A hot dog is a sandwich

This isn’t even a debate. The criteria for sandwich are pretty simple:

  • Must have bread
  • Must have filling
  • Is almost always eaten out of hand
  • Toppings

Bread is bread. I don’t know too many people who don’t understand what bread is but just to be clear “bread” includes buns, baps, bagels, baguettes, rolls, focaccia, brioche, sourdough, pita, and yes, it includes “hot dog buns”.

A hot dog bun is made the exact same way that you make a “French” roll for a Philly Cheesesteak: water, bread flour, yeast, sugar, milk powder and salt. Ferment that for a few hours, shape it into a log, bake it. A hot dog bun is just a scaled down version of any of the larger “sub” breads. And if you need any more convincing that a hot dog bun is the exact same as any of the main “sandwich” breads, a Lobster Roll (the undisputed king of all sandwiches) is served on… a hot dog bun.

Things that don’t count as bread? Lettuce, rice wrappers, tortillas, and dips for deep frying. Larb gai is delicious but it’s not a sandwich. I love me some spring rolls but they aren’t sandwiches. If you want a Vietnamese sandwich, you take some French bread and add Vietnamese ingredients. A burrito isn’t a sandwich, again, if you want to make a Mexican sandwich (a torta), you take pan telera and put Mexican ingredients in it. This isn’t rocket science, it’s sandwich 101.

This is why a corndog isn’t a sandwich. People like to misdirect others by pointing at the corndog but just because both a hot dog sandwich and a corndog have hot dogs in them doesn’t make them taxonomically the same. A corndog has more in common with tempura; it is a batter dipped, deep fried meat. Is batter bread? NO! This conversation never happens:

Customer: “I’ll have the pastrami sandwich.”
Deli guy: “what cheese?”
Customer: “swiss.”
Deli guy: “ok, what bread?”
Customer: “batter.”
Deli guy: “batter?”
Customer: “yes, take my sandwich innards, batter them, deep fry them, and put the whole shit-show on a stick so I can eat it like a child or a Spurs fan. Make sure the batter is sickly sweet too.”

Bread, it’s simple, it’s a requirement for a sandwich, and a hot dog has bread.

Ok, now the filling. No one has any questions about whether a sandwich needs fillings, right? Two pieces of bread aren’t a sandwich but if you add even one or two other ingredients… bing! You got a sandwich! We even have a term for this: sandwiched. As in something is stuck between two other things. Yet, I feel like this one hangs people up because the hot dog meat is a tube meat and people think less of hot dogs than other more refined meats like pastrami, pulled pork, or bacon. But, there’s a local place called Zocalo which makes a torta that has hot dogs in it and it is my favorite torta.

Now, before you say that a sandwich needs two distinct pieces of bread around the filling (or go full dumb and pretend that the breads need to be flat) I will point you to the following sandwiches which are made from round breads that are sliced open but not fully bisected:

  • Italian sub
  • Meatball sub
  • Philly Cheesesteak
  • Banh Mi
  • Lobster Roll (the king of sandwiches)
  • Falafel
  • Gyro
  • Shawarma
  • Italian beef
  • Jamon beurre
  • Po Boy

So, the bread can just be split open. It doesn’t need to be two slices of bread or a fully split open hoagie roll to be a sandwich. In fact, sometimes you like to have a hanging on bit – like in the meatball sub – which helps keep the whole thing together.

That’s why a hot dog bun is a sandwich bun. You could put other things in there, you know. My kid and I do it all the time. But hey, if you want, you could also take a knife and split the hot dog bun in half.

Now we have a bread, we have a filling, and what’s the third criteria? That said object is eaten out of hand. Again, this is a no-brainer. The Earl of Sandwich invented the sandwich so that he could play poker and eat at the same time. A sandwich, therefore, should be something you can pick up and eat. Do you have to eat a sandwich out of hand? No, you could cut into it with a fork and knife but then you’d be like the guy who eats pizza with a fork and knife.

