6 Best Healthy Hot Dogs

Whether you’re on Team Ketchup or Team Mustard, hot dogs can be part of a healthy diet. Check out our picks for six healthier hot dogs, including veggie hot dogs and beef hot dogs.

hot dog packages on a designed background
Photo: courtesy of merchants

From backyard barbecues to concession stands at ball games, hot dogs are a popular mainstay on menus, and it's easy to understand why. They're juicy, flavorful and easily customized with toppings ranging from ketchup and mustard to chili and cheese. While hot dogs are delicious, they aren't the healthiest pick around.

Hot dogs are a type of processed meat, a category of foods that are known carcinogens, according to the American Cancer Society. Processed meats like hot dogs, sausage, ham and cured bacon are high in sodium, which when eaten in excess can lead to headaches, bloating and an increased risk of stomach cancer and dementia. Another concern with hot dogs are their high levels of saturated fat. Limiting saturated fat is important for heart health, as too much can lead to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends foods that are high in saturated fat and sodium "should be occasional choices—consumed in small portions." So while the occasional hot dog at a backyard barbecue is OK, it might not be the best thing to have as a staple in your weekly meal plan.

Although hot dogs aren't the most nutritious option, they can still be part of a healthy diet in moderation. "A great-tasting hot dog doesn't have to break the bank in terms of sodium, saturated fat and calories," says Jessica Ball, M.S. RD, nutrition editor at EatingWell. "For this taste test, we focused on products that had no more than 430 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of saturated fat and 150 calories per serving. This left us with hot dogs that are special-occasion worthy while still fitting into a healthy eating pattern."

To help you find a healthier hot dog, we conducted a blind taste test with more than 15 products that met our nutrition parameters, including veggie, beef, poultry and more. We tried each hot dog as the package instructed and made notes about the taste, texture and appearance. Our winner? Sabrett Skinless Beef Frankfurters were the best-tasting hot dogs around. Read on for our full list of the top dogs.

Our Product Recommendations

01 of 06

Best Overall: Sabrett Skinless Beef Frankfurters

Sabrett skinless beef frankfurters on designed background

If you're looking for a juicy, flavorful hot dog, look no further than Sabrett's Skinless Beef Frankfurters. This hot dog was a clear favorite for the majority of our testers, and it delivered on appearance and taste. The hot dog got solid markings from the grill, which made it stand out visually. Plus, it also released easily from the grates when cooking, which wasn't the case for all of the ones tested. (In general, poultry and veggie dogs tend to be naturally lower in fat, which caused them to stick to the grill.)

Flavorwise, the hot dog was the perfect balance of sweet and smoky. The smoky notes come from hickory smoke flavor and paprika, which stood out clearly alongside the garlic powder. One tester called the flavor "really yummy" while another said it "tasted like a classic hot dog" and that they would buy it. With praise like that, it's easy to see why this wiener stood out as the best overall hot dog.

Nutrition info for Sabrett Skinless Beef Frankfurters, per 1-frank serving

150 calories, 14 g total fat (5 g saturated fat), 30 mg cholesterol, 410 mg sodium, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 6 g protein

02 of 06

Best Veggie Hot Dog: Lightlife Smart Dogs

lightlife smart dogs on designed background

Made from soy, the Lightlife Smart Dogs stood out in many ways. First, its color seemed the most natural and appetizing, with one tester comparing it to the coloring of a traditional beef hot dog. This distinction was especially important after seeing other veggie dogs that had an unattractive brown hue. (Lightlife's veggie dogs are made with red rice flour and oleoresin paprika for coloring.)

Aside from appearance, this veggie hot dog also stood out in taste and texture. While the savory flavor was mild, one difference maker in this hot dog was the sodium. Our tester said, "I like that it's not too salty," a key callout in a product that's traditionally known for being high in sodium. In a plant-based substitute, texture is also important, as it's often hard to replicate a meaty texture. Our testers found that the mouthfeel of the Lightlife product was similar to that of a beef hot dog and called it "nice," a phrase not bestowed on the other veggie dogs, which were called "gummy" and "really weird." So whether you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, or are just looking to add a little plant-based protein to your plate, you'll be satisfied with the Lightlife Smart Dogs.

Nutrition info for Lightlife Smart Dogs, per 1-link serving

60 calories, 2 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 350 mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 8 g protein

03 of 06

Best Beef Hot Dog: Hebrew National All Natural Uncured Beef Franks

hebrew national hot dog package on designed background
Hebrew National

While we found Sabrett to be the overall winner, the Hebrew National All Natural Uncured Beef Franks were another one of our favorites. Compared to the Sabrett franks, which were skinless, this beef hot dog had a casing, which added a textural element. After being grilled, the casing had a nice snap when bitten into, something our testers highlighted during the tasting. It also released easily from the grill, compared to the poultry and veggie dogs that stuck, and had good marks, which added to its appetizing appearance.

This hot dog was also juicy and flavorful, although some testers found the celery salt to be a little heavy-handed. However, that stronger flavor didn't deter some testers from calling it a "nice classic dog flavor" and others from saying they would buy it.

Nutrition info for Hebrew National All Natural Uncured Beef Franks, per 1-frank serving

140 calories, 12 g total fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 30 mg cholesterol, 430 mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 6 g protein

04 of 06

Best Poultry Hot Dog: Ball Park White Meat Smoked Turkey Franks

Ball Park Smoked Turkey Franks on a designed background
Ball Park

If you're a fan of smoked meat, you'll love the Ball Park White Meat Smoked Turkey Franks. The smokiness of the white-meat turkey hot dog comes through clearly, and was a major highlight for one tester. The tester easily identified that the product was smoked turkey, something they "find delicious." That sentiment was echoed across the board by other testers who thought the poultry flavor was savory and good.

