Costco Food Court: Eat This, Not That

With the long Independence Day weekend upon us, many of you will be heading to your neighborhood Costco to stock up on party essentials. On your way in and out of the store, chances are you’ll be tempted by the smell of pizza and hot dogs wafting in the air fronting Costco’s always busy Food Court.

Obviously the entire menu here isn’t going to get an endorsement from my doctor or dentist anytime soon. Yet determined to eat more healthy, without having done any research beforehand, I recently ordered their “healthier sounding” Chicken Caesar Salad over the decadently tempting and delicious, seemingly counterintuitively thrifty-priced giant-sized hot dog, hoping I made a nutritionally wiser choice.  Only to discover upon looking it up online the other night that this jacked-up salad has more calories, total fat, cholesterol and sodium than either the Kirkland Signature All Beef Hot Dog or Polish Sausage. Go figure (or there goes my figure). In fact, that’s what we’re going to do here today.

Costco Food Court – Chicken Caesar Salad: Skinless boneless chicken, cherry tomatoes, green leaf lettuce, grated parmesan cheese, croutons and caesar dressing. $3.99

That salad sure looks healthy with the contrasting colors and the notion itself of having fresh lettuce, tomatoes and skinless chicken as its main feature. Yet of course I should have known that generous portion of Caesar salad dressing, grated Parmesan Cheese and croutons would demonize it, practically negating any health benefits.

So this begs to question: should I eat that? Or eat this?…

Costco Food Court – Kirkland Signature All Beef Hot Dog. $1.50 including 20 oz. drink (including endless refills)

Well, let’s take a close look at Costco Food Court’s nutritional data on these two menu items and find out where each one really stands.

Costco Food Court Nutrional Data
(% daily value)
Chicken Caesar Salad (with dressing) All Beef Hot Dog (includes bun, ketchup, mustard,
relish, onion and kraut)
Service size 20.5 oz. 8.3 oz.
Calories 670 kcal 570 kcal
Calories from fat 360 grams 300 kcal
Total fat 40 grams (62%) 33 grams (51%)
Saturated fat 9 grams (43%) 12 grams (62%)
Trans fat 1 gram 2 grams
Polyunsaturated Fat 18 grams 1.5 grams
Monounsaturated Fat 13 grams 17 grams
Cholesterol 135 grams (44%) 80 grams (26%)
Sodium 2680 milligrams (112%) 1750 (73%)
Total carbohydrate 35 grams (12%) 46 grams (15%)
Dietary fiber 7 grams (27%) 2 grams (6%)
Sugars 9 grams 9 grams
Protien 48 grams 24 grams
Vitamin A (280%) (8%)
Vitamin C (100%) (4%)
Calcium (35%) (8%)
Iron (30%) (25%)
Thiamin (30%) (25%)
Riboflavin (25%) (20%)
Niacin (50%) (25%)
Follate (90%) (20%)

Comparing the numbers side-by-side, the Chicken Caesar Salad has more of just about everything. Yet looking specifically at the serving size,  the salad is also more than twice the amount of food in weight, tipping the scale over a pound at 20. 5 oz., versus the already giant-sized Costco Kirkland Signature All Beef Hot Dog, which weighs in  at 8.3 ounces, or just a squirt of mustard and ketchup more than a half-pound. So we need to keep that in mind when comparing the two.

That in mind, ounce-for-ounce, actually the hot dog packs much more of just about everything, except, not surprisingly, all the  healthy stuff, including dietary fiber, vitamin A, C and calcium, where the salad clearly has it beat.

While the hot dog has more of the bad trans fat and saturated fat  per ounce than the salad, on the good side, it also has a significant amount of monounsaturated fat — the “good fat” — than the Chicken Caesar Salad. It’s still behind on the good fat per ounce, yet it must be commended for that. Had the dressing for the salad been made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, it probably would have beaten the hot dog. But it’s not, and the dressing, along with the generous helping of grated parmesan cheese and croutons are certainly the culprit in all the “bad” figures making up the salad’s nutritional profile.

