Ask ChicagoNow: Why is it sinful to put ketchup on a hot dog in Chicago?

Ask ChicagoNow: Why is it sinful to put ketchup on a hot dog in Chicago?

ChicagoNow is a group of bloggers from all sorts of different backgrounds. One thing that helps tie them all together? Chicago.

With so much collective experience with the city, we’ve decided to put that knowledge to use by posing some of the oldest and most popular questions about Chicago to the group.

Why is it sinful to put ketchup on a hot dog in Chicago?

“You do not put ketchup on a hot dog because it’s offensive. What you do in the privacy of your own home is your business, of course (at least for a while longer in this country) but doing so in the presence of other Chicagoans who are trying to enjoy their own hot dog provokes a gagging reflex in them. As Saint Royko put it: ‘No, I won’t condemn anyone for putting ketchup on a hot dog. This is the land of the free. And if someone wants to put ketchup on a hot dog and actually eat the awful thing, that is their right. It is also their right to put mayo or chocolate syrup or toenail clippings or cat hair on a hot dog. Sure, it would be disgusting and perverted, and they would be shaming themselves and their loved ones. But under our system of government, it is their right to be barbarians. The crime is in referring to the above abomination as a ‘Chicago hot dog.'” — Mark Andel, Hot Dog Diaries

“Ketchup and onions, baby. For the more discerning palate. Mustard is for lo-sahs! Also, I put vodka in my marinara, potato chips inside my grilled cheese and Jack in my coffee cup at work.” — Michelle Babicz, Planet Michelle

“If you want ketchup, skip the hot dog and order French fries. Ketchup never belongs on a hot dog. It smothers the taste and it looks ugly—like a bloody mess hiding the beautiful hot dog. The Chicago Dog is a work of art both taste wise and visually and should never be toyed with.” — Carole Kuhrt Brewer, Show Me Chicago

“I love ketchup in hot dogs….but that’s just me. It’s only a sin if people bash you for doing it. My fav kind of hot dog is Cincinnati Coney hot dog….with Cincinnati chili, onions, mustard and lots of shredded cheese”. — Jayson J Crady, Confessions of a Coffeholic!

“Because ketchup is disgusting. I developed a strong aversion to ketchup after my second pregnancy and can no longer even stand the smell (which makes life with two ketchup-loving kids rough at times). I don’t know why others started considering it sinful to put ketchup on hot dogs, but I feel like developing that aversion was my body turning me into a true Chicagoan. After all, I used to live in Pittsburgh, home of Heinz.” — Kim Z. Dale, Listing Beyond Forty

“It’s not – Mike Royko invented that myth because he couldn’t think of anything else to write about. And Walter Jacobsen was mysteriously silent that week.” — Gordon Dymowski, One Cause At A Time

“I don’t like mustard. If I am at a BBQ or a picnic, I will put on ketchup. However, I will never ORDER one with ketchup. I think that is the difference. You don’t go to the Signature Room and ask for hot sauce. You trust the chefs know what they have crafted. Same thing for a hot dog place. It may not be fancy, but they know what they are doing, and don’t be insulting.” — Stephanie Esposito, Chicago Rucks

“I might lose my DL for this, but I LOVE KETCHUP on my Chicago dogs!” — Lucy Rendler-Kaplan, Small Girl, Big City

“I wish I knew. I just don’t like it. Ketchup is kind of gross to be honest”. — Brian Kremen, ConFIdences

“It just doesn’t taste right.” — Helaine Karlin Krysik, Adventures of a Mom Entrepreneur

“Ketchup goes on burgers and fries. Never on an all beef vienna hot dog with the works on a poppyseed bun. It’s simply the only way to eat one. Unless, of course, you’re my big guy – he just breaks the mold all around”. — Carole Lago, Inside the Wrapper

“It’s not. I HATE mustard. I like ketchup. I put ketchup on my hot dog and until the make it officially illegal, I will continue to do so. #freethewieners” — Marie Larsen, There’s a Bug In My Coffee

“Ugh. Hot dogs are gross. Ketchup is gross. That said, I don’t give a rip what you eat or how you like to eat it.” — Katy McDermott Maher, I Got a Dumpster Family!

