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I Ate ALDI: Uncured beef hot dogs vs. vegan meatless hot dogs

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Hot dogs are already kind of divisive. While I’m sure there are a large number of people who don’t feel particularly swayed one way or another by hot dogs, the most vocal folks are either rabidly pro-hot dog or vehemently anti-hot dog.

And that’s before you even get into what goes into the hot dog. Me? I’m generally a 100 percent beef kind of guy, but I’ve definitely had pork-beef-chicken blends that’ve done alright by me.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, in the not so distant pass, I was under the impression that the meat itself was of less consequence than the seasoning used in the hot dog. Because that’s what really makes a hot dog, right? That blend of spices used to flavor the meat is so essential.

Over time, my feelings on the makeup of hot dogs has changes and that was reaffirmed in this edition of I Ate ALDI.

Earth Grown Vegan Meatless Jumbo Hot Dogs

First off, let me go on the record and say that I have nothing against veganity, vegetarianism or just cutting back on the amount of meat we eat. I love meat, but I know that it takes a lot more resources to raise animals than we get out of them. So decreasing one’s meat intake, whether slightly or precipitously, is just fine by me.

I say this because I don’t want you to misunderstand this as a hit piece or me exercising some long-held grudge against vegan products. (For more proof, check out this First Looks about S&B’s new and very delicious plant-based menu.)

I went in hopeful and my hopes were dashed almost immediately.

I grilled both the vegan dogs and the beef dogs (see below) in a skillet on a frosty Thursday afternoon, planning to force my children and other family members to participate in the story.

My son was not a fan, but my daughter (possibly because it’s the opposite of her brother) said she preferred the soy dog. So I was pretty eager to give it a shot.

I’d cooked the thing. I’d sliced it. I knew how it differed from a meat-filled hot dog, but I wasn’t prepared this.

The flavor wasn’t bad. It wasn’t. It had less than nothing to do with how a hot dog tastes, but it was pleasant enough.

The texture was the real problem. It had an unnatural squish that somehow was also dry? Like I needed a drink of water to help ease that down the gullet. It was weird and a little off-putting.

Still, the tasting doesn’t stop just because I didn’t like the slice of soy dog. I took another soy dog and put it in a brioche hot dog bun, slathered it with ketchup and mustard and ate it.

Because here’s the thing: Ideally, all of our food tastes as good on its own as it does when paired with condiments and sauces and breads, but if you’re eating soy dogs, there’s a better than average chance you’re planning to eat it in the style and manner of beef dogs.

All dressed up? Not so bad. They’re not going to be my go-to choice for anything, but if that’s what was on the grill and I was hungry, a little mustard and ketchup and I could eat that.

Simply Nature Uncured Beef Hot Dogs

Several years ago, amid one of the peaks of my food snobbery, I decided I wasn’t buying hot dogs that weren’t all beef. I’d fallen hard for Hebrew National’s perfect hot dogs and I wasn’t going back. It’s not that the flavor or texture of blended dogs is wrong, but the all-beef Hebrew National dogs were just right. They embodied everything I want in a hot dog.

That said, I don’t know much about sulfates and sulfides, except that you’re probably not supposed to have a lot of them. So moving to an uncured hot dog, guaranteed to be free of scary-sounding chemicals, seemed like a good choice.

Now, I’d like to try these again in a cookout setting before I render a final judgement, but I thought these were great when prepared in the skillet, even without my patented spiral technique.

The texture was lightly springy as you get through the casing and then you’re met with the savory juiciness of highly seasoned finely ground beef.

As with the soy dog, the fully dressed uncured beef dog had a lot of help from condiments and the bun, with the hot dog seasoning slightly muted by the sweetness of the ketchup and sharp bite of spicy mustard.

Between the two, I would absolutely choose the all-beef dog first. It was just a good, quality hot dog that could be served in a number of ways, depending on your tastes. Whereas the soy dog is basically only good in that one way and no others.  

Want more I Ate ALDI goodness? Here are some previous installments:

Fancy chips and salsa

Hot-smoked salmon

Journey To...flavored potato chips

About the Author

Founder and Eater-in-Chief of I Ate Oklahoma, Greg Elwell has been reviewing restaurants and writing about Oklahoma’s food culture for more than a decade. Where a normal person orders one meal, this guy gets three. He is almost certainly going to die young and those who love him most are fairly ambivalent about it. You can email Greg at greg@iateoklahoma.com.

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