Chicago "Red Hot" Poppy Seed Buns

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Yield: 10 buns

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The Midwest has a number of culinary traditions, and when I lived in Chicago I discovered a few of them. One of the biggest surprises was hot dogs. People in Chicago are very, very serious about hot dogs. The number of toppings and the specific sequence of layering on the dog of your choice were practically mind-boggling.

First of all, there was the Chicago Red Hot, "dragged through the garden." This meant a Vienna Beef Frank, topped with (in order, please) yellow mustard; sweet green pickle relish; chopped onion; chopped fresh tomato or tomato wedges; a kosher dill pickle spear; "sport" peppers (tiny pickled hot green peppers); and celery salt. This is the dog you'll find at Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs.

Other vendors strayed off the trail somewhat, but in general a Chicago hot dog may have onions, sauerkraut, hot peppers, mustard, and the brightest neon green relish you've ever seen riding on top. Sometimes chili, sometimes cheese. Ketchup? Well, all right, if you really must; people in Chicago are way too polite to scoff at you, but you will have branded yourself a non-native at the least. And a potential sissy at worst.

Needless to say, the carrier for this megalopolis had to be substantial: no undersized, spongy supermarket dog buns for this creation, no sir! In the Windy City you'll find a big, chewy poppy seed bun that has enough oomph to support the skyscraper constructions that Chicago natives depend on for a quick lunch. Here's our version. — Susan Reid, Baking Sheet editor.

Once you've made the buns, be sure to read our blog on creating a Chicago-style hot dog.

Chicago "Red Hot" Poppy Seed Buns

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Hands-on time:
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Yield: 10 buns
Published: 05/31/2012



  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 3 tablespoons King Arthur Easy-Roll Dough Improver or Baker's Special Dry Milk; optional, but helpful for shaping buns
  • 4 tablespoons butter OR 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 large egg yolk, white reserved for topping


  • 1 large egg white, reserved from the dough
  • 2 teaspoons cold water
  • poppy seeds

Tips from our bakers

  • Can you substitute another type of seeds for poppy seeds? Or leave the seeds off entirely? Of course; you just won't have an authentic Chicago hotdog bun.
  • Can you make these buns with whole wheat flour? It'll change their texture and flavor, but sure. Start by substituting 2/3 cup whole wheat flour for 2/3 cup of the all-purpose flour. If you like the result, substitute a greater amount of whole wheat next time.


see this recipe's blog »

1) Combine all of the dough ingredients, and mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine set on the dough cycle — until the dough is smooth and satiny.

2) Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it's doubled, about 90 minutes to 2 hours.

3) Divide the dough into 10 pieces; if you have a scale, they'll weigh about 72g each. Shape each piece into a rough 3" log, and let the logs rest, covered, for about 10 minutes.

4) Working with one piece of dough at a time, flatten it, and fold it in half lengthwise, sealing the seam. Repeat: flatten, fold, and seal. By this time the log will have elongated a bit; flatten it one more time, making a 6" oval that's as even as you can get it.

5) Lay the bun on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, laying the buns about 3/4" from one another, for soft-sided buns; or farther apart for buns with crust all around.

6) Cover the buns lightly with greased plastic wrap, and let them rise until they're noticeably puffy but not doubled, about 1 hour. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

7) Mix the reserved egg white with 2 teaspoons cold water, and brush the mixture over the top of the risen buns. Sprinkle heavily with poppy seeds.

8) Bake the buns for about 18 minutes, until they're golden brown. They may seem slightly "damp." That's OK; that means they'll stay nice and soft as they cool.

9) Remove the buns from the oven, and place them on a rack to cool. To serve, split lengthwise, add grilled hotdogs, and the condiments mentioned in the recipe's introduction.

Yield: 10 buns.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XIII, No. 5, Summer 2002 issue.


  • star rating 08/23/2013
  • mary-beth from KAF Community
  • These are awesome. They look just like the picture and taste great! I made the dough in my bread machine and then followed directions starting at 3). Can't wait to enjoy them with grilled brats and homemade Krazy Kraut.
  • 01/08/2013
  • dmitch from
  • Looking for a good roll for meatball sandwich. Would this be hearty enough for a good meatball sandwich?
    Yes, this recipe should prove to be sturdy enough for a fabulous meatball sandwich. Enjoy! Elisabeth
  • star rating 07/05/2012
  • cynthia20932 from KAF Community
  • The hot dog buns were so good. I was surprised at how well your shaping technique worked too. Thank you for the recipe - it was fun for the family to assemble the hot dogs, and more fun to eat them!
  • star rating 07/01/2012
  • MunchkinsMommy from Waukesha, WI
  • I followed the recipe exactly and they did not turn out. They were flat and heavy and deflated when I applied the egg wash. Not sure what I did wrong but they look so good in the picture I'm gonna have to try again. Anyone got any ideas or tips on what I need to do to get these to turn out?
    It sounds as if you may have allowed the dough to rise too long in the second rise. Next time, shaving off 10 minutes from the rising time can make all the difference! If you have further questions, please contact one of our bakers at 1-800-827-6836. Elisabeth
  • star rating 06/29/2012
  • whostetler from KAF Community
  • These buns are terrific! They are easy to make, flavorful, light in texture, and looked beautiful. I made them without the seeds and used them to make pepper steak sandwiches. They were a huge hit, and my family wants me to make them again. Thank you for this recipe!
  • star rating 06/25/2012
  • SandyMF from KAF Community
  • Wonderful recipe, but (imho) a step or a sidenote was left out. A factor in putting together a great Chicago Dog is using a steamed bun. It just isn't the same "Dog" without the steamed poppy seed bun. It's a must!
  • star rating 06/25/2012
  • from
  • I would like to make these this weekend, but will not be able to get the special dry milk in time. Would adding regular dry milk powder (i.e. grocery store variety) be of some help or should I just omit this optional ingredient?
    You may use the grocery store variety. Enjoy! Elisabeth
  • star rating 06/25/2012
  • chuckl13537 from KAF Community
  • In your "construction details" for the Chicago Hot Dog, you forgot to mention that the "acceptable" relish was only the Vienna Company, neon green,"glow-in-the-dark" relish. I have never seen it outside of the Chicaoge Metro area.
  • star rating 06/07/2011
  • tkhelmer from KAF Community
  • Soft and fluffy, but with some chew. Great for a hot dog. I'll definitely make these again! They freeze well.
  • star rating 02/05/2009
  • Kathi from Hilton Head Island
  • These are just what I have been looking for. Soft and chewy. I prepared quarter ounce rolls for little cocktail wienier chili cheese dogs. They are wonderful. Better than Chicago's Rosen's buns!:)
    What a great appetizer idea! Irene at KAF

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