hot dog with french fries on red check table clothes


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For me, a major part of summer includes weekends spent grilling burgers and hot dogs with family and friends. But let’s face it: Those food choices aren’t particularly healthy for you. I don’t want to give up my favorite warm weather tradition, but I wanted to try and make better choices this season. I discovered Upton’s Naturals Updog Vegan Hot Dog, a plant-based hot dog. They’re described as “the perfect addition to your summer cookout,” and supposedly have a palatable snap to them. What did I have to lose? 

vegan hot dogPhoto credit: Jennifer Magid

With 20 grams of protein in each serving, this vegan hot dog has much more protein than my usual hot dog go-to brand, Hebrew National, which only has 6 grams. There’s also a whopping 12 grams of fat in a Hebrew National hot dog, while Upton's has 7 grams. Suddenly, I was questioning every weekly summer meal I’ve had for years — could I have been doing it better?

What Ingredients Are Used in Upton’s Naturals Updog Plant-Based Hot Dogs?

This dog is indeed meat-free. The ingredients include vital wheat gluten, as well as apple cider vinegar, paprika, onion, garlic, ground mustard, konjac, and ground celery seed. This is all wrapped up in an algae casing. No, I’m not kidding. I’m not gluten-free, so this hot dog isn’t a problem, but it’s a definite no-go for many. And considering many people who eat vegan often eat gluten-free (based on my experience), I was surprised gluten was such a prominent ingredient.

hot dogsPhoto credit: Jennifer Magid

Are the Upton's Naturals Vegan Hot Dogs Any Good?

The directions say not to boil or microwave these hot dogs, or they’ll lose their “signature snap.” The best way to cook them is on the grill or stovetop for five to six minutes; I opted to cook them on the stove. There was no “hot-doggy” smell to them — in fact, they seemed to have no smell, which was surprising given the spice-laden ingredient list. 

The big reveal was the taste. I tried it with a bun and mustard, and the consensus was ... bleh. Yes, the hot dog had a definite snap to it,  but the texture was still sort of oddly mushy. I tasted hints of spiciness, but there wasn’t much of a flavor at all. I guess it’s good that you can add all the seasonings and sauces you want to improve the flavor, but the hot dog itself is underwhelming.

hot dog in bunPhoto credit: Jennifer Magid

Would I Buy These Vegan Hot Dogs Again?

I tried to pull one over on my kids by presenting the hot dogs in buns, but they immediately were not fooled — Upton's Natural vegan dogs simply look like what they are, which is a fake hot dog. In fact, the kids wouldn’t event taste them. And when a kid won’t eat a hot dog, you know there’s a problem. I ended up trashing them because no one would eat them. So despite my attempts at a better-for-you summer barbecue, it looks like these Upton's Naturals won’t be the solution. 

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