Memorial Day is fast approaching, and, obviously, that means grilling burgers. Believe us, we'll throw just about anything that's edible over the flames, but the joy of biting into the rosy, juicy insides of a well-charred hunk of beef jammed between bread has established the burger in its deserved position as top of the grilling heap. You need nothing more than beef (preferably ground by hand at home), salt, and pepper to make a great one. But, if you want to branch out, this collection of 21 recipes includes variations like barbecue bacon burgers, Cajun burgers with remoulade, Argentinean burgers with provolone and chimichurri, and a vegan burger that may change your opinion on vegan burgers for good. And, in case you want to free up room on your grill for your own wacky grilling experiments, we've listed some options for burgers on the stovetop, too.
Thick and Juicy Home-Ground Grilled Cheeseburgers
Store-bought ground beef makes burgers a snap, but you'll have far greater control over texture and flavor if you grind the beef yourself in a meat grinder or food processor. For grilling, we prefer a somewhat finer grind, which tends to help the burgers stay juicier. This basic recipe calls for 100% beef chuck, but for a more intense flavor, use a mix of short rib, brisket, and sirloin.
Ever heard the old wives' tale that says you should never press down on a burger, or risk squeezing out the juices? Not only is it not true, flattening out your burger in the skillet gives it greater contact with the pan, for a terrifically crisp, browned crust. We recommend making two ultra-thin burgers per serving and sandwiching a slice of cheese in between, in order to get the most flavorful crust possible in each bite.
The Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburgers
A bacon cheeseburger is generally thought of as an ordinary burger with a few slices of bacon slapped on top of it. Fine—but it doesn't have to be that way. For the bacon-iest bacon cheeseburgers around, we top them with a bacon weave, ensuring that the crisp, smoky pork finds its way into every bite. Plus, we cook the patties in bacon fat and spread them with bacon fat–infused mayo. What? Didn't you say you like bacon?
Barbecue Bacon Burgers
To maximize the smoky flavor of these burgers, we use extra-thick-cut slab bacon—about a quarter inch thick—on top of eight-ounce patties, which are big enough to stand up to that kind of topping. Brush the patties with barbecue sauce (either homemade or store-bought) just before they come off the grill, and finish each burger with sweet, browned grilled onion slices.
What if, for a single day, we could stop arguing over the relative merits of Big Macs and Whoppers and just create a burger that unites the best of both? The result of that dream, the McWhopper, combines a Whopper's flame-broiled patty with a Big Mac's sweet special sauce. As for the onions, we couldn't pick between dehydrated chopped onions and fresh slices, so we just use both.
Quadruple Chili Cheeseburgers
That's chili as in pepper, not chili as in cook-off. Here, we take the concept of a classic green chili cheeseburger to its spicy extreme by adding not one but three extra peppers. Start with roasted Poblanos (or Hatch chilies, if you can find them), melt pepper Jack onto the patties, sprinkle on some vinegary pickled jalapeños, and spread on a smoky chipotle mayo.
If you've never thought about spreading pimento cheese on a burger (I hadn't until I was introduced to this recipe), you'll be amazed at what you've been missing all these years. The Southern spread melts into a rich, creamy coating that complements a grilled burger beautifully. For added heat, we replace ordinary pickles with slices of pickled jalapeño.
Smashed Reuben Burgers
For a Reuben-inspired twist on crispy-crusty smashed burgers, we cook full-size burgers slider-style, but use sauerkraut in place of the usual onions. Flip the kraut-topped patties, melt on Swiss, and sandwich it all in between slices of buttered, toasted rye so that the cheese fuses to the bread. But don't forget to slather the bottom slice of bread with homemade Russian dressing first.
Teriyaki is traditionally used to glaze fish, but you shouldn't let that stop you from applying it to other meats, including burgers. Two things to bear in mind: First, use only homemade teriyaki sauce—the store-bought kind is almost universally disappointing. Second, brush on the teriyaki sauce only toward the end of cooking, so that it doesn't burn.
Cajun Burgers With Spicy Remoulade
To heighten the Cajun-ness of these burgers, we grind up spicy andouille sausage along with beef to form the patties. They're topped with the Cajun trinity of bell pepper, onion, and celery; a creamy remoulade made with hot sauce; and blue cheese—which isn't exactly Cajun, but it is unquestionably good.
