The RV Chronicles — Channeling the Mountain State at the ‘Jimmy Rockford’ (Recipe: West Virginia Hot Dogs)

It all began over lunch in the communications suite. One of my co-workers mentioned something about her father digging on West Virginia Hot Dogs.

‘What’s that?’ I asked.

‘It’s just a hot dog with chili and slaw,’ she replied.

My interest, already piqued at the mere mention of a new (to me) style of hot dog, prompted an involuntary battery of questions to my friend. I’ve driven through the Mountain State more than once. I’ve stopped and eaten there. Heck, I’ve even played as the Marshall Thundering Herd on my children’s Play Station. Yet the West Virginia Hot Dog has managed to elude me.

As it turns out,  West Virginians are as serious about their hot dogs as Texans are about their barbecue. If you don’t believe me, just head over to this website, whose author/owner was kind enough to have a virtual sit-down with me to satisfy my culinary curiosities.

The first thing to know about a legit West Virginia Hot Dog is that the wiener itself is almost insignificant, according to Stanton, the Head Weenie Wonk at The West Virginia Hot Dog Blog.

‘The secret to a WVHD is that we take really inexpensive parts and combine them in such a way that the whole is infinitely better than the sum of its parts. Other regions seem to stress the quality of the wiener above all else,’ Stanton told me.

Now, I’m not so sure that I agree with West Virginia’s stance. Shouldn’t the hot dog be of some reasonable quality? What if I used the same philosophy with steak or ice cream — if the topping is good, who cares about the main ingredient? — Still, Stanton told me I wasn’t breaking any rules by going with my standard beef hot dog. (Whew!)

While plain ol’ yellow mustard and steamed (standard) hot dog buns are the norm in a West Virginia Hot Dog, the slaw and chili are held to stricter standards.

‘The slaw needs to finely grated so there is no chewing necessary to break down the cabbage. Using the finer portion of a standard box grater is about right.’

The correct chili just depends on where you are in the Mountain State. While some places serve up a meaty concoction similar in consistency to Coney Island Dry Sauce, others drench their dogs with a true sauce (no meat). Some serve it spicy. Others serve it mild. The one thing they all seem to have in common is that the recipes are quite close to Tex-Mex chili gravy — with plenty of cumin, chile powder and garlic.

Onions are optional, but there is only one option for the order in which this dog is built:

  1. Hot dog
  2. Mustard
  3. Chili
  4. Slaw
  5. Onions

‘Sometimes the mustard goes on top of the chili,’ Stanton said. ‘No penalty. There are some rogue areas of the state that put the slaw under the chili. We do not condone this boorish behavior.’


As it goes, my co-worker’s father was kind enough to sample my West Virginia Hot Dog attempt. I believed he liked it, but my chili is a little meatier than what he’s accustomed to, and not as spicy as he prefers. I think my slaw might also not have been sufficiently chopped in the West Virginia style. — Easily remedied … Or not, depending on your preference.

If you’re a Yelper, let’s be friends. Meanwhile, want to receive notifications of my Confessions, Chronicles and recipes in your email? Just click here. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+. Why not witness some of my Instagram antics too? — Many thanks to Stanton at The West Virginia Hot Dog Blog for setting the record straight on the Mountain State’s favorite hot dog.

West Virginia Hot Dogs

The West Virginia Hot Dog — Take me home, country roads.

The West Virginia Hot Dog — Take me home, country roads.

5.0 from 2 reviews
West Virginia Hot Dogs
Recipe type: Hot Dogs/Sandwiches
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8
  • 8 - Hot dogs
  • 8 - Hot dog rolls
  • Chopped onion, if desired
West Virginia-style Hot Dog Chili
  • 1 lb – Lean ground beef
  • 1 – 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 cups – Beef stock
  • ¼ cup – Chopped onion
  • 2 TB – Chile powder (preferably ancho)
  • 1 TB – Cumin
  • 2 tsp – Black pepper
  • 1 tsp – Cayenne pepper (or 1-2 tsp more, for spicier chili)
West Virginia-style Slaw
  • 3 cups – Finely shredded cabbage
  • ⅛ cup – Finely diced carrot
  • 1 cup – Mayonnaise (not the diet stuff)
  • 1 TB – White vinegar
  • 2 tsp – Granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp – Celery salt
Make the slaw...
  1. Whisk vinegar, sugar and celery salt with mayonnaise; combine with cabbage and carrots.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Make the chili...
Stovetop method
  1. Place all ingredients in a large pot or Dutch oven.
  2. Bring to a slight boil, while chopping meat into fine consistency with a wooden spoon.
  3. Cover, tilting the lid slightly; reduce heat to low/simmer.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most liquid has evaporated and chili has a 'dry' appearance, about 3 hours.
Slow cooker method
  1. Place all ingredients in slow cooker, chopping meat into fine consistency with a wooden spoon.
  2. Cook on 'high' setting for 4 hours, tilting the lid slightly during the last hour of cooking to help liquid evaporate.
Get ready to eat...
  1. Boil, grill or fry hot dogs.
  2. Steam the buns (If you have a steamer, use it. Otherwise, just slightly dampen a paper towel, cover 2 buns at a time, then microwave for about 10-15 seconds.)
  3. Top hot dogs with mustard, then chili, and top with slaw and chopped onions, if desired.




