Authentic Chicago-Style Hot Dog Recipe

Gene and Jude's, Wiener's Circle, Superdawg, or Jimmy's — every Chicagoan's got a favorite hot dog spot, sometimes for as little reason as loyalty alone. While the dogs at Wrigley are good, a true Chicago dog is much more than the stadium classic. It's an architectural masterpiece, a blend of flavors one wouldn't dream of using together at all, let alone piled onto a beef frank. A Chicago hot dog is sweet, salty, spicy, and tangy — a unique culinary creation that rivals all other late-night snacks.

Recipe developer and Chicago-native Michelle McGlinn shares below the blueprint for building a Chicago-style red hot. Spoiler: The ingredients do matter, and using anything different won't be the same. Our recommendation? Seek out the ingredients, build and eat a Chicago dog, then customize to your liking from there (McGlinn orders hers with no peppers, no salt). One word of advice, though: Whatever you do, don't touch the ketchup!

Everything you need for a Chicago-style hot dog

Most Chicagoans won't say "red hots" in conversation, but everyone knows what it means. A hot dog is typically a distant cousin of sausage, made with pork and lightly cased for easy boiling. These days, hot dogs can be chicken, pork, beef, or a mixture of the three, but in Chicago, a red hot is always all-beef. You'll notice the nickname when you take them out of the package: The hot dogs are crimson red, not pale pinkish beige. In Chicago it's standard to use Vienna beef, but use whatever is available at your local store.

From there, you'll need standard yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish, diced white onion, and chunks of fresh tomato. No need to over-complicate these, just use standard Heinz and vine tomatoes. Next, you'll need a big Kosher dill pickle, sliced as a spear, despite how clumsy that might seem. You can swap for a regular dill pickle here, if needed.

To finish the dog, you'll need sport peppers, celery salt, and a poppy seed bun. Sport peppers are small and spicy, found in the jarred condiment aisle near the pickled jalapeños and hard to spot outside of Chicago. If you're at a loss, try your local Italian market or buy them online.

Chop the fresh ingredients

A Chicago dog is big on condiments (that is, except for ketchup), so most of what you'll be using here is jarred or bottled. The only prep is chopping some onion and tomatoes, which can be done while the water for the hot dogs boils. Dice the white onion and chop the tomato into quarters. You can dice the tomato, too, for easier eating, but on a typical dog, the tomato will be nestled between the bun in large wedges, making for a juicy burst of flavor in every bite.

Boil the hot dogs

If you can't stand the idea of boiled hot dogs, throw the franks on the grill. This is technically referred to as a char-dog and alters the flavor slightly, for better or for worse. A true Chicago dog and its bun are steamed until the beef is hot and the buns are pliable and warm, which at home is easier to achieve by boiling on the stove. Boil the water, then add the franks and heat until the hot dogs rise to the top, their calling sign of readiness. Remove from the water with tongs and place directly into the poppy-seed bun, squeezing the bun around the dog slightly to dampen.

Build the dog

The order and placement of the condiments is important for achieving layers of flavor in every bite. Don't get overzealous and start piling things on, either, or you'll end up with a mountain of toppings that slide off with the first bite. String some mustard along the boiled frank, then drop on a few spoonfuls of relish. Sprinkle some diced onions on top, then wedge the tomatoes in between the beef and the bun. Place the pickle spear opposite the tomatoes, then drop on 2 sport peppers in between, right down the middle of the dog. Complete the hot dog with a dash of celery salt, sprinkled lightly on top of everything else.

To get closer to a real Chicago dog texture, wrap the completed dog tightly in foil and let the ingredients steam together for just a minute or two before eating. The dog should be compact, easy to eat even for the smallest mouths. Like a true hotdog joint, serve your dogs with fresh salted french fries, either thick-cut or crinkly, wrapped into the foil with the dog or served on the side. Really want to up your game and excite any kids at the table? Make a gooey cheese sauce to dunk the fries into. Serve your homemade red hots with an ice cold IPA or a can of pop and enjoy your new favorite hot dog!

Authentic Chicago-Style Hot Dog Recipe
4.9 from 23 ratings
This authentic Chicago-style hot dog combines salty, sweet, and subtly spicy flavors for a truly unforgettable experience.
Prep Time
Cook Time
close up of hot dog toppings
Total time: 10 minutes
  • 4 beef hot dogs
  • 4 poppy seed buns
  • 4 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 4 tablespoons sweet relish
  • 2 small tomatoes, quartered
  • ½ white onion, diced
  • 4 Kosher dill pickle spears
  • 8 sport peppers
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  1. Boil the hot dogs in water until the hot dogs rise to the surface. Remove from the water and place into buns.
  2. Squeeze about 1 tablespoon of mustard onto each hot dog, then spoon on about 1 tablespoon of sweet relish. Nestle the tomato wedges into the bun, then sprinkle diced onion over the mustard and relish.
  3. Add 1 pickle spear to each hot dog, wedging the pickle between the dog and the bun. Add two sport peppers to each, then sprinkle each hot dog with ¼ teaspoon of celery salt. Serve immediately.
Calories per Serving 363
Total Fat 16.2 g
Saturated Fat 4.6 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 40.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 44.5 g
Dietary Fiber 6.8 g
Total Sugars 15.0 g
Sodium 1,363.4 mg
Protein 12.9 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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