17 Things to Know About Costco Hot Dogs
Costco hot dogs are one of the company’s most beloved food court menu items. The hot dog and soda combo includes a ¼ lb hot dog and a 20 oz cup of soda that has famously cost $1.50 ever since it was introduced in the 1980s.
In the past, Costco has made headlines for its intense commitment to maintaining that price tag, even at the cost of its profit margins.
In this article, we put together 17 facts you should know about Costco’s famous hot dogs!
1. Costco Hot Dogs Are Made From 100% Beef
You’ve probably heard horror stories about mysterious meat byproducts being mashed up and extruded into hot dogs.
You may even have worried that Costco hot dogs’ famously low price means that the company skimps on quality meat.
Rest assured, Costco hot dogs are made using 100% beef!
The Costco food court hot dogs are made using Kirkland Signature Beef Hot Dogs, which you can also buy at Costco.
They contain no other meat or meat byproducts except for beef.
The other ingredients in a Costco hot dog include water, salt, spices, and garlic. They also contain:
- dextrose – a sweetener made from corn or wheat starch
- sodium lactate – a type of salt that helps regulate acidity
- sodium diacetate – a seasoning that also has preservative properties
- sodium erythorbate – helps give the hot dog its color
- sodium nitrite – helps cure the hot dog
In addition, Costco hot dogs are made without unnecessary additives used in other hot dog brands, like phosphates, fillers, corn syrup, artificial coloring, and artificial flavoring.
The only exception to Costco’s 100% beef hot dog policy is in Japanese Costco food courts.
In Japan, Costco hot dogs are made from 100% pork to reflect cultural preferences and tastes.
2. Costco Hot Dogs Are Boiled
The Costco food court prepares its hot dogs by boiling them.
Several Reddit users who work in Costco food courts have disclosed the method Costco uses to prepare their hot dogs.
Kirkland Signature Beef Hot Dogs are placed in a pot of near-boiling water (about 180°F) for about 15 minutes until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F.
The boiled hot dogs are held for up to an hour (never longer) before getting served to customers, nestled in a steamed bun!
3. Costco Hot Dogs Are Dairy-Free
Costco hot dogs do not contain dairy.
The ingredients found in Costco hot dogs include:
- Sodium Lactate
- Sodium Diacetate
- Sodium Erythorbate
- Sodium Nitrite
Because dairy is a Big 8 Allergen, processed food manufacturers must disclose the presence of dairy in all of their products.
The packaging for Kirkland Signature Beef Hot Dogs, which are the same hot dogs used in the Costco food court, does not contain any warnings about the presence of dairy in the ingredients section.
4. Costco Hot Dogs Are Gluten-Free
Costco hot dogs are gluten-free. However, Costco’s hot dog buns do contain gluten.
So, if you have gluten sensitivity or intolerance, be sure to order your hot dog without a bun!
Also, if you are particularly sensitive to gluten, be careful of gluten cross-contamination.
Although Costco hot dogs are gluten-free, many of the other items served in the Costco food court, like pizza, chicken bakes, and churros, contain gluten.
Your hot dog may inadvertently come into contact with gluten because it was prepared in a shared environment.
So, if you have severe gluten insensitivity or allergy, proceed with caution!
5. A Costco Hot Dog is 580 Calories
A plain Costco hot dog and bun is 580 calories.
If you like to dress your hot dog with condiments, you’ll add a few calories to that baseline of 580 calories.
One tablespoon of ketchup is about 15 calories, one tablespoon of mustard is about 3 calories, and one tablespoon of relish is about 20 calories.
When you order a hot dog from the Costco food court, you also get a 20-ounce cup of soda.
Depending on which kind of soda you get, you’ll add anywhere between 0 and 270 additional calories.
6. The Costco Hot Dog Combo Still Costs $1.50
Costco’s hot dog combo comes with a ¼ lb hot dog and a 20 oz cup of soda and costs only $1.50.
