35 Better-for-You Burgers for Your Backyard Barbecue
Juicy Grass-Fed Beef Burgers
In addition to the mayo mixed into the patties, we also stir in caramelized onions to help with juiciness and offer a flavor boost. Without a lot of fat to insulate them, grass-fed ground beef patties cook quicker than grain-fed burgers.
Banh Mi Burgers
Here, a basic beef burger takes some cues from the classic Vietnamese sandwich and cranks its flavor up to 10. We enjoy our burgers cooked to medium (140°F) for more juiciness, and we always purchase the meat from a trusted source. You can cook the patties to your desired degree of doneness; the USDA recommends 160°F for ground beef.
All-American Grilled Burger
Here’s your blueprint for a crowd-pleasing backyard barbecue burger complete with special sauce. The sauce is no secret here: Crunchy iceberg lettuce and pickles provide crunch and tang, all mixed in with ketchup, mustard, and a little hot sauce for kick. We like the texture whole-grain mustard adds to the sauce, but creamy Dijon will work just as well. Don’t overwork the beef as you form the patties so the burgers stay moist and juicy.
Smashed Double Cheeseburger Sliders
You can easily make these on the grill instead of the stovetop. Just preheat the grill to high, and set a cast-iron skillet on the grill grate to preheat also. Be careful when touching the skillet, as the handle will be extremely hot. A pinch of sugar in the beef patty mixture helps deliver deep-brown, caramelized crust to the burgers without making them taste sweet.
Greek Turkey Burgers
Riffing off the flavor of a Greek gyro, these turkey burgers cook up fast in a cast-iron skillet or grill pan. Lemony, olive-studded yogurt sauce adds more Middle Eastern–inspired flavor and is a tasty alternative to ketchup and mustard. Piled high with arugula, cucumber, and red onion, these are filling enough to be called dinner. Or, round out the meal with roasted potato fries. For the juiciest burgers, go for 93% lean ground turkey (a combination of white and dark meat).
Tennessee Burger with Bourbon and BBQ Sauce
You can play with tradition in the South, but best not mess with it. There's no quinoa or fish sauce in this burger. It starts with caramelized onions, cooked low and slow. Some of the onions then get folded into the beef, keeping the patty moist and juicy. Next come salutes to barbecue and bourbon. Bacon adds savory crunch, while a shot of bourbon keeps the made-from-scratch sauce smoky and sweet. Then we bless it all with a fat, juicy, heirloom tomato slice.
Bulgur Chickpea Burgers
Green onions, smoked paprika, and cumin infuse these super savory veggie burgers. A creamy, garlicky avocado mash is the perfect complement. Don't worry about mashing the chickpeas completely smooth; a few chunks provide great texture. The raw bulgur-chickpea mixture is delicate but firms up as it cooks; be gentle when turning the burgers in the pan so they don't fall apart. If you have leftover bulgur, these come together in a flash; use 1 1/3 cups cooked grains.
Lentil-Tahini Burgers with Pickled Cabbage
Look for steamed, vacuum-packed lentils in the grain aisle for the best texture in the burgers, or cook, drain, and refrigerate your own the night before. Why does tahini turn to a gluey paste when liquid is added? Tahini is made of carbs, and carbs stick to water molecules like, well, glue. Keep slowly adding liquid and stirring; the sauce will start to absorb the liquid and smooth out.
Cheesesteak Burgers with Pickled Peppers, Onions, and Cucumber
Quick pickles add tangy crunch to our fresh riff on the cheesesteak sandwich. Avoid overworking the meat when you mix and shape the patties; you run the risk of making them tough.
Black Bean and Mushroom Burgers
The food processor brings these meatless patties together in a flash. Another bonus? A new Harvard study found that those who regularly ate a healthy plant-based diet (like this burger) significantly lowered their risk of heart disease. Ground flaxseed adds body to the burgers. This quick dinner is also a great way to work more meatless dishes into your week. Kids can help shape the patties, mix up the avocado spread, and build the sandwiches.
Classic Bacon Cheeseburger Sliders
Though we usually shy away from processed foods, we do love American cheese here for that old-school burger joint flavor; you can certainly substitute cheddar, if you prefer. Rinsing the onion removes some of its harsh bite; use a fine sieve.
The addition of fish sauce makes for a flavor-packed patty in this irresistible sirloin burger.
