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Serious Heat: How to Spice Up a Burger

Editor's note: On Thursdays, Andrea Lynn, associate editor of Chile Pepper Magazine, drops by with Serious Heat.

Photograph by Bill Milne

One of my favorite ways to zest up a burger is by making a spicy version of the Southern standby, pimento cheese. I use a spicy cheese for the base and add jalapeños. Whether you stuff it inside the burger, or melt it on top, it's a mouth-watering sensation, especially when combined with the crunch of peppery arugula and the deliciousness of bacon.

How do you like to add a little fire to a burger? Here are a few favorite techniques:

The meat: Add pure chile powder, hot sauce, or finely minced fresh chiles to the mix. Replace a little or a lot of the burger meat with ground chorizo, or mix in Cajun spice or horseradish.

The bun: Try a red-pepper-flake-topped focaccia, a poblano-studded biscuit, or cayenne-sprinkled Texas toast.

The cheese: Spicy cheeses abound, from pepper Jack to chipotle cheddar. And don't forget melty chile con queso, another great topper.

[After the jump, more tips and a recipe for jalapeño-pimento cheeseburgers.]

The veggies: Add shaved jalapeños or habaneros to a slaw, choose a fiery relish or pile on the pickled peppers.

The sauce: Sriracha hot sauce plus mayo is our fave, followed closely by burgers glazed with spicy barbecue sauce. But let your imagination run wild! We've even heard of people smearing pepper jelly on top of their burgers.

Topper: Spicy chili, sour cream mixed with chipotles, salsa or guacamole all work well.

And now, a recipe for you. For more zesty burger recipes, read up in the May issue of Chile Pepper magazine.

Jalapeño-Pimento Cheeseburger

serves 4
Zest factor: Medium

The pimento pepper is a red pepper with a sweeter flesh than the red bell pepper. I used roasted red peppers for the recipes, but use whichever you prefer. There will be leftover pimento cheese, but who's complaining? Spread it onto bread the next day for lunch.

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