Serious Heat: How to Spice Up a Burger Recipe

jalapeno pimento cheeseburger

Bill Milne

Andrea Lynn, former associate editor of Chile Pepper Magazine, wrote our Serious Heat articles.

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.

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.

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.


  • 2 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers or pimentos, finely chopped
  • 3 scallions, white parts, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 jalapeños, divided
  • 1 1/3 pounds ground chuck
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons grated onion
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 potato rolls, toasted
  • 8 slices cooked bacon
  • Arugula


  1. In a bowl, combine cheese, red peppers, scallions, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, pepper and mayo. Finely chop 2 jalapeños, and add to cheese mixture. Using a fork, mash to combine mixture into a chunky paste. Add more mayo, if needed.

  2. Prepare grill to medium high heat, or preheat broiler. In a bowl, add remaining paprika, beef, granulated garlic, onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Gently combine without over-mixing the meat, and form into 4 patties. Cook on grill or in broiler until desired doneness, about 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. About 1 minute before the burger is done, top with a generous amount of jalapeño-pimento cheese, and cook until melted, about 1 minute.

  3. Slice remaining 2 jalapeños. Place cheeseburgers on potato rolls, and top with jalapeño slices, bacon and arugula.