Looking for something a little different this Labor Day? It’s right around the corner and your grill—and all your guests—are probably expecting the same ‘ol hot dogs to be making an appearance at the table, but here are seven hot dog alternatives that’ll make everyone sit up and beg.
No one can deny that hot dogs are a go-to summer meal and, for that reason, you’ve probably already had your fair share of them this season. Now can be the year that you mix things up—because a little change never hurt anybody (especially when it comes to food).
Naturally, there are lots of vegan options to grill, but if your issue is just that you’re a little tired of the humble hot dog, feast your eyes on these alternatives.
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These braised bratwursts are a great substitute for hot dogs, especially if the grill is getting too crowded (they can be cooked on the stove or in the oven and made ahead, then simply reheated on the day of). The flavor combination of onions, beer, and various spices will not only be familiar, but also the talk of your party. Don’t forget to pair these babies with some sweet-hot mustard for some tamed heat. Get our Beer-Braised Bratwursts recipe.
Related Reading: 15 Make-Ahead Labor Day Recipes from Dips to Desserts
Mexican chorizo combined with spicy jalapeño peppers is a match made in culinary heaven—you may never crave regular hot dogs again. In this recipe, the peppers act as the bun for the chorizo and cheese filling. But don’t worry, you probably won’t miss the bread at all. It’s a party in your mouth which means it’s appropriate for any celebration. Get our Chipotle-Chorizo Jalapeño Poppers recipe.
Be adventurous this Labor Day by incorporating ground venison in your cooking (that’s deer meat, if you didn’t know). Combine the mild-tasting protein with oregano, fennel seeds, garlic, cayenne pepper, and paprika, and you’ll end up with a result that tastes exactly like classic Italian sausage. Of course, you can always just use classic Italian sausage instead. Be sure to layer sautéed peppers, onions, and gooey melted provolone on top for a mouthwatering sandwich. Get our Italian Venison-Sausage Sandwich recipe.
Lamb Merguez Sausages, 6 for $18 at Porter Road
If you have trouble finding venison, look for lamb sausages instead—but they do taste stronger.
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Use bratwurst or kielbasa sausages to make this uber-American dish that’s the perfect addition to any Labor Day celebration. Lucky for you, the juicy sausages, covered in a beer-cornmeal batter, can be frozen for up to two weeks. Make these in advance to avoid the busy prepping on party day. And don’t forget the Dijon mustard dipping sauce that’s an absolute must alongside these corn dogs. Get our Mini Beer-and-Sausage Corn Dogs recipe.
If you still want to fire up your grill and honor the spirit of tube-shaped meats yet are also craving something a little different, these sausage-and-shrimp skewers sprinkled with Old Bay are perfect. The charred lemons are threaded onto the ends of the kabobs so you can squeeze them over the rest for a smoky citrus kick before digging in. These also happen to be great for a keto BBQ since the bun is removed from the equation, but if you prefer a sandwich, by all means, slide them off onto a roll to sop up all the smoky, briny, meaty juices. Get our Grilled Shrimp Boil Skewer recipe.
Serve lobster rolls and let seafood sub in for…whatever is actually in hot dogs. A lobster feast is a great way to close out summer, and making lobster rolls lets you do the prep work ahead of time—plus, you’ll need fewer lobsters total, as two lobsters will make four sandwiches. That way you can spend more of your party budget on booze…or decorations. Get our Lobster Roll recipe; this one is dressed with lobster-infused butter, but if you’re a mayonnaise fan, get our New England Style Lobster Roll recipe instead. (Or make both!)
Okay, okay, this is indeed a hot dog—but not likely one you’ve tried before. Spiral-cutting it helps it caramelize on the grill (and fit in the bun), and the quick habanero-spiked cherry relish is a fabulous spicy-sweet contrast to the salty meat, not to mention a great way to showcase some of summer’s last precious cherries. Grainy mustard is the perfect partner (don’t even think about touching that ketchup). Get our Spiral-Cut Cherry Hot Dog recipe. (And see more variations like a bahn mi dog and movie theater nacho dog in our Spiral-Cut Hot Dog How-To.)