15 Delicious Ways to Top a Hot Dog

Fire up the grill—these unique toppings will instantly upgrade any ordinary hot dog.

<p>Martha Stewart</p>

Martha Stewart

Grilling season is here, and the best way to celebrate is to throw some hot dogs on the grates. While the dog and the bun are important, really, we're all about the hot dog toppings. Ketchup, mustard, and relish are traditional (and delicious), but there’s a whole world of sauces and condiments that are perfect for adding to chargrilled franks—and we have a fantastic lineup of toppings for you to choose from.

Related: 11 Unexpected Foods That Taste Delicious With Hot Sauce, From Ice Cream to Apples

Ham and Cheese

<p>Kristen Francis</p>

Kristen Francis

While you’re grilling the hot dogs, pop some thin slices of deli ham on the grill for a few seconds just to warm them through. At the same time, melt some Swiss cheese slices on the buns by laying them on the split sides and closing the grill for a minute or so. Add a pickle spear and a squirt of yellow mustard to make it authentic. Then, enjoy a double dose of meaty goodness with cheesy deliciousness.

Giardiniera

You can’t have a hot dog without a relish of some sort. Giardiniera is an Italian condiment made of pickled vegetables—oftentimes cauliflower, carrots, celery, bell peppers, onions, and chiles. It’s briney and a little bit spicy, so it’s perfect for spooning onto grilled hot dogs. Giardiniera can be made in a few ways: sometimes, the vegetables are left in bite-sized chunks, and other times, the mixture is finely chopped. For hot dogs, we generally recommend buying a more coarsely chopped relish.

Pickled Everything

<p>Kelsey Hansen</p>

Kelsey Hansen

Traditional pickles—whether spears, coins, kosher dill, or bread-and-butter—are a must-have when it comes to hot dog toppings (think: Chicago Dog). But we also like to use various other pickled things to add a crunchy texture and briny flavor to hot dogs. Pickled red onions and chiles are some of our favorite homemade options, but you can also buy jars of pickled ingredients like carrots, green beans, and beets at the store. Since you can pickle just about anything, go with ingredients that you know and love.

Related: 12 Unexpected Ways to Use Pickle Juice to Flavor Everything From Sauces to Cocktails

Cheese Sauce

Whether you opt for a more traditional bechamel-based cheese sauce or go for something more flavorful like our slow-cooker queso, any hot dog will do well with a generous drizzle of gooey cheese sauce. We love a creamy sauce since it incorporates into every bite so seamlessly. Pair cheese sauce with grilled peppers and onions to make a Philly cheesesteak-inspired hot dog.

Chili

Armando Rafael
Armando Rafael

Chili dogs are a beloved treat for all ages. Whip up a pot of easy beef, turkey, or vegetable chili to pile onto hot dogs. It turns an already substantial meal into something even more satisfying. If you like, add traditional chili toppings to the hot dogs as well—set out bowls of sour cream, sliced chiles and scallions, shredded cheese, and fresh cilantro to put on top.

Muffuletta Mix

Muffuletta sandwiches are one of our favorites. We love the complex flavors of the olives, pickled peppers, provolone cheese, and cured meats like mortadella, salami, and soppressata. With hot dogs standing in for the various meats, you can add the other toppings to mimic the flavors of a muffuletta sandwich. Melt some slices of provolone onto the toasted hot dog buns, then top with a mixture of chopped olives, pickled chiles (such as Peppadew peppers), and a splash of red wine vinegar.

Beans

Bryan Gardner
Bryan Gardner

If you want to get serious about your hot dog toppings, making baked beans from scratch is a great idea. The tomato and barbecue flavor is the perfect complement to the chargrilled franks.

Refried beans are also delicious. You can make them yourself or buy a can from the store and doctor them with a dash of chili powder and some fresh cilantro when you warm them up.

Fruit

<p>Martha Stewart</p>

Martha Stewart

It probably isn’t the first thing you think about when you’re grilling hot dogs, but fresh fruit adds a burst of much-needed freshness. Turn ripe fruits like mango and strawberries into flavorful salsas to spoon over the dogs.

Some fruits do well on the grill, too—pineapple, in particular, becomes even more sweet and fragrant after it gets some grill marks.

Fermented Foods

Two of our go-to hot dog toppers are rather unexpected players—sauerkraut and kimchi. Sauerkraut is quite similar to traditional relish but with a heartier kick of tangy flavor. Kimchi has a more distinct flavor due to the use of the Korean red chile flakes known as gochugaru. The slightly sour flavor of both complements the fattiness of the hot dogs.

Elote

<p>Martha Stewart</p>

Martha Stewart

Elote is the traditional street snack in Mexico, made by covering an ear of sweet summer corn with mayonnaise, then coating it in crumbled queso fresco and cayenne pepper.

To turn the dish into a hot dog topping, grill corn on the cob, strip the kernels, and toss them with a spoonful of mayonnaise, queso fresco, and a dash of cayenne. You can also add a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of chopped cilantro if you like.



Tips

You can use frozen corn in a pinch—since frozen vegetables are packed when they are ripe and in season, frozen corn will always taste nice and sweet. Just thaw the kernels in the microwave and proceed.



Pesto

<p>Pernille Loof</p>

Pernille Loof

Basil pesto is an ingredient that we always have in our home kitchens. You likely use it to spread onto sandwiches or toss with noodles to make pasta salad, but don't stop there. It’s the perfect condiment—basil adds freshness, garlic adds flavor, and Parmesan cheese adds nuttiness. When mixed with mayonnaise (three to four parts mayo to one part pesto), it becomes an elegant sauce to drizzle over hot dogs.

Caramelized Onions

Bryan Gardner
Bryan Gardner

Caramelized onions are one of those ingredients that are well worth the wait. Very little effort is required, but it does take some time for the onions to break down and turn that deep golden brown color. We love their concentrated flavor for all types of dishes—even hot dogs! Remember, they pack a ton of flavor—use them sparingly so they don’t overpower the franks.

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato

A BLT is in close competition for our all-time favorite sandwich. There are two ways to incorporate bacon into your hot dogs. You can either cook it separately and crumble the strips over the franks or wrap thin slices of bacon around the hot dogs before you grill them. Either way, pair the bacon with some chopped tomatoes and shredded lettuce for a take on the classic sandwich.

Coleslaw

<p>Jason Donnelly</p>

Jason Donnelly

You can never go wrong with a simple coleslaw when you’re grilling. Every hot dog needs a fresh element, and slaw fits that bill. Keep it classic with a mayonnaise-based slaw, or opt for something more bright and vinegar-forward.

Pimento Cheese

Pimento cheese is a creamy cheese spread that we love to serve as a dip or incorporate into macaroni and cheese. A few spoonfuls of pimento cheese will melt slightly on top of warm hot dogs—and that's a good thing!

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