California Chili Cheeseburger Sliders

California style chili cheeseburger sliders are a comfort food classic- a west coast counterpart to the Coney dog so enjoyed on the east coast.
California Chili Cheeseburger Sliders

California Chili Cheeseburger Sliders

By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime

California Chili Cheeseburger Sliders

A Blast From the Past

It’s quite literally been years since I’d been out to California and had a chance to eat one of those, albeit regular size. So long,  in fact, that I don’t quite recall if the one I had was an “Original Tommy’s”- in fact I am certain I didn’t know a singular thing about them  then. I think I may have bought it at a stand on or near Venice Beach- and the day was chilly with a tiny bit of drizzle, but we were visiting from out of town and wanted to go out to the  pier.

West Coast Goes Midwest Kitchen

So I have tried to make these in that style, looking at how some people make their Tommy’s chili knockoffs- and of course it never works out quite like that. I did mine in the Instant Pot and also, with *much less* water than I saw elsewhere,  plus a couple of other adjustments. So since it has been so long I can’t really tell ya’ but this tasted much better than I remembered- and what I remembered was worth trying again.

Retro Burgers & Memories

It may be that I was thinking of when I was out there with my Mom- and we went  to the pier at Long Beach, and she hadn’t been there in decades.  So much had changed, she was amazed. And I wonder since it has  been decades for me if it has likewise changed that much again. I am sure it has.

But anyway, the slider burgers cook up quick- you  can serve them  as singles or doubles (I did doubles) and  make the adjustments for how many rolls and slices of cheese. They are more filling than they look.  You can get twelve singles or six doubles so I’ll go ahead and peg the servings from three if you are starving and can manage two doubles (I can’t) but I can certainly eat more than two singles.  As doubles you won’t have as much bread, and you  may  prefer that (I do).

How to Top Them-

These are typically served with onions and tomato. I don’t really get the tomato  on this and would rather keep that off the chili since this type doesn’t contain tomato at all (and no beans either). But it has a very retro diner flavor and I’d go with just a little bit of onion and if you like, a touch of mustard (as we put mustard and onion on chili dogs here in the midwest).

Calling All  LA Burgerfans:

If you live out in  LA and give these a try, let me know how they compare to the flavor of Tommy’s, but as I said-   I am not certain enough of it to call them that unless I had one right here to compare. You may have  some extra chili leftover if  you make double burgers- but the great thing is, this is also good on  fries if you have those. Just figure the chili is a generous amount. They can be a little messy, but even so, very delicious. Just keep  napkins handy!

A Few Last Words-

The meat for the patties is 12:1 which is food-speak  for saying twelve patties to the pound. I am not so intense that I weigh them  out- I put the meat on a cutting board,  cut it in half, then each piece in half again, and then into thirds, which gives an approximate meat amount of about 1-1/3 ounces per- just shape those twelve pieces  and pan fry.

California Chili Cheeseburger Sliders:

California Chili Cheeseburger Sliders

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California Chili Cheeseburger Sliders

Sue Lau
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Course Main Dish, Sandwiches
Cuisine American, California
Servings 6 double cheeseburger sliders


  • Chili:
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck 80:20
  • 1/4 cup finely grated carrot
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Roux for Chili:
  • 1/4 cup masarepa or masa harina
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Sliders:
  • 1 pound ground chuck 80:20
  • salt and black pepper as required
  • 6-12 King's hawaiian rolls
  • 6-12 slices American cheese
  • thinly sliced onion opt.
  • thinly sliced tomato opt.
  • yellow mustard opt.


  • Place the beef and carrots in the Instant Pot and set to sear.
  • While beef is searing, place the masa harina and oil in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture browns moderately (color of peanut butter); set aside to cool.
  • Add remaining chili ingredients plus the roux to the beef and stir.
  • Turn Instant Pot from Sear to OFF.
  • Place the lid on the Instant Pot and set to the locked position, and make sure the valve is CLOSED.
  • Turn Instant Pot on and set to MANUAL for 15 minutes.
  • When it beeps and goes to warm, turn the Instant Pot OFF and using the handle of a wooden spoon, tap the valve open.
  • Allow steam to release completely before removing the lid.
  • Stir the chili and set to sear again, stirring frequently until it is very thick.
  • While chili cooks, divide the remaining beef into twelve pieces and shape into small slider patties.
  • Season with salt and black pepper.
  • Pan fry the patties until cooked through or as you like them.
  • Place cheese on cooked patties and melt in the microwave if you need to.
  • Assemble sliders on split Hawaiian rolls topped with either one or two patties, and chili on top of the patties, with whatever other toppings you like (such as onion).
Keyword Burgers
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California Chili Cheeseburger Sliders

4 responses

  1. Did you know that today is Tommy’s 73rd anniversary and they are selling their burgers for 73 cents each just for the day? When I was in college, we used to make a Tommy’s run at least once a week after long nights of studying (or partying). It was the original stand on Beverly and Rampart. Such great memories!

  2. I have never heard of Tommy’s but these sliders are pulling at me so I will be trying them very soon.

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