This really good turkey burger recipe is more about technique than anything else. From here, you can take it and adapt it to suit your personal tastes.
These turkey burger patties are seasoned with curry powder, rosemary, garlic, and onion and are super versatile. Pair them with any of your favorite turkey burger toppings (or use some of the suggestions I've included below).
A few key ingredients and special techniques will help you get thick, juicy, super flavorful turkey burgers that stay flat while you cook them. I've included instructions for making these on the stove, but they're just as good on the grill too!
I especially like making turkey burgers in the spring and summer. There's just something about biting into a juicy burger while swatting mosquitos around grill — or sitting indoors, blissfully mosquito-free, with the a/c blasting — that is so super satisfying in those post daylight-savings hours when the sun stays out into the early evening.
Try serving these turkey burgers with a simple lettuce and walnut side salad, or brushing them with a generous dollop of a tangy, mustard-based South Carolina-style BBQ sauce before serving.
🍔 Are Turkey Burgers Good?
Bear with me for a moment here while I walk you through my issues with this question. I know, "no personal stories, just the recipes" blah blah blah. But this is important. And you can click the "jump to recipe" button or use the table of contents (above) to skip it if you want. But I hope you don't.
(TW: some discussion of diet culture) Back in 2013, the most exciting cooking Jimmy and I did involved trekking down to the grassy run behind our apartment where we had a mini charcoal grill set up.
Cornish game hens, sausages, chicken thighs, veggies — you name it, we (okay, mostly Jimmy) were grilling it. Except for turkey burgers. Every time I suggested turkey burgers Jimmy told me he "just didn't like them." He also couldn't remember the last time he'd tried one. So I set out to change his mind.
Why was I so obsessed with turkey burgers? I liked them, yes, but I was also still shaking off the grips of diet culture and thought turkey burgers were a "good" food that was "healthier" than whatever else he was grilling.
I use air quotes not because turkey burgers aren't "good" or aren't "healthy" — but because now I know better than to ascribe moral values to food, and I know that "healthy" is relative. Different people have different health needs! But I digress.
So Jimmy showed me how to start a charcoal fire and the importance of keeping half of the grill cool and the other hot. And I shaped ground turkey into patties (with some other seasonings too, I'm not a heathen) and we grilled them and they were good.
It was when we began frequenting Gary's Turkey Burger stand at the Baltimore Farmer's Market and Bazaar every Sunday that we saw the true potential of a turkey burger. Unfortunately Gary's Turkey Burger stand is no longer serving up burgers, but his legacy will always live on through these delicious memories.
Gary's towering turkey patties were moist, tender, juicy, and packed with lots of flavor. They were topped with thick slices of cheese and crispy bacon. Basically everything you don't expect turkey burgers to be. Lines for Gary's began as early as 7 a.m. You'd arrive early, put your name down, and return 30 minutes later to pick up your order. Waking up early was worth it.
It was in that wait time that we learned some secrets of a quality turkey burger straight from the legend himself. Things like adding curry powder to the meat mixture and how to keep patties flat while they cook. In the winter months, when the market was closed, we made our own versions of Gary's burgers at home on our small stovetop.
So, look, I can't tell you if eating these turkey burgers is good for you or if eating them will make you a good person (though if you make them and post a photo on Instagram and tag me, I will think you're a good person). What I can tell you they are just really good, well seasoned turkey burgers.
They taste good and I like eating them because I like them. That's it. That's the whole story. But if you've been suffering through dry, crumbly turkey burgers because you feel like you should, I'm here to show you just how tasty turkey burgers can be.
🥘 Ingredient Notes
Here's what you'll need to make these turkey burgers. Nothing fancy here, you should be able to find most of these at your local grocery store. See recipe card for quantities.
- Ground Turkey - Most ground turkey is 90% lean or higher. For turkey burgers, we're looking for an 80-85% lean ground turkey meat. Fat provides flavor and moisture, so if you want juicy, flavorful turkey burgers, you definitely want to start with a less lean ground turkey mixture.
- Onion - White, yellow, or sweet onions work best for these turkey burgers, but red onions or shallots will also work in a pinch.
- Garlic - You can mince or microplane the garlic cloves for these turkey burgers. You want them to be pretty finely chopped so they incorporate evenly.
- Curry Powder - Curry powder is a spice blend that can vary by brand. I like using a madras curry powder which is slightly spicier than a standard curry powder. Emphasis on slightly. It's not really spicy. You can pick it up in most grocery stores, but if yours doesn't have it try Amazon or Spicewalla.
