The start of summer means it's time to uncover the grill and get prepared for barbecue season. But topping your burger, year after year, with cheese, lettuce, and tomato can get a little bit boring. Consider spicing up summer cookouts with these sometimes odd, yet entirely delicious toppings.
1. PEANUT BUTTER
The now-closed Wheel Inn in Sedalia, Missouri laid claim to being “home of the goober burger,” but you don’t have to travel to the Midwest to try this topping. Smear a dollop of peanut butter on a warm burger, or heat the peanut butter to a thick, liquid consistency to add a rich, peanuty flavor.
2. MANGO CHUTNEY
A sweet, citrusy blend of mangos and other fruit adds dimension to a juicy burger, or can help add some additional moisture to drier patties like veggie or turkey burgers. Paired with havarti cheese, mango chutney can take a burger from bland to enticing, fast.
Hashbrowns and ground beef go well together for hearty breakfasts (see hashbrown casserole), but it doesn’t have to be the a.m. to enjoy the lighter meat-and-potatoes option. Crispy hashbrowns can offer some savory starch to a well-cooked burger any time of day.
Tahini adds nutty depth to foods like hummus and stir-fry. Drizzled on a burger, this sesame seed sauce adds a similar flavor to peanut butter but without the sugar, and it plays well with other veggie toppings like eggplant.
5. BRIE AND APPLES
Granny Smith apples and smooth brie cheese are a great pairing, but you can take an upscale snack one step further by topping your burger with both. For additional flavor, consider grilling the apples before piling them on.
Grilled pineapple slices add a perfect sweet to the burger's savory, but don’t be afraid to add other flavors for maximum impact; wasabi, soy sauce, and mayonnaise can help balance out the fruity sweetness.
Beets are a common burger topping in Australia, so why not try it in your own backyard? Canned or pickled beets are soft enough to add directly to a burger for a juicy and earthy flavor. (Or, make your own beet burgers as a meat alternative.)
Sandwiching a burger between two slices of pizza is tasty, trendy, and potentially heart attack inducing, but there’s another way to get a pizza-burger fix. Top a hot burger with pepperoni and mozzarella, or stuff the ingredients into the patty before cooking.
9. CRANBERRY SAUCE
There’s no reason to reserve cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. Just like chutney, cranberry sauce adds a bit of tang to an otherwise plain burger. If you’re looking to dazzle block party invitees with attention to detail, making your own cranberry sauce takes just a few ingredients and 15 minutes.
10. PEANUT BUTTER, BANANAS, AND BACON
Elvis Presley's supposed favorite sandwich can be morphed into a stellar burger, and it doesn’t take the skills of a five-star chef. Douse a cooked burger with melted peanut butter, sliced bananas, and bacon crumbles to eat like The King.
11. FRIED ZUCCHINI
Jazz up a plain burger with fried zucchini crisps, an alternative to the more common potato chip fixing. Or, for a healthier option, incorporate shredded zucchini into burger meat before cooking for more veggies on the sly.
Summertime cookouts usually include a staple dessert: watermelon. Instead of waiting for after the meal, slice up watermelon for burger toppings. Smaller chunks mimic slices of tomato, just a bit more sweet. Or, there’s always the option to lose the meat and go with a grilled watermelon patty.
Plantains are often used in place of potatoes because of their low starch content and hint of sweet flavor. On a burger, grilled plantains can add a tropical twist. Or, replace the buns with fried plantains for fewer carbs and more excitement.
14. MAPLE SYRUP
Naturally sweet maple syrup evens out the meatiness of a burger, and there’s nothing wrong with drizzling some on a quarter-pounder. For an upscale approach to this sweet and savory combo that won’t leave your hands super sticky, glaze onions with maple syrup and Worcestershire before topping that burger.
15. BAKED BEANS
Burgers and baked beans naturally go together at cookouts. So, why not save a step and pile beans directly onto a burger for a grown-up sloppy joe-style meal? Because while it’s fun to try something new, sometimes the best ingredients were camped out on your plate all along.