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What is hot dog eaten with?

Hot dogs are one of the most popular foods in America. They are versatile sandwiches that can be customized in many ways. But what are the most common toppings and sides that hot dogs are eaten with?

The Origins of Hot Dogs

Hot dogs originated in Germany in the late 1800s. Traditionally, they were served in a bread roll and eaten with mustard. Immigrants brought hot dogs to America, where they became extremely popular, especially in New York City. The iconic American hot dog started taking shape when street cart vendors began experimenting with different toppings and condiments to serve with them.


Mustard is the original and most basic hot dog topping. Dating back to the frankfurters in Germany, mustard has been a beloved companion to hot dogs for over 100 years. Yellow mustard is the most popular type in the US, with brands like French’s being a staple at hot dog stands. Spicy brown mustard and honey mustard are also popular varieties.


Ketchup is another quintessential hot dog topping. While some hot dog traditionalists believe ketchup should never touch a hot dog, many Americans grew up putting ketchup on their hot dogs. Heinz is the leading brand of ketchup and the number one choice for squeezing onto hot dogs. Ketchup offers a sweet and tangy flavor that counters the savory juiciness of a hot dog.


Relish is a pickle-based topping that adds a tart, sweet, and crunchy texture to hot dogs. It is made from chopped pickles, onions, spices, and other ingredients and comes in a variety of flavors like sweet, hot, and dill. The refreshing quality of relish helps cut through the richness of hot dogs. Relish can be used alone or paired with mustard and ketchup.


Chopped or diced raw onions are another beloved hot dog topping. Onions add a sharp, pungent kick that enhances the flavor of hot dogs. Small white onions or yellow onions are commonly used. Onions offer a nice crunch and zing to each bite.


Sauerkraut is thinly sliced cabbage that has been fermented with salt. This gives it a distinctive sour flavor. Sauerkraut is a traditional hot dog topping, especially for versions like New York style or Chicago style. The tanginess of sauerkraut cuts through the richness of the hot dog.


Chili is a spicy, meaty sauce that can be ladled over hot dogs. Chili dogs are especially popular in the Midwest. Beef chili or vegetarian bean chili can be used, offering a hearty and flavorful topping option. Adding cheese like cheddar or Monterey Jack on top takes chili dogs to the next level.


Cheese is a gooey, delicious topping for taking hot dogs up a notch. Popular choices include cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss, provolone, and American cheese. The cheese can be simply sliced or grated to fully cover the hot dog. Nacho cheese sauce is also a popular liquid cheese topping.


Bacon makes almost anything better, including hot dogs. Crispy cooked bacon crumbled over hot dogs adds a smoky crunch and salty flavor. Bacon-wrapped hot dogs take this concept even further, enveloping the hot dog in bacon before grilling it up.


Coleslaw is a classic side for hot dogs. Made from thinly sliced cabbage tossed with a creamy dressing, coleslaw adds a cool crunch and tangy flavor that complements hot dogs beautifully. Traditional mayo-based coleslaw is most common, but variations like vinegar-based or mustard-based dressings can also be used.

Baked Beans

Baked beans are another traditional hot dog side dish. Sweet baked beans stewed in tomato sauce offer a delicious pairing of contrasting textures and flavors. Barbecues, picnics, and summertime are when baked beans and hot dogs are served together most often.

French Fries

French fries are arguably the best pairing for just about any sandwich, including hot dogs. Hot and crispy fries complement hot dogs incredibly well when dipped into ketchup or cheese sauce. French fries and hot dogs are menu staples at amusement parks, fairs, and summer cookouts.

Potato Chips

Potato chips offer a similar salty, crunchy texture to French fries. They are one of the most popular pairings with hot dogs for an easy anytime meal. Thick cut, kettle cooked, or regular potato chips all taste great with a juicy hot dog.

Potato Salad

Creamy, chilled potato salad is a classichot dog side dish. Made from diced potatoes, onions, seasonings and a mayo-based dressing, potato salad makes a refreshing contrast to hot dogs. It is a staple at barbecues and picnics next to hot dogs.

