20 Toppings That Will Elevate Your Hotdogs At Your Next Cookout

Nothing quite says summertime like piling a paper plate full of BBQ staples, heaps of potato salad, mounds of baked beans, and of course, hotdogs fresh off the grill. While some folks might be content with just a frank in a bun, it's high time we give the noble hotdog the proper star treatment it deserves. Don't let the summer pass you by without trying a few of these variations on your dogs. You might even want to carry a few of them into the cooler months (no shame in pan-frying your hotdogs when the weather isn't grill-friendly). From the familiar to the more adventurous, there are so many different ways to dress your dogs; you might find yourself rotating them into your regular meal schedule well after Labor Day (your white culottes, however, might have to head back into the closet).

Gourmet ketchup, mustard, and relish

You won't find a cookout without the trio of mustard, ketchup, and relish in big plastic squeeze bottles. Hotdogs were made for condiments, and those three have been staples for decades. However, if you want your dog to dress a little more black-tie, all you need to do is go up a grade on your toppings. There are lots of different fancy ketchups that you can purchase at your local grocery store, but chances are good you already have ingredients in your pantry that you can use to improve your store-bought ketchup. You can even make ketchup from scratch! Try all different types of mustard in place of your regular yellow; from whole grain to honey, every different mustard brings its own unique flavoring to your hotdog. Don't forget your relish! Try a homemade relish recipe and adjust the sweet and sour blend to your personal preference.

Queso sauce and jalapeños

Gooey, spicy queso sauce is a party mainstay as a dip, but why should corn chips have all the fun? Spoon that liquid gold right onto your hotdogs and top them with fresh-chopped jalapeños peppers! Skip the jarred stuff and make your own fresh, zesty queso dip dip; that way, you can adjust the level of spice you want in your cheese sauce. You can even forgo the buns and wrap your franks in a warm, soft tortilla to really bring that Tex-Mex vibe! If you don't have a grill handy, you can sprinkle some shredded cheese into a tortilla, swaddle your hotdog, and pop it into your air-fryer, then dip the crispy dog into the queso. Best of all worlds!

Pickled red onions

Pickled red onions are a snap to make and are ready in just a couple of hours. They add that vinegary tang to your dishes while preserving their fresh-onion crunch. Plus, their vibrant color really adds a wow factor. While chopped onions are often found on hotdogs, pickled red onions are a way to add an extra dimension of flavor to your franks that will really set them apart. You can adjust the brine to your taste, thereby altering the overall flavor of the resulting pickled onions. For example, you could add some dried chili peppers if you wanted a spicier undertone or some star anise for something more botanical. Whatever your choice, pickled onions are an easy way to elevate your hotdog game.

Fresh coleslaw

Coleslaw is often relegated to a side dish, something to provide a barrier on your plate between your potato chips and your baked beans. It doesn't take much to elevate this vegetable medley to more than just Miracle Whip and cabbage. Depending on what you use for dressing and add-ins, you can make many different flavor profiles for your coleslaw. No matter if you go creamy and classic or citrusy and light, the crunch of cabbage and carrots are the perfect summery topping for your hotdogs. You can lay a bed of slaw in the bottom of your bun and nestle your hotdog on top of it, giving your meal the perfect combination of flavors and textures with every bite.


Another dip-as-topping entry, crave-worthy guacamole can be as simple as mashed avocado and lime or as elaborate as your imagination can expand. If you're anything like us, fresh guacamole can go on just about anything. The bright flavor of the avocados, along with their creaminess, really compliments the crispy, juicy bite of a grilled hotdog. Along with a sprinkle of freshly chopped tomatoes and cilantro, guac's familiar and simple flavors heighten the savory meatiness of your frank. You can also adjust the spiciness level from mild to fiery depending on whether you add chili peppers or cayenne powder to your guac. If you grill or toast your hotdog buns, you also bring the elevated element of everyone's favorite, avocado toast, to your cookout meal.

Pulled BBQ pork

Whether you have access to a smoker or prefer using a slow cooker, pulled pork is often served to be eaten as a sandwich. Pulled pork is a staple of Southern barbeque and pairs amazingly well with the previously mentioned pickled red onions and coleslaw as toppings. By layering the pork onto your hotdog, you're creating a fun twist on the classic chili dog. You may find yourself needing a slightly larger bun than your standard hotdog roll when you start building your pulled pork dog, along with lots of napkins! Sticky, sweet BBQ sauce, along with the creamy crunch of coleslaw and pickled onions, all marry together to make a truly unique hotdog.

