Alaska From Scratch: Building a better turkey burger

Maya EvoyAlaska from Scratch
Photo by Maya Evoy

Once, I tried making turkey burgers at home and they were an epic fail. Yes, kitchen disasters indeed happen to us all. The patties were falling apart, the texture was mushy, and the burgers were pale and colorless. Bleh. My three children, typically burger-lovers, wouldn't even eat them. I took several months off of all things involving ground turkey after that little episode. Yes, I confess that I do hold a grudge when ingredients and recipes betray me in the kitchen.

More recently, I made two dinners with ground turkey and I'm happy to report that both were big hits. Ground turkey and I are friends once again, which is a relief, because ground turkey is a tremendously healthy, affordable and family-friendly protein option.

A reader mentioned that his turkey burgers always seem to end up dry, and he asked for my suggestions on the matter. First, I used one egg and some bread crumbs to bind the patties, help them hold their shape and firm up the texture (no more mushy burgers for me!). Second, I lightly dusted both sides of the burgers with a little flour before pan-frying them in oil in a hot cast-iron skillet. The flour helps to achieve a crispy browned edge on the meat, similar to what you look for in an all-beef burger, and also helps hold in the juices and the moisture. The hot cast-iron skillet helps with getting a really nice sear on the meat. These methods worked wonders for me in achieving the sort of turkey burger I had been envisioning and saying goodbye to the failed turkey burgers of the past.

Psst... grab a napkin... or two... or three... these burgers are deliciously messy.


Jalapeño turkey burgers with cheddar and guacamole

11/2 pounds ground turkey

1 egg

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced

1 jalapeño, de-seeded and minced

flour for dusting patties

oil for pan

6 slices cheddar cheese

For the guacamole:

2 ripe avocados

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

Juice of half a lime

salt to taste

For serving:

Burger buns, toasted (I used whole wheat)

tomato slices

lettuce leaves

red onions, thinly sliced

ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise as desired


To a large mixing bowl, add the turkey, egg, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, cilantro, green onions and jalapeno. Mix together until all the ingredients are well combined (I use my hands for this).


Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and swirl the pan with olive oil.



Shape the mixture into five or six patties. Dust both sides of each patty lightly with flour. Place patties into the hot cast-iron pan. Turn down heat to medium and cook until browned, then flip, and cook again until browned on the other side and cooked completely through (burger should be firm in the center to the touch and bounce back a bit). Cooking time will depend on the thickness of your burgers. I cooked mine five or six minutes per side. Add the cheddar cheese on top of each burger in the last 1-2 minutes of cooking and cover the burgers to melt the cheese.



In the meantime, add your avocados to a bowl with the Greek yogurt, lime juice and salt. Mash the avocados and stir until well combined. Set aside.



To assemble the burgers, place each burger on a bottom bun. Spread a generous amount of the guacamole onto the top bun. Add lettuce, and tomato, and condiments of your choice. Serve.


Maya Evoy
Alaska From Scratch