Turkey burgers are too often the bland, virtuous cousins of burly beef burgers. But a turkey patty—especially if it’s made from ground dark-meat turkey and seasoned properly—can be just as robust as a standard hamburger. Here we give turkey burgers a red-blooded makeover, with smoky BBQ sauce, red onion, and soy, and pair them on the bun with crispy bacon slices and bread-and-butter pickles. If you’re averse to bacon, feel free to leave it off—there’ll be plenty of flavor without it.

Game plan: For extra credit, make your own hamburger buns.

  • Yield: 4 burgers
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: 40 mins 
  • Active: 20 mins 

Ingredients (13)

  • 1 1/3 pounds ground dark-meat turkey
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup smoky BBQ sauce, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 slices thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon, halved to yield 12 pieces
  • Vegetable oil, for the grill
  • 4 slices cheddar cheese
  • 4 hamburger buns (see Game Plan note)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Pickled jalapeños
  • Sliced bread-and-butter pickles


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the turkey, onion, BBQ sauce, and soy sauce. Season with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Use your hands to gently combine. Divide the meat into 4 equal portions and shape each into an even 1/2-inch-thick patty. Use your thumb to make a shallow indentation in the center of each patty (this helps the burgers cook more evenly). Transfer the patties to a plate and set aside.
  2. Fry the bacon in a large skillet or frying pan, turning once, until browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.
  3. Heat a grill pan or outdoor grill to medium-high, about 375°F to 425°F. When the grill is hot, use tongs to grab several layers of wadded paper towels, dip them in vegetable oil, and smear the grill pan’s ridges or outdoor grill’s grates (alternatively, apply cooking spray directly to the pan or grates).
  4. Use a metal spatula to transfer the turkey patties to the pan or grill (close the lid if it’s the latter) and cook, undisturbed (don’t be tempted to press down on the patties!), until grill marks appear on the bottom, about 5 to 6 minutes. Flip the burgers, close the grill (if using), and cook until the patties are cooked through and an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F, about 6 minutes more. Add the cheese to the top of each patty for the last 4 minutes of cooking. When the cheese melts, transfer the burgers to a warmed plate and tent loosely with foil for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, split and toast the buns.
  5. Spread the bottom buns with mayo, then top each with 3 bacon slices and a turkey patty. Top each patty with a spoonful of BBQ sauce and add pickled jalapeños and/or pickle slices. Close up with the bun tops and serve immediately.