Even Smørbrød, which are the open-faced sandwiches from Scandinavia and are typically eaten with a fork, can sometimes be picked up. However, Smørbrød does raise some interesting taxonomic problems. In many ways Smørbrød is less of a sandwich than a hotdog because there’s almost no “sandwiching” going on there and they are difficult to eat out of hand. Pizza is closer to a sandwich than Smørbrød. And some smart pizza folks figured out how to make pizza more sandwich-like and called it “Calzone.”

But this post isn’t “Smørbrød is not a sandwich”: we “hot dog is a sandwich” folk try to be more of an inclusive bunch rather than exclusive. We aren’t sandwich fundamentalists. If you want to call your Kentucky Hot Brown a sandwich, that’s just fine. It’s very sandwich-like: it’s like if someone only had one piece of bread left and they still really wanted a sandwich, so they made this one-breaded thing. I can’t fault folks for not having enough bread and still wanting a sandwich, can I?

And before you try to get cute and ask if a Cornish Pasty is a sandwich “because it can be eaten out of hand and has filling” please go back to criteria number one: bread. Is pastry bread? No. It’s pastry or “pie crust”.

I swear, the things I have to explain to people.

So, a hot dog has bread, it’s got filling, I can eat it with one hand which brings me to the daddy of all reasons why a hotdog is a sandwich: toppings.

With very few exceptions, sandwiches need toppings. I know that when people are babies they don’t like any toppings on their sandwich but as you get older, you learn to appreciate a wider variety of flavors and toppings. Even just adding butter (for jamon beurre) or mayo (for cucumber tea) counts in my book, as does adding mustard on a hot dog.

But the beauty of the sandwich is that you can customize it, adding sauces and toppings to your mouth’s content! Maybe you don’t like onions or tomatoes? Leave them off! Or add more if you love them. I love all the toppings: tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, onions, secret sauce, mayo, sauerkraut, pickles, sriracha, jalapenos, cucumbers, hummus, avocado, cheese, and even that mint green relish that you sometimes get for hot dogs. I have a fridge and pantry chock full of toppings which I often experiment with.

And that’s the best thing about the sandwich: you can literally try anything. The other day I was watching the Chef Show with Jon Favreau and chef Roy Choi and chef Choi put lox and a remoulade sauce on a pastrami sandwich. That’s what sandwiching is all about, folks, and that’s why the hot dog is beyond definitively a sandwich.

The hot dog is actually the perfect sandwich because you can (and people do) top it with anything. For a quick reuben-style dog, go with russian dressing, cheese and sauerkraut! The Chicago Dog has peppers, relish, onions, tomatoes, and pickles! Bacon, peanut butter, cream cheese, grilled onions, chili, are all viable toppings for this most versatile of sandwiches. I bet you could do a Banh Mi dog and it would rock.

People who don’t want to accept the hot dog as a sandwich are the kind of people who want to tell you what movies to like, what music is “actually” good, and that Manchester United are “actually” a classy club. They also want to tell you what things you should put on your hot dog. Don’t be like them, enjoy life and eat your hot dog sandwich however you like!



  1. On point, as always! What’s your take on the “Open faced” sandwich? One which is slathered with sauce, or gravy. At that point, it can’t be eaten with the hand – it requires cutlery – and to me that disqualifies it. I am incensed when it’s called a sandwich. It’s not. It might be delicious. It might have bread. It might have toppings. But unless you’re a barbarian, you don’t eat it with your hands.So if it’s not a sandwich, what does one call it?

    1. Interesting question. The “hand-held” and “filling” criteria Tim lists doesn’t seem to work for one of the more iconic American ‘sandwiches’, the “Hot Brown”! I mean, doesn’t a filling have to fill something??? HELP!

  2. I want to put this on billboards, submit this to the OPED section of the NYT. THANK YOU. Sammy all the way

  3. Yeah! You tell all those hot-dog-sandwich deniers! Taxonomy is FACT!

    Also, Tim Aristotle, is bannock bread? I’ve eaten it fried in oil. Or is that batter? Thank you.

