Home for me is Allentown, PA. It’s where I was born and spent the first 22 years of my life. When I left Allentown, something became very obvious, very quickly…nobody does hotdogs like they do back home. If you’ve ever been in the Lehigh Valley and had a dog from Yocco’s, you know what I’m talking about. The secret is the hot dog sauce!
The first time I ever told Mr. Everything we were having hot dog sauce for dinner (with hot dogs, of course) he was confused. Mr. Everything was born in California, raised in Mississippi and Washington, and never heard of hot dog sauce before I came along. I tried to explain it to him, and his first reaction was, “oh, so it’s a chili dog.” Well, kind of…but no. There’s no beans, and no tomato anything, so in my opinion it’s not chili at all. I think hot dog sauce is just one of those things you have to try to understand. And I’ll warn you…it doesn’t look pretty, but it tastes fabulous.
I got this recipe from my Dad, who worked really hard at trying to recreate something similar to Yocco’s hotdog sauce shortly after he and my Mom moved to Florida nine years ago. Occasionally someone from our family back in PA will be super nice and overnight a Yocco’s Doggie Pack to them (which includes sauce that can be reconstituted), but making this sauce has become the easiest way to get a taste of PA wherever we are.
It starts with a yellow onion, diced.
Add the onion to a dry 2-quart pot.
Cook the onions until they’re starting to soften, about five minutes.
Then add a pound of ground beef. Lean, fatty, whatever you got, it’ll work.
Cook the meat with the onions until it’s completely browned and cooked through. I use my much beloved Pampered Chef “meat smusher thingie” to help move this along.
When the hamburger is completely brown, drain off most of the fat if there is any. I do this by putting a lid on the pot, tilting it a bit, and holding it over the sink so the fat can drain. This process absolutely requires two hands, so no pictures. It’s also really dangerous so this is one of those situations where you should probably do what I say and not what I do, and use a strainer or spoon the fat off instead.
Now transfer this to a food processor and pulse for about 30 seconds. If you’ve never had a hot dog from Yocco’s you’d probably never know the difference. But for me, it’s a texture thing and this is what really makes it authentic.
Then add the spices. Two heaping tablespoons of chili powder, oregano, red chili flakes, salt, and pepper. I know that sounds like a lot of heat and it is. If your mouth isn’t burning by the time you’re done, you ain’t done it right. You can also add an optional 1/4 teaspoon or so of cumin here. My Dad does it…I usually do too but I used up all my cumin making my hubby a bangin’ steak salad the other night. Coming soon!
Now add 3/4 cup of beer. Any beer will do, really, but I used a Yuengling ’cause it’s local to home.
Also add 1/4 cup of water.
Then transfer the sauce back to the pot and just let it simmer on the stove for about an hour. It’ll thicken up a bit during that time.
While the sauce is simmering, you could cook your hot dogs any way you like. Boiled, grilled, in the microwave. Whatever floats your boat. You could grill or toast your rolls, but I like mine steamed and I am 99% sure that’s how Yocco’s does them too. There are ways to steam rolls that involve pans of water and the oven, but I just wrap each one in a slightly damp paper towel and microwave them for about 10-15 seconds, like you would heat up tortillas. Works great, and tastes exactly the same.
After an hour, the sauce is ready!
I do mustard, sauce, diced onion, and either pickles or banana peppers. If you are from PA you put pickles and banana peppers on just about everything. True story.
Now excuse me while I close my eyes, take a bite, click my heals three times, and boom. I’m home. If only it were that easy.
We usually have few, if any, leftover hot dogs or sauce when I make this. It’s obviously not the healthiest meal in the world, so I make it very seldom, usually when I’m really just missing home. But if you have any sauce leftover, you could throw it in a burrito with eggs for breakfast the next morning, put it on a bread or a bun for a spicy sloppy joe sandwich, or you could make a Yocco’s cheesesteak. Yup…just a regular cheesesteak, topped with this sauce. If you ever make it to Allentown, PA be sure to try an authentic dog from Yocco’s! Enjoy!
- 1 lb. Ground Beef
- 1 Large Yellow Onion, Diced
- ¾ Cup Beer (I used Yuengling Lager)
- ¼ Cup Water
- 2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
- 2 Teaspoons Oregano
- 1 Teaspoon Chili Flakes
- ¼ Teaspoon Cumin (Optional)
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- Hot Dogs
- Hot Dog Buns
- Yellow Mustard, Diced Onions, Pickles, And Banana Peppers For Topping (Optional)
- Saute Onion in a dry 2-quart pot until soft, about five minutes. Keep stirring to make sure they don’t burn.
- Add hamburger and cook until completely brown.
- Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds, or until well combined.
- Transfer back to pot and add chili powder, oregano, chili flakes, cumin (if using), salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
- Add beer and water.
- Simmer on low heat for approximately one hour, stirring occasionally.
- While the sauce is simmering, cook your hot dogs. Wrap buns in damp paper towels and microwave for 20-25 seconds. Top hot dogs with yellow mustard, sauce, diced onion, pickles and/or banana peppers for a true taste of Yocco’s.