Big flavor in a hurry: Asian Turkey Burgers with Sriracha Mayonnaise

by Terry B on May 25, 2011

Weeknight quick to make, turkey burgers get a flavor boost from hoisin sauce, green onions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and a topping of Sriracha mayonnaise. Recipe below.

There are Sundays that lend themselves to giving in to indolence, lounging about and doing nothing more ambitious than occasionally stirring a pot that cooks for hours. This past Sunday was not one of those. We spent much of the day hiking around the National Restaurant Association Show in the cavernous McCormick Place (motto: “You’ll love our 2.6 million square feet of hard concrete floors”). Then, because we apparently hadn’t walked enough, we did a little more hiking along Chicago’s lakefront.

After a day of walking and grazing on various delicious, mostly fatty foods (more about the restaurant show next week), we wanted a dinner that wasn’t a fat bomb, but still delivered big taste. And personally, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on my feet in front of the stove. These Asian turkey burgers were just what we needed.

The skinny on turkey. If you’re buying ground turkey as a low-fat alternative to ground beef, stick with the ground turkey breast meat, which is 99% fat free. Regular ground turkey that includes dark meat is 93% fat free, slightly fattier than ground sirloin. (That said, most burger recipes recommend using fattier ground beef for better flavor.)

Whichever ground turkey you use, the flavor will be lighter than beef. It will also need some help. Ground turkey is an absolute blank canvas that works beautifully with all kinds of flavors, but on its own is downright bland. To liven things up and give these burgers an Asian spin, I added Chinese hoisin sauce, soy sauce, fresh ginger, green onions, garlic and cayenne pepper to the turkey.

And I topped the burgers with a little Sriracha mayonnaise. Sriracha Hot Sauce is an amazing condiment—spicy, tangy and deliciously vinegary. We’ll occasionally use it straight as a dip for french fries instead of ketchup (warn your guests before making this substitution—Sriracha has quite a kick to it). Blended with mayonnaise, the heat gets tamed a little, and the flavor is creamy but still tangy. Sriracha Hot Sauce is the invention of a Vietnamese immigrant living in Southern California. To find out more about this absolute staple in our kitchen, check out Marion’s Poison Gas Potatoes (which are a lively alternative to fries when you’re making burgers).

Asian Turkey Burgers with Sriracha Mayonnaise
Makes 4 burgers

For burgers:
1 pound ground turkey breast
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (see Kitchen Notes)
2 teaspoons soy sauce (reduced sodium preferred)
2 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less—see Kitchen Notes)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (see Kitchen Notes)
freshly ground black pepper
canola oil

4 hamburger buns (I used whole wheat)

For Sriracha Mayonnaise:
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Sriracha Hot Sauce (see Kitchen Notes)

Make the burgers. Combine ground turkey, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, green onions, ginger, garlic cayenne pepper, bread crumbs and a generous grind of black pepper in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly by hand. Form into 4 patties. Heat a grilling pan over a medium-high flame (you can use a large skillet, but grilling pan is preferred—you can also grill the burgers). Brush the grilling pan lightly with canola oil and toast the cut side of the buns in batches; set aside.

Brush the pan more generously with oil and cook the burgers until just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Use a quick read thermometer to make sure the burgers reach an internal temperature of 165ºF.

Meanwhile, make the Sriracha mayonnaise. Crazy easy. Put the mayonnaise and the Sriracha Hot Sauce in a small bowl and mix with a spoon. Done.

Assemble the burgers. Also easy. Bun, burger and a smear of Sriracha mayonnaise. You can add some lettuce or tomato slices, but I would discourage it. These are quite tasty on their own.

Kitchen Notes

Hoisin sauce. This Chinese sauce and glaze is used extensively in Asian cooking. You can find it in Asian markets as well as many supermarkets in what is often charmingly (if less than politically correctly) called the “ethnic aisle.”

Cayenne pepper. We like heat in our food; the 1/2 teaspoon I used for these burgers gave them a nice, but not overpowering, kick. Adjust the amount of cayenne pepper based on your own heat tolerance.

Bread crumbs. You can use Panko bread crumbs for this, if you have some on hand. If not, remove the crust from one or two slices of white bread, tear the bread into pieces and pulse it in a food processor or blender until you have crumbs.

