Honey Dill Sauce, or, A Lament for Plum Sauce, or, Somewhere a Chicken Finger is Crying

April 27th, 2009 by Emma Durand-Wood

Now that the flood waters the spring season are receding, we can move on to more trivial matters. Like honey dill sauce. And why Manitobans lose their minds over it.  (I know, I know…I’m going to make some enemies over this one!)

In this fine city, honey dill sauce is the standard dip for chicken fingers almost everywhere you go, and as far as I can tell, this is a true “Manitoba Thing”.

I don’t know about you, but I take my chicken fingers and their accoutrements very seriously. My first exposure to the offending condiment was at Mitzi’s, which apparently holds the title of “Best Chicken Fingers in Town”. (You know how I feel about “best in the city” claims…)  I went to Mitzi’s with a friend and we ordered the traditional chicken fingers and fries meal. (Incidentally, I didn’t think the chicken fingers were anything to write home about,  although many trip advisers beg to differ.)

Until that day, in my world, the standard dip for chicken fingers had always been plum sauce. And failing that, barbeque sauce. But that day I was introduced to a creamy dip made of mayo, honey, and dill. Suddenly, for the first time, I was homesick for Alberta, and its normal, appropriate sauces.

Honey dill sauce is wrong for many reasons. First, and most importantly, why would you take three ingredients (honey, mayo, dill) that are inherently delicious on their own and combine them into a creepy, ambiguous sauce (is it sweet? is it savoury? why is it green-ish? and… semi-opaque?). And then, inflict it on one of the world’s greatest foods? Second, chicken fingers are already pretty bad for you. Why smother each bite in more saturated fat?

In my books, nothing beats a nice tangy plum or barbeque sauce. But not in Manitoba. I’m told that honey dill is standard here, and failing that, honey mustard. WHAT?

Honey dill sauce is everywhere: a mom ‘n’ pop diners, chain restaurants, and as I discovered more recently, curling clubs, where when they run out of honey dill dip, they just substitute tartar sauce (okay, so that only happened to me once, but it left a lasting impression!).  In researching this post, I discovered that item #269 on this “You know you’re from Winnipeg when…” list is “You dip everything in honey dill sauce.”  One  dude even says the chicken’s just a vehicle for the sauce! Greetalia, which commercially produces the sauce, claims it’s “one of the most popular chicken finger condiments on the market”.  Did Greetalia popularize the sauce? Or just seize the opportunity to market a product that people were already crazy about? (Smart, either way!)

I just don’t get it. I really want to embrace Manitoba “things”, but this is one I just can’t get into. Manitoba, you’re so sweet and quaint and in touch with that really matters in life…except when it comes to your chicken finger sauces.

And yet, I’m intrigued. Manitobans’ love of the sauce seems to be right up there with imperial cookies and rye bread. Should I just learn to love it?

What do you think? Honey dill sauce – boon or bane? Have you encountered the prevalence of this dipping sauce as much as I have?  And does anyone know how this sauce became the province’s standard?

29 Responses to “Honey Dill Sauce, or, A Lament for Plum Sauce, or, Somewhere a Chicken Finger is Crying”

  1. Marianne says:

    I don’t even eat chicken fingers unless I’m back in Wpg because I only want them WITH honey dill sauce. When I first moved to Vancouver it was quite the shock to discover that honey dill sauce is unheard of here, I even bought a jar of very disappointing honey dill sauce at Safeway to try and satisfy the craving but it just didn’t stack up. Honey dill sauce, and Dr. Pepper slurpees (and now that you mention it, Imperial cookies)are a couple of things that I must have everytime I go home to visit. Come on Emma, give it another shot ;) Try it at Grapes, it was always my favorite for chicken fingers with honey dill.

  2. Emma says:

    That’s too funny! I’ll have to check out Grapes. Maybe I’ll order them with honey dill AND some backup plum, just in case :)

  3. Michel says:

    Ah, the question of Proper Chicken Finger Dipping Sauce (PCFDS) is a complicated one. It is a question which has plagued humanity ever since the day someone discovered that food dipped in stuff is indeed superior to food that is not.

