Have you ever wondered what to put in burger meat besides, you know, meat? Just one or two burger mix-ins can take your hamburgers to a whole new level! These are simple ingredients that add flavor or improve consistency.
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 can really make hamburger recipes more exciting.
What to Put in Burger Meat
You can use any of these ingredients alone or in combination with your meat. In addition to tasting better, many of these mix-ins will also help stretch your hamburger meat budget. They also make lean ground beef taste much better.
What can you add to burger 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, lose flavor or break up the patty 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.
Note that you can make these in advance and then freeze them. Take a bun, your garnishes and condiments, and your frozen burger patty to work and you can have a delicious homemade burger as a make-ahead freezer meal.
Bonus Tip #1: another way to enhance the flavor of hamburger meat is to cook it in a cast iron skillet. Cast iron cooks more evenly, seals in juices and lets you sear meat as much as you want. This is a great cast iron skillet we’ve been using for years. It’s easy to clean and it makes everything taste better.
Bonus Tip #2: Grass fed beef is worth every penny, in my humble opinion. There’s some controversy over its supposed health benefits, but it definitely has better flavor than grain fed.
Bonus Tip #3: you can also make a burger more exciting by spreading a compound butter on the bun.
Adding an egg to every pound of beef improves both the consistency and the flavor, and keeps it from falling apart on the grill. Check out our barbecue tips, if you’re thinking about grilling your burgers.
Mix some chopped, uncooked bacon in with your ground beef, form your patties and grill or fry it all up.
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.
4. 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.
This classic steak 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.
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. Minced garlic can also work well, but because it’s so wet, you may need to add bread crumbs.
7. 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.
8. 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.
Naturally, A-1 steak sauce 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.
10. Chopped peppers
11. Hot sauce
Tobasco and similar hot sauces (our favorite is Tapatio) also add a delicious touch to hamburger patties.
12. Soy sauce
Don’t waste your time with ordinary soy sauce. Eden Organic is traditionally brewed and aged, and that gives it more full-bodied flavor than other brands. It’s wonderfully salty and mellow. If it makes your mix too wet, add breadcrumbs or…
13. Peanut butter
Yes, I am serious! Think beef satay! Peanut butter, especially peanut butter without added sugar, adds a salty-sweet flavor to beef. This is great topped with diced green onions and a slice of pineapple.
14. Fresh cilantro
While dried green herbs don’t perform well as mix-ins, fresh herbs like cilantro can withstand some time on the grill. For rare and medium burgers, you can mix cilantro into your patties for a wonderful fresh green flavor. Note that 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.
15. Other green herbs
Fresh thyme, basil, mint and other herbs will also work in a hamburger patty.
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.
17. Sour Cream
Mix in some sour cream to give your hamburgers a richer taste with a slight tang.
18. Sundried tomatoes
Sundried tomatoes hold up nicely under cooking and give your hamburgers a slightly sweet, acidic flavor.
19. 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.
And you don’t have to stick to lemon juice – lime and even orange can be delicious. Pineapple, too, if you’re doing a pineapple and teriyaki burger.
20. Pico de gallo
This delicious mix of spicy chopped salsa ingredients cooks wonderfully into hamburger patties, adding some spice and zest.
Just like bacon, any other meat can be mixed in to add spice and texture to an ordinary hamburger.
22. Marinara Sauce
A good marinara, spaghetti or pizza sauce adds a nice zesty tomato flavor to your hamburger patty.
Chop up some mushrooms and mix them in with your meat to add a rich flavor and hearty texture.
Create Your Own
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.