Southerners have very specific notions about what condiments hush puppies should come into contact with—if any. If the pups are served as a side with fried fish—as tradition intended them—they might have a brush with condiments meant for the fish, like tartar or cocktail sauce. If they are served with barbeque, as has become their fate, they’ll roll up against a pile of coleslaw or slip on a fork with some savory field peas. When they’re thrown down on the table instead of bread—as they are in some barbeque restaurants—nothing can save them.
Ultimately, hush puppy dipping sauce boils down to personal preference. You might not want to dip them in anything but your mouth. We love the rough-and-tumble variant below, a homemade mayonnaise blended with a little commercial ketchup and melted butter that borrows from the cocktail and tartar sauce traditions and winds up being, well, now that you mention it, a bit like Thousand Island dressing. Jeepers! It has minced onion, of course, because hush puppies do like a bit of zing, no matter what, and a good balance of sweet, tart, smooth and rich. We didn’t add any minced pickle in the photographed sauce, but you could. A pinch of celery seed also tastes lovely in this sauce. Of course, homemade ketchup from the colonial era would be very nice, but don’t worry if you aren’t up to it (we weren’t): the ketchup is but a gleam in the hush puppy’s eye.