How to eat a cannibal sandwich

I asked, you answered.

My Friday post on cannibal sandwiches, in which I confessed to having never heard of the Upper Midwest delicacies, drew several responses from people verifying the existence of the raw-beef concoctions.

(In case you’re wondering why this is in something called “Health Notes Online,” it started with a report of an advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending against eating cannibal sandwiches.)

You might have seen the comment from “Tansey” that cannibal sandwiches still are popular on the Iron Range.

Tansey’s recipe: “Saltine crackers, cannibal meat with salt and pepper — eat. Choose top grade beef …”

Or the comment from Katie Mazur of South Range, with Granny and Grandpa Bill’s recipe: Raw beef on little breads topped with thinly sliced onion and a dash of salt and pepper. She’s thinking of bringing it back for this year’s New Year’s celebration.

In an email, Mike Knuth told me he hasn’t seen cannibal sandwiches during his years in Duluth, but they were “not uncommon” in the farming area around Plymouth, Wis., where he grew up.

“A huge tray of raw ground was brought out,” Mike wrote. “People would make their own sandwiches with bread, raw ground, salt, pepper and raw onions. The key was lots of pepper and onions!”

Similarly, Nick Lansing wrote in an email that his parents served cannibal sandwiches at cocktail parties when he was a boy growing up in central Wisconsin in the 1970s and ’80s.

They special-ordered ground meat — never packaged hamburger — “and served it in a bowl resting in a larger bowl of ice cubes,” Nick wrote. “Guests ate them on cocktail rye bread with raw onions, salt and pepper. I ate a few and lived to tell about it. The sandwiches tasted bland and their texture was unpleasant.”

So there you have it. I probably won’t post about cannibal sandwiches again, although we can certainly keep the discussion going in the comments section. And if someone sends me a picture of a cannibal sandwich or cannibal sandwiches, I might not be able to resist.

Contact John Lundy at

2 thoughts on “How to eat a cannibal sandwich

  1. We ate these a lot in Pittsburgh when it was a steel town. We spread a very thin layer of good fresh really lean ground meat (such as top sirloin) then covered it with chopped raw onions. Seasonings consisted of salt and pepper, hot sauce, horseradish.

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