Walk into any Memorial Day cookout and you're likely to find burgers on the grill—few foods are as synonymous with grilling. At its heart, a great burger is an exercise in simplicity. All you really need is beef, salt, pepper, and fire. Once you've got the base down it's time to start experimenting with toppings like pimento cheese and jalapeños, teriyaki sauce and scallions, or Spam and pineapple. To get your Memorial Day barbecue going we've rounded up 15 of our favorite grilled burger recipes (including a few meat-free options for your vegetarian friends).
Thick and Juicy Home-Ground Grilled Cheeseburgers
The best way to upgrade any burger is to ditch the store-bought ground beef and make it yourself. Taking the grinding into your own hands gives you much more control over the texture and flavor of the finished burger. My preference is to start with short rib, brisket, and sirloin and grind it pretty fine to make flavorful burgers that stay juicy on the grill.
Barbecue Bacon Burgers
Our ultimate bacon cheeseburger is packed with flavor, but it's not particularly grill-friendly. For Memorial Day go with these bacon burgers instead, which we infuse with smoke by grilling the bacon, burgers, and onion. Not just any old bacon works here—you're going to want to find meaty slices a quarter inch thick.
We live in a divided nation, and while I can't solve many of our problems, I think I can broker peace in the McDonald's vs Burger King debate. This hybrid burger crosses party lines with the Whopper's flame-broiled patty, the Big Mac's special sauce, and both fresh and dehydrated onions.
Quadruple Chili Cheeseburgers
This fiery burger starts like a classic green chili cheeseburger, but then ups the heat with three extra kinds of hot peppers. We throw chilies onto this burger in just about every form we can think of: pepper Jack cheese, pickled jalapeños, and chipotle mayo in addition to the roasted Poblanos (if you can find Hatch chilies, use those instead).
Pimento cheese might not be your first choice for topping a burger, but once you see how rich and creamy it gets as it melts onto the patty you'll realize what you've been missing. We use our standard pimento cheese here and add slices of pickled jalapeño for an extra kick.
While it's traditionally a glaze for fish, teriyaki sauce gets slathered on all kinds of meats—in this case a hearty grilled burger. Homemade teriyaki sauce is a must here, and you have to wait until the burgers are almost done to brush on the sauce so that it doesn't burn. Shredded cabbage gives the burger some crunch.
Grilled Black-Olive Burger With Japanese Vinegar
Sticking with the Japanese-inspired theme, these burgers are a riff on the famous green olive burger from way over Wisconsin way, but the burger patty gets spiked with Japanese black vinegar, or kurozu. We top the patty with melty Swiss cheese and slather the buns with mayo that's been mixed up with chopped black olives.
Grilled Korean Bulgogi Burgers With Kimchi Mayo and Pickled Daikon
Moving a bit to the west, these burgers get glazed with a flavorful sauce inspired by bulgogi, the marinated and grilled meat that is one of the highlights of a meal at Korean barbecue restaurant. To double down on the Korean-inspired theme, we mix up a spicy kimchi mayo and slide a couple sliced of pickled daikon in under the buns.
Cajun Burgers With Spicy Remoulade
Purists might tell you that burgers need to be 100% beef, but we see no problem grinding up some spicy andouille sausage with the chuck to make extra-flavorful patties. We keep the Cajun theme going by topping the burgers with bell pepper, onion, celery, and a spicy remoulade. Blue cheese isn't Cajun, but we think the burger needs the little bit of funk.
Sichuan Peppercorn Burgers With Chili-Ginger Mayo and Cucumber Pickles
To give your guests something unexpected, try these burgers seasoned with a spice blend of cumin, red pepper flakes, fennel, star anise, and mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns. We keep the heat coming with a chili- and ginger-spiked mayo, but crunchy pickled cucumbers stop the burger from getting too hot.
Cemita Burger With Refried Beans, Chipotle Mayo, Avocado, and Oaxacan Cheese
New York-style cemitas are filled with lots of meats that aren't traditional back in Puebla, so why not use a hamburger patty? Make sure people come hungry though—loaded with refried beans, avocado, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato, and papalo, these burgers aren't for the faint of stomach.
Hot Hawaiian Burgers (Spam, Pineapple, Swiss, and Sriracha Mayo)
Say what you will about Spam—I love the salty pork product, especially when it's grilled and paired with sweet, acidic pineapple. We use both to top these burgers, along with Sriracha mayo and melted Swiss cheese. English muffins aren't particularly Hawaiian, but they're perfect for catching all the juices from the meat and fruit.
The Best Lamb Burgers
Lamb is one of my favorite meats, but I usually steer clear of lamb burgers, which I find tend to be dry. By grinding your own meat and working it gently, you can make lamb burgers that are perfectly moist. Be sure to cook the patties at least to medium-rare—lamb fat tastes best when it gets hot enough to melt.
Homemade Vegan Burgers That Don't Suck
If I'm make a vegan burger I'm not looking for a beef replacement—I want to really taste the vegetables and grains. This burger fits the bill thanks to a long list of ingredients: beans, barley, nuts, and lots of veggies. Not only is the patty tasty enough for both vegans and omnivores, but it cooks just like ground beef.
Really Awesome Black Bean Burgers
This black bean burger gets a meaty texture from partially dehydrated black beans, chopped cashews, and panko bread crumbs and a Southwestern flavor from sautéed onions, garlic, and Poblano peppers. The recipe is vegetarian but not vegan—we use egg as a binder and mayo and cotija or feta for extra moisture.