Another major win for this smoked turkey frank was its exterior appearance. Our testers noted that the hot dog had good grill marks and color. The only downside to this hot dog was its casing. While it won points for being easy to eat, especially compared to other poultry dogs that had a chewy, thick casing, it didn't provide the same textural snap that you might find in a beef hot dog that some of our testers were craving.

Nutrition info for Ball Park White Meat Smoked Turkey Franks, per 1-frank serving

45 calories, 0 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 15 mg cholesterol, 430 mg sodium, 5 g carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 6 g protein

05 of 06

Best Poultry Hot Dog: Jennie-O Turkey Franks

jennie-o turkey franks on designed background

From its delicious flavor to its appetizing look, the Jennie-O Turkey Franks were another favorite in the poultry hot dog category. While the Ball Park franks stood out for their smoked turkey flavor, the Jennie-O franks were called out for tasting like roast turkey. One tester noted that the "herbal flavors are really strong," although it's unclear what those flavors are when reading the packaging. In terms of appearance, this turkey dog looked most like a typical beef hot dog and had a redder shade than others in the category.

While the packaging recommends cooking these franks on the stovetop in boiling water, our testers also tried a grilled frank, which came out as the clear winner. (Note: While we prepared all hot dogs according to package directions, we also chose to grill them as a second option because it is a popular way for consumers to prep them. As a result, two versions of this product were tested.) Our testers found that the grilled version had a better texture compared to the boiled version, which felt rubbery. If you opt for these savory turkey hot dogs, we suggest grilling them over medium heat until browned.

Nutrition info for Jennie-O Turkey Franks, per 1-frank serving

70 calories, 6 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 25 mg cholesterol, 380 mg sodium, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 4 g protein

06 of 06

Best Combination Hot Dog: Applegate Naturals Stadium Beef & Pork Hot Dog

applegate natural stadium uncured beef & pork hotdog on designed background

If you're struggling to choose between a pork hot dog and a beef hot dog, skip the hassle and go for the Applegate Naturals Stadium Beef & Pork Hot Dog, which features a combination of beef and pork. Our testers' favorite thing about this hot dog was its casing. The lamb casing had a nice snap, adding a textural element to the savory frank, and testers thought it led to a good bite.

Another highlight of this hot dog was its savory flavor and seasoning. One tester thought this hot dog was "appropriately seasoned," and was particularly excited about tasting it after trying multiple others that were bland. Applegate uses a mix of seasonings like paprika, garlic, onion and celery powder to add spice to their hot dog. The same tester also noted that they would buy this product for themselves.

Nutrition info for Applegate Naturals Stadium Beef & Pork Hot Dog, per 1-hot dog serving

110 calories, 9 g total fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 30 mg cholesterol, 360 mg sodium, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 7 g protein


If you're looking for a delicious, juicy hot dog, Sabrett Skinless Beef Frankfurters are a fantastic choice. Or, if you're looking for a hot dog that will please meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, Lightlife's Smart Dogs are a great option.

The Test

hot dog packages and hot dogs on grill
Alex Loh

To narrow the field, we researched and read the labels of more than 60 products, and selected the ones that fit the following nutrition requirements: ≤150 calories, ≤5 g saturated fat and ≤430 mg sodium. We also looked for a range of products, including veggie hot dogs, beef hot dogs, poultry hot dogs and combination hot dogs. For the taste test, a blind tasting was set up with four testers. Each hot dog was prepared according to the package directions. If directions were not provided on the package or company website, we opted to grill the hot dog, as grilling is a popular method for cooking hot dogs. If the hot dog specified cooking on the stove, we also tasted it grilled. As a result, a few hot dogs were tested twice, once with a boiled version and once with a grilled version. We took notes regarding the taste, texture and appearance of each product.

Nutrition Parameters

Conventional hot dogs are a processed meat product, which the World Health Organization officially classified as a carcinogen in 2015. Most hot dogs contain nitrates, a compound used in the curing process. When nitrates combine with protein, they form nitrosamines, a compound that has been linked to increased risk of certain cancers. Nitrates are part of the curing process, so they're impossible to avoid with typical meat-based hot dogs. If you see a package labeled "uncured," that doesn't mean it's nitrate-free, but rather that natural nitrates like celery or beet juice were used instead of sodium nitrite. Natural nitrates can still lead to nitrosamines, so neither is better than the other.

Due to their high sodium and saturated fat content, hot dogs should be enjoyed on a once-in-a-while basis. To help keep sodium and saturated fat intake in check, we set nutrition parameters after analyzing the numbers on products in the category. Each hot dog met the following criteria: ≤150 calories, ≤5 g saturated fat and ≤430 mg sodium. By capping sodium at ≤430 mg, you'll have room for a bun (around 220 mg) and toppings like mustard (198 mg per Tbsp.) without going too high on sodium.

Our Expertise

Alex Loh is the associate food editor at EatingWell. She is passionate about food and cooking, and has over two years of experience with the brand. She has written more than 15 product guides and has tested hundreds of products, including salad spinners, chef's knives and protein powders. For this article, she consulted with a registered dietitian and nutrition editor at EatingWell, Jessica Ball, M.S., RD, for her insights about nutrition. The testers included a registered dietitian and food editors. Initial research for this piece was conducted by Joyce Hendley, M.S.

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