Check It Out: Ernest Hemingway’s Personal Burger Recipe

created at: 01/13/2014

Of course Ernest Hemingway had a favorite burger recipe. Guy was pretty opinated, enjoyed the simple things, and certainly celebrated a “hands on” lifestyle. What’s interesting here, is that unlike Dean Martin’s go-to recipe – which is an entire pound of ground beef served with chilled bourbon – Hemingway’s recipe is rather complex, full of wine, capers, and special spice mixes.

Open Culture snagged the recipe from Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, who found the recipe in an article about the preservation of documents from Hemingway’s home in Cuba at the JFK Memorial Library. It goes like this: 

  • 1 lb. ground lean beef
  • 2 cloves, minced garlic
  • 2 little green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 heaping teaspoon, India relish
  • 2 tablespoons, capers
  • 1 heaping teaspoon, Spice Islands sage
  • Spice Islands Beau Monde Seasoning — 1/2 teaspoon
  • Spice Islands Mei Yen Powder — 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1 egg, beaten in a cup with a fork
  • About 1/3 cup dry red or white wine
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil

These almost read like little meatloafs (meat loaves?), or at least what my wife and I like to call “ground beef sandwiches” when comparing to an actual burger. Spice Islands no longer makes the Mei Yen powder, but Tan suggests recreating it  “by mixing nine parts salt, nine parts sugar and two parts MSG. If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of Mei Yen Powder,” she writes, “use 2/3 tsp of the dry recipe (above) mixed with 1/8 tsp of soy sauce. Hemingway’s widow, Mary, published the same basic recipe in 1966 in the sixth volume of the Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery. The one-pound of beef was intended for only two servings.”

Check out the piece at Open Culture, then read Tan’s original article at the Paris Review: Hemingway’s Hamburger