Chicago Style Hot Dog Recipe

Chicago Style Hot Dog Recipe

The Chicago-style hot dog traces its roots back to the early 20th century. Immigrant communities, particularly those from Eastern Europe, played a significant role in its creation. These immigrants brought their culinary traditions to Chicago, blending them with local flavors. In 1929, Abe Drexler and Morris “Fluky” Fluker began selling what would become known as the Chicago-style hot dog at their Maxwell Street stand. They opted for an all-beef frank, adding a mix of toppings that adhered to the city’s diverse tastes. This combination quickly gained popularity among locals.

Popularity Growth Through the Years

The Chicago-style hot dog’s popularity surged during the Great Depression. Stands across Chicago offered them as an affordable yet satisfying meal. By the 1950s, the hot dog had cemented its place in Chicago’s food culture. The rise of iconic hot dog joints like Portillo’s in the 1960s and 1970s further boosted its fame. Today, festivals and competitions celebrate this iconic food, drawing locals and tourists alike. The Chicago-style hot dog, adorned with mustard, relish, onions, tomato, pickle, sport peppers, and celery salt, remains a beloved symbol of the city’s rich culinary heritage.

Key Ingredients of a Chicago Style Hot Dog

All-Beef Frankfurter

An all-beef frankfurter forms the foundation of a Chicago-style hot dog. These frankfurters are made from 100% beef, offering a distinct, savory taste. The typical size is about six inches, and they’re often steam-cooked to maintain juiciness and flavor. You can find these frankfurters at most grocery stores, but sourcing from local butchers can provide higher quality.

The Poppy Seed Bun

A poppy seed bun is essential for a true Chicago-style hot dog. This soft yet sturdy bun complements the all-beef frankfurter by providing texture and flavor contrast. The poppy seeds add a subtle nutty taste and visual appeal. Toasting the bun lightly before assembling the hot dog enhances its flavor.

Unique Toppings and Their Significance

The unique toppings define the Chicago-style hot dog:

  • Yellow Mustard: Adds a tangy flavor, contrasting the beef.
  • Neon Green Relish: Offers a sweet taste and vibrant color.
  • Chopped Onions: Brings sharpness and crunch.
  • Tomato Slices: Adds freshness and juiciness.
  • Pickle Spear: Provides a tangy and crisp bite.
  • Sport Peppers: Adds a spicy kick.
  • Celery Salt: Enhances all the other flavors with its savory touch.

Each topping adds distinct flavors and textures, creating a balanced and satisfying eating experience. Assemble them in the specified order for authenticity and optimal taste.

How to Properly Assemble a Chicago Style Hot Dog

Step-by-Step Preparation

Here’s how to properly assemble a Chicago-style hot dog:

  1. Steam the Bun: Heat a poppy seed bun using a steamer or microwave. Ensure it’s soft and warm.
  2. Cook the Frankfurter: Place an all-beef hot dog in boiling water or on a grill until it’s fully cooked and heated through.
  3. Place the Frankfurter in the Bun: Once cooked, place the hot dog into the steamed poppy seed bun.
  4. Add Yellow Mustard: Squeeze yellow mustard in a zigzag pattern over the hot dog.
  5. Apply Neon Green Relish: Spread a tablespoon of neon green relish along one side of the hot dog.
  6. Add Chopped Onions: Sprinkle finely chopped onions over the relish.
  7. Use Tomato Wedges: Place two tomato wedges between the hot dog and the bun.
  8. Include Sport Peppers: Add two sport peppers on top of the hot dog.
  9. Add a Pickle Spear: Nestle a dill pickle spear between the hot dog and the bun, opposite the tomato wedges.
  10. Sprinkle Celery Salt: Lightly sprinkle celery salt over the hot dog for the final touch.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid these common mistakes to ensure an authentic Chicago-style hot dog experience:

  • Skipping Ingredients: Don’t omit any toppings. Each ingredient is essential for the authentic taste.
  • Using the Wrong Relish: Avoid regular relish. Neon green relish is crucial for the iconic look and flavor.
  • Adding Ketchup: Never use ketchup. It’s considered a major faux pas in Chicago-style hot dogs.
  • Cold Bun: Ensure the bun is warm. A cold bun can ruin the overall experience.
  • Overcooking the Frankfurter: Avoid overcooking the hot dog. It should be juicy and not dry.

Where to Find the Best Chicago Style Hot Dogs

Famous Stands in Chicago

Explore iconic hot dog stands to experience authentic flavors. Portillo’s, established in 1963, offers a classic Chicago-style dog complete with all-beef frankfurter and traditional toppings. Superdawg Drive-In, since 1948, provides a unique carhop service coupled with their flavorful hot dogs. At The Wieners Circle, known for its late-night service, relish in the sharp wit of the staff while enjoying your hot dog. Gene & Jude’s, opened in 1946, adheres strictly to traditional ingredients, making it a purist’s delight.

Chicago Style Hot Dogs Across America

Find Chicago-style hot dogs outside the Windy City. Relish in the offerings at Shake Shack locations nationwide, featuring the Shack-cago Dog which mirrors Chicago’s traditional recipe. Portillo’s has expanded beyond Illinois, with locations now in California, Florida, and Arizona. In Texas, head to J.J.’s Red Hots, where they bring Midwest flavor to the South with their authentic Chicago-style dogs. Visit Chi-Town Dogs in New York to taste a classic Windy City staple without leaving the East Coast.

Caloric Content and Nutritional Breakdown

A standard Chicago-style hot dog contains around 400 to 450 calories. It includes a poppy seed bun, all-beef frankfurter, yellow mustard, white onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt. The hot dog itself provides a balance of protein from the beef, carbohydrates from the bun, and fats primarily from the sausage and any added toppings.

Nutritional Components per Serving:

  • Calories: 400-450
  • Protein: 15-20g
  • Carbohydrates: 30-35g
  • Fats: 20-25g
  • Sodium: 900-1,100mg

High sodium levels might be a concern because the combined toppings and the all-beef frankfurter contribute to the overall salt content. If you’re watching your sodium intake, consider opting for sodium-reduced versions of the hotdog components.

Dietary Tips When Consuming Hot Dogs

Limit portions to maintain balance if consuming multiple Chicago-style hot dogs in one meal. You can substitute a whole grain bun for a poppy seed bun to increase dietary fiber intake. Choose a lower-fat version of beef or a turkey frankfurter to reduce overall fat consumption without compromising on flavor.

Incorporate fresh vegetables in your meal to add vitamins and minerals. Include a green leafy salad or grilled veggies as a side dish to complement the hot dog and enhance your meal’s nutritional value.

Focus on moderation if you’re adhering to a controlled diet. Enjoying a Chicago-style hot dog occasionally while balancing it with healthier options throughout the day will ensure that your dietary goals remain unaffected.


Enjoying a Chicago-style hot dog can be a delightful experience filled with rich history and unique flavors. Whether you’re savoring one from a local stand in Chicago or trying to recreate it at home, remember that moderation is key. By being mindful of portion sizes and incorporating fresh vegetables, you can indulge without compromising your dietary goals. So go ahead and relish the taste of a true Chicago classic while keeping your health in check.

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