    Upon initial examination, it would seem that PCFDS is decided merely on geographical terms. Based on your anecdotal evidence, it would seem West-coasters have named the Plum Sauce as PCFDS. In my recent visit to Montreal, I ordered chicken fingers at a restaurant. It was served with Sweet and Sour Sauce. Based on that one incident alone, I can clearly generalize that all East-coasters prefer the Sweet and Sour as their PCFDS.

    However, as you so astutely observed, Winnipegers “dip everything in honey-dill sauce”. I would go as far as to say that it is not merely a Winnipegism, but actually a mid-continentism. The proof? Zinnia, a restaurant in St.Louis MO (central USA), is renowned for its mussels recipe, which is served “featuring a subtly sweet and herbed honey-dill sauce” — “the crown jewels of moules”! (http://www.riverfronttimes.com/bestof/2001/award/best-mussels-30839/) Seriously, mussels… dipped in Honey Dill sauce. What a remarkably versatile condiment! In any case, based on this single piece of internet evidence, it should be obvious to any reader that Honey Dill is therefore the superior sauce.

    That being said, I am not of the type to be inflexible, rigid, and just downright stubborn. I offer this compromise instead: a set of rules needs to be established so that this kind of confusion never happens again. I have come to fill that need… I present to you: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO PROPER DIPPING SAUCE ETIQUETTE IN FIVE EASY RULES (BEST PRACTICES EDITION)!

    1. Henceforth, Sweet and Sour Sauce shall be reserved for dipping Chicken BALLS.
    2. Plum Sauce shall be used exclusively by 5-year-olds, for Chicken McNuggets.
    3. BBQ Sauce shall be reserved for, you guessed it, BBQ Chicken.
    4. Honey Mustard sauce is to be used on Chicken Sandwiches only.
    And finally,
    5. Honey Dill sauce shall be used only on Chicken Fingers, Mussels, French Fries, Pork Bites, Crackers, Raw Vegetables, Any Item Named in Sections 1-4, Blueberry Muffins, Peanut-Butter-On-A-Spoon, and any other items which, from time to time, may or may not be deemed suitable for consumption.

    I hope that helps to clarify things! ;-)

  4. Mr. Nobody says:

    LOL, didn’t take long. Welcome to the dark side.

  5. mrchristian says:

    Mmmmm….Dr. P Slurpee.

    Honey Dill is the best. The only thing is that when you buy a jar of it at the store you pretty much have to buy a crate of chicken fingers because it doesn’t really go with anything else !

  6. Aaron says:

    Hmm…thanks for the tips M! I was too chicken to try it the one time Laurel had it on her plate…that pun was, obviously, intended.

  7. Courtney says:

    I have never come across this bizarre Honey Dill sauce that you talk of but, from my own experience, I can say that the only sauces good with chicken fingers are honey mustard or, if at Wendy’s, the Wild Buffalo Ranch. If the fingers themselves are buffalo coated the only acceptable condiment is ranch dip.

  8. Meghan says:

    Honey dill sauce is one of the foods I’m looking forward to most when I get to move back to Winnipeg in about a month. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

  9. Tawny says:

    That’s funny. I moved here from Alberta and also had no idea about this dill sauce obsession around here (along with the strange ritual called “the social”). I was in residence at the U of M and everyone was really excited about Chicken Finger night. I love Chicken Fingers, so I became excited too – until they handed me some very strange coloured mush to dip them in. But I’ve learned my lesson. It’s easier to agree to the dill sauce than it is to hunt down some plum sauce.

  10. ian says:

    My wife makes it from scratch, we like it with fingers so much. In fact my wife is planting dill in the garden expressly for this sauce!

    I have photographed the Greetalia sauce and it is comparable to all the ones you get in restaurants, if not better.

  11. Emma says:

    @ian mmmm….nothing like fresh dill. And dill grown expressly for honey dill sauce – now that’s love!

  12. Frankly I may have to turn in my official Winnipegger badge as I’ve never heard of this official dipping sauce. Now of course a trip to Mitzi’s is required. Damn. The sacrifices I have to make.

  13. 1. Have you tried the sauce on the sun burger at the Underground Cafe? To die for. Kinda similar, but not at all.

    2. I’m a bad Winnipeg, I prefer honey mustard.

    Was just referred to this site- love it!

  14. Emma says:

    @princess of the universe… haven’t tried the sun burger, but it was highly recommended in a couple of comments on my post about veggie burgers! can’t wait to try it.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  15. Sputnik says:

    Just make your own… the pre-made stuff on the shelves at the store is terrible.