      1. OR from “panis” meaning ‘bread’. How do you adjudicate these matters? Also, do you knead your panis? I do. It’s especially important if you want a firm loaf.

  4. And man, this post got me hungry for hot dogs. I prefer mine Chicago style. I was planning on making tuna melts for lunch this Saturday, but may have to opt for hot dogs instead. Or maybe tuna melts for lunch, hot dogs for dinner? These are life’s tough decisions.

  5. Combined fun fact AND pedant’s corner: in North London many people pronounce it “samwich”, my other half for example, and they genuinely can’t hear the difference, and many of them take it quite personally when you finally crack and mock them for saying it wrong their whole life, my other half for example, and this can be taken deeply personally, and become a sore point that both of you remember every time you open a pub lunch menu together and see the word sitting there, mocking you, waiting for someone to clear their throat and attempt to pronounce it, and it becomes such an issue that neither of you make, eat, suggest, order or refer to sandwiches in the presence of the other for the best part of a decade.

  6. This is so important. I’m glad we devoted some time to this, although “some time” is never enough when it comes to serious sandwich discussion. You say a tortilla is NOT a sandwich thing, so does that eliminate all “wraps”? Burritos, enchiladas, etc.?

    You specify a requirement of two “distinct” (i.e. discreet) pieces of bread, so a fold-over of a single piece of bread is not a sandwich, like slathering delicious tandoori or butter chicken on a fresh naan and folding it over to eat?

    I am so hungry now.


    1. I thought I specified that you DON’T need two slices or distinct pieces of bread. There seems to be some confusion on this so I must have miscommunicated

      1. I’m confused. A shawarma is a sandwich but a burrito is not? Why? They’re both wraps, both contain fillings etc for your criteria, what am I missing?

          1. I don’t usually comment on the food articles (I cook only by recipes), but this one made me wonder the same thing as 1nil.

            What about the döner kebabs (and, as a consequence, the shawarma and gyros)? They could be made with sliced-inside flatbread, but the best variant is to enfold the ingredients in those round flatbread that some call “yufka”, but for me is simply a “wrap”.
            Is döner kebab a sandwich? I believe it fulfils the criteria, as I count those wraps as bread, since they are made from flour.

            But then… what about the burritos? Why the flour tortilla is not a “bread”?

      2. Or maybe I just can’t read. I’ve mentioned this before but Bahn Mi Boyz here in Toronto: their 5 spice pork belly Bahn Mi s/w with extra slaw and Vietnamese orange hot peppers? SPECTACULAR.

  7. I think ‘open sandwiches’ are within the bounds of acceptance (especially as I now live in Denmark!).

    But I’ve not seen them slathered in sauce here – they’re just stuff on a piece of bread, that can be picked up in one hand.

    And by”stuff” I mean mainly fish and dill as far as I can tell.

    But dear lord don’t mention “karry” as that is a *whole* blog in itself.


  8. Sandwich trivia! Who can forget the immortal words of Bell Biv DeVoe: “She was sticking closer to you than the bread on the meat of my sandwich.” Brilliant!

  9. “…eat it like a child or a Spurs fan. ”
    I take offense to this statement, as someone who both was once a child and has children. Please, don’t compare our precious children to Sp*rs fans! Lol

  10. btw, is Julian Draxler a real person, or someone invented solely for the purposes of transfer speculation?

  11. People who don’t want to accept the hot dog as a sandwich are the kind of people who

    want to tell you what movies to like,

    Alas, movies (or rather what we Brits call films) are so diverse that telling people what to like isn’t at all helpful.

    what music is “actually” good,

    There’s so much ‘good’ music it’s hard to know where to start. But sometimes it’s about the power of suggestion, not necessarily what one considers good.

    and that Manchester United are “actually” a classy club.

    Ha ha ha ha ha hahahaha ha ha ha haha ha

    They also want to tell you what things you should put on your hot dog.

    It’s your stomach … but can I have mine with just mustard and onions.

