HEMINGWAY'S FAMOUS BURGER RECIPE Complex, Captivating, Classic

Ernest Hemingway is one of literature’s greatest authors and my personal favorite. An innovative and audacious writer who achieved poetic vision through sparse prose, Hemingway will always be an icon of a certain spirit of adventure and old world masculinity. Though a warlike and pugnacious spirit, Hemingway had a great appetite for the sensual nature of the world (as any reader of A Movable Feast will attest) and a great appetite for good hamburgers in particular.

The following recipe is Ernest Hemingway’s actual hamburger recipe complete with his actual instructions. This unique treasure map was discovered by the food writer Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan in 2013 after pouring through the recently digitized Hemingway archives at the JFK Presidential Library (why they’re located there, I have no idea).

A couple things you’ll note. First of all, the burgers are pan-fried so if you live in an apartment or don’t have a grill, have no fear. Secondly, you’ll see that Hemingway’s recipe calls for a spice known as “Mei Yen Powder” which was discontinued by Spice Islands a few years ago. After a little hunting and discussions with the Spice Islands tastemakers, Tan was able to recreate a close approximation of the spice that helps give the burgers their unique umami flavor. Instead of Mei Yen, Tan suggests mixing 9 parts salt, 9 parts sugar, 2 parts MSG into a dry rub. Then, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon Mei Yen Powder, use 2/3 tsp of the dry recipe mixed with 1/8 tsp of soy sauce. There you have it, fellas. Invite some guys over and score some major ManScore points at this beloved intersection of masculine literature and damn good food. See the recipe below:

From Experimenting, Papa's Favorite Wild West Hamburger
There is no reason why a fried hamburger has to turn out gray, greasy, paper-thin and tasteless. You can add all sorts of goodies and flavors to the ground beef—minced mushrooms, cocktail sauce, minced garlic and onion, ground almonds, a big dollop of Piccalilli, or whatever your eye lights on. Papa prefers this combination.


  • 1lb. ground lean beef
  • 2 cloves, minced garlic
  • 2 little green onions, finely chopped
  • parsley [sic]
  • 1 heaping teaspoon, India relish
  • 2 tablespoons, capers
  • 1 heaping teaspoon, Spice Islands Sage [sic]
  • 1/2 teaspoon Spice Islands Beau Monde Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon Spice Islands Mei Yen Powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten in a cup with a fork
  • About 1/3 cup dry red or white wine
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
What to do
Break up the meat with a fork and scatter the garlic, onion and dry seasonings over it, then mix them into the meat with a fork or your fingers. Let the bowl of meat sit out of the icebox for ten or fifteen minutes while you set the table and make the salad. Add the relish, capers, everything else including wine and let the meat sit, quietly marinating, for another ten minutes if possible. Now make four fat, juicy patties with your hands. The patties should be an inch thick, and soft in texture but not runny. Have the oil in your frying pan hot but not smoking when you drop the patties and then turn the heat down and fry the burgers about four minutes. Take the pan off the burner and turn the heat high again. Flip the burgers over, put the pan back on the hot fire, then after one minute, turn the heat down again and cook another three minutes. Both sides of the burgers should be crispy brown and the middle pink and juicy.

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