Mar Yvette’s Top 5 Burgers That Don’t Just Moo

Image Credit: Lisa Cohen
Oh, the burger. It’s the quintessential comfort food and perhaps the most iconic culinary creation of mankind. But this juicy classic has gone way beyond the traditional beef patty sandwiched between two buns. Whether it’s a vegetarian alternative or simply more exotic meat you crave, the options are endless. I asked a handful of top burger makers to find out what it takes to make the best burger… that doesn’t moo.
1. Quinoa Burger from Burger Lounge

Quinoa has been around for centuries (it was a staple in the Incan diet), but recently it’s been enjoying a major moment in the “healthy food” spotlight. And the folks at Burger Lounge, home of the original grass-fed burger, have created a tasty meat-free alternative without any of that processed soy stuff. “Our organic quinoa veggie burger is handcrafted with organic quinoa and fresh veggies. It’s not intended to be a meat impostor,” said Dean Loring, CEO & Co-Founder of Burger Lounge. “It stands alone as a favorite among vegetarians, meat-eaters and those looking to add a protein to one of our healthy salads. It comes grilled, topped with organic cheese and served ‘Lounge Style’ with lettuce, tomato and our housemade thousand island.”

Ingredients (makes 10)
  • 1 pound crimini mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for sautéing
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or thawed if frozen
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, finely chopped
  • ½ cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • ½ cup chopped garlic
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 10 hamburger buns


Preheat oven to 365 degrees; wash the mushrooms, cut them in half, toss with salt, pepper and olive oil.

Place mushrooms on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes; once cooked, puree the mushrooms in a blender and set aside.

Roughly chop the zucchini, carrot and onion and place in a large bowl.

Puree the corn and garbanzo beans; add to the bowl of vegetables.

Add the remaining ingredients and the cooled pureed mushrooms; mix to combine.

Form a tiny patty and sauté; taste and adjust seasoning in the vegetable mixture if necessary; form 10 five-ounce patties. Heat some olive oil in a pan until hot; lightly sauté the patties.

Serve on hamburger buns with preferred accouterments.

2. Ahi Tuna Burger from Umami

This wildly popular California chain is known for conjuring up that ‘fifth taste’ (umami) with their house-ground, hand-formed beef patties and unusual sauces. But if you want to try something lighter but no less flavorful, do the ahi tuna. “The secret to a great ahi tuna burger is to just sear it on one side and combine it with things that blend together well,” said Umami founder Adam Fleischman. “We use pickled daikon and crushed avocado. You don’t want to over handle the tuna, either. At Umami Burger, we don’t grind the ahi, we just cut it with a knife and hand-form the patty.” FYI: You can find ingredients like wasabi flakes and picked daikon at most Asian grocery stores.

Ingredients (makes 4)
  • 1 pound fresh ahi tuna
  • 1 cup sunflower sprouts
  • 2 avocados, crushed
  • Pickled daikon
  • Gingered carrots
  • Wasabi flakes
  • Wasabi tartar sauce
  • 4 brioche hamburger buns, lightly toasted


Hand-chop the ahi tuna and form into the shape of a patty; sear it on one side.

Assemble your burger with a layer of crushed avocado on the bottom bun; add ahi tuna patty and top with wasabi tartar sauce.

Combine the remaining ingredients and dust with wasabi flakes to taste.

3. Bison Burger from The Counter

There’s another burger chain that promises burgers your way, but The Counter really does it. You can build your own burger from a clipboard list of ingredients that allows countless configurations and multiple protein options, including bison. “The Counter’s bison burgers are made from certified organic bison that are 100% grass fed and antibiotic- and hormone-free. Bison is leaner than skinless chicken and has a sweet, rich beef flavor and texture,” said Andrew Evans, Director of Culinary Operations.

Ingredients (makes 4)
  • 24 ounces of organic bison
  • 3 ounces of shredded lettuce
  • 4 slices of tomato
  • 4 slices of cheddar cheese
  • 4 eggs, fried
  • 16 slices of bacon
  • 4 English muffins, toasted
  • Sweet Sriracha sauce


Divide the bison meat into four (4) six-ounce portions and form into patties approximately ¾” thick.

Salt and pepper the patty, making sure both sides are evenly covered.

Place the patties on a grill at high heat for two minutes, then rotate each patty 90-degrees for nice grill marks.

Grill an additional two minutes, flip the patties, wait two minutes and again rotate each patty 90-degrees for nice grill marks.

Add one slice of cheddar cheese to each patty, continue to grill and let cheese melt for two minutes.

Remove burgers from grill—this should result in a “medium” cooked (pink throughout) burger, but cooking times will vary depending upon the temperature of your grill.

Begin assembling your burger by placing the shredded lettuce and tomato slice on one half of the English muffin. Place the bison patty and cheese on top of the tomato.

Add the egg on top of the bison burger and cheese.

Place the bacon slices so they encircle the yolk on the egg.

Serve with the remaining half of the toasted English muffin leaning against the burger so your guests can admire your creativity.

Serve with sweet Sriracha sauce on the side.

4. Lamb Burger from Cafe Del Rey

Giving the classic American burger a Mediterranean makeover, the Moroccan lamb burger at the seaside Cafe Del Rey in Marina Del Rey is a flavorful option. It’s topped with sheep’s milk cheese and housemade tzatziki and served with harissa-spiced fries. “What I like about the Moroccan lamb burger is that all the flavors work so well together from the harissa that is mixed into the ground lamb to the small diced Manchego cheese studded throughout and the tzatziki spread on the housemade bun,” said Executive Chef Daniel Roberts.

Ingredients (makes 4)
  • 2 pounds of ground lamb
  • 1/3 pound Manchego cheese, cubed
  • Tzatziki (you can buy it or make your own; recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon harissa paste (can be found at high-end grocery stores and ethnic food stores)
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato


  • 2 cucumbers
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • Mint chopped, to taste
  • Cilantro chopped, to taste


Hand mix lamb burger, cheese and harissa paste in a bowl; portion lamb into 4 rounds and set aside.

Prepare tzatziki

  • Peel and de-seed cucumbers and grate into yogurt
  • Add lemon and grated garlic into yogurt mixture
  • Add mint and cilantro to taste

Grill (or saute) burgers 5 minutes per side or to desired temperature.

Spread tzatziki on both sides of the bun, top with patty, lettuce and tomato.

5. Turkey Burger from Zov’s Bistro

For a Mediterranean twist on the turkey burger, it doesn’t get much better than the deliciously seasoned version from Zov’s Bistro. “The heat from the Aleppo pepper and the smokiness from the cumin add an interesting layer of flavor,” said Zov Karamardian, chef and owner of the Zov’s chain and best-selling cookbook author. “The burger is further enhanced with the combination of tangy feta cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.” Bonus tip: “Instead of burgers, you can shape the meat mixture into kebabs on flat metal skewers and grill them.”

Ingredients (makes 8)
  • Patties
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper (you can get this at a gourmet shop)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 8 burger buns
  • 3 cups lightly packed baby arugula leaves
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup drained sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion


Prepare the patties by mixing all the ingredients in a large bowl.

Form the mixture into 8 one-inch-thick patties; place the patties on a baking sheet, then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat) and rub the grill rack with oil.

Grill the patties until they are nicely charred on the outside, turning once, about 5 minutes per side for medium rare.

Grill the buns until warm and toasty, about 30 seconds.

Meanwhile, toss the arugula, feta cheese sun-dried tomatoes and red onions in a small bowl; top each bottom bun with a cooked patty, then with the arugula mixture.

Spread the sauce on the bun tops and set the tops on the burgers.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Next: Best House DJ’s Of 2012