Oh, the bunless burger! It’s the safe refuge of the paleo eater in a non-paleo world. From low-rent burger joints to higher-end restaurants, you can almost always find a variation of meat-and-veg in the shape of a burger without a bun.
A humble meat patty can save you from a meal-related meltdown at home, too.
I almost always have a pound of grass-fed ground beef defrosting or already defrosted in the fridge, and we always have at least three pounds of grass-fed ground beef in the freezer… just in case there’s a protein emergency. There are all kinds of ways to flavor the meat itself to make the burgers special, but this post isn’t about that. This post about the simplest, fastest, easiest way to make a plain burger taste good: plopping interesting stuff on top of it.
Every week during my Weekly Cookup, I make a batch of homemade mayo and at least one other homemade condiment to ensure I have flavor boosters on hand throughout the week. I’ve also started keeping a box of these around:
They’re relatively inexpensive, the only ingredients are organic turkey and organic rosemary extract, and they can be cooked in about 10 minutes. Let’s be real here: They don’t taste as fresh and juicy as a freshly-grilled or pan-fried beef burger, but sometimes you just need to eat. When you have time to make a loving, gourmet-ish meal, do it! And when you just need to get some quality calories into your well-deserving mouth, do that!
Paleo Burger Toppers
For all of these ideas, you can either load up the rest of the plate with cooked veggies (steam-sauté them then toss with crushed garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Done and delicious!) or piles of fresh, raw veggies for what we always called “sporty supper” when I was a kid.
This one is a “no duh” but it must be included because it’s the classic. Pile the following on top of the burger: a thick slice of red onion, a slab of organic tomato, a bunch of your favorite pickles, and a healthy dollop of homemade mayo. If you’re a bacon person, add a slice and revel in the smokiness.
I love the classic basil pesto, but you can experiment with other herbs; parsley, mint, and oregano are all fun. And you can go with bigger leaves, too! Spinach, kale, and collards all mellow in a lovely way when whirled with olive oil, nuts, and garlic. Here are some ideas for different pestos. Just spread a little on top of a warm burger and top with finely diced organic tomatoes.
3. An Egg
Eggs rule. Put a fried egg on top of a burger and both are transformed from their ho-hum natural state to humdinger! Bonus if you use these egg-topper ideas on the egg you use to top your burger. It’s yum to the nth power!
4. Vinaigrette or Chimichurri
This simple equation is all you need:
extra-virgin olive oil + acid + herbs = lip-licking flavor
This Chimichurri or Moroccan Dipping Sauce are a nice place to start, or you can just play around. Whisk a few tablespoons of citrus juice or vinegar with an equal amount of olive oil, then add crushed dried herbs or minced fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. If you want to put in another minute of work, you can add a crushed garlic clove. Good combos include: lemon+oregano, orange+rosemary, lime+cilantro, vinegar+parsley.
5. Vegetable Relish
You cannot go wrong here. Pick out some raw veggies you like — cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, radishes, scallions, bell peppers — and dice them very fine. Throw them in a bowl with a little acid (citrus juice or vinegar), extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then pile on top of the burger. Bonus points if you add a small dollop of homemade mayo on top of that.
6. Seasoned Fats
Even a small amount of fat is a major flavor booster. Top your burger with a little seasoned fat and you will be so happy — and by “a little,” I really mean a little. Even just 1/2 teaspoon makes all the difference. Try clarified butter (ghee), coconut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil plain or mixed with a favorite spice or spice blend (like Ras el Hanout or Turkish Baharat). Sesame oil is particularly nice with a crushed garlic clove and instantly makes any meat burger (pork, turkey, beef, chicken) taste Asian.
7. Fruit Salsa
Summer is a great time to mix the sweetness of fresh fruit with some savory goodness. You can eat fruit salsa hot or cold. Just mince the fruit, toss with a little lemon juice or vinegar (wine, pomegranate, raspberry, and cider are good choices), and a pinch each of cinnamon and salt. Let flavors meld at room temp or cook for 3-5 minutes over medium-high heat.
Bet you thought paleo meant no gravy! Think again. Mix 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder with a little cool water until smooth. Heat 1 cup of beef broth in a saucepan over medium-high heat until boiling. Drizzle in the arrowroot and whisk until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme. Simmer until thickened to a consistency you like and drizzle over your burger. Make it a diner dinner with mashed cauliflower on the side.
9. Asian Slaw
Julienne any or all of these veggies: cabbage, red bell pepper, zucchini, carrots, scallions. Quickly stir-fry in coconut oil until tender, then toss with a little coconut aminos (or homemade substitute), a pinch of ginger, and a crushed garlic clove. Pile on top of the burger; bonus if you serve the whole shebang on top of cauliflower rice.
10. Curry Sauce
Stir-fry a tablespoon of curry paste in a teaspoon of coconut oil over medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup coconut milk, bring to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes. Drizzle over burger and top with minced cilantro. You might also like this South Indian Curry.
Turn it up to 11: SB&J Burger
YUMMY! A hot, juicy burger topped with creamy, melted sunbutter and homemade strawberry “jam.” It’s creamy, sweet, salty, lusciousness. Find the full recipe and instructions for the SB&J Burger right here. Then love yourself right by making one. Today!
More Food-Related Tuesday 10s
What are your favorite ways to top a bunless burger?
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