It's time to flip your burger! The protein in your burger, that is. Chefs and major food-service companies alike have had huge success with plant-forward burgers because they're delicious, satisfying, and better for you. We upped the veggie-to-beef ratio in this makeover of a classic burger for a patty that's much lower in fat, yet full of meaty satisfaction.
Cheddar Cheeseburgers with Caramelized Shallots
Tender, golden shallots lend a lovely sweetness to this classic cheeseburger. Don't be afraid to cook the shallots to a deep golden brown: It will improve their flavor.
Great Plains Burger
King Corn governs the Great Plains and probably always will. This burger delivers deep corn essence two ways. The first puts a happy soul-of-corn flavor right in the patty: Corn chips are crumbled into lean, free-range bison meat. Then there's a sweet, creamy fresh-corn mayo that brightens the whole thing up. Charred onion bolstered by smoky chile pepper heats and a wild whiff of sage completes the roundup of prairie gusto.
SoCal Guacamole Burger
This Southern California special blends the region's produce-forward approach with Latin flair on a lean sirloin patty. Buttery avocado is the base for a guacamole that's flecked with jalapeño. For crunch, I chose alfalfa sprouts, which continue to proliferate in California stores and are prized for their bright taste and springy, crisp texture. Some locals might have gone bunless, but grains are so of-the-moment. I used a whole-grain bun, natch.
Chile peppers and cacti are staple ingredients in Southwestern cooking. Here I mixed a sweet-smoky ancho chile paste with bottom notes of earthy cumin into the beef patty. For a condiment, I started with nopales (cactus paddles) to give deep green veggie flavor. Jicama adds hearty crunch, while lime juice and cilantro brighten it all up.
New England Turkey Burger
Surf-and-turf sings a New England tune: Stick a few hunks of Maine lobstah on a beef patty and call it a day. But beef and lobster don't really belong together in a bun. I wanted something simpler, more basic and true to the region where I spent my college years. Turkey is a healthy choice and the essence of New England tradition. Caramelized onions simmer in hoppy Sam Adams beer, while shaved Vermont cheddar adds tang and richness to the meat.
Pacific Northwest Burger
Salmon is sacred in the region, but don't grind it, please. No fish cake beats a fillet hot off the grill, nicely charred and glazed outside, almost sushi-tender within. Watercress—the peppery green I was eating way before arugula vogued in local markets—is quintessentially Pacific Northwest. Asian flavors are beloved, so the mayo is ginger-tinged. For crunch and tang, there's a quick pickle of fresh, thin-sliced radish. This luscious treat takes me right back home.
Lamb Burgers with Cilantro Raita
The tangy, herby yogurt sauce (raita) stands in for mayonnaise on this blended burger. For more spicy kick, leave the seeds in the serrano chile.
Hoisin-Glazed Salmon Burgers with Pickled Cucumber
Quick-pickled cukes give these burgers tart crunch. Panko and egg white hold the patties together. Use cilantro leaves on the burgers as you would lettuce for herby freshness.
Golden, sweet sautéed onions and pungent crumbled Stilton cheese top lean sirloin burgers on toasted French rolls for a simple, easy-to-make burger with big flavor.
This light, tasty burger proves that salmon can be every bit as satisfying as beef. The trick is to get the texture right. Ground beef will stick together firmly to form a patty, but ground salmon alone can be soft and difficult to work with, and a binder like breadcrumbs or eggs can blur the salmon flavor. Solution: For perfect texture, we puree one quarter of the salmon into a fine paste and use it to bind the rest of the roughly chopped salmon.
The burgers are then flavored with classic fish condiments. Adding shallots offers a great oniony kick. Lemon zest and tarragon add complexity. The whole beautiful thing is finished with a deliciously tangy honey-mustard glaze.
Spicy Poblano Burgers with Pickled Red Onions and Chipotle Cream
The secret to this burger, which is made of lean, preground supermarket sirloin, is the addition of a mixture called a panade, a mash of milk and bread used to keep meatballs tender and moist. Also in the mix are warm spices often found in Mexican chorizo sausage—such as coriander, paprika, and cumin. There's a creamy, smoky poblano sauce, and the burger is finished with a quick red onion pickle that lends a wonderful tang. (The pickled onion recipe yields more than you'll need for a single batch of burgers, but it keeps for several weeks in the fridge. Use on sandwiches or salads—or the next batch of these poblano burgers.)