    – 1 part honey to 1 part HELLMANN’S mayo (to weight NOT volume)
    – a generous amount of dill
    – and a good squeeze of lemon (the ingredient everyone misses when they make it at home)

    I am living in Alberta (formerly of Winnipeg) and my wife (from Alberta) LOVES honey dill with her chicken fingers. Perhaps she is a Winnipegger in a past life.

  16. Or use Miracle Whip instead of Hellmann’s… go crazy!

    I’m also thinking of trying lime instead of the lemon…

  17. janicejailbreak says:

    hahaha I’m a Winnipegger. I just visited BC and had chicken fingers at a White Spot and I was (almost) caught off guard when the waitress said that she could not bring me honey dill sauce… I was trying to verify the claim that HDS is an exclusive Manitoban thing, and I stumbled across your blog entry. I’m not sure how it became such a standard in MB, but I’d also like to know how. I’m 24 and I’ve definitely been having the stuff as long as I can remember… I’m also intrigued by the possibility that it’s a middle-USA thing too.

  18. karen macrae says:

    Yes, because chicken fingers are the best food in the world. Good grief. Now, I know for sure you are from Winnipeg.

  19. karen macrae says:

    Honey dill is the best. :)

  20. mAD says:

    Pfff, whatever, honey dill sauce is the best. Why does it have to be one thing or the other? It’s freakin delicious. Plum sauce is boring, and is better used on chinese food. Buffalo sauce is boring on them too. Also, I like how someone called it “mush”. That makes no sense. IT’s the same texture as any other sauce. It doesn’t have like oatmeal or something in it. Jesus. Non-Winnipeggers.

  21. Lavender says:

    We’re from Ontario and moved to Winnipeg to find they didn’t serve plum sauce with chicken fingers in ANY restaurant we ate at. Disappointing. But we soon came to like the honey dill sauce they did serve.

    We moved back to Ontario and realized we missed the sauce and could not find it in any grocery store. I have resorted many times to making my own when we have fingers now.

    Really, aside from a few people there, the honey dill sauce is about all we miss.

  22. Emma says:

    I admit, after almost two years, the HDS has grown on me! I, too, just might miss it if it weren’t available :)

  23. Scott says:

    In the great years I lived in Winnipeg, I have to say that my favorite chicken finger dip was Appleby’s Honey Dill. The Kings Head Pub had a close second. When I moved to Nova Scotia I went to an Appleby’s specifically for that awesome honey dill taste! FAIL. They’d never heard of it. At least for a short time I could get a crappy knock off at price choppers in NS. Now I’m in Ontario and the Honey Dill Sauce is starting to turn into some mythic thing that crazy old dad talks about. Please save my Wpg connection with a good recipe!

  24. BOB says:

    On a side note: The reason the Greetalia sauce doesn’t taste as good is because it needs just a bit more mayo. When you put it in your dipping cup, add just a small amount of mayo, and stir it up really well. This way, you can adust the taste to your liking, and get the perfect honey-dill sauce.

  25. Trevor says:

    Clearly you did write home…

    “Best Chicken Fingers in Town”. (You know how I feel about “best in the city” claims…) I went to Mitzi’s with a friend and we ordered the traditional chicken fingers and fries meal. (Incidentally, I didn’t think the chicken fingers were anything to write home about, although many trip advisers beg to differ.)

  26. Tiff says:

    @Scott recipe is super simple and just do everything to taste, if you want creamier then add more mayo, sweeter add more honey, more dilly add dill….if you want Applebee’s dill sauce taste add garlic, powder works best, again to taste.

  27. carilee says:

    im from winnipeg an moved to alberta an can not find your sauce anyplace

  28. [...] radio and newspaper. Without a doubt, though, Manitoba’s most famously un-famous condiment, honey dill sauce, is the funnest and strangest topic I’ve shared my thoughts on yet.  Be sure to check out [...]

  29. I cam across your blog today and I think it’s funny. As a Manitoban there is NOTHING better than chicken fingers and honey dill sauce, but I prefer to make it myself, as many, many Manitoban’s do. I have it on my blog here http://myfriendsbakery.ca/blog/popcorn-chicken-and-honey-dill-sauce/
    and please try it before you dis it. It really is quite delicious!

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