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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Famous Butler Hot Dog Sauce, As Promised

This is the recipe for the best hot dog sauce in the world.  The recipe comes from the old Butler Hot Dog Shop, a place my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother frequented their entire life.  It was one of my favorite stops until the place closed when I was in college.  

The Butler Hot Dog Shop was by no means an upscale place, but home to the Western Pennsylvania working class, stopping by when their shift ended at the steel mill or shale mine for a quick and filling bite to eat.  It was open 24 hours a day, and you would be lucky any time of day to find a seat upon your arrival.  You almost never found a cleaned table with settings ready for you, and it was commonly advised to skip a trip to the bathroom.  But the food was always good, and you could smell the aroma of this delicious sauce as soon as you got out of your car.  

For me, this sauce has fond memories of trips to my great-grandmother's house.  We never went with her, but as she aged her cooking skills diminished.  We always found visiting on a full stomach to be the wisest plan for our visit, so we hit the Hot Dog Shop on our way.  Forget it if we were visiting Uncle Don and Helen, who continued living alone and cooking until well into their nineties.  

They were all raised in the Depression era, and were of the mindset that you never throw anything away.  A meal at Don & Helen's may well include last month's chicken, questionable vegetables, coffee and cream well past it's prime, and a can of peaches from 1963.  We always thought that scientists should study their stomachs for the cure for cancer or some other wild scientific breakthrough, for being able to eat the food they regularly consumed.

Anyway, this is a delicious recipe and I hope it brings you as much joy as it does to me.  I like to load up my hot dog bun with the hot dog first, then I smother it with the hot dog sauce, and top with shredded cheddar.  My grandparents put fresh onions on top of their sauce.  Any way you like it, give it a try!

Butler Hot Dog Sauce

1 lb hamburger, browned
¾ cup diced onions
1 ½ tablespoons salt
7 teaspoons chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
1 ½ teaspoons nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
9 teaspoons paprika
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
1 cup ketchup
3 cups water
1 beef boullion cube
½ cup water and ½ cup flour blended together

Simmer 1 hour.  Stir frequently.  Once cooked and cooled, I put it through the food processor to bring to consistent texture.  Makes ½ gallon.


  1. I grew up eating at the Vanport branch of the Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe, and the East Liverpool Hot Dog Shoppe. Then I moved to Kentucky. I crave the chili and cheese dogs and fries and I have tried to make their chili several times (and failed). Your spice mix seems right. Last time I was in Pennsylvania (Beaver County) I noticed that they use some cornstarch in their chili too, and theirs is darker than your by a shade, but I can't wait to try your recipe...

  2. Forget it if we were visiting Uncle Don and Helen, who continued living alone and cooking until well into their nineties. Lej en pølsevogn

  3. This still not the correct recipe and I do have the missing ingredients - promised a very long long long time ago I wouldn't give the recipe out., but this is close. They do not use cornstarch and the darkness Bill. you are correct on their is a reason. lol. I won't tell

  4. PLEEEEASE release the original recipe..this is killin' me :( pretty please? :)

  5. I think one of the missing ingredients is likely Worchestershire sauce. Henry's little hint about it being being browner and there being a reason lead me to believe that. Also, putting it through a food processor sounds like it goes completely against the spirit of the sauce which I remember having meaty bits in it when I had these hot dogs in Butler.

    1. I agree with you about the Worcester sauce another possibility is they used dark brown sugar not granulated.

    2. Tried the dogs at Butler Brighton shop 2 times. They don't come anywhere near the old Hot Dog Shop. There is a little place on r-8 south in where Trader Horn was right in the corner of this little mall and theirs are very close.

    3. To Anonymous from July 19th: I didn't think this was about the Brighton chili. Their chili is good, but more tomato-ey than the old Butler hot dog sauce. The Butler Hot Dog Shoppe, who have a location near the Butler Brighton location, comes darn close to getting the old sauce correct. They don't, however, come as close with their rendition of the orange gravy.

    4. The place by the old trader horn uses the same recipe so their chili should be pretty close LOL!

  6. The receipe I can't find called for lard. N it made the sauce. I made it without not as good called for a pound I used 1/2 ! Hope I find my receipe !!!

  7. Suet is the key! I got this from the horse's mouth so bank on it!

  8. My hubby grew up in New Brighton, PA and we make an annual pilgrimage to the Shoppe on 3rd Ave for chili dogs. I tried this recipe, and he finds the clove flavor too strong. It's an edible sauce, and I plan to use the recipe as a starter. Will pass on any changes with next attempt.