White Hot Dogs Are the Best Dogs You’ve Never Tasted

Food Features White Hot Dogs

In Western New York, (that section of the state near Canada, not Albany) the question of red or white is as ubiquitous as paper or plastic. In these parts, it refers to hot dog preference and is usually asked while standing at a well-worn, Formica counter.

You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never savored a white hot dog. The special breed is a regional variation on the standard wiener that originated in Rochester, N.Y. in the 1920s when the city boasted a large German immigrant community.

Like all those leave their homeland, the southern Germans who settled in Rochester arrived with recipes for favorite foods they left behind. One of those recipes was weisswurst, a sausage of pork and veal, flavored with parsley, lemon, white pepper, mace and onions. And like most foods that cross into the U.S., ingredients are adapted to what’s available locally, and spices muted. In the case of the weisswurst, it morphed into the white hot dog. Mace was replaced with a hint of the more familiar nutmeg and the parsley and lemon omitted.

A mild pork flavor is the hallmark of today’s version, void of the heavy garlic notes that often overpower a standard dog. If you’re hungry to try the white, here’s what you need to know to savor it like a pro.

Find Them Along the East Coast
There are two major companies producing the foodstuff; one is Zweigle’s of Rochester, and the other is Hofmann Sausage out of Syracuse. Most hamburger joints and drive-ins between Buffalo and Syracuse offer a choice of red or white hot dogs. For those outside these narrow zip codes, grocery chain Wegmans sells the Zweigle’s brand at most locations.

Never Boil a White Hot
There’s only one thing the experts want you to know—never boil it. Sear it on a griddle or char it on a grill to achieve a crispy exterior and blackened grill marks. What happens when you boil the dog? I’ll save you from the misery of experimentation. It ends up chewy and limp.

Buns Matter
Don’t get fancy. Drop it in a standard hot dog bun or a grilled New England style roll. A gourmet or whole grain variety overpowers the mild meat.

Toppings Encouraged
While there’s no rule on condiments, Western New Yorkers prefer it with a smattering of catsup, mustard and/or onions. Though in the Rochester area, folks also load the dog with a spicy meat sauce made of ground beef and chopped onions simmered in a bath of hot sauce and spices.

Need more guidance before you fire up the grill? Here’s Instagram inspiration from devoted eaters.

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Don’t worry, the casing is supposed to burst while getting a good char on.

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A post shared by Danielle Spitz (@spitzdanielle) on

The white hot is often the base of the garbage plate. The dish is a messy, multi-napkin mashup of home fries, macaroni salad, baked beans or french fries, grilled meat (either a hot dog or hamburger) topped off with spicy mustard, chopped onions and hot sauce. It too originated in Rochester, NY.

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A post shared by Alton Brown (@altonbrown) on

Others, including Alton Brown, prefer a minimalist approach to toppings.

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To retain a German flavor profile, opt for mustard and sauerkraut.

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For some, only a purist approach will do.

Kristin Amico is a writer specializing in food, travel, and culture. She is currently spending a year living nomadically and eating her way across Europe and Asia.

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