“I don’t understand the no ketchup thing, especially since a Chicago dog includes sliced tomatoes!” — MBA Mom

“Because we just don’t have enough ways to divide people or be unnecessarily mean to one another!” — Michael Messinger, Mysteries of Life

“People tend to cast enjoyable things as “sinful” if doing so will reinforce social norms or institutions that keep them powerful and popular. And, ketchup is the most delicious thing to put on a hot dog…much to the chagrin of the Chicago Dog Enforcers.” — Nicolle Neulist, Picks & Ponderings

“No it is not eat your gross hotdogs however you want. Hotdogs are gross.” — Patrick O’Hara, Comedy, Tragedy or Me?

“How can I entertain such blasphemy? It’s in Torah, I think Deuteronomy. ‘You will be stoned if you put ketchup on a hot dog.’ Do it at your own peril. If you put ketchup on a hot dog, lay no claims to being a Chicagoan. You’re a poser”. — Bob Schneider, Politics Now

“I love ketchup and lettuce on my hotdog because it is delicious”. — Susan Schulhof, Looking for the Good

“So my question is why does it matter what I put on MY hotdog? Whether its ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, hot peppers or roasted crickets, who cares. Enjoy your food the way you want. My ex LOVE mayo on her fries. Yuck! But it wasn’t my place to tell her what she should enjoy. If you want ketchup on your dog, enjoy.” — Meggan Sommerville, Trans Girl at the Cross

“Would you put mustard on an Italian beef? Orange juice on your cereal? Sugar on your scrambled eggs? Chocolate milk on your pasta? Actually, I’m sure there’s someone out there who would commit any or all of those gastronomic sins. You can put ketchup on a hot dog, but then it’s just a hot dog with ketchup that you can get anywhere, like York, PA or Maineville, OH. If you’re talking about a Chicago dog, you don’t put ketchup on it because then it is no longer a Chicago dog. Who knows what it is? Some kind of junk food abomination (is that redundant?). And speaking of mustard on a beef, I once worked in Washington DC and bragged a lot about Chicago Italian beefs. So after a visit home I stopped at Johnnie’s on North Avenue. They filled a plastic garbage bag with beefs for me to take back to DC. The flight attendants loved it! The aroma on that flight made everyone famished. Anyway, at work the next day I passed around some beefs. One guy went to the condiment stand and actually put mustard on his beef. I about gagged. ‘But it’s a good sandwich, buddy,’ he said. ‘You ain’t no buddy of mine,’ I replied. There’s a basement hot dog joint on Broadway near Wellington called Flub a Dub Chubs. They have (or had — haven’t been there for a while) a Wall of Shame. Whenever someone puts ketchup on their hot dog they snap a pic and mount it on the wall. There are a lot of photos on that Wall of Shame. But everyone is smiling. It’s all in good Chicago fun.” — Floyd Sullivan, Waiting4Cubs

“SINFUL! I can’t tell you why, only that it is. It’s a Chicago thing.” — Nina Kushner Vallone, You Know Neen

“No clue, I am hoping people are just putting on there what they like best. Personally, I don’t like hotdogs at all, but if there’s nothing else to eat, I’ll take mine with mustard.” — Annemarie Verweij, Dutch Alien Lands in the U.S.

“Chicago Hot Dog Recipe: Vienna Beef dog, poppyseed bun, both steamed, never grilled. Neon green relish, yellow mustard, chopped onions, tomato slices, pickle spear, sport peppers and a shake of celery salt. No ketchup ever. Why? Because I said so. Must be wrapped in waxed paper. My mouth is watering for one or two right now. If you do put ketchup on your dog, it’s not a Chicago Dog. Nobody will give you an evil eye because Chicagoans are really nice people. However, Hot Dogs are religious to us. If you eat one standing up at a walk-up joint, extra bonus points for you.” — Very Terry

“There are just some things you don’t question as a Chicagoan. Not putting ketchup on hotdogs. Not wearing a heavy winter coat until it actually gets cold enough for one. Not calling it ‘the elevated,’ etc. One of the best places to get a Chicago hotdog? Home Depot! I kid you not. Power tools AND a great Chicago hotdog. That’s nirvana right there.” — James Warda, Where Are We Going So Fast?

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Lead image via Kristan Lieb/For the Chicago Tribune

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