Who invented BLT? (Invention Timeline Explained)

BLT is one of the yummiest and greatest sandwiches in the world. For those of you who do not know, BLT stands for bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes which are the main ingredients of the sandwich. The addicting crispiness and crunchiness of bacon, the sweet and acidic taste of fresh tomatoes, the chilled lettuce, the creaminess of mayo, and the classic toasted bread make BLT one of America’s top sandwiches.

Different variations of BLT are now being served. Some people use bagels, taco shells, or croissants instead of toasted bread. Others use different types of bacon, lettuce, or tomatoes. At the same time, younger generations love to add new elements like avocado, grilled pineapple, shrimp, or basil leaves. But the story of how BLT became famous as an inspiring symbol of the rebirth of the food industry. This article will explain how BLT was invented. 

Who invented the first BLT?

The earliest known recipe for BLT was Dr. Evan Mee’s club sandwich. The recipe was written in a book entitled “Good Housekeeping, Everyday Cook Book” from 1903.

The BLT’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Ancient Egyptians
    The Oldest Ingredients

    Two of the main ingredients for BLT were invented or first cultivated by the ancient Egyptians – bread and lettuce.

  • British

    The recipe for BLT was inspired by the tiny bacon sandwiches the British loved to serve during teatime.

  • Saratoga Club
    The Progenitor

    Food historians believe that the club sandwich, the progenitor of BLT, was introduced in the US in the early 20th century. However, it is hard to pinpoint where and who started it; stories and pieces of evidence point to the Saratoga Club in New York.

  • Dr Evan Mee
    The First Printed Recipe

    The first recipe for the BLT sandwich was printed in a book entitled “Good Housekeeping, Everyday Cook Book” in 1903. It was Dr. Evan Mee’s recipe for a sandwich made of lettuce, tomato, a slice of turkey, mayonnaise, and bread.

  • US Food Industry
    After the War

    The end of the Second World War was a rebirth for USA’s food industry. In 1945, the ingredients for BLT became readily available in supermarkets. So, making it became simple. And since new career opportunities for women resurfaced, they preferred meals easy to prepare for their families, one of which is BLT.

  • US Restaurants
    The Initials

    Saying “bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich” is a mouthful. So, cooks and crews of restaurants around the US started using its initials (BLT) as a shorthand name for the bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. It is unclear how the public used it, but since then, there have been several references to BLT made by magazines, TV shows, plays, and cooking shows.

When was BLT invented?

Food historians claim that bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches were enjoyed by people long before the 19th century. However, the first printed recipe of BLT was published in 1903 in a book entitled “Good Housekeeping, Everyday Cook Book.”

A brief history of BLT

The BLT sandwich is so popular among Americans these days. National BLT month is even celebrated every April. Besides its delicious taste, the practicality and simplicity of the recipe are why people love BLT sandwiches. Even though it is a famous recipe, the origins of the bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich are challenging to pin down.

First, let us give thanks to the inventors of BLT’s main ingredients. BLT has five basic ingredients: bread, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Each ingredient has different origins; let’s give it a rundown. The Egyptians perfected the art of breadmaking in ancient times. Ancient Egyptians were also the first group of people to cultivate lettuce and used it as food in 2680 BCE. The salted pork belly was first served in China thousands of years ago. But the modern bacon used in BLT sandwiches appeared in the 1700s. Tomatoes were brought to England in the 16th century but were not eaten until the 18th century. And lastly, mayonnaise was invented in 1756 by Marie-Antoine Careme.

Even though the ingredients for BLT existed hundreds of years ago, food historians believe that the clubhouse sandwich, the progenitor of BLT, was first created in the US in the early 20th century. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where and who started it, but pieces of evidence point to the Saratoga Club in New York. After that, the sandwich’s popularity reached the other men’s clubs.

There’s even an anecdote about a man (apparently a member of the clubhouse) who went home late one day. His family and servants were already sleeping, so he had no choice but to make dinner. He looked for food around the pantry and came across cooked bacon, sliced tomatoes, chicken, mayo, and bread. So he made a sandwich using these ingredients. He loved the sandwich so much that he shared the recipe with his friends at the club. They asked the kitchen staff to recreate the recipe and called it a “club sandwich.”

