Hamburgers are usually about the ingredients you add to your meat patty and bun. But if you usually just make your burger patties out of ground beef and maybe some seasoning, you’re missing out on a lot of fun. The beauty of working with ground meat is that you can add lots of good stuff directly into the patty, making those flavors even more integral to the burger. These mix-in ingredients make a hamburger more exciting without adding much work to it.
You can use any of these ingredients alone or in combination with your meat. In addition to enhancing flavor, consider that they’ll reduce the actual amount of beef in your patties. This is helpful if you’re trying to reduce your red meat consumption or struggling to afford enough beef to make big juicy hamburgers for your household – just pick the mix-in ingredients that suit your budget or your diet. You can look at these ingredients as “extenders” that make your beef go further. These ingredients can also make lean burger meat taste much better.
What can you add into hamburger meat? Any ingredient that’s wet enough to withstand some cook time on high heat. Examples of things that won’t work: dry ingredients like dried herbs or ground peanuts. These can top a burger, but they tend to kind of incinerate or lose all flavor when you try to cook them in with it.
These mix-ins will also work with ground turkey and other beef substitutes, and can really enhance their flavors.
- Egg: adding an egg to every pound of beef improves both the consistency and the flavor, and keeps it from falling apart on the grill).
- Bacon: mix some chopped, uncooked bacon in with your ground beef, make your patties and grill or fry it up together.
- Onions: instead of adding onions to the burger after it’s cooked, you can chop them up and mix them into the patty. This also has the advantage of cooking the onions, which reduces any rankness.
- Bread crumbs: since your hamburger’s already going to be served on a bun, bread crumbs don’t add much in the flavor department. Their real function is to add a bit of dryness to your beef mix, which is excellent when it’s paired with a wet ingredient. It’s also useful as an extender.
- Worcestershire sauce: this classic sauce adds a nice tang to beef, and raises the juiciness level, too. If you find it’s making your patties too wet to stick together well, throw in some bread crumbs.
- Garlic: chopped fresh garlic kneaded into beef patties is wonderful. You can also just sprinkle garlic powder in with your meat to get some of that garlic flavor.
- Grated cheese: grate some cheese – any kind you like – and knead that into your burger patties. The cheese and the beef flavor each other as they cook, and you know how good beef and cheese taste together.
- Barbecue sauce: whether you use an old family recipe or store-bought, barbecue sauce cooks wonderfully into burger and becomes just another note in the overall flavor. It’s very different from adding barbecue sauce to the burger after it’s cooked.
- A-1: naturally, A-1 is great added into hamburger patties. Its texture is similar to that of barbecue sauce, and it becomes more subtle when used this way as opposed to being poured over the patty later.
- Chopped peppers: chop up bell or jalapeno peppers and work them into your patties. Habaneros or poblanos will give you a lot of spice in each bite. Ortegas and bells will add a nice mild flavor.
- Hot sauce: Tobasco and similar sauces (my favorite is Tapatio) also add a delicious touch to hamburger patties.
- Soy sauce: adds a lovely salty flavor, and works a lot like Worcestershire sauce. If it makes your mix too wet, add breadcrumbs or…
- Peanut butter: yes, I am serious! Think beef satay – peanut butter adds a salty-sweet flavor to beef. This is great topped with diced green onions and a slice of pineapple.
- Fresh cilantro: while dried green herbs don’t perform well as mix-ins, fresh herbs like cilantro can withstand some time on the grill. If you plan on cooking your burgers well done, you might want to press a layer of herbs into the top of them after you’ve done all your flipping rather than adding them into the meat mix. But for rare and medium burgers, cilantro holds up nicely.
- Other green herbs: fresh thyme, basil, mint and other herbs will also work in a hamburger patty.
- Carrots: shred some carrots and mix those into your burger mix. This makes for an odd but fascinating sweet flavor that most people either love or hate. If you’re a carrot fan, give it a try.
- Sour cream: mix in some sour cream to give your hamburgers a richer taste with a slight tang.
- Sun dried tomatoes: sun dried tomatoes hold up nicely under cooking and give your hamburgers a slightly sweet, acidic flavor.
- Citrus juice: if you enjoy citrus juice sprinkled over a steak, try adding a little into your meat patties. It’s also great to sprinkle it over the cooking patties as they near the end of their time in the pan or on the grill.
- Pico de gallo: this delicious mix of spicy chopped salsa ingredients cooks wonderfully into hamburger patties, adding some spice and zest.
- Pepperoni/Salami: just like bacon, any other meat can be mixed in to add spice and texture to an ordinary hamburger.
- Marinara Sauce: a good marinara, spaghetti or pizza sauce adds a nice zesty tomato flavor to your hamburger patty.
- Mushrooms: chop up some mushrooms and mix them in with your meat to add a rich flavor and hearty texture.
You can mix any of these ingredients together to form your own. Just consider what goes together:
- Soy sauce, peanut butter, garlic and lime juice for a Thai flavor.
- Cilantro, chopped peppers, onions and tomatoes.
- Cheese, bacon and egg.
- Mozarella cheese, marinara sauce and pepperoni make a pizza burger. Include mushrooms and onions if you like, or saute and add those on as toppers.