogs as you need, then save extra chili for later in the week.
Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Make ahead: Cool within 2 hours, cover, and refrigerate up to 3 days in advance. Reheat the full recipe on the stove over low heat to 165 degrees. Reheat small batches in the microwave.
Freezer: Cool cooked chili to below 40 degrees on an instant-read thermometer within 2 hours and place into airtight containers. Frozen chili will last 4 to 6 months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Instant Pot: Sauté the onions, peppers, spices, garlic, and beef in an Instant Pot until the beef is browned, breaking up any large pieces with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, and bay leaf and mix well. Cook on manual or high pressure for 10 minutes. Fast release the pressure when done.
Slow cooker: At the end of step 2, transfer the cooked beef mixture to a slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients as directed in step 3, cover and cook the chili on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours.
Beans: Add 1 (15-ounce) can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed, in step 3 with the tomatoes if desired. 1 ½ cups cooked beans can be substituted for the 1 can (that’s about ½ cup dried beans before cooking). You can use any type of canned or cooked bean instead of kidney.
Spicy: Add dried ancho, chipotle, guajillo, or New Mexican chili powder to the chili to crank up the heat, add some sweetness, or make chili a little more complex. Careful – some of these get really spicy!
More toppings: Cheese, sour cream, and scallions are classics. You can also try diced avocado, cooked bacon, fresh cilantro, minced onion, sliced jalapeños, hot sauce, lime wedges, tortilla chips, corn chips, or oyster crackers.