- Black Pepper - Freshly cracked or pre-ground, either one is fine!
- Salt - I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which is half as a salty as other brands of salt, including other brands of kosher salt. If you're using a different brand of salt, cut the amount of salt in half!
- Rosemary - Fresh rosemary brings out the savory flavors in these turkey burgers.
- Burger Buns - I love a squishy bun with a densely seeded top, but you do you! Potato buns, kaiser rolls, brioche buns, or pretzel rolls are also great with turkey burgers.
- Your favorite burger toppings - Lettuce, mayo, onions, bacon, mustard, etc!
Curry powder and rosemary are my favorite turkey burger seasonings but you can definitely get creative with your preferred seasonings! See the "Practical Tips & Recipe Notes" section below for some other suggestions!
Mixing the seasonings into the ground turkey for these turkey burgers is pretty straightforward. You just mix everything together.
However! Overmixing your ground turkey and turkey burger seasonings can result in tough, dense burgers. Extremely not what we are here for.
I recommend using your hands for this step, but a bowl scraper or sturdy spoon will work fine too. Squish and fold the meat and turkey burger seasonings together in the bowl just until everything is well combined.
You're looking for an even distribution of onions throughout the mixture, but you might still see some streaks or patches of curry powder. That's fine.
The turkey burger mixture should be cohesive, but not so smooth that you don't see any definition or distinct marbling in the meat either.
Once you reach this point, stop mixing! If you're not making the turkey burgers immediately, cover and store in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
Otherwise, proceed to the shaping instructions below to learn how to make turkey burgers that stay flat while cooking.
🥄 How to Shape Burger Patties That Stay Flat
This simple technique will get you well seasoned turkey burgers that stay flat while cooking. (This tip will work with any kind of meat-based burger btw! You're welcome!)
- Divide the turkey mixture and shape into baseball sized rounds. You can use a kitchen scale to be precise or you can eyeball it.
- Flatten each patty into a disc about ¾" thick. Use your thumb to make an indentation on just one side of the burger patty.
- Place the shaped burgers on a lined sheet pan or plate until ready to cook.
- Right before cooking, season the top of the turkey burger patties with salt.
Preheat your skillet over medium heat (this is especially important if you're using a stainless steel pan). Then add a generous glug of oil — enough to fully coat the bottom of the pan in an even layer.
When you place the patty in the pan, flip it over so the side with the salt and the divot are touching the pan. Then you can season the flat side, which is now facing up.
Seasoning turkey burgers this way (instead of mixing the salt into the meat) prevents the salt from sucking moisture out of the meat before it cooks. By seasoning the outside of the burger you'll end up with a much more tender, juicy turkey burger.
As the burger cooks, it will expand. The divot will flatten out, giving you a nice flat turkey burger that's evenly thick throughout.
Without the divot, you'd end up with a rounded turkey burger patty! No one wants that.
When the turkey burgers are browned nicely on both sides and completely cooked through, top the patties with bacon and/or cheese.
You want to do this while the turkey burger patties are still in the pan so the cheese melts onto the burger.
To speed up the cheese melting, add a splash of water (about a tablespoon) to the pan and cover it quickly. Leave it alone for about 30-60 seconds. The steam will melt the cheese faster.
🧀 The Best Cheese for Turkey Burgers
Wondering what to put on turkey burgers? There are so many great cheeses to choose from, it's hard to pick one single BEST cheese for turkey burgers. You really can't go wrong.
Here's some cheeses I like and some turkey burger toppings to go with them:
- American Cheese - A classic! Serve with bread & butter pickles, lettuce, red onion, thick sliced tomato, and a dollop each of mayo and spicy brown mustard. Bacon optional but encouraged.
- Provolone Cheese - The mild rich and salty flavor of provolone cheese is often paired with sliced turkey for deli sandwiches and it's right at home on a turkey burger too. Try it with pesto sauce or sun-dried tomatoes.
- Cheddar Cheese - With crispy bacon, caramelized onions, and a whole grain mustard or sweet BBQ sauce. Slather the BBQ sauce on the turkey burger during the final minute of cooking while it's still in the pan.
- Pepper Jack Cheese - If you want a bit of heat with your turkey burgers, pepper jack cheese is definitely the way to go! If you're feeling bold, top the burger with thinly sliced jalapeño and some avocado slices or guacamole.
- Feta Cheese - Take your burger to the Mediterranean by topping it with a slice of feta cheese, baby spinach, tzatziki, and a briney olive tapenade.