Buns and Rolls

Hot dogs are almost always served on some type of bread product like a bun or roll. The type of bun can influence the overall experience. Regular white hot dog buns are most common. Split-top New England style rolls are popular in some regions. Pretzel buns, Hawaiian rolls, and poppy seed rolls are among other gourmet choices.

Regional Variations

There are certain regional hot dog specialty styles across America that feature unique toppings:

  • Chicago style: mustard, onions, relish, tomatoes, pickle spear, sport peppers, celery salt
  • New York style: sauerkraut, onions, mustard
  • Michigan style: chili sauce, mustard, onions
  • Seattle style: cream cheese
  • Texas style: chili, cheddar cheese, onions

Most Popular Hot Dog Toppings

According to various surveys and reports, these are among the most popular hot dog toppings nationally:

Topping Popularity
Ketchup 61%
Mustard 52%
Onions 47%
Relish 39%
Sauerkraut 32%
Chili 31%
Cheese 28%
Bacon 12%

Healthiest Options

While hot dogs are not necessarily considered a health food, there are ways to make them a little healthier:

  • Use a whole grain bun
  • Choose uncured hot dogs without nitrites or nitrates
  • Load up on veggie toppings like onions, relish, sauerkraut, tomatoes
  • Use avocado instead of cheese or mayo-based toppings
  • Opt for mustard, vinegar, or other low-calorie condiments
  • Avoid bacon and processed meat chili

Vegetarian and Vegan Options

For those who don’t eat meat, there are plenty of hot dog options:

  • Veggie dogs – made from vegetables, soy, grains
  • Tofu dogs – made from tofu
  • Vegan cheese
  • Meatless chili
  • Vegan bacon

Veggie dogs and tofu dogs can be served with all the same toppings and condiments as regular hot dogs.

International Hot Dog Styles

Around the world, hot dogs are customized in many flavorful ways:

  • Japan – Often topped with seaweed, pickled radish, spicy mustard, and teriyaki sauce
  • Philippines – Wrapped in an egg roll and fried, topped with onions and ketchup
  • Australia – Topped with cheese, chili con carne, fried onions, and aioli sauce
  • Russia – Often served with mashed potatoes instead of a bun
  • Mexico – Rolled up in a tortilla with avocado, onions, tomato, beans, chili sauce

Hot Dog Eating Contests

Competitive eating contests involving hot dogs are popular events, especially on Independence Day in the United States. These contests usually involve eating as many hot dogs as possible within a set time:

  • Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4th in Brooklyn, NY is the most famous
  • Contestants have 10 minutes to eat as many hot dogs as they can
  • The current record is 76 hot dogs and buns eaten in 10 minutes
  • Men and women compete in separate contests
  • The winners earn recognition, prizes and get to hold mustard yellow championship belts

Hot Dog Eating Tips

For recreational eaters looking to up their hot dog eating game, there are some tips to eating them more quickly and efficiently:

  • Grind up the hot dogs and buns into a mush for quicker swallowing
  • Break hot dogs into pop-able pieces for grabbing more at once
  • Skip the toppings to save time
  • Take big gulps of water between dogs to help you swallow faster
  • Lean forward as you eat to help use gravity
  • Start with the buns to clear space for more hot dogs

Hot Dog Records

Some notable hot dog eating records beyond the Nathan’s contest include:

  • Most hot dogs eaten in 3 minutes – 15 hot dogs (Matt Stonie)
  • Most hot dogs eaten in 10 minutes – 103 hot dogs (Joey Chestnut)
  • Most hot dogs eaten in 8 hours – 506 hot dogs (Tim Janus)
  • Most hot dogs eaten in 1 minute – 16 hot dogs (Joey Chestnut)


Hot dogs are enjoyed in endless ways thanks to the myriad of toppings, condiments, and sides they can be paired with. Classic choices like mustard, ketchup, and relish are staples at cookouts and games. Regional flavors like chili, coleslaw, and sauerkraut customize hot dogs in different parts of America. Whether they are gobbled down competitively or topped simply to your liking, hot dogs are an iconic and beloved American food with a place in the heart (and stomach) of many.