The summer grilling season is upon us. Grab your apron and your favorite spatula, and head to the patio, because this year, your burgers are going to be amazing. No more simple cheeseburgers (although those are yummy too), this summer is all about gourmet, next level burgers.
Borrowing from pizza, pasta, or even breakfast foods, can make for exciting and unique burgers. Some of these toppings may seem outrageous, but you’ve got to trust me, they taste insanely good.
Your next picnic or cookout deserves to be the best one ever! Wow your guests with some of these unusual but totally mouthwatering burger toppings.
If you’re from the west coast, you’ll know, we want a little spice on just about everything. On a burger, some chopped chiles cut through the heavy meats and cheeses. They offer that perfect touch of tanginess to take your plain cheeseburger to another level.
Plus, spicy food is known to enhance your metabolism. So whatever chile pepper you get (jalapeños, green chiles, pepperoncinis) it will be good for your health and your taste buds.
Lately, you can hardly find a burger that doesn’t have bacon on it. And there’s a reason for that!
Add to the savory goodness of your burger with some thick, smokey, salty strips of bacon. It gives your burger texture and intense flavor, and makes any burger taste better. You just can’t go without this greatest of all burger toppings!
This one is definitely a must-have on my list.
Perhaps the epitome of delicious burger toppings, pickles provide that extra punch of zest and perfect juiciness. Whether you go with dill, sweet, cucumber, or zucchini, you simply can’t go wrong with a sweet, crunchy pickle.
Condiments are an essential burger topping. They add flavor, texture, and moisture, all much needed ingredients.
Spicy, creamy, fresh, or rich, I can’t even imagine a burger without some kind of condiment! Ketchup and mustard are absolute classics. If you don’t put anything else on a burger, you’ve at least got to have this flavorful pair.
You could also go in the direction of thousand island or ranch for an extra creamy and decadent burger. And of course mayo is a must have ingredient just for a little moisture on your buns.
Lettuce on a burger has to be crunchy since it doesn’t add a lot of flavor. You could add mixed greens or arugula for something with a little more zing, but my advice is just to make sure your romaine stays crisp.
One way to do so is to wait to wash your head of lettuce until you’re about to use it. This way the leaves don’t go soggy sitting in your fridge. And even if your lettuce does end up getting a little sad looking, there’s a trick for that too!
Soak your lettuce in an ice bath for a few minutes and it will perk back up.
Onions are another super versatile burger topping. When popped on top raw, they offer a fresh, spicy kick that is a much needed contrast to the greasiness of the beef patty and cheese.
Caramelized onions give a light sweetness, and fried onions just taste great! No matter your preference on onion type, they add dimension and personality to your meal.
Fun Fact: Onions are one of the secret ingredients in White Castle burgers. They stack a pile of onions on the grill and then cook the patties on top. It almost looks like the onions are actually cooked into the patty itself. Which is part of what creates their signature flavor.
Cheese is a must-have ingredient when it comes to burgers. Cheese goes with burgers like peanut butter goes with jelly. Whether it’s a thin slice of American, a rich piece of Swiss, or a creamy Provolone, you absolutely have to have cheese.
This is a more controversial topping. Some people don’t want to deal with the mess of the runny yolk, some think that the combination of egg and ground beef is simply too rich. I personally enjoy a fried egg on toast, biscuits and gravy, or even atop a burger.
For me, fried egg on my burger makes it a special occasion. It’s certainly not your ever day burger. But when you want something a little extra, this topping is oh so tasty.
For a tropical feel, go with a thick slice of pineapple and your favorite BBQ sauce. Pineapple is so bright, flavorful, and juicy, it could be the only topping and it would probably taste awesome.
The fruity sweetness balances out the meaty umami flavors perfectly, and makes for a refreshing burger on a hot summer day.
Instead of eating coleslaw as a side dish to your burger, why not put it inside the bun? Coleslaw adds a tangy crunch, making a simple burger more invigorating and exciting. Plus, coleslaw is a super inexpensive option, so it’s a win-win.
Mushrooms are a polarizing topping. You either love mushrooms, or you hate their weird rubbery texture. I grew out of my distaste for these lovely fungi, and now I can always appreciate a burger with mushrooms and creamy Swiss any day.
Whether they’re sauteed, stuffed, or grilled, mushrooms give you that delicious earthy, meaty flavor, almost like adding another patty. Yum!
Referred to as nature’s butter, avocados are so creamy and decadent, yet include the fats that are actually vital to a healthy diet. Topping your burger with avocado, sliced or mixed into guacamole, makes your burger not only more delicious, but also more filling. It’s a delicious topping that’s also guilt-free.
Mac and Cheese
Even with a smaller patty, macaroni and cheese basically doubles your burger, so this is for a truly special occasion when no one is counting calories or caring about the crazy heartiness of this topping.
Eating a burger with mac and cheese adds a creamy deliciousness that is oh so worth it.