- Goat Cheese - I loooooove a creamy, tangy goat cheese with my turkey burgers. Pair with peppery arugula and a lemony aoli, oof, it's so good.
- Havarti Cheese - Havarti is a slightly sweet and super melty cheese that is just so ooey gooey and delicious on a turkey burger. Try it with bacon, Kewpie mayo, and tangy red onions!
What other cheeses do you think go best with turkey burgers? Let me know in the comments!
👩🏻🍳 Practical Tips & Recipe Notes
The recipe I'm giving you today is more about technique than anything else. Flavor-wise, think of it as a solid foundation. From here, you can take it and adapt it to suit your personal tastes. That said, there are a few steps of the process that should not be skipped.
- Unlike beef burgers, turkey burgers must be cooked all the way through. No medium rare, pink centers here.
- Do not add salt to the turkey mixture. Salt removes moisture from the meat and can make burgers tough instead of tender. Add salt to the outside of the burger patty right before putting it on the pan.
- If you want to add BBQ sauce, use a basting brush to apply it in the last minute of cooking, after each side of the patty has cooked. This works best if you're cooking them on a grill. But you can make it work on a skillet too — it might just get a little messy! Wait until the last minute or less of cooking so that the sugars in the BBQ sauce don't burn.
- Feel free to swap in other seasonings for turkey burgers instead of curry powder and rosemary. Try garlic and onion powder with an Italian herb like basil, oregano, or thyme. Or maybe you prefer ground ginger, scallions, and a bit of lemongrass instead! Turkey burgers can handle taking on a lot of flavor — don't be afraid to be bold with your seasoning additions!
💭 Recipe FAQ
No, you cannot eat turkey burgers medium rare. No, turkey burgers should not be pink inside. Turkey burgers need to be cooked all the way through. If you're using an instant read thermometer (aka a meat thermometer) you want the internal temp to reach 165F in the center of the burger.
Absolutely! You can definitely use a cast iron skillet to make these turkey burgers.
💭 Top Tip
If you want to taste the turkey burger mixture to see if you need to adjust any of the seasonings, scoop a tablespoon into a hot skillet. Season the outside with a pinch of salt, cook it up and give it a taste. Then you can make any adjustments to the seasonings before you cook the rest of the burgers.
Really Good Turkey Burgers
- ½ medium onion (small dice)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (minced)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (minced)
- 1½ teaspoon curry powder
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 2 teaspoons salt (for the outside of the burger patties)
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil (for cooking)
- ¼ cup BBQ sauce for basting (see notes)
- 4 slices cheese of your choosing
- 4 slices bacon
- Combine onion, garlic, rosemary, pepper, and curry powder together in a large bowl. Add the turkey last and mix with your hands just until evenly combined. Do not overmix.
- Divide turkey mixture into quarters (use a kitchen scale if you want to be precise) and shape into balls.
- Flatten each ball into a patty ¾"-1" thick, approximately 4" wide.
- Use your thumb to make an indentation on one side of each patty to help them stay flat while cooking. Place the patties divot-side up on a cutting board, plate, or lined sheet pan until ready to cook.
- Preheat a wide, flat skillet over medium heat. When a drop of water flicked onto the surface sizzles and evaporates immediately, add 2 tablespoons of neutral oil (canola, grapeseed, etc.) and swirl to coat the pan in an even layer.
- Generously salt the top of each patty before placing it in the pan. Place the patties salt-side down in the skillet. Repeat for each patty. Then, salt the tops of the patties. Cook 5 minutes.
- Flip the turkey burger patties and cook an additional 4-5 minutes on the second side. The burgers should have a golden brown crust on the outside and be completely cooked through in the middle; an internal temp of 165°F.
- Serve on your favorite burger buns with your favorite burger toppings.
- If you want to add BBQ sauce, use a silicone basting brush to apply it in the last minute of cooking, after each side of the patty has cooked. This works best if you’re cooking them on a grill. It does work on a cast iron, but can get a bit messy.
- If adding cheese, place it over the top of each patty in the last 30-60 seconds of cooking and cover the skillet.
- If adding onions, soften them in the pan after flipping the burgers, then place them on top of the cheese while it melts to secure them in place.
- If adding bacon, cook it before the burgers and use the bacon grease to cook the burgers. Place the bacon on the burgers under the cheese while it melts to secure the bacon in place.
- To taste the turkey burger mixture before cooking all the burgers to see if you need to make any seasoning adjustments, cook about 1 tablespoon of the mixture in the skillet first. Adjust as needed.
- The video embedded with this recipe shows the steps in a slightly different order. Both methods work!
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