You even get a free refill on your soda if you manage to drink all 20 oz, so really, you’re paying $1.50 for a hot dog and up to 40 oz of soda!
You can choose from various Pepsi products for your soda, including Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Sierra Mist, Tropicana lemonade, and Brisk iced tea.
The Costco hot dog combo has cost $1.50 since 1985, when the Costco food court first opened.
Costco has famously gone to drastic measures to maintain the price of the hot dog combo, including eating profits on hot dog sales and opening their own hot dog factory to cut costs.
7. Costco Loses Money From Their Hot Dog Combos
You may wonder how Costco makes a profit on its ridiculously affordable hot dog and soda combo. The truth is, they don’t!
Even after implementing several cost-cutting measures, like switching from Coke to Pepsi products in the hot dog combo and opening their own hot dog factory, Costco still loses money on every hot dog combo they sell.
Costco sells over 150 million hot dog combos each year, and as you can imagine, that’s quite a big loss for the company overall.
This may seem like an unsustainable business model, but in theory, taking a loss on the Costco hot dog combo actually turns into profits for Costco later on.
The Costco hot dog combo is an infamous part of Costco’s brand and attracts millions of shoppers to the warehouse each year.
While they’re enjoying their $1.50 hot dog and soda in Costco, these shoppers might be tempted to take a spin through the warehouse aisles.
Often, they walk away having purchased hundreds of dollars in groceries and household supplies or even having dropped thousands of dollars on a big-ticket item like a patio grill or a flat-screen TV.
This way, even though Costco has taken a loss on the hot dog and soda, they’ve more than made up for that loss with the sales of other products.
8. Costco Stopped Using Hebrew National Hot Dogs in 2008
In 2009, Costco opened its own hot dog factory in Tracy, California, allowing the company to cut out the hot dog middleman and save money on hot dog manufacturing.
If you’re a long-time Costco hot dog combo fan, you may remember that Costco used to sell Hebrew National hot dogs in its food courts over ten years ago.
Costco’s relationship with Hebrew National stretches back to 1984, when a Hebrew National hot dog cart set up shop outside a Costco warehouse in San Diego, CA, selling hot dogs to shoppers.
For decades, Costco’s food court sold Hebrew National hot dogs.
However, in 2008, Costco began to pursue the possibility of manufacturing their own Kirkland brand hot dogs as the price of sourcing kosher hot dogs from other manufacturers began to rise.
The rising prices threatened to increase the $1.50 price tag of the Costco hot dog and soda combo, so they needed to find a way to cut costs.
In 2009, Costco began manufacturing and selling Kirkland Signature Beef Hot Dogs, made in their own hot dog factory in Tracy, California.
These Kirkland brand hot dogs are available to buy in bulk at Costco warehouses and are the hot dogs used in Costco food courts.
A few years later, Costco opened a second hot dog factory in Chicago, Illinois, to keep up with demand.
9. Costco’s Co-Founder Once Threatened to Kill Costco’s CEO Over the Hot Dog Combo
During a keynote speech at the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce Luncheon in 2018, Costco CEO W. Craig Jelinek recalled the day that he suggested raising the price of the hot dog combo.
“I came to (Jim Sinegal) once, and I said, ‘Jim, we can’t sell this hot dog for a buck fifty. We are losing our rear ends.’
And he said, ‘If you raise the effing hot dog, I will kill you. Figure it out.’
That’s all I really needed. By the way, if you raised (the price) to $1.75, it would not be that big of a deal. People would still buy (it). But it’s the mindset that when you think of Costco, you think of the $1.50 hot dog (and soda).”
This quote went viral on social media, where users reacted with shock and bemusement over Jim Sinegal’s reaction to the suggestion of raising the price of the hot dog combo.
However, when you think about it, there is a kind of logic to Jim Sinegal’s insistence on keeping the hot dog combo priced at $1.50, even if his death threat was a little over the top.