At least on paper, from a nutritional standpoint, for the most part, Costco’s giant-sized All-Beef Hot Dog ain’t all that bad in comparison to the Chicken Caesar Salad with all the fixinz, and is actually better for you, especially if less sodium and more monounsaturated fat are what’s best for your body’s needs. The hot dog’s expected high amount of saturated and trans fat, thanks to the very fact that it’s MEAT is really the “only” thing that hurts it. Emphasize “only”.

As for the salad, substitute the OEM Caesar dressing for an Extra Virgin Olive Oil-based vinaigrette dressing and take out some of the parmesan cheese and croutons, and it obviously will be far better for you than the hot dog. But who’s going to do that at the convenience of Costco’s Food court? Not me, that’s for sure.

So to answer the question of whether one should “Eat this, and not that”, between Costco’s Hot Dog with all the fixinz or the Chicken Caesar Salad with all the fixinz, it’ sounds like a toss-up from a nutritional standpoint. From an immediate financial standpoint, it’s tough to beat Costco’s $1.50 giant hot dog and 20 oz. drink deal. Compensate the nutritional deficiency of fiber and vitamins it lacks in comparison to the salad by getting a big bag of apples and oranges from their produce department and you should be good. Especially considering the higher $3.99 price for the Chicken Caesar Salad, where you can put that $2.49 savings in price difference compared to the hot dog towards those fresh fruits that will last you more than a week out.

So the question of whether one should “Eat this, and not that” from Costco’s Food Court is essentially asking which is the lesser of two evils, where I’d say the right answer would be “none of the above”.

Actually, to be honest, the only point I’m making here is to justify to myself, if not anyone else, that ordering a Costco Food Court Hot Dog isn’t far worse and in some ways better from a health standpoint than their Chicken Caesar Salad. Especially if I were to eat the whole salad, dressing and all. So at least I’ll feel that much less guilty from now on when choosing a hot dog over a salad, knowing I’ll be consuming that much less fat, sodium and cholesterol. All while having some spare change to buy a bag of apples in the warehouse club store to make up for the vitamins and fiber deficiency of the hot dog. And that’s my One Dollar and Fifty Cents, bang-for-the-buck take on that.

Costco Food Court  – Kirkland Signature All Beef Hot Dog & 20 oz. Drink. $1.50 from Iwilei Costco.

P.S. Since we’re on a “Eat this, not that” kick, and while I was at it doing “research” for this write-up, I bought both Costco’s Kirkland Signature All Beef Hot Dog and Polish Sausage to compare in a handy-dandy side-by-side comparo’. Normally I order the Polish Sausage, but you know what? I think I’m changing my mind on that, as you’ll soon read.

Here we have Costco’s Kirkland Signature All Beef Hot Dog, before being loaded with all the fixinz…

Costco Food Court  – Kirkland Signature All Beef Hot Dog

And here we have Costco’s Kirkland Signature Polish Sausage, before getting loaded up…

Costco Food Court  – Kirkland Signature Polish Sausage

Notice the slightly darker color, speckles of seasoning and thinner profile of the Polish sausage compared to the all beef hot dog.

Now when it comes to food, in general I’m a “the works” kinda’ guy, and add every available topping I can get. Subway? Give me all the veggies, all the cheeses, all the seasonings and all the sauces they’ve got. Baked potato? Nothing less than “fully loaded”. Cream cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, chives and heck, even melted cheese if they’ve got it.

Same for hot dogs. I say drag that sucker through the garden and throw in the kitchen sink too, if that’s possible. Even ketchup. Yup, I said it, ketchup.  With that, when dressing my Costco dog, it’s all or nothing for me…

Costco Food Court  – Kirkland Signature All Beef Hot Dog with Ketchup, Mustard, Relish and Chopped Onions.

Ketchup, mustard, relish and fresh diced onions? All CHECK. For some reason, the Iwilei Costco didn’t have ‘Kraut on this visit. Yet I’m cool with “just” the onions.