  1. Kathryn @ anotherfoodieblogger says:

    I loved the video you made for this! I too am amazed you didn’t know about this style of hot dog, but then again, neither did I but I am not a hot dog connoisseur. 🙂

    • adamjholland says:

      I was sort of amazed myself, Kathryn. I tend to pride myself on hyper-regional specialties (such as the tamales in Mississippi, the New Jersey Sloppy Joe, or even the Maid-Rite sandwiches from around Iowa. That this was a hot dog — and a fairly popular one at that — I feel like I let myself down all those years. 😉

  2. Hot Dog Steve says:

    There are two West Virginia hot dogs. Apparently, people in much of the state enjoy cole slaw on their dogs. However, in North Central West Virginia, more precisely the Morgantown, Fairmont, Clarksburg area, more accurately a little hod dog stand along the Monongahela River in Fairmont, cole slaw is a side dish and would only pollute the flavor of the sauce, not chili, on a true West Virginia hot dog. To my knowledge, no one has EVER said the sauce wasn’t as hot as they would like. If you’re ever in Fairmont, ask anyone how to get to Yann’s and you will have a hot dog experience you won’t soon forget. Just don’t ask for ketchup. As Dirty Harry said, “No one, and I mean no one, puts ketchup on a hot dog.”

    • adamjholland says:

      Thanks, Hot Dog Steve. Being a Texas boy, I’m not one to argue about what should/shouldn’t be on a WV Dog … But ketchup doesn’t belong on anything but fries.

  3. T Richmond says:

    The WV hotdog is the only one I can eat. When I lived in Florida for ten years, KFC was the closest to the slaw that I found. It has to be chopped very fine, sweet and creamy. Whenever we wanted to make them my husband would make a run for slaw for me. I have never tried to make it at home. :/

    Please come back to WV and stop by one of the highest rated hot dog stands when you can. *rated by The West Virginia Hot Dog Blog*

    • adamjholland says:

      I’m long overdue to head back East, and I fully intend to stop by (at least) 2-3 West Virginia hot dog joints. I’m ashamed of myself for not doing it sooner.

  4. m foster says:

    West Virginia is my home state. EVERY time I go there for a visit I want those special Hot Dogs. Nothing like a childhood memory to make you feel loved. Take me home country roads.

    • adamjholland says:

      I have friends from West Virginia. I’ve slept there. And I really wish I’d discovered these sooner. Wow.

  5. Richard says:

    Being a hillbilly in Louisiana, I often catch strange looks with slaw on my dog. And yes, the correct order is as stated. Sometimes with mustard on the bottom, but NEVER on top of the slaw.

    • adamjholland says:

      It surprises me that my Louisiana brethren would give strange looks to someone who drags his dog through the garden. After all, they eat amphibians and such. Just sayin’.. 😉

  6. That dog looks doggone good! I just have to say here that although not from West “By Gawd” Virginia nor have I ever visited – I too insist that my slaw be grated, just like my Nana taught me! I even know the dressing recipe – cause it’s hers too – and she never visited WV either. – it’s the best way to eat it, especially with catfish or brown beans…………..and now I’m going to have it on my next chili dog. Tomorrow.

  7. HillbillyDeluxe says:

    Hot dog chili (or sauce as some call it) in the southern 2/3 of WV tends to be mildly spiced and topped with slaw while in the northern part of the state it tends to be a bit spicier and sometimes downright HOT and never served with slaw as a topping, as in Yann’s. Whichever style it is, it’s got to have chili, mustard, and onion as standard toppings, never ketchup. Having been raised in central WV I grew up on the southern style, but after moving to north-central WV I have to admit that the spicier chili is the one I prefer these days. I get the best of both worlds as I bring the spicy dogs home and top them with my own slaw. Now that’s the perfect hot dog IMHO.

    • adamjholland says:

      I have a feeling that y’all West Virginians are as religious about your hot dogs as we Texans are about our chili (beans in chili is a hanging offense in some parts). Thanks for your knowledge and thank you for stopping by.

  8. Sounds like a great combo. Who knew there was a regional hot dog for WV? Thanks for the info. Adam, truly, what is your favorite hot dog brand? I have a hard time finding one that has the snap and the flavor. (I agree with your stance on hot dog quality.) Have a great Fourth!

    • adamjholland says:

      Wow, Debra. That’s a loaded question. My absolute favorite hot dog brand is Vienna Beef. They aren’t sold in these parts, except by mail order. I also really like Dietz & Watson’s beef & pork. (Their beef is good too.) Both of those brands have snap and flavor.

  9. Great post, and one thing I learned is how serious they are about their dogs. My friend Larry is from Northern WV, I’ll have to ask him about this topic. I look forward to trying a version of this. Cole slaw sounds great on a hot dog. But then again, I’m the one who loads mine up with chow chow. Loved your video for this Adam.

    • adamjholland says:

      Thanks, Lea Ann. Chow chow is a thing around here, but I’ve always been too scared to try it. People are serious about it too. I’ve seen them pop open a jar and put it over purple hulls, cabbage and even meat.

  10. NC dogs are pretty similar to this. Chili and slaw are considered as much condiments at the hot dog table as are ketchup and mustard. As per usual, you tug at my heartstrings with your dogs.

    • adamjholland says:

      I’ve wondered about that, Christiane. I’d always thought Tar Heels drug their dogs through the garden and left it alone beyond that. Little did I know.. (As usual.) Thank you for your kind words.

  11. Adam, I was privileged to taste an authentic WVHD during “the trucking years.” (One of the joys of OTR trucking.) Your version reminded me of how awesome they were and how much I need to try ’em again! Thanks for reminding me of simple pleasures. I totally understand about cramped quarters, too. 🙂

    • adamjholland says:

      Good to see you, Kim. If I were trucking, I’d weigh 300 lbs. I could see myself on I-10 thinking about taking a side trip up Hwy 16 for fried chicken. (Never mind that it’s 120 miles out of the way!)


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