    But it’s good to be reminded that my (now previously) small-world view that a sandwich has to be made with two slices of bread isn’t a definitive position to make a stand. More power to sandwiches. Many thanks to the 4th Earl for giving it a name, and to Tim for broadening my outlook and setting me straight.

  12. Ooops. Apologies for the rather large quoted text in my previous post. Sorry everybody. Now …. as you were …

  13. So many interesting things to read about here! I didn’t even know that it was a debate, I’ve always thought that hot dogs WERE sandwiches. Anyway, my favourite part of this post is the number of food I get to google and look up, drooling over! By the way, I never knew that it was called a Cornish Pasty. Based on what I saw on Google, people here would just usually call it a Puff, like Curry Puff (unless, of course, they’re different and I couldn’t tell the difference).

  14. Don’t like having to double post, but I just thought of a question: Are burgers, then, considered sandwiches? AFAIK, burgers aren’t traditionally thought of as sandwiches, but they fit the description, and if I think about it (never really thought about it until now), burgers should be sandwiches.

    1. I believe a hamburger (beefburger in England) is a sandwich. We often get messed up by the common name of something. For example, the American Robin (the bird). We think of it as a “robin” as if that’s a category but it’s actually a thrush. And the Blue Whistling-thrush, which was misnamed because of a visual similarity is actually an old world flycatcher.

      I’m convinced that’s a big reason why people don’t think of hot dogs and hamburgers as sandwiches but they are.

  15. So to join the party does that not mean that either kebabs or hamburgers are not sandwiches also? Just asking

  16. What I usually eat for breakfast involves one slice of bread, butter, slice of ham, slice of cheese, maybe some tomato or pepper. And I dare to call that a sandwitch, even though it is not covered on top. LAgunner mentioned “open faced” sandwich, which sounds like the same thing, but I don’t understand why not eating it with hand. Of course you can and you should eat it with hands. It’s like a toast, just the slice of bread is not baked. Toasts are sandwiches, right?

  17. I can see you’ve put a lot of thought into this issue and while I agree with you that a hot dog is a sandwich your reasoning requires some correction. The criteria for sandwich is not bread + filling + toppings + handheld, you still run into problems like a pita or gyro, which are of course also sandwiches but you will continue to run into more and more ambiguities using that criteria which I guarantee you and others in the chat can come up with if you put your minds to it. The true criteria for a sandwich is simply a food that employs an edible conveyance used with your hands. The reason a corn dog is not a sandwich is not because of the batter, it’s because of the stick, the stick is not edible. What about cocktail weenies baked into dough? It even meets your criteria; a filling enveloped in bread and eaten with your hands, it bears a strong resemblance to a corn dog otherwise. Most of the items you deny the title of sandwich are for reasons just as silly as denying that a hot dog is a sandwich. Why would I deny a learn wrap the title of sandwich simply because I’ve replaced the bread with lettuce??? A taco is a sandwich, pizza is an open faced sandwich an ice cream cone is an open faced sandwich. In fact the true problem of the sandwich is not one of bread, or fillings or the order of their use or any of that but rather it’s a linguistic problem or etymological problem. Which came first tacos or sandwiches? Maybe all sandwiches are tacos? Or maybe all sandwiches are pizzas or gyros or flatbreads??

      1. So burritos aren’t sandwiches because yeast was not used? What about gluten-free “bread”?

  18. If a “sandwich” is a “thing I no longer eat because it requires hands to be too close to one’s face” then yes, a hot dog is a sandwich.
    And no, an “open faced sandwich” isn’t a thing. It’s just slop on a piece of bread, you animals.

  19. When I moved to Cali it took me ages to get used to the question “meal or just the sandwich” – it’s not a bloody sandwich, its a burger. Gyro = kebab = not a bloody sandwich. Hot Dog = Hot Dog – the furthest item one could possibly find to a sandwich. Two pieces of white bread with the crusts removed, filled with fresh cucumber and cut into quarters = sandwich. There you go my American chums, fixed it.

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