What could be more classically American than firing up a grill for some hot dogs on July 4th? Maybe watching George Washington chop down a cherry tree or having your name changed at Ellis Island, but that’s about it.
But I love hot dogs the other 364.25 days a year, too, and the rest of the world also caught on decades ago. I mean, have you ever seen the international array of hot dogs? The Mexican ones, wrapped in bacon, tucked into big rolls outfitted with beans and salsa? The ones they rock in Chile, with slices of avocado, tomato, and a good, loving squeeze of mayonnaise? Brazil, dear lord, Brazil: Cooking the hot dogs in tomato sauce, topping them with corn and crushed up fried potato sticks? And all that before we even leave the Americas. That’s because the salty, garlicky, rich lingering flavor of a dog is pretty much an ideal backdrop for any combination of flavors and textures.
Anyway, here are a dozen of our favorite deluxed-out dog toppings, some inspired by the wiener’s global reach, some by our own drooling imaginations. They’re not recipes, really—I mean, we’re talking about making stuff to put on hot dogs; it’s going to be good pretty much whatever you do—but we had so much fun coming up with these, we’re sure you’ll have dozens more of your own. Share them with us!
Fresh corn / chile / lime / (mayo and cheese if you want), a.k.a. “The MexiCorn”: For flavor like the awesome street corn-on-a-stick found in Mexican neighborhoods, sauté some corn in hot, hot oil, sprinkle with salt, chile powder, and lime zest, squeeze in some lime, and top with crumbly cotija cheese and mayo, if you want.
Potato, macaroni, or egg salad / crushed potato chips, a.k.a. “The Midwesterner”: What’s better than a mayonnaise-based salad? One topped with crushed potato chips for crispness. On a hot dog.
Charred hot peppers / diced celery, a.k.a. “Fire & Ice”: No, Yngwie Malmsteen has nothing to do with this. (Ok, exactly none of you know who he is.) But we took our two favorite flavors from the classic Chicago-style dog (that is: dill pickle, tomato slices, mustard, neon green relish, onions, hot sport peppers and celery salt) and gave them the spotlight. Take some hot peppers (jalapeno is fine, hotter if you can handle it) and char them on the grill or over a flame until they start to blacken; this gives them deep, smoky, sweeter flavor. Deseed them and roughly chop. Top your dog with them along with diced celery for a cooling crunch.
Swiss cheese / crushed BBQ potato chips / chopped pickles, a.k.a. “The Stoner”: Yes, we went there. Though probably not far enough, to be honest with you.
Avocado / chile flakes / cucumber / fennel / lime, a.k.a. “What Francis Had to Recipe-Test Last Week”: Not every topping has to push the hot dog into richer territory. Crisp chunks or slices of cucumber and fennel are a great refresher, lime and chile brighten it up, and avocado rounds it all out. Plus you’ll feel a little healthier.
Pimento cheese / crumbled Ritz crackers, a.k.a. “North Carolina Tea Time”: I mean, this is a good idea on its face, right? Wait, you don’t know about pimento cheese? Ok, well I can’t explain it here. Let’s move on.
Yogurt / mint / cucumber / oregano / lemon / tomato, a.k.a. “Get Him to The Greek”: How many diner Greek salads have you had while secretly wishing for one of the hot dogs blistering on the griddle? Hey, this July 4. Have both. It’s the American way.
Caramelized onion / fresh thyme / melted gruyere, a.k.a. “The French Onion Soup Dog”: Sorry, we can’t resist putting this combination on anything.
Garlic peas / crisp breadcrumbs, a.k.a. “The Casserole”: Sauté sweet peas with garlic in butter until tender, then lightly mash so they don’t roll off your dogs. Top with toasted breadcrumbs for some crispness.
Sautéed apples / mustard vinaigrette / toasted walnuts, a.k.a. “The Bistro”: While you’ve got the sauté pan out, brown some sweet apples in a little butter. Dress them with a mustardy vinaigrette for depth and a little bite, then top with toasted walnuts to give it some sweet richness.
Pickled carrot and daikon /cilantro sprigs, a.k.a. “The Banh Mi”: Vietnam’s signature sandwich wins it fans with myriad pork products and crisp rice flour-enriched baguettes, but we really love the bright quick-pickled vegetables that give it its fresh crunch. For a simple cheater’s version, shred equal amounts of carrot and daikon radish. Salt them until they taste good. Then marinate them in a mixture of equal parts sugar and rice wine vinegar for an hour or so. Drain them and top your dog with them, along with cilantro sprigs.
Seared string beans / Sriracha, a.k.a. “The Chinese Takeout”: There’s a classic Chinese dish that stirfries the bejeezus out of string beans, then tosses them with ginger, garlic, and minced pork. For a hot dog-friendly spin on this, cut string beans into 2-inch lengths. Heat a large, deep sauté pan or wok with a bunch of oil, ½ cup per pound of beans. When the oil is shimmering, add the beans and stir, until the beans brown in spots and shrivel up, concentrating their flavor and turn them nutty, more bean than green. Take them out, drain on paper towels, and sprinkle generously with salt. Chop them up and top them with Sriracha or another garlicky, slightly sweet chile sauce.