What Is A Red Hot Dog?


A hot dog is one of the most easily identifiable foods on the planet. It is an oblong shape, and it has a brownish color. Well, in most cases…

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting Maine, you may have noticed that they serve hot dogs that are bright red in color. They’re eye-catching, but what do they taste like? And why are they red?

Read on to discover everything you need to know about this local dish, including the ingredients used to make it, where the red color comes from, and what sets these hot dogs apart from the other hot dogs available around the U.S.

The famous Red Snapper hot dogs from Maine

The fire engine red hot dogs, with their incredibly distinct appearance, are known as Red Snapper hot dogs. Not only are they striking, but they’re a source of local pride, as they’re pretty much exclusive to Maine. They’ve been deemed a beloved regional staple in this part of the United States.

Of course, when something looks vibrant and tastes amazing, it’s no surprise to see others try to replicate it. So, we’ve heard that parts of North Dakota and areas in New England sell red hot dogs, but it’s definitely Maine’s dish.

These hot dogs get their signature vibrant, bright red color from dyes like sodium nitrite, red #40, or red #3. Plus, rather than a synthetic casing, they’re made with an all-natural lamb casing, which creates a pleasant snapping sensation when you bite into the hot dog.

Red snapper hot dogs are usually served on a top-split, warm New England hot dog bun, delivering a truly authentic Maine experience.

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Why red?

The red color seems to be more about catching attention and marketing these hot dogs as opposed to anything else. The satisfying ‘snap’ and savory flavor are what really appeals. However, it’s the bright red color that catches people’s attention and gets them interested to begin with.

There doesn’t seem to be any logical reason for the red dye or any sort of tradition. It’s purely about setting these hot dogs apart from the crowd.

While Red Snappers are unique to Maine, you will find that this tactic of dying sausages red has been used for many years now. In fact, it can be traced back to the 1920s in Europe.

W.A. Bean & Sons

W.A. Bean & Sons is Maine’s only purveyor of bright red hot dogs. For over 150 years, five generations of this famous family have produced millions and millions of these famous red hot dogs.

When creating their red snappers, they use red #40 dye to saturate the exterior of the sausage. The interior remains the standard pinkish color.

As mentioned in the section above, the red color is a marketing tactic, with W.A. Bean & Sons themselves admitting they used this tactic to ensure their sausages stand out.

The name itself, “red snapper,” is a reference to the delightful snap you experience when biting into one of these hot dogs.

We should also elaborate on the ingredients further. The natural lamb casing is taken from a part of the collagen-filled intestine. This is what gives the hot dog the snap that sets it apart from others. Known as meat batter, the sausage filling is made of a mixture of beef and pork.

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Red sausages are popular on the other side of the world too

While Maine is the place to be for red hot dogs in the United States, the Europeans have also embraced this trend.

The roots of the Red Snapper can be traced to the Danish “rød pølse.” These sausages are smoked and stuffed with pork meat and a number of spices, including cardamom, allspice, and nutmeg.

As per Taste Atlas, butchers used to dye old sausages a vibrant red color to make their customers aware that these meats were available for sale at a discounted price. These sausages didn’t take long to start flying off the shelves.

Today, rød pølses are a popular street food in Denmark. They’re served on top of a hot dog bun with sliced pickles, onions, Danish remoulade, mustard, and ketchup.

While the dying tradition is no longer used to indicate that the meat on sale is close to its expiry, the tradition of dying hot dogs and sausages red did end up making its way to the Northeastern U.S.

What sort of toppings do people have on a red hot dog?

In terms of toppings, nothing really differs when it comes to Maine hot dogs. Most people do prefer to go down the traditional route of having mustard and ketchup on their hot dogs. Grilled onions are popular too.

Of course, we have seen that many establishments like to offer a whole host of unique and exciting toppings, you can certainly enjoy these with your red snapper hot dog as well.

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You’ll find that many locals in Maine serve red snapper hot dogs when they’re having a summer cookout and inviting friends and family around for some good food. All you need is some french fries, potato salad, chips, and a range of ice-cold drinks on the side, and you’re good to go.

Try a traditional Red Snapper hot dog for yourself

So there you have it: an insight into Maine’s famous red snapper.

While the red coloring doesn’t add much flavor, these hot dogs taste amazing, with the delicious snap setting them apart from a regular hot dog in terms of texture too.

If you’ve not had a red hot dog before, now is the time to try one.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>