Can’t find Sriracha? Make your own. Sriracha Hot Sauce is fairly widely available, both in Asian markets and many supermarkets. But if you can’t find it, Serious Eats offers recipes for both fermented and unfermented versions. I can’t vouch for them, having not made them, and they don’t keep as long as the commercial stuff, but desperate times, etcetera.

Hungry for more turkey burgers? Try these spicy turkey burgers made with cumin, chili powder, jalapeño peppers and fresh cilantro.


{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Cynthia Fox-Giddens May 25, 2011 at 3:01 pm

This recipe is super yum. I need to give turkey a try for making burgers to change up from beef. I bet the mayo topping is a spicy delight!

Anita May 25, 2011 at 3:06 pm

What’s un-pc about calling it the ethnic aisle?

Terry B May 25, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Thanks, Cynthia! We sometimes will use ground turkey in chili too, not just to have less fat in it (because we usually use the leanest ground beef we can find to make chili), but for the lighter flavor.

That’s a good question, Anita. Ethnic aisle is certainly a convenient term for conveying what you’ll find there, and I applaud supermarkets for carrying a wider array of products that allow home cooks to explore global cuisines. But there’s something odd about lumping many cultures together under the term ethnic to me. And does that make “American” foods non-ethnic? I struggled with this very question when setting up categories for recipes here on Blue Kitchen. Instead of Ethnic Cuisine, I settled on World Cuisine—not sure if that’s better or not, but it felt a little better at the time.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) May 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm

You could slather Sriracha mayo on car upholstery and I would eat it. Turkey burgers, even the best ones, are often a bit on the bland side, and this is the perfect condiment to brighten them up.

Michael Lange, Optometrist May 26, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I feel the same way about Sriracha mayo Lydia! That’s really funny. I love turkey burgers and these just look incredible. I know that sometimes it is hard to get a turkey burger moist and a lot of times I will use an egg. Are the bread crumbs supposed to be a substitute for this? I will be testing this recipe out very soon. I can’t wait to eat these!!

Terry B May 26, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Lydia—Ha! I’m not sure even Sriracha mayo could save seat covers. It did add something to these burgers, but they were pretty good on their own, if I say so myself.

Michael—I think the main purpose the bread crumbs served was to help hold the patties together before cooking. At least one recipe I saw called for an egg white, and I’m sure it was added to solve the same structural issue. And one recipe advised wetting your hands before forming the patties, but with the bread crumbs, that proved not to be necessary. The juiciness of beef burgers comes from the fat in the meat; turkey burgers don’t have that going for them, so they do tend to be a bit drier. The Sriracha mayo helps add some moistness to the sandwich.

Kalyn May 26, 2011 at 8:21 pm

You had me at Sriracha mayonnaise!

Katie May 26, 2011 at 9:05 pm

YUM! These sound absolutely delicious!

A.J. May 26, 2011 at 9:55 pm

I made these last night and everyone loved them. The mayonnaise was especially good.

altadenahiker May 28, 2011 at 3:19 am

Versatility is the hallmark of a great hot sauce. Not only do I use Sriracha in and on most of what I eat, a few dabs discouraged my dog from eating the patio furniture. I’m now trying it in the raised beds to see if it will evict the pill bugs. True story.

Terry B May 28, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Kalyn—I know, right?

Thanks, Katie!

A.J., I’m so glad you liked them! I always love hearing when someone tries one of our recipes and reports back (well, I love it when they report back and say they enjoyed it—the other, not so much).

Altadenahiker—Be very, very afraid of any pill bugs it doesn’t drive away.

Peggy May 29, 2011 at 2:43 pm

I love how versatile a turkey burger can be! Love the Asian spin on this one =)

Amy Kelly May 30, 2011 at 1:02 am

I made these tonight and they were FANTASTIC! Thank you so much for the amazing recipe!

Mary_Eats May 31, 2011 at 12:12 am

Made these tonight and they were a big hit!

Terry B May 31, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Thanks, Peggy!

Amy and Mary_Eats—So glad you both liked this recipe! It’s always a bonus to me when I figure out something that I can throw together quickly—especially on a weeknight—and have it taste really good.

Sarah June 1, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I made these for the whole family this past weekend and they were amazing! And I normally don’t even like turkey burgers. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe, it is definitely going in the summer vault.

Deana Allary June 10, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Guess what I’m making for dinner tonight…

Kristyn LaPres June 16, 2011 at 4:43 am

Ever since I found this recipe through TasteSpotting, I have made these once a week… I’m addicted!

