Step Up Your Hot Dog Game With One Classic Salad

Salad on a hot dog could seem a bit counterproductive to some, but depending on that salad's components, there's a chance it could work wonders. At least, that's what those who eat slaw dogs believe. Coleslaw, the ubiquitous cabbage salad that takes many forms, makes an appearance on hot dogs throughout the South, and if you haven't tried it — well, you might want to change that.

The compelling combination first originated in West Virginia about 100 years ago, but the Great Depression amped up this dish's popularity. At the time, both cabbage and hot dogs were some of the most affordable foods, and pairing them made for a cost-effective yet filling meal. Though the United States eventually climbed out of those harsh economic times, the slaw dog was here to stay. Today, you'll find it on most menus in the South serving up any number of hot dogs, though the recipe tends to vary depending on who is doing the cooking.

Southern slaw dogs come crowned with coleslaw

Slaw dogs are also paired with beef chili and onions, the crisp coleslaw creating a balancing act alongside the heavy chili. Despite originating in West Virginia, slaw dogs are arguably just as famous in the Carolinas, where this hot dog variety is commonly referred to simply as a Carolina dog. One of the major differences between a Carolina dog and the traditional West Virginia version lies in what might be the most essential element: the type of coleslaw. West Virginia's iteration typically comes with mayonnaise-based coleslaw. In North Carolina, you may expect to see a hot dog with vinegar-based slaw. The slaw in South Carolina, meanwhile, could very likely include mustard. Yellow mustard is commonly used rather than stone ground or spicy mustard.

Regardless, by the late 1920s, slaw dogs were seemingly everywhere. According to the Southern Foodways Alliance, more recently, there are upwards of 350 hot dog-focused restaurants in the state of West Virginia. There's even a vaguely defined "slaw line" within the state, with people who live south of it favoring slaw and those who live north of it eshewing the stuff. The basic coleslaw recipe includes cabbage tossed in a sauce made from mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar, though additional seasonings like dry mustard and black pepper are often added. From there, the coleslaw is set aside to let the flavors combine before it's eventually paired with the additional toppings on the hot dog.

There are several variations of the slaw dog

While the original West Virginia version calls for chili, coleslaw, mustard, and minced onions, certain restaurants and regions lend their own flair to this Southern staple. Some places include mustard in their slaw dog recipe, while other spots prefer to add a drizzle of hot sauce to give the dog an extra dose of heat. 

The chili can be made with a variety of meats, but beef is traditionally used for slaw dogs. The trick to this pairing is to correctly adjust the sweetness of the slaw based on the spiciness of the chili. If the chili has more of a kick (or if you're making a variety with hot peppers), then make the coleslaw with some added sweetness to temper the spice. If the chili is mild, however, your slaw will benefit from less of a sweet flavor.

If chili doesn't appeal, meatless slaw dogs are another option, with some spots in the South offering the dish sans chili (you can also just ask to omit it). At Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, you can even get vegan slaw dogs from Casey's Corner. The vintage hot dog joint serves a Beyond Sausage dog enhanced with the addition of peppers and barbecue aioli. In Washington D.C., Glizzys Vegan Food Company pairs plant-based sausage with both beans and Southern slaw. With this and so many other variations, there's likely a slaw dog for every palate.