Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summer Turkey Burgers; Martha Stewart's Pesto Burgers and Clean Eating's Mediterranean Burgers

Every once in a while Nick and I are in the mood for a juicy burger (ok, I'll be honest, if I could eat a burger every day and it was healthy, I'd do it, in a heart beat).  I do prefer beef burgers, but for less saturated fat and cholesterol (if you buy the extra lean breast meat) turkey burgers can be incredibly satisfying.  And since it's grilling season you might be interested in the fact that poultry has less heme iron, which may be beneficial when it comes to nitrites and nitrates (apparently the heme iron interacts with nitrates and nitrites, even those found naturally in our food, to produce carcinogens....who knew!?  And, poultry produces less carcinogenic HCAs, which you can read more about here).

The key to a good turkey burger is to make sure it stays juicy.  You see, when you make a beef burger you can eat it medium or even medium-rare, and unless your immune-system is slightly compromised, you aren't really putting yourself at risk for food-borne illness.  With poultry burgers, the story is a bit different, you have to cook it all the way to 165 degrees.  That's what makes creating a juicy turkey burger very difficult.  The meat is already pretty lean with very little fat, especially if you are using the white meat, and then you have to cook it all the way and that can often mean dryness. Blah.

I've got some tricks up my sleeve for how to create a juicier turkey burger, do you?  I like to add ground flaxseed or smashed avocado to my turkey burgers (I add these when the turkey is raw, before I form the patties).  This adds some good fat to make the burgers moist (and when I say "good fat" I don't just mean good for you, I mean tasty!).  This recipe below uses pesto with olive oil and other great flavors to add juiciness and moisture.


Pesto Turkey Burgers
Serves: 4
Total Time: ~25 minutes
Modified from a recipe found on MarthaStewart.com


1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup baby spinach
1 clove garlic **
1/4 cup walnuts
4 Tbsp. Olive Oil (plus more for the grill)
Course salt and pepper
1 pound ground white turkey breast meat
2 large tomatoes, sliced
3 ounces fresh mozzarella
8 pieces hearty whole grain bread **

** NOTE: If you are following a low FODMAPs diet, omit the garlic clove and use garlic-infused olive oil to impart the garlic flavor.  Also look for a gluten-free bread to use with the burgers.


1.  In a food processor puree the basil, spinach, garlic, walnuts, oil, and 1 Tbsp. water.  Season pesto with salt and pepper (I only added pepper).

2.  Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.  Combine 1 Tbsp. pesto, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper, and turkey and form into 4 patties.  Clean and lightly oil grill.  Brush tomatoes with oil and season with salt and pepper (I just used pepper).  Grill patties, covered , 4 minutes.  Flip patties and top with cheese.  Add tomatoes to grill and cook, flipping once, until tomatoes are lightly charred and burgers are opaque throughout, 4 minutes.

3.  Assemble sandwiches on bread with pesto, burgers, and tomatoes.

Estimated Nutrition Facts for 1 burger, with bread
Source: CalorieCount.com

Instagam!  Look at those grill marks.  Beautious, no??

Nutrition Highlights: Excellent source of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium

In the words of Chef Ramsey "this turkey burger is cooked PERFECTLY!"

Have you ever sent your husband or loved one to the store for groceries, only for them to come back with the wrong thing?  I asked Nick to buy "Extra Lean Turkey Meat", and he made the mistake than many people do; he assumed that all turkey meat is extra lean and that it's all the same. This simply isn't true.  Some of the turkey meat uses different parts of the animal, such as the thigh, and therefore it contains more fat and calories.  There's nothing wrong with it, but I prefer a leaner ground turkey burger because I don't really notice a big enough difference in the taste to warrant such a jump in calories and fat.  So, Nick brought home the wrong turkey meat and I ended up making burgers that were half lean and half extra lean ground turkey. Check out how ugly it is!

So this is what your burgers will look like if you use half lean and half extra lean turkey meat.  Not pretty, but, still delicious.  And let's be honest, that's all that matters, right?  Check out the recipe below.

