Lamb Burgers and Greek Salad

My cooking life has been a weird one. Most people start out making things like burgers and mac and cheese; me, I started with braises and roasts and only now (almost ten years later) have I started getting comfortable making the stuff that most people make at the beginning of their cooking careers. Burgers are a good example. I had only cooked burgers once before in my life and it was in the oven. Never had I shaped a patty, plopped it on to a grill or into a cast iron skillet and lifted it on to a bun. And, true to form, even last week, when I finally did this thing that most cooks–most American cooks–do all the time, I didn’t just make normal burgers. I made lamb burgers and I served them with Greek salad.

The idea came to me at the grocery store. Lately, I’ve been really reluctant to buy ground beef–with all the horror stories of E. Coli and images I can’t shake from Food Inc.–I mostly stick to chicken because, as diseased as chicken is (a good percentage of the chicken you buy from the store has antibiotic-resistant bacteria…yum!) you know what you’re dealing with and also, this may be terrible, I just don’t feel as bad for chickens as I do for cows.

Lamb, however, I put in a separate category as ground beef. You just don’t hear as much about tainted lamb and, also, while some of my friends won’t eat lamb because they’re killed so young, I have the opposite reaction: I think it’s kinder to kill them young so they don’t have to suffer a life on an industrial farm. Is any of this making you hungry?

So at the store the other day, I saw ground lamb and I thought: lamb burgers! And Greek salad!

Here’s how it went down: at home, I read several recipes and decided to start by cooking an onion in lots of olive oil for a bit on low heat until translucent. Then I added 3 chopped cloves of garlic and some Aleppo pepper and cooked for another minute more.


I set that aside to cool (actually, I put it in the refrigerator to speed up the process); meanwhile, I made a burger topping by mashing together Feta cheese and Greek yogurt.


After that, I mixed up the ground lamb (about a pound of it) with most of the onion mixture, salt and pepper, mixing it all together with my hands, but not overworking it. I heated up my cast iron skillet, poured in a little oil and made a test burger–a little meatball, really–to test the seasoning. When it was dark brown all over, I popped it into my mouth and realized the meat needed a little more salt. I added another dash, worked it in, then shaped the meat into 3 large patties, putting a dent at the top because I read somewhere online that you should do that.

I kept the heat high on the cast iron skillet and poured in another splash of canola oil–just enough to coat the bottom of the pan, I didn’t want to fry the burgers, mostly wanted to “grill” them–and when it was really hot when I held me hand over it, I added two burgers. The loud sizzle meant I did everything right. About 4 minutes in, I lifted the burgers up with a spatula, saw the wonderful sear, and flipped them over:


Meanwhile, I toasted Sourdough English Muffins in the oven (yes, I served these burgers on English muffins, something I first experienced at Prune) and prepared a simple Greek salad by slicing large cherry tomatoes in half, and tossing them with thickly sliced English cucumber, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, crumbled feta and, at the end, a dash of oregano.

When the burgers were done on the other side–the burger cooks for about 8 minutes total; you’ll know it’s done when you press down on the top and it’s pretty firm (or take the internal temperature; it should be about 160)–I lifted the patties on to the English muffins and allowed them to rest for a bit before serving.


Topped with the yogurt/feta spread, these burgers were as good as anything I’d pay twice as much for at a restaurant. I mean, just look:


The Greek salad offered up all the acidity you’d crave from a pickle; and a glass of red wine makes you feel like the most sophisticated lamb burger-eater of all time.

So the next time you’re at the store, and you see ground lamb, give this a go. Making burgers at home is a lot easier than making Beef Bourguignon. Who knew?

45 thoughts on “Lamb Burgers and Greek Salad”

  1. Lamb is my favorite, favorite thing that I eat regularly. It’s really versatile, but I’ve never made lamb BURGERS before. Now I shall!

  2. I love everything about this but the lamb – and my husband would only love the lamb :) You should try grinding your own meat – I wish there was a better way to phrase that. Very easy with the Kitchen Aid attachment, safer and very economical! From start to the end of clean up, 5 lbs takes less than 30 minutes!

  3. Kathleen Neumark

    Looks great! What do you think about adding a little something to the feta mixture? Maybe fresh dill or mint?

