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What's in Hot Dogs? Here's What the Summer Staple Is Actually Made Of

Curious about what's in hot dogs? Here's what the summer cookout staple is actually made of. Plus, how to make a better-for-you version.

Written by
Tehrene Firman

They've been a staple at summer cookouts for years... but what's in hot dogs, really? While there's no denying that hot dogs taste delicious, you've probably heard some stories on what goes inside the popular type of meat.

Here's all the juicy details about what's in hot dogs, plus how to make a version that's better for you (and the planet!) with plant-based ingredients.

What's in Hot Dogs?

When you look at the ingredients list of popular hot dog brands, you may see a combination of meats included in one hot dog—typically pork, beef, and poultry. You may also notice "mechanically separated meat" on the list. But what does that mean, exactly?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), mechanically separated meat is "a paste-like and batter-like meat product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue." Yum!

Aside from the ground-up meat trimmings, hot dog mixtures also contain preservatives, flavoring, and color. As they're a very processed food, they're not great for your health or the planet: In a past study, processed meat—hot dogs, included—was noted as one of the most detrimental foods to the planet due to the greenhouse gases it produces during the production process.

The study also found eating a hot dog could take 36 minutes off your life. So to better your health and the planet, it might be time to opt for a vegan hot dog—starting with this simple recipe.

Planet-Friendly Alternative to Try

If you want to skip out on processed meat and instead make a vegan hot dog recipe that uses planet-friendly, plant-based ingredients, now's the time.

Maya Leinenbach, the vegan recipe creator behind Fit Green Mind, shared her go-to vegan hot dog recipe on TikTok and it's perfect for summer cookouts. Here's how to make it, step by step.

Vegan Hot Dogs Recipe

Make 4 hot dogs


1/4 cup water
3/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin

1. Blend ingredients in a blender, then shape into four hot dogs.

2. Wrap in aluminum foil and cook 20 to 35 minutes in water. Save aluminum foil for reuse. Once it's unable to be reused, recycle: It can be rolled into a ball and recycled curbside. Ensure it's at least a couple of inches in diameter before recycling to ensure it doesn't disrupt the recycling process.

3. After cooking the hot dogs, let them cool down.

4. Pan-fry vegan hot dogs over medium heat until browned.

5. Serve in hot dog buns with your toppings of choice.