Rochester Hot Sauce

Rochester Hot Sauce is different from your typical hot sauce. In fact, the “hot factor” doesn’t even reference the spice, but more the actual temperture, as in it is served hot. It’s more akin to Cincinnati Chili or Hot Dog Sauce.

close up of rochester hot sauce with text overlay


What is Rochester Hot Sauce?

Hot sauce is a ground beef and tomato based sauce with a few finely minced or grated vegetables technically making it like a ragu sauce. It is served most frequently on Rochester Garbage Plates in Rochester, New York. While it is served hot, it is not traditionally spicy.

fully dress garbage plate with cheeseburgers

The hot sauce itself is more like a sauce like you’d see on a chili cheese dog. Almost a sloppy Joe mix, but a little more tangy. Some even use it as a spaghetti sauce, like chili mac. You won’t find this sauce anywhere outside of the Rochester area, that is for sure! 

The “hot” doesn’t refer to spice, it is a referral to the temperature. A meat sauce that is served piping hot. 

Vegetable are hidden in this tomato based sauce, as they are either very finely minced or even grated. Carrots, celery and onion are the most common, I only used onion and carrot.

“Hots” Copycat Recipes

Like so many regional dishes, the spice and exact ingredients for hot sauce range from joint to joint. In Rochester, most places that specialize in hot sauce or garbage plates are called “hots” and typically reference the name of the town or street first.

If we are just talking in general terms, Rochester Hots would be a name. It might actually be for all I know…

Yes, I know, the WORST name ever for a dish. So what is a Rochester Garbage Plate? 

overhead of hot meat sauce in a blue saucepan

What is a Garbage Plate?

It starts with a plate of home fries or french fries, cold macaroni salad and sometimes baked beans. Top that with hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, white hots (white hot dogs),chicken fingers, fried fish, grilled cheese or even soy burgers. 

And now that you have a mountain of food, smother with this meat hot sauce, raw onions, ketchup and mustard. There are many more variations, condiments and other toppings. Everyone has their own preference. Kinda of like a choose your own adventure of randomness.

I’m not going into a ton of details here on why or how to make a Garbage Plate, but you can hop on over to my Garbage Plate recipe to learn more, including how to make your own and how it got this stunning name.

You’ll also learn more about the history, like how a bunch of college students invented it and where (Nick Tahoes, yes). 

fork digging into a garbage plate with hot sauce


The list looks long, but it is mostly made of kitchen staples and spices you likely have in the pantry already.

  • Olive oil– Or any neutral oil for sauteing.
  • Yellow Onion- Packs the most punch, but feel free to use a white or even red onion.
  • Fresh Garlic- Please use fresh and not the jarred stuff, which can often be sweet instead of garlicky.
  • Ground Beef– I tend to go for an 80/20 mix here. Fat gives the dish flavor and if you are eating it, you likely aren’t cutting calories. While the original recipes for meat hot sauce use ground beef, feel free to use any ground meat. Ground chicken, pork, veal or even turkey will all work. You can even use a blend of the ones you prefer.
  • Carrot– Minced or shredded.
  • Tomato Paste– This the base for the sauce. Use a plain tomato paste, not tomato sauce.
  • Yellow Mustard- Yes, just plain yellow mustard. You can get fancy and use a brown, spicy or DIjon, but the signature acidic flavor comes from the basic stuff.
  • Spices– Ground black pepper, salt, cumin, chili powder and cayenne make up the basic spice blend.
  • Brown Sugar– Helps to balance the acidic and heavy flavors.
  • Light Beer– This gives is a bit of flavor, but not overwhelming amount. It is a dish traditionally eaten after a long night of drinking, so it is only reasonable that it also contain a little beer. Water can be swapped.
close up spoon of rochester meat sauce

How to Make Meat Hot Sauce

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven or pot. It makes a lot and you won’t want to crowd the pot, so use something big. Add the onion, sauteing until soft and then add the garlic.
  2. Add the ground beef, breaking apart as it cooks. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until browned. Beef should actually be brown with a little crust on it. There will be some fat, that is ok, it adds to the flavor of the sauce. If you want to drain it, you can.
  3. Stir in the beer, tomato paste, mustard, carrots, brown sugar, chili powder, cayenne, pepper, salt and cumin.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently so it doesn’t scald. If you want it to simmer longer, add a small amount of water or more beer to keep it from getting too thick.
spooning meat sauce over a garbage plate

Make Ahead, Storage & Freezing

Can I freeze meat sauce? You sure can! In fact, if you like the recipe, I recommend making a double or even triple batch and freezing it. Check out my tips for freezing food.

Can I make this sauce ahead of time? My husband would tell you that it actually tastes best when you make it a day ahead of time. 

How long does it last? Like most prepared foods, if kept at the correct temperatures and packaged in airtight containers, 5-7 days. 

How long can it sit at room temperature? Some people ask this question because they are setting up a Rochester Garbage Plate bar for tailgating for parties.

The CDC recommends no longer than 2 hours, however if you are hosting a shindig, you can also put your sauce in a slow cooker or crockpot on the low or “keep warm” setting. 

More Regional Dishes

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Canadian Butter Tarts

A Canadian treat that everyone should try, these EASY Canadian Butter Tarts consist of a flaky crust filled with a buttery, caramel-like, gooey center!
See The Recipe!
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Maryland Style Crab Cake Recipe

Maryland Crab Cakes are made with jumbo lump crab meat with little filler, Dijon mustard and Old Bay Seasoning plus secrets to making authentic Chesapeake crab cakes!
See The Recipe!

rochester hot sauce recipe for pinterest
overhead of hot meat sauce in a blue saucepan

Rochester Hot Sauce Recipe

4.46 from 24 votes
Rochester Hot Sauce is a ground beef and tomato based sauce used to top Garbage Plates. While it is served hot, it is not traditionally spicy. 
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 8



  • Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the onion, sauteing until soft.
  • Add the garlic, cooking for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Add the ground beef, breaking apart as it cooks. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until browned. Beef should actually be brown with a little crust on it.
  • Stir in the beer, tomato paste, mustard, carrots, brown sugar, chili powder, cayenne, pepper, salt and cumin.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings!



Calories: 364 kcal, Carbohydrates: 7 g, Protein: 21 g, Fat: 27 g, Saturated Fat: 9 g, Cholesterol: 80 mg, Sodium: 676 mg, Potassium: 530 mg, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 3 g, Vitamin A: 1410 IU, Vitamin C: 4.4 mg, Calcium: 42 mg, Iron: 3.3 mg
Author: Chef Jessica Anne
Calories: 364
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: American
Keyword: garbage plates, rochester hot sauce
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
rochester hot sauce recipe collage for pinterest
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Chef Jessica Anne Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal, Mashed and more!

Read More About Jessica

4.46 from 24 votes (22 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating

Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    I am from Upstate New York and love the meat sauce on Zweigel’s white hots!! Not fond of the garbage plate, just don’t like my foos mixed together! You can not eat a Zweigel’s without it! Pot simmering on my stove as I write this!! Yummmm!

  2. 5 stars
    I forgot to buy Cayenne, so I used a lot of chili flakes instead. I also used Quorn plant-based meat and Budweiser. It tasted yummy, so I recommend these substitutions.

  3. You have to make it to understand just how good it tastes. Then, you will want it for the rest of your life!

  4. I’m making this today. I am from Rochester and have had my share of plates. When I was growing up the Garbage Plate was served with Nick’s home style bread. I have also heard the family many times on the radio speak about the origins of the Garbage Plate. The college student may be one of them, but not the original. The plate was also served with beans and potatoes the other choices came later. Just a little further history. Thank you