13 Hot Dog Toppings With Main Character Energy

The hot dog has maintained its status as an American classic for decades — with its effortless assembly and delightful hand-held appeal. While the timeless pairing of mustard or ketchup remains a beloved tradition, we've curated a selection of unique toppings that will take your hot dog experience to a whole new level. Whether you're setting up a hot dog bar for your child's birthday party or preparing a backyard barbecue, delicious (and even interesting) toppings will surprise and delight. 

Before you dive into these options, however, it's a good idea to brush up on the proper method to prepare a perfect hot dog. After all, you want your canvas to be just right for these creative ingredients to shine. So, let's embark on this flavorful adventure and discover how these toppings will transform your hot dog into a culinary masterpiece — adding the main-character energy it truly deserves.

Drizzle on a creamy cheesy sauce

Calling all cheese lovers! The irresistible allure of ooey-gooey cheese is undeniable, delivering a dollop of main character appeal that resonates with, you know, just about everyone. This easy recipe eliminates the need for a trip to a baseball stadium to enjoy luscious melted cheese atop a fresh hot dog. With just a few ingredients and a little extra time, a delicious cheese sauce will transform your hot dogs into the ultimate indulgence, loved by children and adults.

The velvety texture and rich, savory flavor perfectly complement the smoky essence of grilled hot dogs. Plus, you can customize it by adding a hint of jalapeño for a spicy kick — crispy bacon bits give an extra layer of indulgence with an umami flavor to die for. If you have any leftovers (Spoiler Alert: Leftovers are unlikely!) this versatile cheese sauce also pairs well with nachos, french fries, and even vegetables, making it a must-have condiment for all your delectable gatherings. So, whip up a batch of this cheese sauce and prepare to knock your next hot dog out of the park!

Whip up a batch of fiery Mexican street corn

This luscious combination unites iconic flavors from both sides of the border and will surprise and delight your taste buds. The fire-roasted corn infuses a satisfying smokiness, while Cotija cheese adds a burst of tangy, salty goodness, instantly elevating any hot dog to main character status. 

This recipe only takes a few additional minutes to prepare, and it will go the extra mile in creating a memorable hot dog for everyone to enjoy. Once your fire-roasted corn is ready, scrape off the kernels and blend with creamy ingredients (really, any ingredients you think would go well) to result in a topping that will give your hot dog an epic flavor boost. Then you can easily spread this topping on your dog! It promises to be a hit at your next gathering, delivering a burst of flavor that lingers long after the last bite.

Mayo will bring creamy tang

Mayonnaise may not always get the best reputation — at least with regard to good health — but this luscious, creamy topping adds an indulgent layer of richness to the hot dog. Inspired by the mid-western "Redeye Gravy," a concoction traditionally made by deglazing a skillet, used to fry country ham, with coffee (often instant), this recipe from the chefs of Momofuku takes a unique spin on this creamy classic.

It's important to note that there's no need to prepare a country ham in advance to enjoy this delicious mayonnaise. Simply blend the handful of ingredients until they achieve a creamy consistency, and you're ready to elevate your hot dog experience.

Coating your dog with this velvety goodness introduces a burst of umami heat to your meal. The smooth, spicy mayo perfectly complements the savory hot dog and fluffy bun — trust us, ketchup won't be missed. Whether you want to add excitement to your next gathering or surprise adventurous kids with a playful dinner, this mayonnaise spread will transport the humble hot dog to unexpectedly delicious heights.

Sprinkle on some crunch

This quintessential snack food is known for pairing well in sandwiches, but it also secretly goes perfectly with a hot dog. Set out a bowl of crumbled potato chips at a hot dog bar, and just see how many people delight in sprinkling them on top of their dogs. It's easy. It's fun. It's delicious. The crisp salty taste adds the right amount of zesty crunch. We recommend going with the classic potato chip, but you could also mix it up with fun flavors like jalapeño or bbq. 

You could even go the extra mile and make homemade potato chips if you're looking for an extra challenge. They only take about 30 minutes to prepare and are sure to impress. Elevate your hot dog experience by embracing the delightful combination of a juicy hot dog and the satisfying crunch of these salty chips — it's a match made in snack heaven!

Add caramelized goodness

Is there anything better than savoring the perfection of caramelized onions? Achieving the ideal balance of softness and sweet flavor requires patience. Although it calls for extra time, the recipe is undeniably low-effort, and the sumptuous outcome more than justifies the wait. 

While not the quickest choice for a weeknight dinner, caramelized onions add a mouthwatering and delightful touch to elevating hot dogs on a leisurely day spent watching football with friends. Revel in the camaraderie, enjoy some drinks, and prepare this star topping which will rock everyone's taste buds. We recommend serving these fresh out of the pan, but if needed, you could prepare them earlier in the day and reheat when your guests are ready. For an extra touch of indulgence, add a layer of Gruyère cheese to create a French Onion Soup-inspired hot dog that will undoubtedly leave everyone rejoicing.

You won't go wrong with chili and cheese

This renowned combination has held its status as a fan favorite for years — and for good reason. While chili cheese dogs are popular at baseball games, savoring this decadent combo is truly a joy at home, where concerns about creating a mess take a back seat. A ballpark dog always hits the spot, but creating your own chili opens the door to elevating the ingredients, allowing you to choose high-quality grass-fed beef, for example, over whatever may be used at concession stands. Our classic chili recipe is an excellent choice, bringing together premium meat and ingredients for a tasty chili that stands out even when served on its own. With just about 40 minutes of preparation, you'll not only have a delicious addition to your hot dog but also leftovers throughout the week. 