The $1.50 hot dog and soda combo is an integral part of Costco’s brand and one of the most instantly recognizable items they offer.
The hot dog combo’s low, continually unchanged price instills trust in Costco shoppers, assuring them that the company is committed to offering high-quality products at low prices.
As W. Craig Jelinek said, if the hot dog combo suddenly became $1.75, people would still buy it, but a key part of the Costco brand would be disrupted, and the trust between the company and its shoppers would also erode.
If you’re a fan of the Costco $1.50 hot dog and soda combo, you can rest easy knowing that the price will likely never change!
10. Costco Hot Dogs Have Gotten Bigger Over the Years
Although Costco hot dogs are advertised as being ¼ lb, they are slightly larger.
When Costco first began its partnership with Hebrew National in 1984, it sold ¼ lb hot dogs and 12 oz sodas for $1.50.
In the years since, both the hot dogs and the sodas in the Costco hot dog combo have gotten larger.
Kirkland Signature Beef Hot Dogs weigh about 4.4 oz, making them about 10% larger than the original ¼ lb Hebrew National hot dogs.
The soda size in the Costco hot dog combo has also gotten considerably larger since 1985.
Originally, the Costco hot dog combo was a ¼ lb hot dog and a 12 oz soda. Now, the combo includes a 20 oz soda plus a free refill.
If you cash in on your free refill, you get a whopping 40 oz of soda, over three times the amount of soda you would have gotten in 1985.
11. Costco’s Hot Dogs Are So Good!
Why are Costco hot dogs so good? The answer lies in their ingredients, size, and preparation!
As mentioned earlier, Costco manufactures its own Kirkland brand hot dogs, which are free of phosphates, fillers, corn syrup, artificial coloring, and artificial flavoring, unlike other major brands.
Costco’s hot dogs are also made with 100% beef, ensuring that your hot dog combo is of superior quality.
Like many other Costco food court items, Costco hot dogs are huge.
They’re about 10% larger than other hot dog brands’ ¼ lb hot dogs, giving you even more delicious bang for your buck!
Costco’s hot dogs are always served fresh within an hour of being boiled to the perfect temperature.
They’re also served nestled in a freshly-steamed bun, creating the ideal texture.
Finally, Costco offers a variety of delicious free condiments, including ketchup, mustard, and relish.
At times, the food court also offered sauerkraut and diced onions, but these condiments were removed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they have not returned yet.
12. You Can Buy Costco Hot Dogs in Bulk
Costco’s food court hot dogs are the same as the Kirkland brand hot dogs that they sell in their warehouses.
If you’re looking for Costco hot dogs at your local warehouse, enter your zip code into the warehouse finder, and search ‘Kirkland Signature Beef Hot Dogs’ into the search bar.
Here, you’ll be able to find out if your local Costco has hot dogs in stock.
Kirkland Signature Beef Hot Dogs are sold in 3-packs, with each package containing 12 hot dogs, for a total of 36 hot dogs per pack.
Depending on where you buy them, they may also be packaged as “Kirkland Signature Beef Dinner Franks.’
However, no matter the product name, the actual hot dogs are the same.
13. Costco Only Sells One Kind of Hot Dog
In previous years, Costco used to sell Polish sausage in addition to the 100% beef hot dog. However, the Polish sausage has now been discontinued.
The Polish sausage was very similar to the 100% beef hot dog, but it also contained pork and additional spices.
It was Costco’s version of kielbasa, a traditional sausage from Poland.
In 2018, Costco decided to discontinue the Polish sausage, explaining that they wanted to streamline their menu and offer healthier choices.
The Polish sausage is dearly missed, and its loss has inspired a Change.org petition and several social media accounts dedicated to trying to convince Costco to bring it back.
14. You Cannot Get Costco Hot Dogs Delivered
Costco does not offer online ordering or delivery for any food court items, including the hot dog combo.
