The Secret to Juicy, Flavorful Turkey Burgers

Goodbye, dry turkey burgers.

Ranch Turkey Burgers
Photo: Photo: Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

I first started swapping out ground beef for ground turkey last year. Since then, ground turkey has become one of my staple grocery store buys. I could go on and on about the benefits of ground turkey meat: it's quite an inexpensive protein, versatile, and a great way to reduce your red meat intake and lean into a more environmentally sustainable diet. Each week, I use ground turkey to prepare a few different dishes, rotating between tacos, enchiladas, turkey meatballs, and my all-time favorite turkey burgers.

The art of the turkey burger can be difficult to perfect. The main problem is that turkey burgers are notoriously dry, as the meat is much leaner than traditional ground beef. When I order turkey burgers at restaurants, I often end up disappointed with a dry, bland burger. But after a year of perfecting my craft, I've developed a few secrets to cooking a juicy, flavorful turkey burger at home.

Don't overwork the meat.

Although it's important to work the ground turkey enough to form patties, overmixing will leave the burgers dry. Add your seasoning and mix just until everything's incorporated, then form the patties and don't work them any further.

Go bold with the seasoning.

Unlike traditional beef patties, ground turkey on its own doesn't contain a punch of flavor. While beef burgers only require a pinch of salt and pepper on both sides, you can elevate your turkey burgers by mixing seasoning straight in with the meat. I typically add garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, salt, pepper, and red chili flakes to my ground turkey for a classic Italian flavor profile (and I use the same technique for my turkey meatballs). But you can really get creative with the seasoning. Try adding Old Bay seasoning for a Cajun twist, or if you're in search of a classic, beefy burger taste, add a splash of Worcestershire sauce to your mixture.

Add a spoonful of mayonnaise.

A spoonful or two of mayonnaise, mixed right in with the ground meat. Now hear me out. Most recipes use egg to bind ground turkey, helping the meat to form into cohesive, juicy patties. And isn't mayonnaise really just an emulsification of egg yolk, oil, and acid? While raw egg can be used to bind the burgers, mayonnaise does the trick while also adding an irreplacable dimension of creaminess, moisture, and flavor. When the patties cook, the mayo melts into the pockets of the meat to create a wonderfully juicy patty. Goodbye, dry turkey burgers.

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Double down on sauce.

Pair your turkey burger with a sauce to really accentuate the moisture. You can top your burger with anything from ranch to pesto, but while you've got the mayo out, why not whip up a quick aioli to take your burger to the next level? I like to pair my turkey burger with a slightly spicy aioli, mixing mayo with hot sauce, paprika, chili flakes, lemon juice, and garlic. (For a slightly healthier option, you can replace mayo with unflavored Greek yogurt.)

Stack on the condiments.

Don't be afraid to load up your turkey burgers! Think about pairing flavors that will go well with the lighter turkey meat and the seasoning mixture you've used. I love topping my turkey burgers with goat cheese, roasted red peppers, arugula, a sunny-side-up egg, and spicy aioli. With all these dynamic flavors and textures, I often opt to skip the bun.

These simple turkey burgers will become a staple in your weeknight dinner repertoire. They're easy to prepare, endlessly customizable, low-calorie, and great for the whole family. Once again, we prove that we really can't live without mayonnaise.

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