Pico de gallo

Summertime yields some great harvests of fresh fruits and vegetables, and you should take full advantage of the bounties while they're literally fresh off the vine. Pico de gallo's beauty is found in its simplicity: tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeños, and salt are the only ingredients you need to create this flavorful condiment. You can combine the pico with guacamole to bring that summery flavor to your hotdogs, or you can keep it all very simple and just add the pico to your dog. The fresh vegetables are really all you need to experience a huge amount of flavor, and the bright, vibrant colors instantly add a flair of elegance.


Sauerkraut is having a true moment in the sun. Fermented foods, including sauerkraut, promote gut health and better digestion due to their beneficial bacteria levels. Because it's fermented, sauerkraut brings a tangy, sour flavor to a dish that sets it apart from other condiments. A staple in German cuisine, sauerkraut has been added to sandwiches and sausages for ages, and it's an ingredient that can be found in most delis and grocery stores. However, you can ferment your own sauerkraut at home. You can keep it traditional and stick with white cabbage, or you can make your batch more colorful with red cabbage and grated carrots, making your hotdog both dazzling and mouth-puckeringly delicious.

Caramelized onions and peppers

Sweet Italian sausages with onions and peppers are a staple on beach boardwalks and county fairs alike. Caramelized onions undergo a magical transformation during the cooking process, turning a gorgeous amber color as they soften and sweeten. Colorful red, orange, and green peppers can all mingle together to top your grilled hotdog. If you want to bring some extra smokiness, you can cook the peppers on the grill before slicing them and adding them to the onions. Smother your frank in the delicate strips of peppers and onions, along with a smear of whole grain mustard to tie all the flavors together. If you're cooking your hotdogs instead, throw a splash of beer into the pan you're cooking them in to give them an additional boost of flavor.


Kimchi is the Korean cousin of sauerkraut: A fermented dish that has several variations depending on your spice tolerance and vegetable preference. The most common version of kimchi involves napa cabbage and gochujang, a spicy chili paste that has been fermented to give it the trademark tangy taste. If you want to dress your hotdogs up with something that really sets them apart, you can make classic homemade kimchi which will bring together the familiar sour flavor of fermented cabbage but also the unique heat of the Korean chili paste. The cabbage retains its crunch through the fermentation process, which will add layers of texture to your hotdogs. If you have an international market close by, you can try all the different varieties of kimchi and find which ones you like best.

Tapenade, fresh mozzarella, and sliced cherry tomatoes

Olive tapenade is a unique French condiment that harnesses the potent flavors of olives and capers. Blended into a chunky paste, it is often spread on crostini or pita and served as an appetizer. The briny flavors of the capers and olives are especially well-suited for adding to grilled meat, such as hot dogs. While tapenade originated in France, there's no denying the Mediterranean spirit of the dish, and it's simple to make at home! You can create a cohesive dish with your hotdogs if you slice some ripe cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. The tomatoes' sweetness and the cheese's creaminess will mitigate the olives' salty brine. You can switch out your standard hotdog rolls for crusty Italian bread to truly create the authentic Mediterranean experience.

Blue cheese, buffalo sauce, and chopped celery

Buffalo chicken wings with hot sauce, blue cheese dip, and celery sticks are a bar-snack mainstay. They're spicy and sticky and salty (and totally messy), and you can never stop at just one. Why not bring that experience to your next cookout by dressing your dog in buffalo wing sauce, crumbling big chunks of blue cheese on top, and adding some crunch with finely chopped celery? Buffalo sauce is ridiculously easy to make, and there's nothing as pretty as the marbling of blue cheese chunks. Your fingers stay clean from the orange residue of the sauce, but you get to enjoy all the elements of your favorite tavern treat.

Bacon, cheddar, and ranch

Cheddar, bacon, and ranch are often used as topping on french fries and tater tots, creating the ultimate medley of salty, crunchy, and creamy. Crispy bacon plays nicely with hotdogs; they're both cured meats with a smoky background. Cheddar is a sharp but approachable cheese that is often paired with salty foods and compliments the herbal, buttery flavor of ranch dressing. Traditionally, ranch dressing is made with buttermilk, which is slightly acidic and tangy. You can create a similar flavor in buttermilk ranch dressing by using Greek yogurt. Dill is another flavor that comes through with this hotdog set-up, which is reminiscent of pickles, the perennial companion of hotdogs (you can totally add more pickles on top, always feel free to go nuts with pickles).

