This classic Chicago hot dog recipe is a must-try! This authentic recipe will bring the taste of Chicago, into your very own home.
Chicago-style hot dogs are a quintessential part of Chicago's food culture. They are made with 7 very specific toppings and are easy to make at home.
Chicago hot dogs came about at the end of the 19th century when most of the butchers in Chicago were German immigrants. When they came over from Germany, they brought over their food traditions, particularly Vienna sausage.
The hot dog was a perfect food for the time. It was cheap and filled with added toppings that made it even more filling.
In 1929, this "depression sandwich" sold for a nickel. It came with pickle relish, mustard, hot peppers, onion, a dill pickle spear, lettuce, and tomatoes. The idea stuck and soon Chicago dog carts and hot dog stands were popping up on every corner of the windy city.
🌭 What is in a traditional Chicago hot dog?
A true Chicago dog is made with an all beef hot dog, typically a Vienna Beef frank. They are served on steamed poppy seed hot dog buns and have 7 key toppings.
- Yellow Mustard
- Bright Green Relish
- Tomato Slices or Wedges
- Kosher Pickle Spear
- Sport Peppers
- Diced White Onion
- Dash of Celery Salt
Chicago hot dogs are great to serve for Summer parties! They are also an easy weeknight dinner or great for special occasions like graduation parties. Serve this classic recipe alongside mostaccioli, beef sandwiches, and blueberry crostata for dessert.
🌭 Ingredient notes
- Hot Dogs - A classic Chicago dog recipe is made using an all beef frankfurter. If you can get your hands on a Vienna beef dog, then that is even more authentic. I can’t find those living in Utah anymore, so my go-to is usually Hebrew National or Nathan's.
- Hot Dog Buns - Typically a steamed poppy seed bun is used for Chicago dogs, however, they are almost impossible to find outside of Illinois. I learned an awesome trick from Adrianna at Cozy Kitchen for DIY poppyseed buns or you use a regular hot dog bun.
- Toppings - The bright neon green relish and zesty sport peppers are hard to find outside of Illinois as well, but you can easily order them online. Sweet relish can be used as a substitute as well as pepperoncini peppers. It's really important to remember that there is NO KETCHUP on a Chicago dog! Just the 7 toppings above.
🔪 Step by step instructions
To make the poppy seed buns, take regular hot dog buns and brush them with an egg wash and then sprinkle them with poppy seeds. Bake them for about 5 minutes at 350˚ on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Steam the buns a few at a time by placing them in a steamer basket over an inch of simmering water in a pot. Cover and cook for about 1 minute, then repeat with the remaining buns.
For the hot dogs, bring a pot of water to a gentle simmer over medium heat on the stovetop. Add the hot dogs in and let them cook for about 5 minutes until they plump up. Remove them from the water and set them aside.
To assemble the Chicago hot dogs, place each hot dog in the hot dog buns. Add the yellow mustard right on top of the hot dog and then add on the green sweet pickle relish.
Add one or two tomato wedges or slices on the side of the dog, then add a pickle spear on the other. Sprinkle the top with the diced onions, add two sport peppers, and then finish off with a sprinkle of celery salt.
If you ever don't recognize a tool or skill that I mention, be sure to look it up in our Glossary of Cooking Terms and Definitions for more information.
⭐ Expert tips
- If you are going to steam your hot dog buns, make sure to choose a denser, more sturdy bun. This will give them the classic soft, yet chewy texture that Chicago hot dogs are known for. Don't steam them for too long or the buns will fall apart.
- Don't assemble the Chicago style hot dogs until you are ready to eat. For a party, you can keep the buns and hot dogs separate, then let everyone assemble their own.
- For a true Chicago street food experience, serve your dogs in a piece of aluminum foil next to a batch of hot and crispy french fries.
💭 Frequently asked questions
There is no historical or specific reasoning behind the no ketchup rule. People will tell you that the Chicago dog is the perfect balance of both flavors and textures. Adding ketchup to mix would simply ruin the hot dog. You already have fresh tomatoes on there, so adding ketchup is unnecessary.
♨️ Alternative cooking methods
Steam - Instead of simmering the hot dogs in the water, you can steam them in a pot using a steamer basket over a little bit of simmering water. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes until they plump up. They will be a little drier on the outside when you cook them this way.
Grill - Make a classic char dog, by grilling the hot dogs instead of steaming them. A charcoal grill will give you the most authentic taste, but gas or a flat top will work too.
🍽 More Chicago classics
If you loved this Chicago hot dog recipe, check out these other Chicago classics that I know you will love too!
Chicago Hot Dog Recipe
- To steam the hot dog buns, place them in a steamer basket over an inch of simmering water in a medium pot with a lid. Cook for 1 minute and then set aside.
- To cook the hot dogs, bring a medium pot of water to a low simmer over medium heat. Add the hot dogs and let them simmer for about 5 minutes until they plump up.
- Add each of the cooked hot dogs to the steamed hot dog buns.
- First, add a drizzle of yellow mustard over the hot dog, and then add some of the bright green relish on top.
- Place a tomato wedge on one side of the hot dog and add one pickle spear to the other side.
- Sprinkle the top with about a tablespoon of the diced onions and then add two sport peppers.
- Finish the hot dogs off with a sprinkling of celery salt and serve!
- BUNS - Make sure to pick a sturdy, more dense hot dog bun so it holds up well to steaming. Don't steam for too long or they will fall apart. Poppy seed buns are almost impossible to find outside of Chicago, so regular hot dog buns can be brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with poppy seeds. Bake them at 350˚ for 5 minutes and then steam as directed.
- TOPPINGS - Sport peppers and classic neon green relish are hard to find but can usually be purchased online. Pepperoncini peppers and regular sweet pickle relish can be used instead.
- ASSEMBLY - Don’t assemble the dogs until right before eating so they don’t get soggy. For a party, the hot dogs, buns, and toppings should all be kept separate so guests can assemble them on their own. Serve on a piece of aluminum foil with a batch of hot and crispy fries for a true street food experience.