Enjoying this meal in the comfort of your own home eliminates the need to balance the hot dog and a drink in your hands while stuffed into stadium seats and catching the excitement of a live ball game. At home, just spoon a generous dollop of chili onto your hot dog, add a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, and you're in for a delicious superior combo with main character.

Dollop your dog with a touch of sweetness

Relish maintains its place as an essential component of the classic hot dog, particularly if you proudly claim Chicago as your home. The renowned Chicago Hot Dog traces its roots back to the era of the Great Depression, emerging as an affordable and easily consumable meal during a time of economic hardship. With Chicago's identity as a working-class city, this humble hot dog swiftly evolved into an icon, symbolizing the spirit of the great city.

Elevate your hot dog experience, whether you're in Chicago or elsewhere, by generously adding a spoonful of sweet relish to your dog. The tangy sweetness creates a delightful contrast with the spiciness of mustard and the savory meat. Homemade relish is a breeze, but if convenience is your priority, you can opt for a jar of relish from your local deli or grocery store. Whichever path you choose, the result is bound to be a symphony of flavors that will delight your taste buds.

Treat yourself with an indulgent combo

Imagine spooning a layer of velvety mac and cheese onto your hot dog, yielding a gratifying and indulgent treat — because mac and cheese has emerged as a topping sensation, making appearances on everything from pizza to ice cream (yes, really, ice cream!). The allure of those warm, gooey morsels of pasta knows no bounds — there's a reason they seamlessly complement a variety of dishes.

Whether you opt for the convenience of your favorite boxed mix or go the whole nine yards with a homemade batch, you can't go wrong. This recipe for ultimate mac and cheese promises an unforgettable enhancement to your hot dog experience. As a side note, beyond its deliciousness, mac and cheese is perfect for vegetarians at your gathering who won't be eating the hot dogs. As the finishing touch, don't overlook a drizzle of ketchup. A hint of sweetness adds the perfect contrast to the savory, cheesy goodness.

Amp it up with a little spice

While Sriracha has become a household staple in America, its journey to culinary ubiquity had a more recent origin. Around 2008, the confluence of foodie culture and the economic recession, propelled Sriracha into the spotlight. By the 2010s, enthusiasts of this spicy sauce not only found it lining supermarket shelves but also discovered Sriracha-flavored cocktails, potato chips, and even the option to visit festivals dedicated to Sriracha.

The natural affinity between the spicy and sweet tang of Sriracha and a hot dog is no surprise. A little of this sauce goes a long way, but the perfect drizzle can take your hot dog to new realms, imparting a surprising yet delicious kick. For a well-rounded flavor profile, consider topping it with a layer of coleslaw, providing a refreshing creamy crunch to balance out some of the spice.

Pair with a creamy and crunchy classic

When it comes to hot dogs, coleslaw may as well be considered relish's sophisticated and composed older sibling. While sharing a similar touch of sweetness, coleslaw introduces a subtly nuanced flavor and an irresistibly creamy crunch to the ensemble. While you can effortlessly grab a tub of coleslaw from your local supermarket, this two-step recipe is a breeze, ready within minutes, and is guaranteed to leave a delightful impact on all your guests. Comprising only a handful of ingredients, coleslaw allows you to incorporate veggies into your dog.

There are tons of coleslaw recipes available online. Some include carrots, maple syrup, dijon mustard, and even apples. Rest assured, whichever coleslaw recipe you choose, the end result will transform your next hot dog into a truly memorable meal.

Dress it up

While the hot dog has long been celebrated as an emblem of affordable and delicious simplicity, it doesn't mean you can't elevate it to a level of sophistication. Enter this Michelin-star-quality recipe sourced from The NoMad Cookbook, a treasure trove of recipes from the beloved New York City hotel restaurant. This extraordinary dish takes hot dogs to new heights with the inclusion of ingredients like bacon, half-sour pickles, and Gruyère, creating a hot dog that is both rich and bursting with flavor. The standout element? Black truffle, a legendary ingredient that has earned its place among the most exquisite dishes in fine dining.

For those aiming to present an impressive and genuinely delectable dish, this option adds a touch of novelty to the classic American staple, proving that even the humble hot dog can be a canvas for culinary artistry. Black truffle will always have main character energy when it comes to immediately recognizable flavor.

Bring in some tropical sweetness

There is an on-going debate revolving around the question of whether pineapple on pizza is a culinary triumph or sacrilege. Our stance is that the marriage of sweet and salty is a flavor revelation, making the addition of chopped pineapple to your hot dog a genius move that introduces a burst of contrasting flavors to the savory delight.

To infuse your hot dog with the tantalizing sweetness of pineapple, try two methods. One straightforward option involves dicing up fresh pineapple into small cubes and generously topping your hot dog. Much like relish, this brings a perfect touch of sweetness to complement the savory dog. For an even more elevated experience, consider exploring deliciously smoky grilled pineapple salsa. Grilling the pineapple not only imparts a delightful smokiness but also enhances its natural sweetness, creating a sensational topping that will add a tropical flare to your dog.

When in doubt, add bacon

Concluding this list on a high note is the timeless favorite — bacon. This topping is an absolute crowd-pleaser, offering an explosion of smoky and salty flavors that unfold while crisping up the delectable pork belly, creating a mouthwatering crescendo for your hot dog. While store-bought bacon bits are a convenient option, try exploring numerous bacon recipes for a deeply satisfying homemade flavor.

There are several methods to prepare bacon at home, whether it's pan-fried, oven-baked, or even microwaved. Once cooked to your preferred method, crumble the bacon into a bowl, ready to be generously sprinkled on top of your hot dogs. For those seeking to boost the experience, delve into the Espresso Maple Bacon or Spicy Candied Bacon – these options are sure to introduce a new and unforgettable dimension to serving up this classic staple.