Same toppings treatment for the Polish Sausage dog…

Costco Food Court  – Kirkland Signature Polish Sausage with Ketchup, Mustard, Relish and Chopped Onions.

What I really appreciate is that Costco’s hot dog buns have sesame seeds on them. Love that.

Also notice the dog protrudes about an inch total beyond the bun. Certainly a welcome site for meat lovers.

Speaking of measurements, let’s check the specific total length of this wiener…

Both wieners measure in at 8″ each, and get your mind out the gutter, thank you very much. lol

I forgot to measure the diameter of each one, yet I did get this cross-section shot of them side-by-side, which gives you an idea…

Here we have the two halves of the All Beef Hot Dog cut apart to the left, and the Polish Sausage Dog cut apart to the right. IIRC, the all beef hot dog was about 1″ in diameter, while the Polish Sausage was approximately 7/8″. Here you can also see the grains of spices mixed into the Polish sausage on the right, as well as the slightly darker color.

Now for the most important part, the taste comparison. The Polish Sausage is just slightly saltier, while also being somewhat noticeably spicier. It’s also more salami-like in flavor profile. While the all beef hot dog is very, well, BEEFY! Best part is, the all beef hot dog doesn’t taste as processed as the Polish sausage, but more “pure” if you will. The Kirkland Signature All Beef Hot Dog, at least for me, tastes exactly like what I envision on my palate to taste like a great-tasting all American Hot Dog. Simple as that. As much as a Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger is an all-American muscle car through and through, Costco’s all beef wiener in a bun is an all-American hot dog through and through.

The verdict? Costco’s Signature All Beef Hot Dog wins it. Yet, I won’t turn down my former favorite, the Polish Sausage dog any time soon. They both taste delicious in their own way.

Oh, and I’m giving this post 5 SPAM Musubi because A) There’s no better deal in town than Costco’s most excellent and giant sized $1.50 Hot Dog and Drink, and B) I Love Costco!


Costco Food Court: Eat This, Not That — 39 Comments

  1. I agree, the dog wins by a very slight margin… but I’ll happily take the polish as well. No ketchup for me, though!
    There’s one other criteria in the dog vs. salad choice; which one is easier to stuff in my face while driving my truck down the back road by the Kahului airport, steering with my knees, while schlepping all those Costco groceries back home? Dog wins, hands down.
    I’ll be there later today, stocking up for tomorrow’s grillin’.

  2. I love Costco hot dogs! I put ketchup, mustard and onions on mine.

    I read a story about the healthiness of hot dogs in Men’s Health magazine and the nutritionist they interviewed said adding condiments makes the hot dog better for you because ketchup, mustard, onions, etc each provide some kind of health benefit.

  3. we usually get the hot dogs with fixings and nix the drinks, definitely cut a lot of empty calories without the sugary drinks.

  4. QuarryLaneFarms, I’ve already covered an item unique to the Hawaii Costco Food Court locations, their relative new Beef Bake, featuring Korean style Bulgogi beef. Think of a chicken bake, except instead of chicken, put teriyaki beef in it. That’s pretty much how it tastes. Pretty good, actually!

    Kat, you know, I was going to factor in the calories (from sugar) from the 20 oz. drink that goes with the hot dog, but I figure, if you order the salad, you’d also need to order a drink to go with it, so instead I just kept the comparison between the two food items.

    RobynT, glad you pointed that out! I too find the texture of the chicken in the salad strange. I think because it’s kept refrigerated, so the oils in the fat become congealed, so it tastes more dry and leathery. In fact I usually end tossing at least half of the chicken. They really put too much of it. This salad could certainly stand to lose a few ounces (and dollars in price) from simply having too much of just about everything in it.

    Marvo, I just admit, adding relish (essentially pickled and sweetened diced cucumbers) does help at least a little in calming my guilty conscience, as does the addition of the fresh diced onions. Hey at least it’s SOME form of vegetables! lol While ketchup may be tomato-based, it also has a very content of sugar and salt. Then again, we’re not supposed to put ketchup on a hot dog, so the experts say.

