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Level Up Your Burgers with These Tasty Toppings

A person holding a large cheeseburger with classic toppings like onions, cheese, and tomatoes.
Fedorovacz/Shutterstock

A classic burger topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion, coupled with quality beef and a soft bun, offers a tasty character all its own. If you want to take it up a notch this summer, try any of these classic and creative toppings.

We’ll walk you through a list of some of the most popular (and interesting) topping ideas to create little masterpieces that you’ll just have to try for yourself.

The Classics

There is something admirable about chomping down on a juicy burger stacked with classic toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and onions. Yet, while today we are highlighting options beyond that, we can’t skip over traditional favorites.

Always choose large tomatoes, like beefsteak, as thick and plump slices will add a quality freshness to each bite. While iceberg lettuce is most popular for home grilling, we recommend leaf lettuce, as it offers a rich buttery flavor, and the curly ends add a nice touch.

Red onions are the most popular choice, as you want a mild (not too oniony) kick to each bite. Finally, dill pickles are our favorite selection for burgers as they add a sour taste and crunchy texture many can resist.

All the Cheese Please

Yes, you might say cheese goes up there with the classics, but honestly, if there is one topping that deserves its own category, its cheese. Think beyond American, and cheddar as just about any cheese will add a creative and unique taste.

For example, try adding a few blue cheese crumbles to accompany a buffalo burger or feta cheese with a drizzle of homemade pesto for a fresh Mediterranean flair. Smoked gouda will accompany a smoky barbecue sauce like no other, and creamy goat cheese creates a tangy and light bite.

Take it up a notch with an aged asiago or try blending a few of your favorite types and create a new crowd-pleaser for your next summer barbeque.

Briny Bacon

Bacon is notoriously known for creating the most delicious meaty burgers, but there’s more in those slices than briny cured meat.

Be sure to save your bacon grease aside for sautéing any onions, mushrooms, or other vegetables you want to add on top. You can also use the bacon grease instead of butter for shmearing those soft buns before grilling.

Creamy Coleslaw

A hefty burger loaded with sauted onions and coleslaw.
Magdanatka/Shutterstock

Coleslaw certainly makes it to our list of foods you might not expect on top of a juicy burger patty, but it’s a must-try. It’s the perfect finish for barbecue bacon burgers, as it adds a creamy, refreshing crunch. Be sure to add the slaw just before serving to provide a nice hot-to-cold-ingredient ratio.

Mushrooms

Sauteed mushrooms are popular on top of burgers, but there is so much you can do with this humble, earthy ingredient. Keep things simple by sauteeing them in butter (or bacon grease) with a pinch of seasoned salt.

We love stuffing large portabella mushroom caps with different cheeses, including cream cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, goat cheese, or even feta. You can use pretty much anything you have tucked away in your fridge but use at least one creamy cheese for a quality blending agent.

After cooking and cooling a portabella cap, stuff it with your cheese concoction, and place it directly on your grill (cheese side up) until the cheese melts. Place this right on top of your beef patty and enjoy each cheesy chomp.

Chili for the Win

If you haven’t given this one a shot, now is your opportunity. Use your favorite chili recipe and simply slop it right on top of your burger patty. Take it one step further by sprinkling on freshly grated cheddar cheese, chopped red onion, and a few pickled jalapeno slices.

This one gets messy enough, where (shall I dare say) a fork and knife might be necessary for consumption.

Macaroni and Cheese (Because why Not?)

If you haven’t yet enjoyed a burger piled high with creamy macaroni and cheese, we recommend adding it to your foodie bucket list.

Just like the chili burger, this one gets messy, and you’ll need a stack of napkins at the very least. Spoon over your favorite mac recipe right before serving and enjoy two of America’s classics in one meal.

Fried Eggs

A hamburger topped with bacon and a fried egg.
Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock

Eggs are perhaps one of the most controversial topping choices. Some love the idea, while others frown upon the thought of a sunny side up stacked on top.

What’s most thrilling about this choice, is the rich and oozing yolk that pops and creates a creamy mouthfeel to your tasty burger. The downside forever, is lack of flavor, as the burger and other toppings overpower this single ingredient.

Potato Chips (Bobby Flays Choice)

Potato chips add a crunch factor and extra salty twist to burgers, and if you think they don’t belong, make sure to have a chat with grill chef, Bobby Flay.

He isn’t afraid to say he loves American cheese on his burgers and enjoys crispy original potato chips in each bite as well. He calls it “crunchifying” the burger.

Fried Jalapenos

If you are looking for a way to add a subtly spicy kick to your meaty meal, fried jalapenos will undoubtedly do the trick. Here’s the perfect recipe that will have your burger screaming with a piquancy like no other.

Cooling Avocado

Avocado is one of those miraculous ingredients that accompany and highlight meals across the board. Fresh slices of avocado add a cooling and creamy bite, which is both satisfyingly delicious and healthy all at the same time.

Either mash it up and make guacamole to dollop right on top or add a few thick slices instead.


As you can see, there are many brilliant toppings you can add to your burgers. What creative additions can you think up?

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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