created at: 2013-06-13
Burgers are blank canvases that I usually paint with the same colors: ketchup, mustard, and pickles. But recently, I had a burger epiphany.

A few weeks ago, a college friend, Madeline, and her boyfriend, Jamie, came to visit from the West Coast. It was a clear night, so we decided to grill burgers for dinner. As I started to set the table with the regular toppings, Jamie, who was born in Israel but raised in Australia, mentioned that since he moved to the States—about three years ago—he’d been unable to find a burger joint that served them Australian-style: topped with grilled onions, pickled beets, grilled pineapple, and a fried egg.

As luck would have it, we happened to have all of those things on hand, so we made impromptu Australian-style burgers. I don’t think I’d ever had pickled beets or pineapple on a burger, and the tangy vinegar kick and sweetness of the fruit made me question why that was. The list of potential burger toppings is endless. In restaurants, I’m adventurous with my additions. But at home, why do I always choose the same things?

So now, just in time for my family’s annual Father’s Day cookout this weekend, I’ve vowed to vary my burger condiments. Below is a list of toppings I plan to keep on hand this summer. As far as the spectrum of burger toppings goes, they fall somewhere in between traditional and just plain crazy. Mix and match depending on what kind of burger you’re eating. This summer, let’s expand our burger horizons!

Sriracha Ketchup: Mix together ketchup and Sriracha (or some other hot sauce) in a small bowl. Add more of either depending on your taste.

Mango and Avocado Salsa: This sweet and creamy dip would taste great atop a salmon burger.

Quick Cucumber Salad: Seed one cucumber and slice very thin. Transfer to bowl and cover with 1 cup rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 teaspoons grated ginger. Stir to combine and refrigerate for one hour.

Mango Chutney: The sweetness would contrast nicely with a turkey burger.

Chimichurri Sauce: Pulse 1 cup fresh parsley, ¼ cup fresh cilantro, ¼ cup fresh oregano, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1/8 cup red wine vinegar, and some red pepper flakes in a food processor until finely chopped, scraping down bowl as necessary. With motor running, add ¼ cup olive oil in steady stream. Season with salt and pepper.

Pesto: A great way to use up excess basil—and you can freeze leftovers for up to a month.

Potato Chips: Where have I been? Apparently this is favored by everyone from casual diners to burger bloggers to Bobby Flay, whose signature burger includes them as a topping.

Grilled Pineapple: Simply remove peel and eyes, and cut pineapple crosswise into ½-inch slices. Remove core and place on hot grill. Cook for about four minutes, flipping halfway through.

What are your favorite burger toppings?