California Turkey Burgers. Stacked high with fresh avocado, crisp tomatoes, and a simple pesto spread. Yuhhh-UM.
Bite into a hearty, herb-flecked burger bursting with classic Mediterranean flavors (like basil, parsley, lemon, onion, and garlic) without even having to fire up the grill. These lean, juicy, pan-fried patties are positively packed with flavor and protein.
And the whole recipe comes together in under 30 minutes. Which means a last-minute meal you can throw together on a whim, all while making it look like you had an awesomely delicious dinner planned all along.
Just looking at them makes me feel like I need to jet off to another hemisphere. Some wonderful place on the map where sunny weather is still happening and beach-going is a thing I could do without bringing a jacket. To me summer equals lots of fresh, vibrantly colorful foods. It's days spent sipping ice-cold lemonades and devouring hot-off-the-grill goodies. All while lounging poolside wearing a gigantic hat and fancy-lady sunglasses.
Dreamy sigh. That’s the LIFE, right there.
Enter the lets-close-our-eyes-and-pretend-its-summer by eating these bright and summery turkey burgers in February. Oh, food. You always know how to save the day.
This recipe has a short list of simple ingredients. A quick peek at the recipe card below will reveal that these are super easy-to-find items that you may already have on-hand in your pantry or fridge.
So, let’s get down to business and talk turkey.
Nutritionally, it is hard to turn down all the benefits you get from choosing ground turkey as a protein-source. It’s lean, low-fat, convenient, freezes well, is easy to find in most stores, cooks really quickly, and tends to be pretty affordable. Even the organic, free-range kind won’t put you out too much.
I’m well aware that much more exciting and palatable words have been uttered to you besides “turkey burgers”. Given the choice between a turkey burger and a burger-BURGER, I know where your heart’s loyalty truly lies.
Just the thought of ground up turkey meat can conjure up images of boring, plain, or dry patties just begging to be smothered in anything to drown out the bland. Boatloads of ketchup, mayo, bbq sauce, marinara, cheese. Something. Anything. PLEASE, send in the reinforcements.
I feel you.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
This is an altogether different kind of turkey burger experience. You will be eagerly chomping into these guys, easily whipping up batches on a weeknight, and serving them up to your friends like it’s no big deal.
When you scout out quality ingredients and make use of key herbs and spices, you can make stereotypical health-food taste crazy GOOD (instead of just crazy-good-for-you).
These burgers are a light, fresh, and tasty alternative to takeout foods. They incorporate healthy fat sources from avocado and coconut oil. Both of those ingredients make it feel splurge worthy without the guilt. Cooking the meat in a bit of coconut oil wraps the burgers all up in that buttery flavor you love in a freshly griddled beef patty.
I love coconut oil. Love it so much that the little tub lives right next to the stove pretty much at all times. It's a versatile, fairly neutral cooking oil that can withstand higher cooking temperatures so I use it for eggs, meat, pancakes, and even just blended up into coffee or a smoothie. Plus it's a superfood (YAY!) with a whole bunch of health benefits.
If you haven't used it before, you might be surprised that it does not actually make things taste super coconutty (I think this sort of qualifies as a word). Especially when other ingredients are being used that easily overpower its subtle coconut flavor. In this recipe, the pesto and spice blend dominate the flavor scene.
But if you have another cooking oil that you hold dear (extra virgin olive oil would be equally great), feel free to use that one instead and just adjust the pan heat and cooking time as needed.
The prep is fast and straightforward. The first step on the recipe card is a slightly more eloquently worded version of “drop a bunch of ingredients into a bowl”
Then you just mix everything up, form into patties, and lightly pan-fry on both sides until golden brown and delicious. Totally doable, right?
The secret to keeping these burgers juicy is cottage cheese. It really does the trick to keep the moisture content high. Once cooked, these burgers have melty little pockets of gooey cheese hiding inside every bite. All courtesy of this awesome little ingredient. Plus they get an extra boost of protein. The egg, pesto, and cheese work to bind the patties together and keep the burgers from drying out in the pan.
Using pesto in this recipe makes flavoring the patties quick and easy. Pesto already contains a balanced blend of herbs like basil and parsley as well as olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and spices which means less measuring/ chopping/ peeling/ juicing and just generally less ingredients for you to check off of a list.
Sometimes I use store-bought pesto and sometimes I make my own from scratch. Whatever you’re in the mood for, is what you should use. I recommend finding a basil-based pesto that has a lot of herbs and is blended to a smooth texture.
Related: Spicy Green Pesto
The patties themselves are gluten-free, so even friends with special dietary needs can join in the party. You can choose to eat it protein-style wrapped in big butter lettuce leaves or romaine hearts. Or carb it up by tucking a patty with shredded veggies into a pillowy pita pocket, folding it into a lavash wrap loaded with greens, or sandwich it between two toasted sesame buns.
A swipe of beyond easy 2-ingredient pesto spread really sets it over the top. But if you’re watching your fat intake, you can always swap the mayo for zero fat greek yogurt OR smash up half an avocado with a fork and blend with some pesto for an avo-pesto spread.
And if you decided you maybe wanted to add a little crispy bacon to the avocado-tomato action to really deck out your burger-wich as a BLT meets California Turkey Club?
Well. That deserves a standing ovation in my book. I applaud you, fellow bacon-lover. I like your style.
And if it was Coconut Nectar Candied Bacon? I might just hug you.
California Turkey Burgers
- 1 lb of lean ground turkey*
- 1 whole egg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes
- ½ cup basil pesto
- 2 tbs dried onion
- ⅔ – ¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese drain off any extra liquid**
- 1-2 tbs coconut oil
EASY PESTO SPREAD
- 2 tbs mayonnaise or low-fat greek yogurt
- 1 tbs pesto
- Fresh sliced tomatoes
- Sliced avocado
- Roasted red peppers
- Fresh greens like spinach, arugula
- Burger buns
- Romaine leaves
- MAKE THE BURGER PATTIES: Add all patty ingredients (except coconut oil) to a large bowl. Mix with your hands until just combined. The mixture will be very wet. Form mixture into 8 palm-sized patties and set aside.
- COOK THE BURGERS: Preheat a large pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbs of coconut oil and once melted, add patties to the hot pan. Cook the burgers in coconut oil for 4-6 minutes on the first side. Work in batches as needed and be careful not to crowd the pan. The burgers should not be touching. Once they have started to brown on one side and you see the meat beginning to cook on the sides of the patty, it is time to flip. Cook the burgers on the second side for another 3-5 minutes or until cooked through. If using a meat thermometer, final cooked temperature should read at least 165 degrees.
- MIX THE PESTO SPREAD: Mix together the ingredients for the pesto mayo in a small bowl and spread on burgers.
- STACK EM UP: Eat between toasted burger buns, inside of a pita or lavash bread, enjoy as a lettuce wrap, on top of a salad, or with hot vegetables on the side.
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