What sets Chicago hot dogs apart from the pack is the verdant array of fresh toppings wedged into every poppyseed bun. It’s so simple to make vegan Chicago style hot dogs — simply swap in vegan dogs that are available almost anywhere. And remember, no ketchup allowed!
Chicago, The Windy City, is home to many culinary innovations that have become inextricably woven into American food culture. The Chicago hot dog has the most street cred —literally. Humble push carts made them some of the first street foods to take the nation by storm.
What’s The History of the Chicago Hot Dog?
The Chicago Dog, otherwise known as the Chicago Red Hot, began life as an import via German immigrants. These Frankfurter sausages were simultaneously infiltrating the streets of NYC in the late 19th century.
It really took off as an indispensable staple around the Great Depression when you could easily get two or three servings for just a few cents.
What Exactly Is a Chicago Hot Dog?
“Dragged through the garden” describes the abundance of vegetables quite well, and much more poetically than sampling asking for “everything on it.”
Typically, that includes mustard, relish, raw onions, sliced tomatoes, pickled hot peppers, a dill pickle spear, and celery salt. Some vendors go further to add fresh cucumbers and shredded lettuce, creating a veritable handheld salad.
Preparation is kept simple due to the natural constraints of cooking on a street cart. Traditionally, the hot dogs are boiled or steamed for a plump, juicy bite, although more modern stands char or grill them for more texture.
The buns are also steamed for a warm, pliable shell that contrasts with the cool, crisp veggie accompaniments.
Vegan hot dog brands
Meat alternatives have never been so accessible nor plentiful. Nearly every mainstream supermarket will have at least one plant-based option, and specialty groceries could stock upwards of a half dozen! Check nearby the tofu for refrigerated vegan hot dog brands such as:
- Lightlife Smart Dogs
- Upton’s Naturals Updogs
- Field Roast Signature Stadium Dogs
- MorningStar Farms Meatless Hot Dogs
- BeLeaf Vegan Hot Dogs
- Yves Tofu Dogs, Good Dogs, and Veggie Dogs
In a pinch, any plant-based sausage will do, but most of these options are larger and more highly seasoned than genuine hot dogs.
Or, make your own vegan hot dogs!
For a fully customized, DIY approach, it’s fun (and easy) to make your own meatless hot dogs from scratch, too!
- Vegan Hot Dogs made with chickpea flour are quick, easy, and good for you. They’re gluten-free, sugar-free, and soy-free, but flavor-full!
- Homemade Veggie Dogs start with a wheat gluten base to make it super “meaty” and high in protein. This is a great introduction to making seitan-based hot dogs from scratch.
- Carrot Hot Dogs may sound like the punchline to a bad joke, but don’t knock these root vegetables before you try them! Marinated in a smoky brine until fully infused with that classic flavor, such a stunning transformation may change the way you think about this humble whole food.
Fun Facts About Chicago Dogs
Proving that they were the original fast food, Chicago has more hot dog stands than McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s locations combined.
The only condiment that is taboo to ask for on a Chicago dog is ketchup. Some establishments may even throw you out for making such a request!
The “Chicago Dogs” are also a professional baseball team based in Rosemont, Illinois, founded in 2018.
The world record for the longest Chicago dog was set by Conan O’Brien on Jun 14, 2012, live on his TBS show. It was 40 feet long and contained 3 pounds of pickle spears, 1 pound of sport peppers, 2 pounds of relish, 4 pounds of tomatoes, 4 pounds of onions, 2 pounds of mustard, and 1/8th of a pound of celery salt.
How to Make Vegan Chicago Style Hot Dogs
Here are the simple steps. This is one of those concoctions that you can simply eyeball, no exact recipe needed:
- It all starts with poppyseed buns. It can be difficult to find them outside of Chicago, and even then, most include eggs. Instead, you can use any vegan bun you prefer most, including gluten-free if needed. Brush them lightly with melted vegan butter and sprinkle with poppyseeds at home. Bake at 350º F for 5 minutes to adhere, and lightly toast the edges.
- Steam, boil, fry, griddle, grill, or toast your meatless hot dog of choice. Any method that gets it nice and hot works here! Tuck it deep into the bun, leaving plenty of room for embellishments.
- Spread or squirt a line of yellow mustard down the side. Tuck sliced tomatoes, pickled peppers, and a dill pickle spear into the opposite side. For the peppers, sport peppers are the most traditional, but you can use sliced banana peppers or jalapeño peppers instead.
- Traditional Chicago-style relish is bright green thanks to artificial colors. You can simply use regular, un-dyed relish. Spoon it on generously top of the hot dog.
- A light sprinkle of raw onions adds a bit of a bite, but they’re not for everybody. You can either omit them or tone down the harsh flavor a bit by blanching them lightly first. To do so, drop the diced onion into boiling water for one minute. Drain and rinse under cold water.
- Finally, a flurry of celery salt over everything seals the deal. You’ll find this in the herbs and spices section of well-stocked supermarkets. Alternately, you can use whole celery seeds or even fresh celery leaves to help cut down on the overall sodium.
Some Variations on the Chicago Style Hot Dog
Naturally, no two Chicago hot dogs need to be exactly alike, leaving plenty of room for creative interpretation. A few classic twists you might see include:
- Swap out the relish and/or pickle for spicy Italian giardiniera.
- Add crispy French fries or potato chips for an extra crunch.
- Top it all off with gooey nacho cheese sauce.
Contributed by Hannah Kaminsky: Hannah has developed an international following for her delicious recipes and mouthwatering food photography at the award-winning blog BitterSweet. Passionate about big flavors and simple techniques, she’s the author of Vegan Desserts, Vegan à la Mode, Easy as Vegan Pie, Real Food, Really Fast, Sweet Vegan Treats, The Student Vegan Cookbook, Super Vegan Scoops, and The Everyday Vegan Cheat Sheet Pan. Visit Hannah at BittersweetBlog.com.