    Nate, for some reason, the Iwilei Costco took out their Saurkraut dispensers. Hopefully they’re going to replace them with new ones, as I dig the stuff as well.

    Marcus, if you’re like me, where I have all those condiments piled high oozing and goozing out the top of my hot dog bun, driving is out of the question, lest I have to change my clothes and clean my car seat after that. A plain, untopped hot dog, sure, I could eat that while driving, but then, what’s the point? I can’t eat a hot dog just plain.

  5. The Costco hot dog is our family favorite.  I do miss the days when they used the Sinai Kosher brand (I think they switched about a year or two ago) but, other than it being non-kosher, I think they’ve done a terrific job producing an awesome substitution with the Kirkland-brand ones.

    My only issue is that each dog is 1/4 pound — a nice treat at the Food Court but way too much when you buy the full package of beef franks to eat at home.  I have to convinced my kids to cut each one in half for portion control, which they don’t like to do.  However, they have no problem eating just one of the regular-sized hot dogs from other brands.  Go figure, mean old mom worrying about fat and colories, LOL.

    I like mine with deli mustard and sauerkraut.  The latter is a vegetable, right?  ;-)  Our area Costco’s got rid of the sauerkraut containers years ago and now you have to ask for individual containers of it.  I think i’ts more sanitary that way.

  6. You can easily make the salad heathier:  dump the dressing, croutons, chicken and cheese.  There’s nothing you can do to make the hot dog heathier.

  7. Fat Fudge, while it’s obvious eliminating the dressing, croutons and cheese would make the salad a healthier choice, I didn’t think about the fact that you can’t make the hot dog any healthier by modifying it. It is what it is. Good point!

    Jenny, I too preferred the flavor of the Sinai brand; especially the polish sausage. Now with the Kirkland brand, I prefer the all beef hot dog. I also agree about the size of the hot dogs being too big for home consumption. I’ll keep big dogs my guilty pleasure at Costco’s Food Court, just to keep things (my waistline) in check. And yeah, sauerkraut is a vegetable. So is relish and ketchup, as those two condiments are made with cucumbers and tomatoes, right? lol  I suppose we should thank Costco for not offering free cheese and chili toppings (like 7 Eleven does). Ack!

  8. What I really like at the Costco food court is the frozen yogurt.
    While not low calorie, it is way better than a milkshake from Mickey D’s or a treat from DQ.
    And at $1.35 it is a real bargain.

    • I am trying to find the protien informaton on the frozen yogurt at Costco.

      What I have found so far is it’s 490 calories, 0 fat, 82g carbs (wow), and Protein?

      Does anyone have this info?

      • 490 calories per single serving of YOGURT? Sheesh, if that is indeed true, you’re not far more in calorie surplus territory wolfin’ down a McDonald’s Big Mac!

  9. there is a new bake item on costco food court. I cannot find this on the costco food court list for carbs. it’s carna sada something

    • In the San Diego area, the Costco food courts have the carne asada bake. I haven’t tried it, but I’ve heard less-than-stellar reviews. But then, I don’t really care for the chicken bake, either.

  10. As to the chicken salad: Try dipping the chicken in the deli mustard instead of the dressing. It is addictive and so much lower in calories. Then you can use the dressing sparingly on the remainder of the salad, sans the croutons. (We put a little dressing on the salad, put the lid back on and shake it all around to lightly coat the romaine and tomatoes.) Looking forward to trying the beef bake – not available in my part of the world (California.) My spouse and I split a hot dog/soda and salad. We figure that makes the meal a little more balanced and we get the drink!

  11. You can make the hot dog healthier by throwing it in the trash, lol.
    Cant these clowns come up with a real healthy menu at Costco, why does this place and all fast food joints have to load everything up with so much sodium?
    I stopped eating fast food long ago because of this. My BP is over 140/90, this stuff will just finish me off. Keep it.

