Completos (Chilean Hot Dogs) Recipe

Why It Works

  • Whether they’re homemade or store-bought buns, the tight uniform interior crumb of the bread and its sturdy flakiness ensures they are hardy enough to hold the hot dog’s abundant toppings.
  • Baking the completo buns side by side in pairs creates one fused, flat, rugged side on each bun that accommodates the generous toppings.

I can safely say that every Chilean has a memory with completos, our beloved loaded hot dogs that are found throughout the country. And as a child, I was lucky because my family owned the only restaurant in our little Chilean town of Arauco that specialized in sandwiches and completos. While my classmates would enjoy these loaded hot dogs as an occasional celebratory treat, my family ate them every Sunday night. I remember my mom arriving home with a greasy cardboard box full of still warm, freshly made completos; I recall the joy of my teenage brothers; the anxious passing of the many condiments around the table; my dad pouring a cold beer. It was my definition of a happy childhood. 

Serious Eats / Estudio Como

Completos, unlike many other traditional Chilean dishes such as sopaipillas and pantrucas, have a traceable origin story. In the 1920s, Chilean restaurateur Eduardo Bahamondes tried American hot dogs on a trip to New York and dreamed up a business opportunity with his first bite. His restaurant Donde Bahamondes, located in Santiago’s main square, is famous for its hot dogs and remains a great place to eat completos, with happy eaters frequenting the shop at all hours. 

Serious Eats / Estudio Como

Besides being sold in street carts and restaurants, completos are a mandatory part of Chilean celebrations and special family occasions. The popular way to enjoy them is during our local version of teatime, called once. Once is similar to English-style afternoon tea time, but it is served later and often it replaces dinner. Once usually includes bread, toppings and pastries or cake, and for special celebrations once also includes completos: each member of the family will help by mashing avocados, dicing tomatoes, or making the mayonnaise, until a colorful assortment of toppings and condiments fills the table. Sauerkraut, salsa Americana (finely chopped vinegar pickled veggies, similar to giardiniera), mustard, hot sauce and ketchup are served as well. Lastly, completo buns—bought in a local Chilean bakery—are carefully toasted in a Chilean stovetop tostador and vienesa sausages are boiled, steamed or pan fried. Hot tea (or sometimes beer) is served and everyone is left to top their own hot dog as they see fit. The two most popular completos topping combinations are known as completos Italianos and completos completos (yes I recognize that name is a bit confusing). I’ve written these combinations as options in the recipe steps below, but feel free to include any combination of these listed toppings. 

This experience is my epitome of family life in Chile, and a moment I missed deeply when I lived abroad in the US. My time without completos is what inspired me to create my own recipe, one that even includes making the buns from scratch. Here are my tips for a great Chilean hot dog experience at home.

Tips for an Authentic Completos Experience

For the best completos, bake the buns from scratch. The classic completo buns are nothing like standard US hot dog buns. Our Chilean hot dog buns are larger, sturdier, and not as sweet as their American counterparts. The bulkier long bun is designed to accommodate the large amount of toppings that are a staple on every completos. The dense crumb structure in these homemade buns is perfect for absorbing tomato juices and the heaps of avocado and mayo that completos usually carry. And the crust, when reheated or toasted, will form a thin, crunchy layer that makes every bite even more enjoyable. I firmly believe that for a true Chilean completos experience, the completo buns should be made from scratch, so I’ve included my recipe here. But if that is not possible, substitute with bakery-made 8-inch long hoagie rolls that have a similar, sturdy structure.

Serious Eats / Estudio Como

Don’t skimp on the mayo. Another thing that makes Chilean completos unique is the amount of mayo on them: what for us Chileans is the perfect amount of mayo on a hot dog might be an obscene amount of mayo for many. As I stated in the Santiago episode of “Somebody feed Phil” (season six on Netflix), we consider the mayo to be a mandatory core ingredient, not just an optional condiment. An average completo should have about a quarter to a half cup of mayo per bun, at least! But I’ll admit, this is a bit excessive for my own taste. When I order them out, I always ask for “poco mayo maestro”, to make the cook reduce the amount.

Serious Eats / Estudio Como

I recommend using Kenji’s two minutes mayo, it’s an approachable recipe with a silky texture and rich flavor that is perfect for completos. If you’re not up for making your own mayo, I find that Kraft mayo comes close to the texture and flavor of the mayo you’d find in Chilean fuente de soda shops, where completos are often served. The brand is a local favorite for that reason.

Load up on the hot dogs. In Chile we use “vienesas” or wieners, a mild and sometimes slightly smoky hot dog sausage that is usually boiled, steamed or pan fried. Standard US brand hot dogs, such as Hebrew National or Nathan’s will work well, and if you have a local favorite, by all means use that. I recommend using 1 1/2 hot dogs to fill out each completo. A standard 6-inch long hot dog is too short on its own to fill out the longer bun, and a great completos should contain meat in every bite. 

Serious Eats / Estudio Como

Assemble with purpose. The placement of the diced tomatoes—over or under other toppings—has lately become a controversial topic in Chile. According to Javier Rodríguez expert completo journalist and owner of the completo IG account @soycompletero, the division started because Dominó, a popular completo restaurant chain, serves their hot dogs with tomatoes on top. Because of their huge following, many people grew up believing completos should be assembled like that. But other Chileans, myself included, prefer adding tomatoes under the other toppings. This allows the tomato juice to drip into and moisten the bun. But, if you can’t stand the idea of a soggy bun, do as many Chileans do and “wet proof” the bread with a layer of avocado (or a bit of mayo) and then pile on the other ingredients.

Once your preferred toppings of tomatoes, sauerkraut, salsa Americana, and and avocado are loaded on, spoon a generous smear of mayo, slowly, ceremoniously down the length of the hot dog to seal and lightly secure everything in place. The mayo also creates a clean canvas for a final squeeze of mustard, hot sauce, or ketchup. The end result is a colorful and fully loaded Chilean completos that is a work of art.

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By Mahir

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