The Hot Dog Man’s Special Sauce

The Hot Dog Man’s Special Sauce

This little recipe was shared with me recently by a man who makes a living selling hot dogs. This sauce is the star of his “secret menu”, which I stumbled into finding out about as I ordered my hot dog. He asked me how I wanted my hot dog and my lackadaisical “whatever you recommend” response opened the vault to this amazingly tangy, slightly sweet & salty, with “just the right amount of heat” sauce. Now, I don’t know why I told him to make it “his way” but I’ll tell you, I am sure glad I did.

With the first bite, I knew this really was a special sauce. My face said it all – and he gladly shared the secrets behind his concoction. I hustled back to my seat, jotted the ingredients down in a draft on my WordPress site, rather than using my untrustworthy note-taking phone app, hit save and then made hubby go ask for another secret sauced-dog. He “had” to try it too – I demanded. Even though he was already bursting from the burger he chose instead of the hot dog, he complied. That’s a show of true love, right? ha

Before his first bite, I took one more taste of the sauce so I could “memorize” it. Some people have a photographic memory — well, I have a flavor memory. Maybe everyone has a flavor memory, I am sure it’s not unusual. Regardless, all that was left was finding the opportunity to recreate this secret condiment.

The kids found it odd that I was excited about serving hot dogs for Sunday dinner – but clicked their heels at their good fortune. 

For this meal, I sautéed peppers, onions & mushrooms with smoked sausage.

To get the veggies softened, I added a little water to the braiser, covered and let it sit over medium flame for about 15 minutes.

While the sausage and veggies cooked, I made the sauce. Start off with water and 1½ cup of chopped white onion.

Bring the onions/water to boil and continue boiling, covered for 10 minutes or until the onions are tender and translucent.

Once the onions are done, here’s what makes this secret sauce so special:

  • tomato paste 
  • crushed red pepper
  • apple cider vinegar 
  • cornstarch
  • corn syrup
  • salt

Add it all to the pot, stir and boil for another 15-20 minutes to achieve desired thickness.

Load up a bun with the perfect combination of veggies, smoked sausage, (my personal must – yellow mustard) and top with a spoonful of special sauce. And with that first bite – I knew. I nailed it. This sauce tastes exactly like the sauce I memorized just days earlier. Sweet, tangy, a pop of heat and just the right amount of saltiness. This really does make a simple hot dog into something special.

Hot Dog Man’s Secret Sauce


  • 1½ c white onion
  • 3 c water
  • 2T tomato paste
  • 1-2 t crushed red pepper*
  • 3 T vinegar
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 2 T corn syrup
  • 2 t salt


  1. In a medium pot, combine onion and water, bringing to boil. Cover & continue cooking onions until translucent.
  2. Next add remaining ingredients. Stir to combine and bring back to boil.
  3. Allow the sauce to boil uncovered for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Once desired thickness is reached, serve with cooked hot dogs or sausages and desired veggies.


*more or less depending on heat preferences