AJC Grill Week: Recipes for healthier burgers


Credit: Jamila Robinson

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Credit: Jamila Robinson

By Nicole McDermott

Summer time means grilling time, and we all know what that means: burger season. No matter your taste preference, we've rounded up 56 healthy recipes from around the web to fulfill all your burgery needs.

Before you fire up the grill - Tips for making a healthier burger

Before you get cookin’, we’ve highlighted some go-to tips for the healthiest burger ever.

  • Swap plain, protein-rich Greek yogurt or smashed avocado (a superfood in our book!) in place of mayo for a healthier spread.
  • Use whole-wheat breadcrumbs instead of white, or try ground nuts (such as hazelnut or almond) for a healthier filler that's also gluten-free.
  • Add fresh herbs to your burger for a healthy, low-calorie flavor-booster.
  • Amp up the day's veggie servings by tossing chopped spinach or otherleafy greens into the burger mixture, or as a topping.
  • Spice up a burger with sriracha, hot sauce, or chipotle-infused spreads for lots of low-calorie heat and a little metabolism boost.
  • Choose healthy spreads and condiments for your burger from this list. Some of our favorites: mustard, homemade ketchup, or even homemade ranch.
  • Go easy on the cheese. Skip the fat-free stuff, because "no fat" means the cheese won't melt easily. Instead, choose a small portion of your favorite kind, fat and all. If you've got a block of cheese instead of thin slices, try grating it for even coverage.
  • Make your own bun with whole-wheat flour — you'll avoid preservatives and get a fiber boost, to boot. Or go bun-less and serve a burger in a lettuce wrap, on top of a salad, or even between two slices of zucchini!

Beans and Legumes

Jalapeno, Chickpea, and Lentil BurgersThe pico topping (made with mango and avocado) is the most magical thing this blogger has ever put on a burger. And we believe it. For a super summery meal, this burger is it, thanks to fresh cilantro, mango, and a light base of lentilsand veggies.

This burger is just as much veggie as it is bean. Peppers, onion, and carrot join chickpeas and herbs for a nutritionally dense patty. Ground flaxseed — known for its high fiber and omega-3s — stands in for an egg to hold the ingredients together. Don't forget to check out the recipe for healthier baked fries, included in the link above!

Chicken and turkey

Though it may sound sinful to separate a burger from its bun (the shame!), this chicken version gets sandwiched between two slices of char-grilled zucchini. Not a bad way to up the day’s veggie servings!

In Vietnamese, banh mi stands for a single serving baguette, but the sandwich itself generally includes a meat of some sort as well as cilantro, chili peppers, and pickled carrots. Lean ground chicken, tons of veggies, and an egg makes this burger (which loosely mimics a banh mi) a healthy, well-balanced meal. Plus, the yolk makes for a hassle-free condiment.

This burger is easy-peasy to make (just be sure to remove the red chili pepper seeds or your tongue may lose all feeling for the remainder of the meal). If this is your first introduction to fish sauce, you can find the savory liquid (made from salted, fermented fish) in the Asian section of the grocery store, near the soy sauce. Or make this vegan version instead.

Veggies, nuts, grains and seeds

Grilled Portobello, Peach, Thyme, and Goat Cheese Burger

A Portobello mushroom cap stands in as the burger patty, as well as a driver for the topping mixture made of peaches, maple syrup, nutrient-rich chia seeds, tomatoes, and thyme. Since peaches are on this year's dirty dozen list, it's a good idea to splurge on organic!

 Oat and Quinoa Burger

These burgers are all about umami — the savory, meaty taste found in foods like mushrooms and soy. Instead of meat or beans, the burger draws on superfoodsquinoa (which packs a protein punch) and oats for its base. It gets its umami flavor from a hefty dose of white mushrooms.

 Superfood Beet Burger

Shredded beets, know for the rare antioxidant betalains, add a touch of sweetness to these patties. Even cooler: the beets turn the burgers bright red! One of these guys is a nutrition powerhouse, combining lentils, quinoa, rice, andoats.

Beef, bison and pork

Apple Bison Burger with Sage-Jalapeno PestoThis burger has a whole lot of intense flavors going on. Apple and sage are stuffed right in the burger, while a jalapeño-sage pesto and crumbled smoked blue cheese go on top. Whoa. To keep the burgers (or any meat-based burger, for that matter) from getting tough, avoid over-mixing the ingredients (mix just until everything is combined).

The light yogurt sauce used for this burger — which uses nonfat plain Greek yogurt, cucumbers, superfood garlic, and lemon juice — lends flavor without adding a boatload of extra fat like regular mayo would. This burger is also chock full of vegetables (roasted red peppers, romaine, cucumber, and red onion). Choose a whole-wheat bun for an even healthier option.

This recipe calls for grass-fed beef, which tends to be slightly lower in overall fat and higher in omega-3 fatty acids (compared to conventional meats). Turn topineapple and chipotle chili powder-infused avocado cream sauce (say that ten times fast) for both spicy and sweet flavors.

Venison, veal and lamb

Hazelnut Venison BurgerThis burger goes bun-less to capitalize on the flavorful meat and slight nuttiness from the hazelnuts. Top with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt (our go-to  healthy condiment  base) and a few sprigs of fresh dill.

Mediterranean diet is all the rage (and may even make us happier withhealthy fats and tons of fresh fruits and veggies). This burger gets its Mediterranean flair from roasted red peppers, basil pesto, and grilled eggplant. Toss whole-grain bread into the food processor for healthier breadcrumbs.

This guy is super simple. All it takes is venison, held together with egg and breadcrumbs, then sage, red pepper, and mushrooms for a little crunch and flavor. If you're looking to ditch the mayo, check out our list of healthier condiments (we particularly recommend the yogurt herb Dijon spread or avocado spread).


Lemon-Garlic Tuna BurgerThis budget-friendly and low-cal burger uses canned tuna and panko bread crumbs as its foundation. To flavor the meal, add a good amount of lemon juice, fresh parsley and chopped green onion, and some minced, good-for-you garlic. Top with sour cream or plain yogurt for some tang.

This burger draws from traditional Asian flavors with ingredients like ginger, peanut butter, soy sauce, and sauce. Find hoisin, a Chinese dipping sauce made from toasted mashed soybeans, in the Asian section of the supermarket. Try plain yogurt instead of mayo for a lower calorie swap.

Eating one of these burgers twice a week (or just eating salmon in general) can increase levels of HDL (the good cholesterol). Cilantro and lime create a light dressing, and sliced avocado adds some guilt-free, heart-healthy creaminess.