Chicago Hot Dog Pasta Salad

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With a nod to the Windy City, this Chicago Hot Dog Pasta Salad is a tasty way to celebrate warm summer days in the backyard!

Is it strange that cold hot dogs totally take me back to a happy place?  Heck, I think it’s strange.  But that still doesn’t stop me from loving a good cold hot dog!  Back in middle and high school, lunch would occasionally consist of a leftover hot dog from the previous night’s grilling adventures.  However, we didn’t have a way to heat up our lunches, so I just kept an ice pack in my lunchbox and ate the hot dog cold.  Strange?  Yes.  Delicious?  Yes.  *I’m fairly certain I just lost what little credibility I have as a food blogger…*

I’d totally forgotten about those cold hot dogs until I made this Chicago Hot Dog Pasta Salad.  Certain cities/regions just have iconic foods, and Chicago is known for it’s Chicago-style hot dogs.  (Yes, Chicago is also known for it’s pizza, but today we’re focusing on the city’s iconic hot dog toppings.)  I’ve only had a Chicago dog once, and it was in the Chicago airport so it probably doesn’t count for much.  I’m sure my buddy Richard could direct me to some pretty awesome hot dog stands in Chicago whenever I make it back.

For this Chicago Hot Dog Pasta Salad, I took all of the ingredients for a classic Chicago dog and put ’em over pasta instead of a bun.  Sacrilege?  Probably.  But this pasta salad was downright delicious!  Even Maycee (who didn’t grow up eating cold hot dogs like me) agreed.

Chicago Hot Dog Pasta Salad

The most challenging ingredient in this recipe is the jar of sport peppers.  We don’t have sport peppers here in upstate New York, and I highly suspect these are only available in Chicago.  Heck, the company that made the jar of sport peppers is also one of the well-established makers of Chicago hot dogs.  Fortunately, there’s Amazon.  Amazon isn’t the best when it comes to grocery prices, but I decided to splurge and order a jar of sport peppers.  I was intrigued, and I knew they’d be essential to this Chicago Hot Dog Pasta Salad.

So what are sport peppers?  They’re small chili peppers with a mild to medium level of heat.  They look a little bit like serrano peppers, but they don’t seem to be as hot (at least not the jar I bought).  They’re also pickled in vinegar, so they bring a unique (and tasty) addition to this Chicago Hot Dog Pasta Salad.  According to some internet message boards, there is a subset of Chicagoans who substitute pepperoncini for sport peppers on their hot dogs.  Pepperoncini are certainly much easier to find (check next to the pickles in your grocery store), so I suspect they would work for this pasta salad, too.

Other classic toppings on a Chicago Hot Dog include yellow mustard, white onions, pickle relish, tomato slices, celery salt and a dill pickle spear.  I took a few liberties with the translation here, but all of those flavors are included in this pasta salad.  Heck, I even included some poppy seeds in the dressing as a Chicago Dog is typically served on a poppy seed bun.  All in all, this pasta salad was downright delicious!  Maycee and I definitely ate this for lunch for a couple days in a row, and (like most pasta salads) this one tasted even better after it sat overnight.

Chicago Hot Dog Pasta Salad

Prep Time:10 minutes

Cook Time:10 minutes

Total Time:20 minutes

Servings:  servings 

Calories: 506kcal


For the Salad

  • 16 oz. medium shells pasta
  • 8 all-beef hot dogs cut into 1” slices on an angle
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
  • ⅓ cup chopped sport peppers
  • ¼ cup diced white onion
  • ¼ cup pickle relish
  • ¼ cup sliced dill pickles

For the Dressing

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • ½ tsp mustard powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper


For the Salad

  1. Cook the pasta in salted water according to the package instructions.
  2. Using a large skillet, add hot dogs and place over medium-high heat. Cook without turning for 4-5 minutes, or until hot dogs begin to turn golden brown on bottom. Flip and continue cooking for 4-5 minutes, or until other side also turns golden brown. Remove hot dogs from heat and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, add tomatoes, sport peppers, onion, relish and dill pickles; toss until well combined.
  4. Add cooked pasta and hot dogs; toss until well combined.

For the Dressing

  1. Using a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together. Pour dressing over salad and toss until well coated. Salad can be served immediately or refrigerated and served cold.

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