The only way to get a Costco hot dog combo is to visit your local Costco warehouse and order it in person at the Costco food court.
However, if you’re willing to undertake a workaround, it may be possible to get your hot dog combo delivered using a third party.
This has to happen unofficially because you cannot add Costco food court items to your cart on the Instacart website or app.
In the additional notes section, you can politely ask your Instacart shopper if they’re willing to visit the food court and buy you a hot dog combo (or another food court item).
However, not all Instacart shoppers are willing to do this, and if you happen to be paired with a shopper who will, be sure to tip them extra for being so accommodating!
15. Costco’s Hot Dog is Healthier Than Its Pizza
Although neither hot dogs nor pizza are paragons of health, Costco’s hot dog is a slightly healthier option than its pizza.
Costco hot dogs contain about 580 calories and 12 grams of saturated fat.
In contrast, a single slice of cheese pizza from Costco is 760 calories and contains 15 grams of saturated fat.
For those counting calories or trying to limit their fat consumption, a Costco hot dog is a healthier option than a slice of Costco cheese pizza.
Of course, even though the hot dog is technically healthier than the cheese pizza, neither option is objectively healthy.
A single Costco hot dog contains over 1,500 milligrams of sodium.
The FDA recommends that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which means that a single Costco hot dog makes up over 65% of your recommended daily sodium intake.
A single slice of Costco cheese pizza also contains about 1,500 milligrams of sodium, which means that sodium-wise, it is equally unhealthy as a Costco hot dog.
Although a Costco hot dog is not necessarily the healthiest thing you could be eating, it does make a delicious treat occasionally, provided that you make an effort to eat healthier food for your other meals.
If you’re throwing health caution to the wind, there is a viral DIY treat that involves a Costco hot dog AND a Costco cheese pizza: the Cheesy Blaster.
This extravagant but nutritionally dubious snack went viral online when Reddit users began posting pictures of Costco hot dogs wrapped in the cheese from slices of Costco cheese pizzas.
From a health perspective, Cheesy Blasters are an absolute disaster, high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium.
However, if you’re morbidly curious about how to make one, head to your local Costco, order a hot dog and a slice of cheese pizza, take the hot dog out of its bun, peel the cheese off your pizza, and wrap the hot dog in the cheese.
16. You Need Membership to Buy a Costco Hot Dog
To order from the Costco food court, you need to have a Costco membership.
Most Costco food courts are located inside Costco warehouses, and you need a membership to enter a Costco warehouse.
In some areas with warmer climates, Costco built outdoor food courts.
In previous years, you could just walk up to the outdoor food court and order a hot dog combo without having a Costco membership.
However, in recent years, people have been reporting that even their local outdoor Costco food courts require memberships to place an order.
For more information about the different kinds of Costco memberships, including their prices and benefits, read this article!
17. You Can Buy Costco Hot Dog Buns
The exact brand of hot dog bun used in the Costco food court varies by location.
However, Costco’s hot dog buns are often available for bulk purchase in warehouses.
Reddit users who work in different regional Costco food courts report that their locations use different brands of hot dog buns.
A user from Los Angeles reports that their location uses Francisco Gourmet Sesame Seed Rolls, while a user from eastern Canada says that their location uses Dempster’s Hot Dog Buns.
On the Costco website, the Engelman’s Bakery brand claims that its hot dog buns are also used in the Costco food court.
It may require a little trial and error to get the exact Costco food court bun you’re looking for, but it seems that even Costco switches up the hot dog buns they use in their food courts.
Costco’s $1.50 hot dog and soda combo is famous for a reason! This delicious deal is one of the cornerstones of the Costco brand, and it seems that Costco is willing to go to great lengths to ensure this price tag remains the same.
Costco hot dogs are so popular and delicious because of their premium ingredients, lack of fillers and other additives, generous size, and incredibly affordable price sweetens the deal!
For more information about Costco, check out the articles below.