The Best Turkey Burgers

by Samantha
30 minutes
30 min

I don’t think I’ve ever used the term “juicy” to describe a turkey burger. I knew ground turkey could be nutritious and easy, but noticeably lacking in moisture. There has to be a trade-off when it comes to healthy weeknight meals, right? These turkey smash burgers are here to prove you (and me) wrong.

Why these are the best

These turkey burgers don’t taste like beef—and they’re not trying to—but they get a little lift from a few flavor power players. Enter: Worcestershire sauce, mayo, harissa, and finely chopped onion. Worcestershire adds depth of flavor and deliciously savory umami, while mayo adds juicy moisture. Harissa offers a hint of spice (read: even more flavor) but you can use sambal oelek or any other chili sauce you like. Just be sure to taste your chili sauce before adding it to the recipe, as some are much hotter than others.

As for the onion, that’s where things really get tasty. Grate the onion on a box grater or chop it with a knife (if you love an eighth-inch dice as much as I do), and mix it right in with the ground turkey. It adds both flavor and moisture, the ultimate combination when you’re dealing with lean meat. With these not-so-secret ingredients, your burger-alternative adventure cannot fail. Trust!

Some substitutions you can make

While the ingredients for this recipe are almost always in my pantry, here are some swaps so you don’t have to go running back to the store:

  • Use 1 large clove of fresh garlic (pressed) instead of granulated, or use granulated onion instead.
  • Don’t have Worcestershire sauce? Use soy sauce.
  • Swap out the mayonnaise for a large egg, beaten.

Make-ahead turkey burger tip

Make the burger mixture, form into patties, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or wrap with an extra layer of plastic and freeze for up to 3 months. It’s not a bad idea to make a double-batch and freeze half of it for later!

How to make turkey burgers on the grill

Smash the ground turkey balls into patties before refrigerating (rather than smashing them on the skillet), forming them into 1/2 inch-thick patties with a thumbprint-sized “divot” in the center (this helps to ensure that they won’t puff up on the grill).

Keep the uncooked patties in the fridge for as long as you can (at least 10 minutes and up to 2 days); they’ll hold together better if they’re chilled.

Brush and oil the grates before grilling to ensure that the patties don’t stick to the grates.

Cook for about 3 minutes per side on a medium-high grill.

Serving suggestions for this recipe

Recipe details
  • 30  minutes
  • Prep time: 15 Minutes Cook time: 15 Minutes Total time: 30 min
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  • 1 tsp granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp harissa or other hot chili sauce (such as sambal oelek)
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • ¼ of a small onion, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • Nonstick spray or oil
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Hamburger buns, lettuce, and desired condiments, for serving

Add garlic, cumin, salt, harissa, Worcestershire, mayo, and onion to a large bowl. Mix with a fork to combine. Add turkey and mix thoroughly until well-combined.
Coat a large plate with nonstick spray or oil. Spray a 1/3 cup dry measuring cup with oil and use it to scoop up the mixture into about 6 mounds (you can also use your hands or an ice cream scoop); transfer to plate. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes and up to 2 hours (this step will help keep them firm). If chilling for more than 2 hours, cover with plastic and chill up to 2 days. If grilling, please read the instructions found at the end of the blog post, under "How to make turkey burgers on the grill."
Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium. Working in 2 batches, transfer the turkey mixture into skillet and use a spatula to press them into patties. Cook, until dark brown underneath, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook on second side until burgers are fully cooked (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the patty should read 165℉), about 2 minutes more. Let them rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
  • For turkey burgers, my preferred toppings are pickles, red onion, arugula, and avocado. In the summer, I will add tomato. I also add Dijon mustard because it's probably my favorite condiment, but it's not necessary here.
  • Unlike beef burgers, rosé or unoaked Chardonnay is a great match for turkey burgers, especially in the summertime. For a red, try a light to medium-bodied Pinot Noir. It has just enough acidity to cut through toppings like cheese or creamy avocado.
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