Lamb Burger with Tapenade & Pickled Onions

Beef might be the most popular choice of meat when it comes to making burgers but sometimes it’s nice to throw caution into the wind, get a little crazy and try something different – such as a lamb burger. Lamb is a great substitute for beef in just about any dish and a burger is no exception. Best of all, since lamb has a distinct and pronounced flavor, it can be used with bold, sharp, sweet, or tangy toppings without losing the lamb’s “wild” taste. The toppings I’ve chosen to go with this delicious lamb burger will be a Kalamata olive tapenade, fresh tomatoes and basil, pickled red onions, and a crumbling of goat cheese feta.

Lamb Burger overhead view

Spring Lamb Myth

I’m not a lamb expert by any means and therefore I’ve blindly followed the notion that it’s best to eat lamb during Springtime. In the past I’ve read that the lamb’s coat affects the flavor and it is better to butcher them in the Spring before they molt. However, after doing a bit of research on the matter, I discovered just how ignorant I was about lamb. Apparently the main factors for the quality and flavor of lamb is what they’ve been grazing upon, their age (below 2 years old), and how long the lamb is aged after its butchered.

If you’re interested in learning more about lamb, here’s a great article by Fionna Beckett from the website “Matching Food & Wine”.

Now onto our lamb burger recipe!

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Pickled red onions is a great addition to any burger or sandwich (or even salad) and will add a nice complimentary tang to our lamb burger recipe (plus I love the look of it). The best thing of all, pickled red onions only take about 5 minutes to make.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 red onion, cut into 1/4 inch rings
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup apple vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 chili pepper (lightly bruised with the dull edge of a knife)

* I don’t recommend using plain white table vinegar because the flavor can be too “harsh”

Directions

Place the sugar and salt into a bowl and add the vinegar. Stir until the seasoning is dissolved. Add the rest of the ingredients and set aside in the refrigerator for at least a half hour.

Pickled Red Onions for Lamb Burger
 

Tapenade

Tapenade is an addictive summertime dish. If you’re not familiar with tapenade, it’s basically pureed olives, anchovies (though you can skip the fish and it’s still tasty), garlic, and olive oil. I love making tapenade when I’m hosting because it goes great with crackers, breads, other dips or spreads, and pairs really well with most beer and wine.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb of pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tsp capers
  • 2 anchovy fillets or approx. 1/2 tbsp of anchovy paste
  • 1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 tsp fresh black pepper (taste the tapenade before adding salt)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (enough to keep the tapenade moist but not oily)

* Traditionally tapenade is made with nicoise olives but personally I think it’s good with just about any olive (including green olives). However, I do not recommend using pre-pitted olives because they usually lack a lot of the flavor of whole olives.

** Feel free to play around a bit with this recipe by adding things like chili flakes or fresh herbs.

Directions

Throw everything into the food processor. Pulse until it reaches a grainy texture. If you accidentally add too much olive oil, use a paper towel to soak up the excess.

Tapenade for Lamb Burger

Yeah I know, it ain’t pretty but it tastes amazing.


 

Tomato Topping

I decided to make a simple tomato topping to add a little balance and freshness to the lamb burger. I diced a tomato and added a half clove of minced garlic, a splash of olive oil, a few chopped basil leafs, and lightly seasoned with salt & pepper.

Tomato Garlic Basil for Lamb Burger
 

Lamb Burger Patty

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb ground lamb (makes approx. 4 – 6 oz. patties)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • olive oil for cooking

Directions

  1. Add the oregano to the ground lamb and thoroughly (but gently) combine. From the ground lamb into 6 oz patties and create a small indent on one side of the patty – this will help prevent it from “balling up”.
  2.  

  3. Heat your grill or pan (I prefer grilling lamb) and season both sides of your patties with salt and pepper. If grilling, make sure to have a clean grill surface as well as, oil the grill & lightly coat the patties just prior to putting the lamb burgers on to prevent the meat from sticking.
  4.  

  5. Cook each side for approximately 4 – 5 minutes or until the lamb burger reaches an internal temperature of 160 F – which would give you a medium color.

    Lamb Burger Front View

 

Assembling the Lamb Burger

There are so many great flavors already going on that I decided not to add any extra condiments. The tomatoes and tapenade add enough flavor and moisture to the lamb burger that you won’t miss mayo, ketchup, or mustard.

Lamb Burger Angled View

I started assembling the lamb burger by adding lettuce to a lightly toasted white bun. Next I added the lamb patty and spread a generous amount of tapenade on it. I followed that by adding some pickled red onions, the fresh tomato topping, and a crumbling of deliciously tangy goat cheese feta.

The Verdict

Lamb Burger Close Up View

It has been a couple years since I last had a lamb burger so it was a refreshing change to my usual beefy creations. Each separate element of the lamb burger had a distinct flavor yet seemed to blend fairly seamlessly with one another. I especially enjoyed how the tomato topping and tapenade played off one another while toning down the slight gaminess of the lamb. All in all I think this is a great burger to enjoy with a nice glass or wine or cold beer while enjoying some gorgeous summer weather with some friends and family.

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5 thoughts on “Lamb Burger with Tapenade & Pickled Onions

  1. Ann

    I love love love tapenade. I’ve never made it myself, though. This is a great excuse to start. Yum! My sister married a Greek guy and I’m totally going to serve this for them next time I see them. Thanks!! Looks delicious as usual!

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