They are SO good and my 3 year old daughter even enjoys them! I just can’t say enough good things about it! Thank you!

Terry B June 16, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Thanks, Sarah! One thing about turkey burgers is that they do need extra flavoring to make them taste like much of anything.

I hope you liked them, Deana.

Wow, Kristyn, any time you find something a 3-year-old will eat, you’ve struck gold. Thanks so much!

Deana Allary June 16, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Yes, Terry, we did enjoy them. Thanks. Added some crystallized onions and served them with grilled portabello mushrooms and peppers. Very good.

James Dalton June 21, 2011 at 9:06 am

The picture really makes it look like something I need to make and eat. Hopefully my presentation will have it looking like the pic and not something thrown together at Bob’s burger barn. Thanks for the cool recipe :)

Sydney Bea July 5, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I made these last night and they were delicious! And they looked just like the picture.

ashlyn September 11, 2011 at 11:12 pm

i love turkey burgers

Anne January 30, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Hi, Terry:
I found this delicious recipe through, and now I follow along on your website whenever I can.

The turkey burgers are delicious, and they are among the most flavourful burgers I’ve ever had. They easily beat the cardboard box-tasting, poor-excuse-for-a-turkey-burger that you find in the processed food aisle of my local supermarket! The only funny thing is that I bought the sriracha specifically for your recipe; even though my son loves spicy food, he said the mayo was even too spicy for him! I even added more mayo, to try to tone it down for all of us, and my mouth still felt as if it were on fire. Fortunately, I only made about 4 tablespoons in total, so I didn’t feel as badly about throwing it out.

By the way, Terry, even though you “discouraged” adding lettuce and tomato slices, I did just that! To my younger son’s, I even added a slice of sharp cheddar cheese, and I can say that it was “all good”! This recipe is going into my recipe book–to be made many times over. Thanks very much for such an amazing recipe.

Ann September 10, 2012 at 1:01 am

Got the kids involved in making these. We had a great time making them and more eating them! Great Sunday night dinner.

Marcy September 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Hi. Can this be made as a meatloaf? Looks amazing! Can’t wait to make it. Thanks

Terry B September 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Wow, this post has suddenly gotten a lot of attention again. Thanks, Gojee!

Ann, it’s great to hear you got the kids involved—passing on kitchen skills is HUGE for helping them eat healthier, now and down the road.

Marcy, I think this would probably make an awesome meatloaf. Great idea! Then you could serve the Sriracha mayo on the side and let people add their own. If you make it, let me know how it turns out.

Sarah October 29, 2012 at 3:11 am

Amazing recipe! I thought I had found the best turkey burger recipe, but stand corrected. After making these for my girlfriend, she insisted that these were in fact the best turkey burgers she’d ever had. They were… so good… I am making them again soon!


cass November 17, 2012 at 6:04 pm

followed the recipe to a T and doubled it…these came out perfect! i used a large skillet, browning 4 burgers at a time (medium heat, about 3-4 minutes on each side) and then putting them in the oven at 425 for about 10 more minutes until they reached 165 degrees. yum!!

gordon March 15, 2013 at 1:04 am

wonderful recipe, its now one of our regulars–we’ll do 2 lbs and freeze-
the siracha mayonnaise sauce is a keeper-now using on several dishes-

Maria December 17, 2014 at 5:35 pm

These are absolutely the best turkey burgers that I’ve ever had. It is the only turkey recipe I ever use. All of my friends rave about it. Thank you so much for this easy and amazing recipe.

Scott Williams June 10, 2016 at 2:09 pm

I usually am not a huge fan of anything related to turkey but my wife made them and they were absolutely delicious . Just the write amount of seasoning and the cheese was a nice touch so thank you for sharing the recipe with us. Can you please share with me what camera you used for these awesome photos ? :)

Terry B June 10, 2016 at 4:47 pm

Thanks, everyone! I rarely answer comments to older posts, but Scott, this was probably shot with a Nikon 40DX (no longer made). I try to shoot with window light whenever possible, but this was likely shot with an umbrella reflector.

Bryan August 9, 2016 at 5:30 am

My girlfriend told me about this blog. She found this recipe by a chance and made these burgers when I came to visit her. I didn’t even know he can cook! I am hooked now :). I only eat meat rarely and because of that usually very picky about what goes on my plate. But this was one of the best.

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