Hot dogs are a classic American food, often served at backyard barbecues, ballgames, and other gatherings. But one question has sparked endless debate: what are the best sides to serve with hot dogs? There are countless options, from classic sides like baked beans and potato salad, to more creative pairings like coleslaw and fruit salad. Choosing the right hot dog sides can take the meal from standard to spectacular. This article will explore 10 delicious sides that pair perfectly with hot dogs, looking at the history behind each dish, the best preparation methods, and why these sides complement the flavors of a juicy hot dog so well. With the right combination of condiments and sides, hot dogs can be so much more than just a cookout staple.
Classic Hot Dog Sides
Some sides have become so ingrained in hot dog culture that a cookout just wouldn’t feel right without them. These classic hot dog accompaniments hearken back to the early days of hot dog stands and have stood the test of time as fan favorites.
Baked beans are practically synonymous with hot dogs. These sweet, saucy beans are the perfect complement to the salty juiciness of a hot frank. Beans have long been a staple crop of Native American cuisine, cherished for their nourishing protein. Early New Englanders adopted beans as a dietary staple and would often slow-cook them with salt pork and molasses for flavor. Modern baked bean recipes took shape in the late 19th century, around the same time hot dogs rose to prominence. The marriage of hot dogs and baked beans was inevitable given their simultaneous rise in popularity. The sweet, smokey notes of baked beans pair perfectly with the smokiness of a grilled hot dog. At a cookout, baked beans can be heated up and served warm or served chilled right out of the can for convenience.
Potato salad is another classic side dish that is a staple of summertime cooking. Potatoes originated in South America and were brought to Europe in the 16th century. European immigrants later brought potatoes to North America, where they became a popular crop. Potato salads traces its origins to 18th century Germany, where cooks mixed boiled potatoes with oil, vinegar and herbs. Potato salad became popular fare at picnics and barbecues during the early 20th century. The starchiness of potatoes complements the salty snap of the hot dog for a perfectly balanced bite. Potato salad also serves as a cool, creamy counterpoint to a hot, juicy hot dog off the grill. This versatile side can be customized with different mix-ins like eggs, onions, pickles and various seasonings.
A scoop of cool, crunchy coleslaw is the perfect topping for a hot dog served in a squishy bun. Much like potato salad, coleslaw traces its origins to 18th century Germany, where cabbage was mixed with oil and vinegar as a salad. German and Dutch immigrants brought coleslaw traditions to America, leading to its popularity today. The crunchy texture and sweet, tangy flavor of coleslaw pairs exceptionally well with hot dogs. Adding coleslaw takes the hot dog experience from dry to deliciously messy – in the best way. For cookouts, homemade coleslaw is ideal, but store-bought varieties work too for no-fuss convenience.
Regional Hot Dog Sides
America’s regional food scenes have spawned some iconic local twists on hot dog accompaniments. Exploring regional sides offers fun ways to shake up the usual hot dog fare.
Half Smoke with Chili – Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. is known for its half-smokes – fat, spicy sausages that are a mix of smoked pork and beef. Locals serve these flavorful links on buns loaded with chili sauce, mustard and chopped onions. Pairing half smokes with chili gives an extra meaty boost to balance the richness. The chili also provides a touch of smoky heat and warm seasoning. This D.C. specialty is perfect for those who want a hot dog with a bit more complexity and a spicy kick.
Cream Cheese – Seattle, Washington
In Seattle, street vendors offer hot dogs topped with smooth, creamy chunks of cream cheese. This unique pairing traces its origins to Japadog, a Japanese street vendor who sought to fuse American hot dogs with Japanese flavors. The cool, tangy cream cheese mellows out the hot dog for an unexpectedly delightful combo. Adding cream cheese brings a rich finish to each bite. It may sound odd, but one taste and you’ll be convinced of this odd-ball pairing.
Fry Sauce – Utah
French fries and hot dogs are both classic cookout foods, so why not bring them together? In Utah, fry sauce is the condiment that combines these two favorites. Fry sauce consists of ketchup mixed with mayonnaise, resulting in a creamy, tangy dipping sauce. Dunking hot dogs in fry sauce adds zest and moisture for a tasty bite. The sauce’s creamy texture and sweet-tart flavor offset the salty flavors of the hot dog in an addictive way. Fry sauce originated at Greek diners in Utah in the 1930s and caught on as a statewide sensation.
Creative Hot Dog Toppings
Beyond the classics, there are plenty of creative toppings and sides to take hot dogs from boring to gourmet. These outside-the-box options add excitement to the typical hot dog fare.
Mac and Cheese
For the ultimate in comfort food decadence, try topping hot dogs with a scoop of cheesy mac and cheese. The smooth, velvety mac and cheese provides a richness that pairs indulgently with a hot dog. Mac and cheese also contributes needed moisture to prevent dry hot dogs. Make homemade mac and cheese or dress up the boxed version for easy appetizer-style finger food. Mix in hot dog pieces or bacon crumbles for an extra meaty kick.
For a taste of Italy, swap typical hot dog toppings for your favorite pizza toppings. Marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and mushrooms can transform a hot dog into pizza on a bun. The acidity of the tomato sauce balances nicely with hot dog fat and salt. Cheese and pepperoni lend even more richness. Not feeling marinara? Pesto, Alfredo or olive oil work nicely too for different flavor profiles.
For a fresh take on hot dogs, add a scoop of fruit salad as a topping. Pineapple, berries, melon and peach provide a burst of bright flavor and juicy texture to accent greasy hot dogs. Sweet fruits like mango and grapes complement the smokiness of the hot dog for a tangy BBQ twist. Cherry pie filling also pairs remarkably well for a unique gourmet dog. Add some creamy vanilla yogurt or ricotta cheese to up the creaminess.
10 Best Hot Dog Sides Recap
To recap, here are 10 can’t-miss hot dog sides to try at your next cookout:
|Location of Origin
|Sweet, smoky, rich
|Creamy, starchy, cool
|Crunchy, tangy, sweet
|Spicy, meaty, hearty
|Cool, rich, tangy
|Creamy, tangy, sweet
|Mac and Cheese
|Creamy, rich, cheesy
|Savory, acidic, herby
|Sweet, juicy, refreshing
Choosing Your Hot Dog Side Dishes
Hot dogs make the perfect blank canvas for creative sides and toppings. When planning a cookout, consider offering a variety to please different preferences. Or stick to regional classics for a taste of authentic Americana. Whichever sides you choose, think beyond the standard ketchup and mustard to take your hot dogs to the next level. With the right accompaniments, hot dogs become a truly well-rounded meal. Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiement with new flavors and textures. From timeless classics to innovative new pairings, the possibilities for hot dog sides are endless.
Hot dogs are an American tradition, but they don’t have to be boring. With the right combination of sides and toppings, hot dogs can be an exciting culinary experience. Classic sides like baked beans and coleslaw provide comforting familiarity and balance to juicy hot dog flavor. Regional specialties like chili half-smokes and fry sauce add local flair. And creative options like mac and cheese or fruit salad lend unique personality. Hot dog sides should complement the hot dog itself while also adding interest. Whether you prefer tried-and-true or think-outside-the-bun, thoughtfully chosen sides can take hot dogs from cookout staple to culinary masterpiece. So don’t be afraid to get creative with sides and condiments. With endless possibilities, there’s a perfect hot dog pairing just waiting to be discovered.