  12. Maury, another thing that perplexes me is how restaurants consistently make their “kids menu” a collection of the ultimate junk food. Such as, they’ll offer a burger and fries, sans the lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. Or worse yet, Chicken “nuggets” (a deep-fried, high sodium, processed mess) and that’s it. I know many kids don’t like vegetables and/or fruits, yet they should still be encouraged to eat it by putting it on every plate they’re given. I was raised that way, and to this day, I much prefer a meal that’s balanced with at least some, if not a lot of fresh greens, cooked or pickled vegetables of some sort accompanying it.

  13. Where can I find a list of ingredients for the chicken bake? I’m trying to find out what kind of cheese they use, also whatever else they put in it.

  14. I ordered a hot dog with kraut then I added mustard, diced onions but by the time I got half way through eating it the bun split wide open dumping the contents into the foil wrapper and on my pants as well. Has this happened to any of you?

  15. I was just about to do a post about Costco hotdogs when I thought I’d check and see about the nutritional count. We’ve been going to Costco every Thursday for hotdog, drink and then a frozen latte. It’s my one day that I know I’m not being healthy.

    However, last night my husband checked on the levels of sodium, carb and sugar and felt I really shouldn’t be eating that any more.

    Sooooo… we went to Yummy’s instead. I wonder now if that is healthier…

  16. You MUST figure on a way to get rid of so much sodium. There are so many new medical reports against sodium..I used to love Pizza but look at one piece of pizza…hugh in sodium, even the lotta mocha has 170 mg sodium. I can’t eat anything from Costco anymore and used to love it but can’t now..Help me Costco!

  17. Recently I dodged a stroke when my blood pressure hit 205. i love the hot dogs but i am aware that 1 beef hot dog has 1750 sodium (salt) mg content. The goal is to keep salt under 2300 mg daily and eventually drop my blood pressure to below 130 and get off the meds. So I have to pass at this time. If you haven’t had your blood pressur checked, you may be choosing a stroke or death.

    • j harris,

      Well, you do see that the Costco Caesar Salad has way more sodium then the Hot Dog, should you toss everything included in the container with it.

      205 Systolic? Holy Morton Salt, Batman! Glad to hear you’re back below 130 off meds. You must’ve lost a lot weight, as I have.

  18. Simple, for the salad just take out half the serving of cheese, use 1/4 the serving of sauce, half the serving of croutons and you have a decent salad! Eating it right now at Costco in Sydney Australia!

  19. Roger,

    Your suggestion had me thinking, Costco should offer a Chinese Chicken Salad variant. Swap out the ranch for Oriental dressing, which is WAY leaner in every way, swap out the croutons for baked – not fried – wonton strips, keep the tomatoes, while swap out the Parmesan cheese with chopped green onion and Chinese parsley. BAM! Problem solved.

    Our Costco stores in Hawaii actually sell Chinese Chicken Salad in the store. Costco should seriously rethink the menu outside at the food court and make it healthier. There’s currently NOTHING served there I can eat without feeling at least some guilt about. :struggle:

  20. You could always eat the salad with about a quarter of the dressing. Take off some of the cheese, and not use the croutons. That makes it a lot better than the hot dog.

  21. It all depends on your concept of healthy. The more I read about the current science of health and weight loss, the more it looks like avoidance of sugars (carbohydrates) is more important than avoiding fat or calories. Through that lens the salad looks better (fewer carbs and more fiber). Read Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes and get back to me.

  22. I do exactly what you mentioned you would not, I bring my own oil and vinegar packets, take off the cheese and never use the dressing or croutons to make an acceptable Costco salad. Since going low-salt, low-fat, I never use salad dressing, instead buying portable packets of oil and vinegar I carry to every away-from-home meal, I have some in my briefcase for workdays and more in my car. Read about them on my blog:

  23. They need to get the transfats OUT! That stuff is toxic. There is no justification for putting it in food that humans eat. Costco, do the right thing!

  24. Pingback: Costco Food Court Salads: you can make them healthier | The No Salt, No Fat, No Sugar Journal

Leave a Reply