Lamb Burgers with Indian Spices and Yogurt-Mint Sauce
This burger is kept lean by using lamb shoulder, which has about two-thirds less fat than pre-ground lamb from the supermarket. For a lighter texture, grind it yourself (using a grinder attachment for your stand mixer or an old-fashioned hand grinder), or ask a butcher to do it.
Vadouvan, an Indian spice mix, flavors the meat. The patties get tantalizingly aromatic when charred on a hot grill.
Mint and yogurt provide the perfect counterpoint to the spice mix. Finally, sweet roasted red peppers and bitter radicchio round out a delicously tasty burger.
Italian Meatball Burgers
A combination of turkey sausage and ground beef gives these burgers classic Italian flavor with less fat while also making firm patties that won't fall apart during cooking. Mozzarella and pasta sauce are the perfect meatball-burger toppings, while pasta salad makes a nice side.
Turkey Burgers with Roasted Eggplant
How do you get a burger made from mild, low-fat turkey to have some of the meaty richness of beef? Add some rich, meaty flavors! Here's the kitchen science: Beef and other red meats contain compounds called glutamates. So do soy sauce and Marmite, which is a powerfully strong yeast extract found in a lot of supermarkets (the Aussies love a version called Vegemite). We add a bit of both to our turkey mixture, lending this burger the umami flavors of real red meat.
As for juiciness, another challenge with turkey, that comes from the addition of mildly flavored eggplant. We simply roast the eggplant with olive oil, then puree it, then blend it with the ground meat.
Simple, Perfect Fresh-Ground Brisket Burgers
This is the purist's burger, and the best argument of all for using fresh-ground meat. Preground supermarket beef is often made from trim and scraps. The result can be inconsistent flavor. Not only that, but preground meat compresses the longer it sits in tight packaging, which affects texture. So it's much better to start with whole cuts of beef and grind them yourself, or get the butcher to do it at the shop or supermarket.
Grinding also lets you control fat. We use lean brisket, lower in saturated fat, and then add olive oil, which ensures juiciness and a rich, meaty flavor.
Korean Barbecue Burgers
Shake up burger night with this unique sweet-and-salty creation. Add even more flavor by changing up the toppings; try spicy kimchi or sriracha, or crunchy Napa cabbage or water chestnuts. Serve with small plates of kimchi, pickles, and noodles for a more authentic Korean experience.
Southwestern Turkey-Cheddar Burgers with Grilled Onions
Wheat germ adds a nuttiness that complements the turkey and spices in this Southwestern-style burger. For more spicy heat, use Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeño peppers.
Turkey Burgers with Cranberry-Peach Chutney
Enjoy the flavors of Thanksgiving all year long in this dressed-up turkey burger. Purchase ground turkey breast versus ground turkey—the white meat is much lower in calories and fat. Grilling the burgers makes for an added boost of flavor. Serve with vegetable chips and red grapes.
Greek-Style Burgers with Feta Aioli
This burger—stuffed with roasted bell peppers and spinach—carries Greek flavors in every bite. Greek cuisine highlights healthy ingredients such as vegetables and olive oil, so these burgers are a filling, lighter alternative to traditional hamburgers.
Blue Cheese-Stuffed Burgers
A traditional hamburger patty gets a makeover when you add onion, breadcrumbs, and egg white to the meat. Using English muffins, which are usually smaller than buns, allows the blue cheese and the meat to dominate the flavors in this recipe. Try stuffing these burgers with shredded Cheddar or Swiss cheese if you don't like blue cheese.
Stuffing burgers is easy. Divide the beef mixture into 8 equal portions; shape each into a ½-inch-thick patty. Spoon the cheese or other ingredient of choice into the center of 4 patties, and top with the remaining patties. Press or pinch the edges together to seal. Make sure the edges are sealed tightly so the cheese doesn't leak out during the cooking process. Stuffing burgers ensures an equal amount of cheesy flavor in every bite.
Turkey Burgers with Special Sauce
Let's be honest: Even with orange, ginger, and soy mixed in to the patties, as here, turkey burgers can be a little bland. That's why they need a great zesty sauce or lots of cheese to match up to hamburgers. This recipe's Special Sauce fits the bill and then some. The creamy, pungent, sweet, slightly Asian-tinged sauce may well become a staple in your kitchen―try it on deli sandwiches, as a dip for raw veggies, or as salad dressing.