5 Simple but Flavor-Packed Hot Dog Toppings

By Erin Phraner /

Just when you thought hot dog season couldn’t possibly get any better, cooks can’t seem to stop dreaming up tasty (out-of-the-box) hot dog toppings for their cookouts. Here in New York City, you can get just about anything on a dog: fried eggskimchi, even beef heart–ragu! Crazy, right!?

When I’m grilling at home, I don’t go quite THAT far but I do love to set up an interesting toppings bar. Everyone knows you can load ‘em up with sauerkraut, pickles, mustard, ketchup—and that’s great!—but if you’d like to pile on a fresh twist, you’ll want to give these a try!

I think we should group these hot dog toppings into two categories: Light vs. Rich. Our light toppings take advantage of super-flavorful summer produce, like tomatoes, corn and crunchy snap peas. Calorie-counters, these ones are for you! If you’re looking to dig into a backyard BBQ without racking up the calories, stick with the veggies (and maybe serve yourself some extra veg on the side, instead of going back for that second dog). The corn salad is my play on Mexican street corn—bright and fresh thanks to lime juice, salty and cheesy thanks to cotija (a crumbly Mexican cheese that you can sub out for feta if you can’t find it). Want to give this corn topping a smoky twist? Instead of using raw corn, grill whole ears for a few minutes—here’s my technique—before starting the recipe. Next up: Soy roasted tomatoes. You’ll often see these as a topping option at ramen joints and they’re D-licious! The flavor combination works well as a condiment on savory, fatty main dishes—ramen, hello!—so it’s a natural pairing for hot dogs. Don’t want to go Asian? Nix the soy but try the same technique using Worcestershire sauce or steak sauce. You’ll just need to play around with the proportions a bit (keep adding and tasting until you get it right). And finally: My new favorite slaw! I’m such a sucker for snap peas. Tossed with lemon juice and horseradish, these crisp pods turn into a totally addictive garnish. I could see the snap pea slaw bring serve on top of salmon, as well—IT WOULD BE SO GOOD ON SALMON! If you’re not a huge mayo fan, go ahead and skip it.

Now for our “rich” toppings! Oh my goodness folks, are you ready? We’re talking ooey, gooey, cheesy perfect! They’re ridiculous but if you’re already in ultimate comfort food pig-out mode, why not really go for it, right?! Let’s start with the mac & cheese. This is a hyper popular topping for hot dogs but I like to take it a step further. It’s easy to dress up a box of store-bought macaroni and cheese with good-quality bacon and a little extra grated goodness—like Gruyere and Parmesan cheese. Those are my faves, and what I suggested below, but if you’re hankering for something different (cheddar, blue cheese, Monterey Jack) by all means go for it! And then there’s the “nacho” topping. Here melty queso gets a nice kick (and flavor balance) from canned pickled jalapenos—a fab pantry staple to keep on hand, especially during the summer. I don’t often call for specific brand-name ingredients but nothing works better than Velveeta in this recipe, and I’m pretty confident you can find it anywhere (I’ve even seen it in gas stations)!

So here’s what you do: Grill up your favorite hot dogs, stick ‘em on buns and go to town on these 5 easy toppings…

MEXICAN CORN SALAD: Cut the kernels off 3 ears corn. Mix with 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice,1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1 diced jalapeno (seeds removed for less eat), and a big pinch of salt.Crumble in about 4 ounces cotija cheese or crumbled feta, if you can’t find cotija! Stir in chopped fresh cilantro leaves, if desired.

HORSERADISH–SNAP PEA SLAW: Thinly slice 4 ounce snap peas on an angle to make a thin, crunchy slaw. Add the juice of ½ lemon, 2 teaspoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon drained prepared horseradish, and a pinch of salt.

SOY ROASTED TOMATOES: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 pint cherry tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes burst, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 clove garlic,crushed, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Stir in 3 scallions, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced.

CHEESY BACON-MAC: Prepare 1 box store-bought macaroni and cheese as the label directs. Stir in 1/2 cup shredded gruyere or Swiss cheese, 1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, and 5 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled.

SPICY NACHO: Melt 1 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 8 ouncesVelveeta cheese, cut into small cubes and cook, stirring, until melted. Stir in 1/2 (7-ounce) can pickledjalapeno slices; use more for topping if desired. Reheat in microwave if needed.

If hot dog toppings don’t do it for you, feel free to use any of these recipes on burgers, as well. They’d be great for a slider bar—and you already have the perfect slider recipe for it!

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