Mediterranean Turkey Burgers
(Serves 4)
Source: Clean Eating Magazine (last summer's issue)

1 large red bell pepper
Olive oil cooking spray
1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
2 cups loosely packed spinach
2 ounces low-fat feta cheese
2 tsp. hot sauce **
12-ounces lean ground turkey (look for 1.5-4 grams fat per serving)
1 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 4 1/4-inch thick pieces
4 medium portobello mushroom caps , quartered **
4 whole-wheat rolls **

** NOTE:  If you are following a low FODMAPs diet be aware that most hot sauce contains garlic and/or onion.  You may want to omit this from the recipe, or just use less.  Also, portobello mushrooms contain polyols, so you may not want to eat these (or just have a very small amount).  Lastly, look for gluten-free buns, and be careful if you're lactose intolerant, as the feta and yogurt might upset your stomach, but most people will be able to handle the small amount of lactose in this recipe.


1)  Preheat broiler. Mist pepper with cooking spray. Place pepper directly on rack or baking sheet in oven. Broil 10 minutes per side.

2)  Meanwhile, in a food processor, place yogurt, spinach, feta and hot sauce and puree on high for 2 minutes, until smooth and creamy (THIS SAUCE WAS FANTASTIC!!!). Set aside.

3)  Remove pepper from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel, seed and squarter.

4)  Divide turkey patties, zucchini and mushrooms among 2 separate baking sheets.  Spray the vegetables with olive oil (use garlic olive oil for more flavor!) and broil for 10 minutes, until patties are cooked through and vegetables are tender.  To serve, spread 1 Tsbp. spinach mixture onto each half of the whole wheat buns, add 1 patty, 2 slices succhini, 1 piece pepper, quarter of mushrooms, and serve!

Nutrition Facts for 1 burger, with bun and veggies
Source: CalorieCount.com

QUESTION:  What's your favorite type of protein to use for burgers?? I'd like to start experimenting with bison soon.

Thanks for reading!

The Candid Rd


  1. I love adding pesto to burgers - especially salmon burgers! The green color is amazing and the freshness it provides is unreal! It takes your burgers up a notch...or 10!

  2. I love the idea of putting something juicy/creamy like pesto or avocado into ground poultry patties! There's nothing like a good grass-fed beef burger, but I'm the same way - I enjoy those sometimes, but spread them out with ground turkey breast and veggie burgers. I can't wait to try these tips to making them a little less dry!

    1. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I don't think I've ever had a 100% truly grassfed burger.....I hear they are delicious, in a unique grassy way :) I gotta try one sometime!

  3. I am loving the Mediterranean flavor idea. I will have to try that with a veggie burger!

  4. I love turkey burgers-- I'd actually take them over beef!! These look awesome!

  5. The burgers sound good, and the sauce sounds awesome! You mentioned that I would like Clean Eating Magazine a while back, and I subscribed via a coupon deal a while back. I haven't gotten my first issue yet but am looking forward to it!

    1. Hey Andrea! So yes, I love Clean Eating magazine, but sometime's their recipes are pretty bland (and coming from me it really says a lot, because I HATE a bunch of salt, and I typically don't mind somewhat bland foods). Just a warning, you might have to modify many of the recipes, but either way, they are always delicious!

  6. I love the idea of using olive oil or avocado to make turkey burgers moist - I'm totally trying that! I've been experimenting with bean and chicken burgers as well (with occasional success ;) ).

    Have a great week, Gina!

  7. I saw this on your instagram and my mouth was watering! this sounds so damn good and pretty easy to make. Going to have to make these this summer!

  8. I love your Pesto Turkey burger. They look so yummy! I'll try to make it for my family some time. Thanks for the recipe, Gina!

  9. Made the pesto burgers tonight... OMG... They were amazing... Totally hit the spot! These are going down as a fave! Thank you so much for the recipe!

    1. So glad they turned out delicious!! Thanks for sharing your success story :)