The Double Bacon Hamburger Fatty Melt
You may have heard of the exercise in excess called the fatty melt, a cheeseburger that uses grilled cheese sandwiches for buns. The natural next step was to make it a double, using three grilled cheese sandwiches and two hamburger patties. And, just to keep your cardiologists on their toes, we add four slices of bacon.
Sichuan Peppercorn Burgers With Chili-Ginger Mayo and Cucumber Pickles
These Sichuan-inspired burgers use beef mixed with a spice blend of toasted tingly-hot Sichuan peppercorns, cumin, red pepper flakes, fennel, and anise. A chili- and ginger-spiked mayo adds extra fire, balanced out by crunchy pickled cucumbers. Substituting lamb for beef here would be a great choice if you're a lamb lover.
Argentine Asado Burgers With Seared Provolone and Chimichurri
I've never had the good fortune to participate in a traditional Argentine asado, the massive grilling feast that's a signature event in the mountains of that country, but this burger makes a decent stand-in. It incorporates all the typical flavors: smoky beef, melty grilled provolone, and bright, herb-packed chimichurri. Since there's way too much going on here for a soft burger bun, we use crusty toasted peasant bread instead.
Mornay and Mushroom Duxelles Burger With Crispy Shallots
This burger takes the elegance of French cooking and just...dirties it up a little bit. Pâté-like mushroom duxelles, rich Mornay sauce (a béchamel with Gruyère melted in), and crispy fried shallots top off a burger that's as delicious as it is finger-licking messy. An onion roll gives it even more flavor.
Japanese Miso-Glazed Eggplant Burgers With Fresh Pickles
Tender miso-glazed grilled eggplant slices provide a sweet, savory, and salty topping for beef burgers in this Japanese twist. We add quick-pickled cucumbers for texture, using less sugar than usual to account for the sweetness of the glaze. English muffins as buns aren't exactly traditional, but they work well with the creamy eggplant.
Cemita Burger With Refried Beans, Chipotle Mayo, Avocado, and Oaxacan Cheese
This behemoth of a burger is jam-packed with classic cemita toppings: refried beans, avocado, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato, and, of course, papalo, which you can find at well-stocked Mexican markets. We like our cemita buns toasted in burger grease and compressed with a spatula so the sandwiches don't end up too tall and unruly.
Hot Hawaiian Burgers (Spam, Pineapple, Swiss, and Sriracha Mayo)
Spam may be the butt of endless jokes, but there's a reason why it's so often paired with pineapple in Hawaiian-inspired dishes: The combination of salty pork and sweet, acidic fruit like pineapple truly works. What could possibly make it better? Using both to top a burger, along with a spoonful of hot Sriracha mayo and melted Swiss cheese to add complexity (and gooeyness). The nooks and crannies of English muffins are perfect for catching all the drips.
The Best Lamb Burgers
Despite my affection for lamb's gamy flavor, I've always been disappointed by most lamb burgers, which seem to consistently end up dry. For burgers that are nice and moist, grind the lamb yourself, and be sure not to overwork it. The patties will be juiciest when cooked to medium-rare or a little longer; lamb fat is at its best when it's hot and melting.
Easy Salmon Burgers With Dill Honey-Mustard, Horseradish, and Avocado
Think salmon burgers are merely a sad substitute for beef patties? Think again. If you're a regular consumer of red meat, these incredibly easy salmon burgers may not satisfy quite the same cravings, but they're terrific in their own right. The toppings here are nearly as important as the burger itself—you'll want to put our spicy horseradish Dijon mayonnaise on everything.
Homemade Vegan Burgers That Don't Suck
The name says it all, really. A vegan burger can be a pretty miserable experience, but it doesn't have to be. This one gets great flavor and texture from a long list of ingredients: beans, barley, nuts, and plenty of actual vegetables. It's not a quick recipe, but the result is a vegan patty that cooks up just like ground beef, with enough flavor to satisfy vegans and omnivores alike.
Really Awesome Black Bean Burgers
A good black bean burger needs to be intensely flavored, with a texture that's meaty, never mushy. For this vegetarian (though not vegan) version, we start by partially dehydrating the beans in the oven, then mix them with chopped cashews and panko bread crumbs. Sautéed onions, garlic, and Poblano peppers give the burgers a subtle Southwest flavor.