Fresh Flavor Ideas for the All-American Hamburger

Posted by Michael Dougherty on May 24, 2018 7:17:00 AM

Alternative hamburger toppingsIt’s no secret that Americans love their hamburgers—especially if it’s grilled to perfection outdoors. If you’re planning a big Memorial Day celebration, or just want to wow the crowd at your next cookout, try varying up your burger recipe with some of these ideas.

First things first: use high-quality beef (grass-fed often tastes better) and follow these steps to making and grilling the perfect burger.

Burger patty add-ins

A few extras added into quality ground beef can go a long way in enhancing the burger’s flavor. Here are a few things you can add in when forming your patties.

Flavor boosters:

  • Sea salt and pepper (if nothing else, do this!)
  • French onion soup mix
  • Chili powder or other spices
  • Minced garlic, onions, or peppers
  • Soy sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce

Texture enhancers:

  • Bread crumbs or crushed Ritz crackers (add a buttery flavor and subtle texture)
  • Chopped mushrooms
  • Mayo, sour cream or plain yogurt
  • Raw egg (helps bind the patty together; use one egg per pound of beef)

Bold statements:

  • Bacon crumbles
  • Blue cheese crumbles
  • Chopped olives
  • Grated apples (for a sweet twist)
  • Shredded cheese of your choice
  • Small strips of pastrami, pepperoni, or salami
  • Sun-dried tomatoes (chopped) for a bit of tang

Obviously you don’t want to include all of these add-ins! Choose a few that appeal to you most and make for a moist, coherent texture. You can try something new every time.

Now they’re ready for the grill!

Pro tip: While the burgers cook, resist the urge to press the juice out of them with your spatula—not only does this increase the risk of flare-ups, it also dries the patties out and sacrifices flavor.

Beyond the basic bun

Skip the typical white-bread hamburger bun and place your piping hot burger on one of these alternatives:

  • Cheese toast (because hey, why not?)
  • Grilled slices of sweet potato, eggplant, or zucchini (paleo friendly)
  • Flatbread
  • King’s Hawaiian hamburger buns
  • Lettuce wrap
  • Potato rolls
  • Pretzel buns
  • Roasted portabella caps
  • Two halves of a ripe tomato (seeds removed)

Let’s get topping

Now to top off your masterpiece. Choose toppings that complement the add-ins to your patty (if any).

All about that cheese:

  • Feta, blue cheese or goat cheese (a little goes a long way with these)
  • Fresh mozzarella slices 
  • Sliced deli-style cheeses, such as Havarti or pepper jack
  • Soft cheeses such as queso, ricotta, or nacho-style cheese
  • Pimento spread


  • Apple slices
  • Avocado slices
  • Bean sprouts
  • Cilantro leaves (only if your friends are fans of this divisive herb!)
  • Fresh basil
  • Grilled corn
  • Pickled jalapeños
  • Pineapple (goes well with a little slice of ham!)
  • Roasted eggplant or zucchini
  • Sautéed mushrooms, onions, and/or bell peppers

Beyond the typical condiments:

  • A mix of mayo, ketchup, and diced pickles
  • “Comeback sauce” (a combination of mayo, chili sauce, lemon, and spices)
  • Balsamic glaze
  • Hot sauce of your choice
  • Hummus
  • Maple syrup (great with bacon or apple)
  • Marinara sauce
  • Salsa, guacamole, or pico de gallo
  • Spinach dip
  • Your favorite steak sauce or barbecue sauce

Memorable extras:

  • A fried egg
  • Bacon (of course!)
  • Crushed potato chips or flavored corn chips
  • Fried onion straws
  • Pepperoni, ham, or another flavorful deli meat
  • Sweet potato fries

Is your mouth watering yet? We hope this list gets your creative juices flowing. And if you’d like to get more ideas for the ultimate cookout, check out the Cooking Tips section of our blog!

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Topics: Cooking Tips