Burgers may be the most riffed-on food in the American canon, but let’s face it, the beef patty has limitations. Bacon, barbecue sauce, and blue cheese are a beef burger’s best buds, assertive enough to stand up to the taste of medium-rare chuck, but switch a burger’s central protein to something more refined—salmon, say—and a whole bunch of slathering possibilities present themselves. Lighter, healthier, and more delicate salmon burgers are no shrinking violets, but they are especially perfect for spring and summer. Salmon also happens to be one of the best fish to grill.
Here, then, is a base recipe for fantastic salmon burgers—flavorful, juicy, and substantial—followed by five tasty options for dressing them: mango, tomato, and onion salsa; soy rémoulade; roasted garlic aioli; jalapeño tartar sauce; and tzatziki. Go ahead and take your plate outside. Eating al fresco makes these taste even better. A glass of wine doesn’t hurt, either.
Makes 8 burgers
- 2 large eggs
- 1 medium shallot, medium dice
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped Italian parsley leaves
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
- 2 pounds skinless salmon fillets, pin bones removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Vegetable oil, for the grill
1. Make the burger mixture. Combine the eggs, shallot, parsley, salt, pepper, and celery seeds in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse just until combined, about 5 pulses. Add about a third of the salmon and pulse 5 times until most of the large pieces are slightly chopped. Add another third of the salmon, pulse 5 more times, then add the last third and pulse 5 times more until there are equal amounts of very small, medium, and large chunks. (Do not overprocess, as it will lead to tough, dry burgers.)
2. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the panko until thoroughly combined. Divide evenly into 8 (3-inch) patties about 1/2 inch thick (they will be about 1/3 to 1/2 cup each).
3. Heat an outdoor grill to medium high (about 375°F to 425°F). When the grill is ready, use tongs to rub the grate with several layers of paper towels dipped in vegetable oil.
4. Using a flat spatula, transfer the salmon patties to the grill, close the grill, and cook undisturbed (do not press down on the patties) until grill marks appear on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Using a clean spatula, flip the burgers, close the grill, and cook until the patties are just cooked, about 4 minutes more.
Put down the ketchup and whip up one of these easy, delicious toppings instead.
Mango, Tomato, and Onion Salsa
Fruit salsa is a perfect partner to fish; feel free to play around with whatever produce looks and tastes best.
Makes 3 cups
- 2 medium mangos, small dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 2 medium tomatoes, small dice (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 medium red onion, small dice (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Combine all the measured ingredients in a small nonreactive mixing bowl. Season well with salt and let sit at least 20 minutes. Just prior to using, season well with pepper and mix thoroughly. Spoon onto grilled salmon burgers with slices of avocado.
A dash of soy sauce gives this creamy sauce extra umami. You can also doctor store-bought mayo if you’re in a hurry, but it’s still best to give the flavors some time to meld in the fridge.
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Louisiana-style hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Crystal Hot Sauce
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, plus more as needed
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped capers
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped red bell pepper
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
Whisk the egg yolks and Dijon in a medium bowl until evenly blended. Continue whisking and slowly add the oil by pouring it down the side of the bowl in a thin stream. Once all of the oil has been added, whisk in the lemon juice, hot sauce, soy, and measured salt and pepper until evenly combined. Mix in the remaining ingredients until evenly combined. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
Roasted Garlic Aioli
Aioli is basically homemade mayo with garlic added—and it’s amazing. You can also make it with an immersion blender.
Makes 1 1/4 cups
- 1 tablespoon roasted garlic purée (1 small head of garlic, drizzled with oil, wrapped in foil, and roasted in a 350°F oven for 40 minutes, then cooled and squeezed to remove the purée from the skins)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Kosher salt
Place the roasted garlic, mustard, and yolk in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Process until evenly combined, about 10 seconds. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream, followed by the grapeseed or vegetable oil, until completely combined, about 2 minutes. Stop the processor, add the lemon juice, season with salt, and pulse until thoroughly mixed. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then pulse until all ingredients are evenly incorporated. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before using.
Jalapeño Tartar Sauce
Zingy tartar sauce gets some heat from minced peppers; use more if you like things extra spicy.
Makes 1 1/2 cups
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped capers
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 medium lemons)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped dill pickle
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped scallion (from about 1 medium scallion, white and light green parts only)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
This cooling cucumber, herb, and yogurt sauce gives a Greek spin to salmon burgers; try making the patties with some lemon, garlic, and fresh oregano to complement the topping.
Makes 1 cup
- 1/2 medium English cucumber, peeled
- 7 ounces (scant 1 cup) whole-milk Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Grate the cucumber on the large holes of a box grater. Run a knife over the grated cucumber until it’s fine in texture but not totally minced. Mound the cucumber in the center of a clean tea towel, then twist the towel to squeeze the moisture from the cucumber. Place the cucumber in a medium bowl. Add the yogurt, herbs, lemon juice, garlic, and cumin, season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight to meld the flavors before serving.