Rachael Ray's Hot Dog Salad Is The Epitome Of Chicago Cuisine

Chicago is home to many iconic foods that have infused themselves into the local culinary culture. Of course, there's Chicago-style pizza (both deep dish and tavern-style), as well as legendary street foods like the Chicago-style pork chop sandwich. One of the most recognizable foods from the Windy City is the Chicago dog. Even Anthony Bourdain declared it the definitive best hot dog style in America.

A classic Chicago dog is served in a manner known as "dragged through the garden" — a reference to its abundant and diverse veggie toppings. This might be why critics of this classic preparation often dismiss it as nothing more than a salad on top of a hot dog. Celebrity chef Rachael Ray decided to take this complaint and turn it on its head to create her own version in the form of a hot dog salad. 

She honors all the ingredients that would traditionally go on top of the wiener, and instead turns them into the base of a salad, or incorporates them into a flavorful dressing. Finally, the all-important hot dogs are sliced and sauteed in a pan before becoming the crowning glory on top of the hearty bowl of veggies. The best part is, there's most certainly no place for ketchup on this dish.

The elements of an authentic Chicago dog

Looking back at the history of Chicago-style hot dogs, the topping-heavy style begins to make sense. Like so many great dishes, its popularity arose out of necessity during the Great Depression. Since Chicago was a meat-processing town, hot dogs were a logical, penny-pinching way to utilize beef scraps. Then, by fully loading each one with as many toppings as possible, a humble wiener could be transformed into a filling meal.

The classic recipe starts with a poppy seed bun and an all-beef hot dog. It is then topped with a squiggly line of yellow mustard, followed by neon green sweet relish and minced white onions. Then it's time for the garden. Tomato wedges and a long pickle spear are nestled next to the bun, a few sport peppers are placed on top, and finally, a sprinkle of celery salt is added. Each ingredient complements the others to create a perfect harmony of sweetness, acidity, richness, and spice.

Transforming a classic Chicago dog into a salad is perfect for anyone looking to reduce their carb intake, or seeking a gluten-free option while still enjoying the essence of the dish. By eliminating the bun and adding extra salad greens — or even coleslaw — to the base, the recipe becomes a crisp and crunchy delight. Of course, if you really miss the poppy seed bun, it can always be transformed into croutons to sprinkle on top just before serving

Other regional hot dog styles with salad possibilities

From coast to coast, many beloved local hot dog traditions reflect regional ingredients and cooking styles. Just like Rachael Ray's take on the Chicago dog, many of these could also be transformed into a hearty salad, retaining all the customary flavor combinations without needing a bun.

Take the Sonoran dog from Arizona, which is wrapped in bacon, and can come adorned with beans, cheese, salsa, tomatoes, and jalapeños. These flavorful toppings could certainly be transformed into a Southwest-inspired salad with the savory meat piled on top.

A slaw dog from the South is also a logical candidate. These are commonly topped with mayonnaise-based coleslaw, and sometimes even a chili-slaw, which is a magical combination of chili and coleslaw along with chopped onion or even barbecue sauce. Eliminate the bun, and this could become a creamy slaw salad topped with sliced red hots.