It seems Americans have a love-hate relationship with their everyday grocery store hot dog. While it’s considered an all-American classic, the standard eight-to-a-pack variety can be less healthy (especially when it comes to sodium and fat levels) and made of lower-quality ingredients.
That doesn’t mean all hot dogs are created equal – there are plenty of higher-quality hot dog brands, including Kosher dogs, that are sold in stores and restaurants alike. And if you’re all about the hot dog in all its delicious glory, go forth and enjoy!
But if you’re already looking for something different, why not look for an alternative to the standard hot dog fare? If you want to get adventurous, we have some suggestions for hot dog substitutes at your next cookout or your next dine out.
Many Americans are just now getting acquainted with elk as a meat option, but elk farms have been a growing business in the country for decades. Unlike other game meats that you usually find on hunts, elk has a clean flavor somewhere between beef and venison. It also happens to be quite tender and lean, it’s lower in fat than both chicken and beef, and it’s higher in protein.
While elk filets can be cooked similarly to beef, making elk into sausage adds a salt element, which can bring out the sweet flavors of the meat. If you’re ever near Steamboat Springs in Colorado, The Hungry Dog has a fantastic elk sausage that they serve with coleslaw, onions, and barbeque sauce.
This German delicacy sometimes gets compared to the standard American hot dog, but knackwurst (sometimes called “knockwurst” in America) are pretty special on their own. It’s made of finely-ground lean pork, beef and garlic stuffed into a special casing that adds a texture element to the sausage. The Knackwurst is smoked lightly (giving the meat a slightly pinkish color) and then boiled before sold at the butcher.
When you’re ready to eat it, you then quickly heat the knackwurst up in hot water and enjoy warm with a slice of bread, a side of sauerkraut, and a dip into brown mustard. The “knack” in knackwurst means “snap,” which is the sound the casing makes when you bite into it! This is a mild, tasty sausage that’s perfect without a bun.
Veggie, Soy, and … Carrot Dogs
Just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the nostalgia of a tasty hot dog. Vegetarians are finding more and more hot dog spots accommodating their dietary restrictions and still bringing the flavor.
If you’re worried about not being able to pick interesting types, never you fear; vegetarian-friendly hot dogs come in tons of varieties and flavors! Prairie Dogs in Minneapolis has The Veggie, a shiitake and black eyed pea sausage that comes with brown mustard, lettuce, and cauliflower chow. There’s also Parker’s Hot Dogs of Santa Cruz and their soy dog, loaded with relish, mustard, onion, and tomato.
And if you want to go complete vegan, there’s always the carrot hot dog that’s been cooked through, marinated overnight, and then sautéed until caramelized.
Custom Made Sausage
If you can’t find the exact flavor you’re looking for in pre-packaged sausage, you always have the option to make your own! There are so many resources online where you can find specific sausage recipes to cover every taste and craving.
And if you don’t have your own meat grinder and sausage casings in your kitchen, there are specialty butchers like The Corner Butcher Shop in La Verne, CA, that can custom make any sausage recipe you’d like. But hey, check out their over 60 sausage varieties while you’re there … you never know what you might find.
Ketchup may be controversial in some places for your hot dog, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg in sauces that please. Check out our look at “7 Spicy Condiments from Around the World”: