Rochester Hot Sauce

Sharing is caring!

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.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. I grew up in Roch and lived there for 55 years. Over the years I dined at Schaller’s, Bill Gray’s, Don’s, Vick and Irv’s, Gitsis’ Nick’s, Jim and Ralph’s, etc, etc..
    Sorry, this recipe ain’t even close.

  2. I don’t know if you’ve ever hada Garbage Plate, but this is NOT anything close to a Rochester MEat Hot Sauce. This is a very basic Chili (sans beans) recipe.

    1. @Rochester Native, yeah everyone is an expert. I’ve been a cook in Rochester for almost 20 years and this is certainly how you make meat hot. Get over yourself

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. @Dave, I made what I call a Michigan sauce by taking bits from many recipes and its killer.3lbs meatloaf mix beef pork veal.can also just use hamburg.3 large onions diced small and 3 large garlic cloves.fry the meat put in strainer.saute onions and crushed garlic till light brown and strain .get a large sauce pot throw the meat in and onion garlic mix the add one 8 Oz can tomato paste 3 tbs chili powder 1 tbs red pepper flakes 1tsp cumin 2 tsp cloves 2 tsp paprika 3/4tsp cayenne 4 tbs red wine vinegar half cup ketchup 2tbs Dijon mustard 1 tbs of A1 sauce put everything in sauce pan fill with water till its all soupy the boil for three hours.cover for first hour then uncover so it will lose the water and thicken .shouldn’t start to get thick till the last 30 min so if it’s sooner add more water.also thus recipe is mild but amazing for more hear step up to a whole teaspoon of cayenne or more but be careful it gets very hot quickly.try it with the 3/4 tsp first before stepping up .if you really like hot 1 top and go from there.i like the sauce to have bite but not be so hot I can’t taste anything after the first bite or 2. Everyone who’s tried this sauce has loved it …you will too…good luck..

  5. 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.

  6. 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

    1. @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?

  7. 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.

    1. @Garth Katner, You mean Sea Breeze. The only other Don and Bob’s was in Brighton near the expressway on Monroe Avenue.

  8. 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.

  9. What truely made a great garbage plate was not only the sauce, but everything from the simple mac salad, strong white onions, german mustard to the specially made (I believe Shelly brand) hot dogs sliced and pressed on the grill. There is nothing like the original Nick Tahou’s out there anymore! I will try this sauce .

  10. Can Rochester Hot Sauce be converted into a full-blown chil con carne? I’d like a bowl of it with stew meat. Has anyone ever done this?

  11. So there was a place in sea breeze Ny called Johnnys round up! ILOVED his hot sauce.!!! He sold to bill greys and wouldn’t give his hot sauce recipe! I would die for it!

  12. The funny thing about this recipe is that 60 years ago, Nick the Greek didn’t use tomato of any kind in his hot sauce. I’m guessing this is a second or third generation recipe because I ate there often with my dad as a little girl and my dad would marvel that the ‘hot sauce’ didn’t have tomato in it. I go back over 60 years and that’s what I remember…

    1. You’re right, the original hot sauce, be it from Nick’s, Don & Bob’s, Vic & Irv’s or even Bill Grey’s, none of them put tomato of any kind in the hot sauce. And while I admit, I too use beef stock, the original recipe called for water, not broth.

    2. @Jan, Yup, plus the beef was finer. We always used a hand mixer after the ground beef and onions were cooked. Spices plus frank’s red hot sauce.

  13. Jenn, my name is Joe and I operated the “Street Meat” truck, red and white checkered step van on Alexander st. from 2001 to 2008. My meat hot sauce was to die for. I would sell sometimes just meat hot sauce on a Petrillos twist roll. My recipe is somewhat different from yours. I would add plenty of paprika to give the sauce a deep red color. Recipe: 80/20 ground beef, black pepper, salt, onions and water in a food processor until liquid, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, a little water to just have everything blended and just covering the meat and some garlic powder. Simmer for 24 hours and you have some good “Street Meat” sauce, better than Nicks, I know, I have Nicks recipe from a worker….. J.

    1. @Joseph “Street Meat”, you may have a good sauce but for the long run the old school guys like nick and don @ bobs.are the best

    2. @Joseph “Street Meat”,

      I’m not sure if you’ll ever see this, but my friends and I would stop by for burgers after hitting the bars – your set up was just down the street from our apartment.

      Truly excellent. Thank you!

  14. Hi, my name is Don and I wrote the recipe you linked to under the name Limer on Chow Hound. I like your variation on it and will give this a try this weekend. It’s a tough recipe to tweek because obviously you have to make a pound of hot sauce every time you do it and it lasts a long time. When I was in College starting in 1986 we would go to the clubs downtown and Nick’s would be the last stop at around 2:15 AM. The place would literally be packed every night and on the weekends the line would be out the doors and down the sidewalk. I’m glad I did it while I was young. I noticed that hot sauces vary from place to place and I like most of them I’ve tried, some more than others. Again, thanks for sharing. Nice blog by the way.

  15. Hi Jennifer. I made this sauce today and served on hot dogs in buttered, toasted buns. . My lunch mates liked it. A little sweeter but maybe even more flavorful than the ones at Rudy’s in Oswego, Heid’s in Liverpool, or Mimi’s in Fulton. Thanks for all your recipe sleuthing.

  16. That’s funny to say the least, never heard of garbage plate, but if it is delicious, l guess the name has no importance whatsoever, l would just dig in. The sauce sounds fantastic, l would love to have some with a nice burger and a generous portion of chips.

  17. I’ve never had a garbage plate but I’ve heard of them before. You are so right about the cinnamon going from a team player to overpowering things – I’ve had that problem before.

  18. We make a similar sauce often. Here’s a couple of helpful hints. To break up the ground beef and smooth it out, use a potato masher. Also, if you want to store in smaller amounts, we fill the cups of a muffin tin with the sauce, cover with plastic and freeze the tin for a few hours. After they are solidly frozen, pop them out of the tin into a zip lock bag to store in the freezer. We microwave one or two for the two of us and when we get down to the last two, it’s time to make another batch.

  19. This sauce looks really flavorful and delicious. I KNOW my hubby will love this so I’m going to save this recipe to try. I love spices you used here. I agree with you on cinnamon.. he can be pretty tricky but gives so much flavor to any dish 😉

  20. What a flavor loaded sauce this is. We are vegetarians and would not be able to comment on the meat, but all the spices that are in the sauce sounds way too good. I will definitely be reading up on the ‘Garbage plates’ now and try to recreate a vegetarian version.

  21. The sauce looks really delicious although I had never heard of the whole concept of ‘garbage plate;)’. I’d totally use it on so many of the savory recipes or simply use it as a filling in few.

  22. I’ve actually heard of this from a friend of my daughters who is from New York, but other than that I’ve never had one. The combination of spices sounds great and you could probably make a vegetarian version of this as well.

  23. I can see my husband making this for his pasta. He loves a good spicy meat sauce – so he’d probably kick it up a notch like you do. I think cinnamon is an interesting addition.

    Oh and – We don’t have garbage plates here, but there is a restaurant that serves a garbage burger.

  24. Garbage Plates? Well, that’s an interesting phrase now, isn’t it? LOL. Whatever you want to call it, I don’t care, becuase this sauce looks so comforting. What would you serve it with? I keep thinking that it could be poured over crispy fries for a chili fries type of dish. Yum!

    1. The name Garbage Plate doesn’t sound appetizing, but we love them! This sauce is also really good on cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and french fries, I think it would also be an interesting nacho topping for something like loaded nachos!

  25. Ooo this is a new concept to me – being a Brit, we don’t have garbage cans but rubbish bins (lol – that would be far less of an appetising description for a delicious plate of food ? ). I love the blend of spices you use but as a heat junky, I’d up the chilli powder. I bet this is divine over some freshly cooked chips (fries) ooo…!

    1. I can’t handle anything too spicy, but there is definitely room for more cayenne, a lot of people prefer their sauce super spicy!

  26. I have never encountered this kind of hot sauce before so I am intrigued! Looking at all the delicious spices you used, I can just imagine an explosion of flavors in my mouth!! YUM!