      1. Or crushed red pepper. There’s a cheese appetizer in Greece called “tyrokafteri,” which basically means hot cheese. It’s creamy feta mashed with crushed red pepper until it’s the consistency of hummus. Makes a good topping or dip for anything. I like it on burgers.

  4. When I make lamb burgers at home I do a hack on April Bloomfield’s lamb burger from The Breslin: feta and cumin mayo (I just mix cumin with Hellmann’s). So simple and so amazing!

  5. I’m with you on the lamb. Anything I used to make with ground beef I now make with lamb or bison and feel much better about it…

  6. I would think that you, being a foodie, would put high priority on purchasing and consuming meats that are hormone and cruelty free and pasture raised. If animal suffering alone isn’t enough of an incentive, how can your own health not be? Plus pasture raised meats taste totally amazing, factory farmed meats are incomparable. Yes, it’s expensive. Of course it is, it was a living thing that was extremely well cared for in its life. Meat is a luxury and if one chooses to eat it, do it responsibly for yourself, the farmers, the environment and the animals. Please respect your food!

    1. Certain things are better if they are kept out of the pasture. Veal, for example. And sometimes things like chickens can develop tough legs if they are allowed to run around too much. Foie gras, also impossible to raise free-range.

      1. Actually, a farmer producing ethically raised foie gras won first prize at the Paris International food salon a few years back. Common practices of foie gras production, which are inherently cruel, have caused it to be outlawed in California so it’s great news that people are finding alternatives that benefit everyone. Same with veal. Farmers are putting calves out to pasture with their mothers and producing sublime veal because of their new diet and physical activity. Same goes with chickens in terms of flavor as well as tenderness. They’re slaughtered within a year of their life so regardless of their physical activity, which does make them tastier, they wouldn’t even have enough time to develop hulky legs.

  7. Guest with a view

    Is what you call “Aleppo pepper” actually “sumac” ? Thanks for your delicious and very entertaining posts !

    1. Adam Amateur Gourmet

      Nope, Sumac is a different spice altogether… Aleppo Pepper is a fruity middle-eastern spice that you can buy online at places like Kalustyan’s or Penzy’s. Good luck!

    2. Sumac is different. Aleppo pepper is from Syria, and as a spice (dried), it is somewhat mildly spicy, with with an orangey flavor.

  8. Stephanie Doublait

    I love this recipe, but doubt I will ever have the occasion to make it. I live 20 miles from Paulliac which is where the best French lamb comes from yet I have never seen ground lamb for sale. I asked my butcher for it once and he said only if I ordered 10+ pounds at a time….. c’est la vie!

  9. Guest with a view

    Thanks to both of you. I’ve got it now. Over here in Europe or in Lebanon/Syria b’har halabi (I had never heard the term of Aleppo pepper), is also called “7 spices”. And you are right, it has nothing to do with sumac which is a berry in itself, dried and crushed. Za’atar for example is a combination of crushed thyme, sumac and sesame seeds.

    1. Mmmmm, yummy. I do this, and sometimes use minced lamb kebabs or koftas grilled or BBQ in warm pitta bread with Tzaziki and the Greek Salad for an even quicker equally delicious flip back to Summer and all things Aegean. An alternative gastro route to the same mind space is via Stifado; so lovely to come home to when it’s been braising gently all day in the bottom oven.

  10. I love lamb burgers! And I am the same way… instead of starting out cooking normal things like pasta or whatever, like my mother made for all of us for years, I started out with various savory tarts and fancy braises! I think I wanted restaurant-y tastes in my home cooking, and didn’t know how to get those from the old standards I grew up on, you know? Anyway, love your blog.

  11. As im just joining and getting started here your Lamb burgers caught my eye and I cant wait to get the recipe and give this one a try.

  12. Great thinking to use lamb instead of beef. This could be pretty versatile, too. You could add things like dill or mint to the sauce to make it even more Greek-i-fied – but then the salad on the side does that anyway. I’ll be trying this! (like you, I’ve never made a burger at home …eeek!)

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  14. I love me some lamb! I never had them as burgers before but this recipe sounds amazing. I will be trying this.

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