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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.


Sunday 8th of January 2023

Love this recipe ... moved to Fairport NY in 2007 and have the Rochester Hot Sauce on Burgers, Dogs & Home Fries. We like a slightly sloppy sauce so add another 2 to 3 cups of Beef Broth over the simmer hour, so I throw in a few more cloves of garlic and up the Black Pepper, Cayenne & Chili (is that Chilly or Chai-lie ... local thing - LOL) to 2 Teaspoons and Cumin to 1 Teaspoon & it's perfect. Thanks so much for sharing the base recipe - IT'S A KEEPER. Cheers Jerry.


Monday 2nd of January 2023

I’m a lifelong Nick Tahou’s patron, but for making them at home this recipe is fantastic. I make triple this every few months and freeze it in small containers. Then it’s ready within a few hours whenever I need it.


Tuesday 6th of September 2022

I used your recipe to make a vegetarian hot sauce, using a 10oz bag of beyond beef “beefy” crumbles in place of the meat, and vegetable broth in place of the stock. I kept your spice measurements basically the same, only I added less brown sugar and a little more cayenne and chili powder. It came out absolutely awesome. A little different than some of the places I’ve tried, but 100% would make (and eat) again.


Monday 18th of July 2022

Your approach to not label it this restaurant or that restaurant hot sauce. Rochester hot sauce is perfect. I grew up in Rochester and after a big ball game or a night out, Nick's was the place to get a late night meal, usually the garbage plate. I look forward to trying this and see if I can make my own version as you suggest. I now live in Lyons and I like your site. Thanks, Richard


Sunday 31st of July 2022

@Richard, Well I made this and added more cayenne pepper because I wanted it to be have a little more spice. However, I found it to be a little sweet for my taste. I assume I should reduce the amount of tomato paste next time, what do you think?


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.

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