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What The Heck Are White Hots?

Learn more about this regional favorite that's not your average dog!

From one coast to the other, hot dogs are one of those unmistakable American foods that everyone knows and loves. What not everyone knows, however, is that all around the United States, there are local variants of the hot dog. Here in Maine, locals love “Red Snappers” (because they’re red in color and they snap when you bite into them). But in Western New York, it’s the “white hot” that makes an appearance at summer cookouts.

First Things First: What Are White Hots?

A hot dog can be many things: pork, beef, chicken, turkey, or a mixture of meats. White hots, however, are made with a mix of pork, beef, and veal. All three meats are uncured and unsmoked, which is where white hots get their white color from. To give them their unique flavor, manufacturers add a blend of spices that includes mustard and paprika.

The interesting thing about white hots is that they were first made popular because they were the “poor man’s hot dog.” White hots were traditionally made with cheaper cuts of meat and lots of filler, while hot dogs were made from better cuts. The flavorful spices in white hots were meant to give the lesser quality meat a better flavor. Today, that has been flipped on its head — white hots are popular because they are nearly always made with high-quality ingredients, while hot dogs vary in quality between manufacturers.

White Hot History

white hot dog grilled on a bun.
Zwiegle’s White Hot. Photo by DanielPenfield Wikimedia Commons

The history of white hots goes back nearly a century. These hot dogs were first made in Rochester, New York, by members of the German community. Throughout the past century, white hots have been called by many names, including “snappys” and “white and porkies.”

In 1925, not long after the creation of the first white hot, a company by the name of Zweigle’s started commercially producing white hots. Zweigle’s then began selling these new dogs at Red Wing Stadium, and since then, they’ve become the official hot dog of sports teams including the Rochester Americans and Rhinos and the Buffalo Bills and Sabres.

Today, you can still buy Zweigle’s white hots in New York grocery stores and they’re served at a variety of restaurants in Rochester and other parts of New York. Of course, Zweigle’s also makes traditional hot dogs, too, but they’re called “red hots” after their pinkish-red color.

How to Eat White Hots

Ready to try this delicious dog yourself? The first thing to remember is that white hots are almost always grilled over charcoal — often with a few hickory chips tossed on the fire. In fact, cooks quite often grill the buns for the white hots right alongside the dogs themselves.

At summertime barbecues, hot dogs are usually served plain with mustard and ketchup — and perhaps pickle relish or a bit of onion. White hots, however, are usually smothered in a sauce made with onions, relish, peppers, molasses, vinegar, and more.

Garbage plate with hot dogs, salads, and ketchup.
A Nick Tahou Garbage Plate

The other way to eat white hots is to serve them as part of a “garbage plate.” This dish was made famous by Rochester restaurateur Nick Tahou. A typical garbage plate consists of a heap of home fries, baked beans, macaroni salad, hamburgers, and either white or red hots.

Here at Farmers’ Almanac, some of our favorite traditions are the regional foods that are served all across the United States. White hots, especially, are the perfect example of a food that started as the classic all-American hot dog and then transformed into a regional tradition.

Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental and green living topics. Her article on woolly worm caterpillar folklore appears in the 2020 Farmers' Almanac.

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ann expert

Boudin is made with rice and pork some offal too, weisswurst is mostly veal and fat back (pork) and a much lighter sausage than white hots, Brockwurst would be close but is traditionally made from ground veal and pork more veal, unlike bratwurst. It’s a unique Western NY invention. Love em!

JR

Many companies call them “bockwurst.”

Mimi

I grew up in Rochester. And now I live in Virginia. My husband is from Arkansas and he never heard of white hits. We went up to Rochester and he had one . Totally fell in love with them?. Unfortunately we do not have a Wegmans here. But I went back up there and stocked up. We can’t get enough of them.

Nik Schumacher

Looks like Booodan [ Boudin?] Its Cajun. Where its “How y’all are” and “See ya awhile ago”

Mary

My son worked at Zweigle’s for quite a few years. My husband and I loved to go to Nick Tahoe’s for a garbage plate. The best ever.

Bill

Smothered in sauerkraut & horseradish mustard Mmmmm Dood! They’re the first thing out of state relatives want when they visit NY in the summertime.

Dee

There is nothing like enjoying a Weisswurst, Americans call it a “white hot”, in its country of origin: Germany. The sizzle, the flavour and my favourite “dressing”, curry ketchup. Absolutely nothing beats it! Pair it with some crispy pommes frites (fries), and we’re golden 🙂

Larry Davis

My wife and I know them as “Weiss Wurst”. ( White Wieners or Dogs). She is from Southern Germany and a Bavarian enjoys them even more during Christmas and New Years Eve. We live in Western CO, and buy/order them from a deli in Denver, at Sprouts in Grand Junction, and Albertson’s deli department. Like them with deli style Mustards, fried, boiled, or bar-b-q’ed. Thanks FA for the little bit of American History on a good ol’ German Wurst. Hope this helps Marie H. too.

Marie Nagl Herl

When I was a kid in the Chicago area we were able to get them in our grocery stores. We called them German Hotdogs. Live in Colorado now and haven’t had one in decades. They were delicious.

Steve

In nearby Syracuse, NY they are known as “Coneys”.

barb

Nothing beats the flavor of a white hot-when my brother moved out of town my family would send him white hots every summer so he could enjoy a taste of home

chris r

there is simply no way to explain a white hot — they are just delicious!! you have to try a real one…

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