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Rochester Hot Sauce

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A few months ago when I decided I wanted to recreate ALL of Upstate New York’s regional foods, I sat down and made a list. And while making a Rochester Style Meat Hot Sauce in my kitchen did sound tempting, I was pretty apprehensive.  Garbage plates may seem a culinary oddity if you aren’t from Upstate New York, but around here they are a big deal. Rochesterians are passionate about their garbage plates, and the hot sauce the whole thing is smothered in.  I knew if I missed the mark with the recipe, I would never hear the end of it.

While I did not set out to recreate a specific restaurant’s hot sauce, I was heavily influenced by this recipe which claims to be a similar version of sorts of Nick Tahou’s sauce,  based on the recipes that were circulating in the mid 80’s, when die-hard sauce fanatics claim the sauce was less sweet than today’s version. Nick Tahou’s has never publically shared the recipe for their sauce, and I doubt they ever will.

Every restaurant and diner have their own version of a garbage plate. The name is different, some places call it a trash plate, junkyard plate, or rubbish plate, but the idea is the same, and yes, there is a theme here. The original, the garbage plate, was created at Nick Tahou Hots’ fast-food restaurant more than fifty years ago.  It is said that college students asked Nick Tahou for a dish with ”all the garbage” on it. So, he concocted an original combo plate with two hamburger patties and a choice of two sides — usually a combination of home fries, macaroni salad, and beans topped with a meat hot sauce. Rolls or white bread are served on the side.  It is a ton of food and has a definite appeal to college students, who are looking to grab a bite to eat after a night on the town.

Here is the deal, I would never call this “Nick Tahou’sGarbage Plate Sauce” or “Bill Grey’s Hot Sauce” or any other restaurants sauce for that matter, but I will call this an excellent Rochester Style Hot Sauce.  All the fixings of a great Rochester Hot Sauce are here, ground beef, a tomato product, the Greek hot sauce spices (allspice and clove), and a little (or a lot) of heat.

Rochester Style Hot Sauce with Cinnamon, Cloves, Allspice and Cayenne Pepper

If you start playing around with the spices in the recipe (which I encourage you to do!) be careful with the cinnamon, particularly if you plan on increasing the amount, it goes from team player to overpowering very quickly. Also, personally my absolute upper limit on the cayenne pepper in this recipe is 3/4 teaspoon, but some recipes call for a whole teaspoon, adjust the cayenne pepper to suit your personal preferences. And if you decide to use ketchup, cut back the amount of sugar.

Rochester Meat Hot Sauce

Rochester Meat Hot Sauce

Yield: 12
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes


  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • salt to taste


  1. ln a large skillet, over medium heat fry onion and garlic in oil until soft. Add meat and spices, periodically stir and break up any clumps of beef with a fork. Cook until the meat is no longer pink.
  2. Once the meat is cooked though, add beef broth, tomato paste and brown sugar. Simmer 10 minutes. Use a hand immersion blender to further give the meat a finer texture, a couple of quick whirls here and there are all you need.
  3. Simmer 1 hour, adding more beef broth if necessary to keep it moist, but avoid adding too much and letting the sauce get soupy.


Saturday 13th of November 2021

I am from Florida and for several years in the 90s I was required to go to Rochester for Christmas. I remember two things the brutal cold and Nick Tahoe’s meat sauce. This recipe is great everyone loves it.

Garth Katner

Sunday 10th of October 2021

For me the best sauce was at Don & Bob's at Sodus Point!

Debbi T

Sunday 5th of September 2021

I was born, raised, and stayed in Rochester my entire life. The best part of a good burger is the hot sauce. We get sides of the hot sauce to put over our french fries. It is sold in jars at some of the fast-food restaurants. My nephew makes a fantastic hot-meat-sauce that mimics the flavor of Nicks. In Rochester, it is all about the hot sauce. Can't make a good garbage plate without a well-fried flat burger, fries, and good homemade mac salad smothered with hot sauce. Fortunately, unfortunately, we live 5 min from the nearest Bill Grays. Close to Nick's sauce.

Frank Hill

Saturday 6th of February 2021

Nick Tahou's Hot Sauce is the best tasting hot sauce on Earth. No other hot sauce compares to it.


Friday 22nd of January 2021

Grew up in the finger lakes but now live in Texas. Thank you for the recipe.

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