In 1903, the first recipe for the club sandwich (very close to BLT) was published in a book entitled “Good Housekeeping, Everyday Cook Book.”  It was a recipe by Dr Evan Mee involving toasted bread, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and a slice of turkey. Then the recipe hits restaurants and cookbooks. Most people ordered the club sandwich without the turkey, which eventually became a  bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.

It was after the Second World War that BLT gained its popularity. Since supermarkets were reopening and the food industry was slowly rebuilding, the ingredients for BLT became readily available. In addition, new career opportunities for women (who used to be housewives) resurfaced. So, they chose practical and easy-to-prepare meals, one of which is BLT.

Nowadays, BLT has different variations. It is the 6th most popular and most loved sandwich in the United States and was dubbed as UK’s favorite sandwich in 2008.

The BLT timeline

  1. Victorian Era
    Tiny Sandwiches

    The people of England love to eat tiny bacon sandwiches during their teatime in the Victorian Era.

  2. Late 19th to Early 20th century
    Club Sandwich

    Club Sandwiches, considered the progenitor of BLT sandwiches, were first made in the late 19th century. However, its origin was traced back to the beginning of the 20th century in the Saratoga Club in New York.

  3. 1903
    Cook Book

    The recipe for a club sandwich (closely similar to BLT) was first published in a cookbook in 1903. The sandwich recipe included lettuce, turkey slices, bread, mayo, and tomato.

  4. 1945
    Rise to Fame

    The BLT sandwich rose to fame at the end of the Second World War in 1945.

  5. The 1950s
    Shorthand Name

    Restaurants and diners started serving BLT in the early 1950s. Saying “bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich” became a mouthful for kitchen staff and crew, so they started using its initials – BLT.

Where was the first BLT invented?

The first written recipe for the BLT sandwich was published in a British cookbook. Food historians believe that it originated in England and became popular in America after the Second World War.

Importance of BLT

  • It’s Healthy

    The lettuce in BLT provides calcium, potassium, healthy fiber, and vitamin C. Additionally, tomatoes are sources of lycopene, vitamin K, folate, and potassium.

  • For the Busy Moms

    Working moms are always on the run. So, it’s exhausting for them to make elaborate meals for their families. BLT is a good option for busy moms. It’s healthy, yummy, has few ingredients, and is easy to make.

  • You Can Spice it Up

    You can upgrade a simple BLT sandwich by adding extra ingredients like avocado slices, hot sauce, or roasted garlic. Some people also use different types of brads, lettuce, or tomatoes.

  • Turkey Bacon

    You can replace pork bacon with turkey bacon for a healthier BLT sandwich.

The BLT by the numbers

  • 400-500A regular BLT sandwich contains 400-500 calories.
  • 40 On average, Americans eat around 300 million sandwiches daily. Almost 40% of these are BLT.
  • 22National BLT Day is celebrated every July 22. 
  • 237The most expensive BLT is covered with edible gold dust and costs 237 dollars.

Five facts about BLT

  • For Vegetarians

    Vegans and vegetarians can also enjoy BLT. Instead of using bacon, you can use tofu instead.

  • Not the Most Popular

    BLT is the second most popular sandwich in UK and US until 2019. However, recent surveys show that it dropped its popularity and was ranked the 6th most popular sandwich.

  • Biggest BLT

    The world’s biggest BLT sandwich measures 14,976 square inches.

  • Quantity Doesn’t Matter

    There are no strict rules in making a BLT sandwich. The quantity of ingredients is based on personal preference. So, yes, you can add as much bacon as you want.

  • Save it for Later

    A BLT sandwich won’t spoil overnight. In fact, you can keep your BLT sandwich for about three days. But, it has to be wrapped in plastic in the fridge.

FAQs about BLT   

  • What does “BLT” stand for?

    BLT means bacon, lettuce, and tomato.

  • Is BLT sandwich healthy?

    BLT sandwich contains calcium, potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. You can make your BLT sandwich healthier by replacing pork bacon with turkey slices or tofu. 

  • Why is BLT famous?

    BLT sandwiches first became popular after World War II due to the availability of the ingredients all year round. It sustained its popularity because of its simplicity and practicality.

  • Should BLT sandwich have cheese?

    Not necessarily. Although, some people choose to add cheese because it blends well with the other ingredients.

  • Should BLT sandwich be hot or cold?

    Either way. If you want to save time and energy, you can enjoy a cold BLT. But, some people prefer hot BLT.

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