This Condiment Is Better for Your Burgers Than Ketchup

You gotta try this.

Burgers taste better with mayo. Yeah, delicious, creamy mayonnaise, scooped straight from the jar, judiciously smeared across a lightly toasted bun and smooshed into a juicy patty—hold the ketchup, hold the mustard. You've gotta try it.

Somewhere down the line, America decided that burgers go with ketchup, whether squeezed from white Heinz packets, pumped from Heinz counter tubs, or smacked with the heel of your hand from a glass Heinz bottle. But in drenching our burgers with ketchup, we've masked the flavor of grilled meat.

"It's concentrated tomato flavor mixed with sugar and vinegar. It's too much for a burger," says chef Alvin Cailan, host of First We Feast's The Burger Show (and owner of a dog named Mayo, so yeah, he's serious about this). Mayonnaise, however, "magnifies the flavors of the beef and the cheese."

Why? Superior flavor balance and texture. The flavor of mayo is more neutral. It carries a slight tinge of acidity, but nowhere strong enough to burn itself into the roof of your mouth, imprinting your taste buds before they touch meat, like ketchup. And its texture is sublime, "an almost viscous texture as opposed to sticky and tangy," Cailan says. Sure, "viscous" might not be the most appetizing adjective for a condiment, but what that means is it holds its own against the crumble of beef, ooze of meat juices, and crunch of lettuce and onion.

This isn't a screed against tomatoes. Layer 'em on. (Cailan peels and purees whole tomatoes and uses that pulpy paste in addition to mayo.) But it is an indictment of overly sweet ketchup, a flavor that's only vaguely reminiscent of tomato.


And if this sounds all too repulsive to you, then consider two of the most famous fast food burger chains in the world, In-N-Out and Shake Shack, serve patties with a secret sauce that's roughly half mayo, half ketchup—halfway to whole mayo perfection.

So go ahead and grill up a patty, then bring on the Hellman's.

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Sarah Rense
Sarah Rense is the Lifestyle Editor at Esquire, where she covers tech, food, drinks, home, and more.
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