Homemade chili

Chili dogs are a traditional variation that almost everyone is familiar with. While you could just grab a can of chili, it's almost just as easy to make your own hot dog chili with just a few ingredients of ground beef, crushed tomatoes, and spices. You can also get more elaborate with your chili preparation and make any number of chili recipes, from a chocolate-molé base to a vegan bean chili you could serve on tofu dogs. You could even make a chicken or a pork-based chili to vary the types of meats in the dish. Whichever way you make your chili, be sure to cook it nice and slow to bring out all the best flavors from the spices.

Baked beans and shredded Colby-Jack cheese

Baked beans are another side dish that often shows up at cookouts but also can pull double-duty as a topping for your hotdogs. Like chili, baked beans are a way of bulking up your hotdog into a more substantial entree. Most baked bean recipes skew towards the sweeter end of the spectrum, using molasses, honey, or maple syrup as their sweeteners, which compliments the salty, smoky meat of your hotdog. Onions and bacon round out and deepen the flavor of your baked beans, adding those savory notes to your franks. You can sprinkle some shredded cheese onto your beans to bring in a little bit of a creamy factor. Baked beans are especially delicious on toast (hello, full English breakfast), so be sure that you crisp up your hotdog buns to really tie all the flavors together.

Mexican street corn, cotija cheese, and spicy crema

Mexican street corn, or elotes, is a grilled ear of corn smothered in cotija cheese, butter, and spicy crema and finished with a squeeze of lime. This traditional food can be transformed into a hotdog topping by cutting the grilled kernels off the cob and mixing the cheese, seasonings, and butter into them. Gently spoon the corn salad onto your hotdog, then drizzle a healthy amount of the addictive spicy crema right onto your street corn dog! You can add an additional pop of color and smokiness by sprinkling some smoked paprika onto the top, then adding some torn cilantro leaves for a fresh, green flavor. This is another hotdog where you could swap the traditional bun for a soft, warm tortilla that's been heated on the grill. This might become your go-to corn dog!

Fried green tomatoes

Fried green tomatoes are a Southern staple, typically eaten with dipping sauce or included in sandwiches. They're crunchy and slightly sour and offer a beautiful variety of textures. You can either fry them up in oil the traditional way or avail yourself of the modern convenience of your air fryer to keep them from being too greasy. However you want to prepare them, once they're hot and crispy, lay them into your hotdog bun and lay the frank on top of it. Drizzle with remoulade sauce and pour yourself a tall glass of sweet tea. It's the perfect way to use up any under-ripe tomatoes that may come in from your garden!

Pimento cheese and chopped roasted red peppers

A staple of Southern cuisine, pimento cheese is another spread equally delicious on a hotdog bun as on a cracker. Known as the "pâté of the South," it's a mixture of cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, cream cheese, spices, and pimentos whipped together until spreadable. Pimentos are red peppers most often found tucked into olives, but they lend a sweetness to whatever dish they're added to. A topping of pimento cheese will turn any hotdog into a creamy, savory entree. Garnish it with sliced roasted red peppers, either from a jar or roasted on the grill, for a bit of smokiness to the sandwich. You can also crumble bacon on top to add additional texture.

Pickled carrots and spicy peanut sauce

If you're looking for a fun play on a traditional bánh mì sandwich, try this delicious trick. Use pickled carrots and a spicy peanut sauce to invite those Asian-inspired flavors to your cookout. Bánh mìs are Vietnamese sandwiches that usually comprise meat, pickled vegetables, and sauce in a roll of bread. So you can imagine how the fusion of bánh mìs and hotdogs isn't a far stretch and allows for a lot of creative freedom. The drizzle of spicy peanut sauce brings both heat and creaminess to the sandwich. Shredded cabbage, sliced cucumbers, and torn cilantro leaves can also be added to bulk up your bánh mì dog and add additional notes of crunch and freshness.

Grilled pineapple and teriyaki sauce

Grilling fruit is an amazing way to maximize its flavor and make it even more juicy. Watermelons and peaches are a couple of fruits that benefit from a sear on the grill, but if you want to really bring a fun, tropical vibe to your cookout, throw some pineapple on the grill. Once the fruit has been seared, chop it into chunks and put it on your hotdog. Finish the dish with a drizzle of homemade teriyaki sauce over the top. Pineapple and teriyaki are both sweet, but the soy sauce base of the teriyaki brings that salty umami flavor found at the heart of many Asian dishes. You can also increase the spice by adding a squirt of Sriracha sauce. It will make your hotdogs unforgettable.