Similar to pickles, kimchi can give your burger a tangy kick. For those new to kimchi, it’s a spicy and salty Korean coleslaw style salad made up of cabbage, onions, and chile.
If you want an Asian-inspired, pungent burger, go with a big spoonful of kimchi. Plus, you’ll get some gut-healthy probiotics to boot.
Syrup or Peanut Butter
Get inspired by breakfast dishes and pour on some maple syrup. You already know it goes well with bacon, so why not with a simple bacon-topped burger?
If that sounds a little too sweet, stick with peanut butter. This may sound crazy, but you just have to trust me, it is so delicious. Something about the creamy, salty, peanut-y butter just goes so well with the savory burger, you almost don’t need any other topping.
If you’re looking for the perfect combo, I recommend bacon, peanut butter, and strawberry preserves. Yum!
Crab & Cocktail Sauce
Give your All-American burger a coastal twist by topping it with a big pile of chunky crabmeat, a dollop of cocktail sauce, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
This surf and turf combination will make you feel like you’re dining at your favorite steak house, but instead of the usual lobster and filet, you’ve got this magical mix of flavors in between two buns.
The succulent crab will help incorporate moisture and a bright pop of flavor, and it tastes and feels like pure luxury.
Chili with Fried Onions
Some people prefer to save this topping for a hot dog. But I say, bring on the chili! The mix of rich, smoky, sweet, and a little spicy flavors is heavenly.
It’s more hearty and filling for those days you need a little extra comfort, and the fried onions add the perfect crunch on top.
Change things up with some New York pizazz by including a steaming pile of thin sliced pastrami. Grab some horseradish, deli mustard, and a few slices of Swiss, and you’ve got the exceptional combination of tender burger and flavorful Reuben sandwich.
With so many taste-bud stimulating layers, a pastrami burger is sure to be your new favorite.
Bring the flavors of the county fair home with you by putting cheese curds on your next burger. Cheese curds, fries, and gravy atop a ground beef patty is a New Hampshire classic. You might actually feel your arteries clogging while eating this burger, but your taste buds will thank you.
No one says no to a stack of chips next to their barbecue, so why not on top instead! Use kettle chips for extra crunch, and take it to the next level by adding on onion dip as well.
Imagine taking a bite out of your burger, and your chips and dip, at the same time. It’s ridiculous, but still, my mouth is watering.
Sometimes your burger needs a little flair. Take a trip to the Mediterranean with a big dollop of hummus. This condiment may seem simple but it’s actually bursting with flavor.
An added bonus: hummus is made from chickpeas and sesame tahini, so it’s a healthy alternative to other creamy toppings that are less cholesterol-conscious.
If you’re an Indian food lover like myself, you’ll die for this topping. You only need a small amount to get big flavor, since curry paste usually gets diluted when cooking up sauce or soups.
You can also mix it in with ketchup or mayo to intensify your basic condiments for added depth and spice.
Sticking with the foreign theme, make a Banh Mi burger with any combination of hoisin sauce, garlic aioli, sriracha, and quick-pickled cucumbers.
Banh Mi sandwiches are usually made with chicken or steak, but these tasty ingredients would still work nicely with ground beef for a unique, Asian-fusion experience.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Instead of boring old red tomatoes that need to be super fresh to add any real flavor to a burger, go with some Southern-style fried green tomatoes.
Crunchy, tangy, and extra-refreshing, fried green tomatoes are my new favorite burger topping.
Plus, they’re surprisingly easy to make. Just thin slice your tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, coat in cornmeal, shallow fry in bacon fat, and enjoy this Southern classic.
Replace a traditional cheese slice with cream cheese! You should already know, cream cheese goes with everything, even a beef patty. A dollop of cream cheese is simple and easy, but gives your burger an out-of-the box feel that is sure to impress.
Generously coat your beef with spicy seasonings like paprika, chili powder, and garlic. Then top with salsa, freshly grilled corn, tortilla strips, and Monterey jack cheese for a spunky southwestern-inspired burger. This one will be anything but bland!
A caprese salad is always refreshing on a hot summer evening. Make your barbecue hour just as refreshing by topping your burger with tomato, mozzarella, arugula, and balsamic glaze. It will stimulate your senses and cool you off from the inside out!
Goat Cheese & Honey
Craving dessert for dinner? Try out this sweet combo: goat cheese and honey. The sugary aspects will balance out and enhance the savory patty, and the oh so creamy cheese will be melt-in-your-mouth sublime.
Buffalo Bleu Cheese
Create the flavors of your favorite wing joint by dousing your burger in buffalo wing sauce and spreading on a liberal helping of blue cheese crumbles. This burger offers all the fixings of the delicious appetizer, but in a sandwich. What more could you ask for?
Everyone loves grilled veggies, but I personally dislike eating anything off a stick. Grill up your choice of vegetables (I prefer squash, onions, and peppers) and finish off your burger with them!
This makes for simpler eating and a more finger-food friendly atmosphere. Plus the tasty veggies add a nice crunch and that delightful, charred flavor to your burger.