Turkey burgers with kale and cotija cheese

by aquietfancy

I haven’t eaten beef since Thanksgiving eve when I was fourteen. On the way to Berkeley, my mom and I drove past a crowded cow farm that supplies a huge percentage of California’s beef, and I was done for.

I freaking love cows. And pigs (I gave up pork much earlier, but kind of despised it anyway- too chewy and icky). So in terms of meat dishes, you might find a lot of poultry (that is, until I meet a nice chicken (that is, if nice chickens exist)).

(Sorry for the parentheses, but no, I’m not. It’s a Virginia Woolf kind of day.)

Ever since giving up hamburgers, I find I crave heavy meat literally all the time (for you Office fans, this is a great “That’s what she said!” moment). Eggs get me half way there, but the better solution is to eat something other meat-eaters would usually eat with beef (ex. chicken breakfast sausage, turkey burgers, turkey bolognese, turkey bacon, turkey everything except plain turkey).

Enter the turkey burger:

Turkey burger from All Recipes

(Notice this is not my own picture. Turkey burgers do not usually look this appetizing.)

The key ingredients to a good turkey burger are breadcrumbs and eggs. Without these ingredients (or a worthy substitute), the burger will fall apart immediately. For you foodies out there, I really do not recommend substituting panko for breadcrumbs. Trust me.

A turkey burger made with only breadcrumbs and eggs can be very tasty, especially if you add a little seasoning. But Adam and I have had so many of these bad boys with a slab of lettuce and Tillamook medium cheddar, I decided it was time to amp it up a bit. We needed to make the turkey burger fancy.

Kale is by far the fanciest green, so I substituted it for lettuce. First, we sauteed the kale with a clove of minced garlic, just to kick things up a little. We replaced our beloved Tillamook with cotija, both inside the patty and inside the buns. It holds up well inside the patty, and its salty, creamy flavor was the perfect addition to our mundane meal. To top it off, we replaced our whole wheat Oroweat buns with sliced potato rosemary bread (I actually think fresh plain old sourdough would have been even better). The result:

ImageHa, that’s really just a picture of bread. Here’s what Adam’s looked like. I gave him two sliders, which fit perfectly. But warning: use toothpicks, or once you pick this sandwich up you will be handcuffed to it until you’re done. It’s a mess.


Sorry for the amateur food photography, I’m working on it!

The first night I made this, I actually put mushrooms cooked in wine over the burger, but it wasn’t quite as good. There is enough flavor and filling in the burgers and kale alone.


I lb. lean ground turkey
Scant 1/4 cup fresh cotija cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup breadcrumbs, preferably seasoned
1 egg
Salt and pepper
2 cups kale, washed and cut (avoid stems)
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh bread, cut in 1/4-1/2 in. slices
(optional) Tablespoon olive oil (if you don’t care about your heart, use butter. It tastes better)
More crumbled cotija for topping

  1. In a large bowl, combine turkey, cheese, breadcrumbs, egg, and a dash of salt and pepper. With your hands knead ingredients together until well mixed.
  2. Shape however many patties you plan to make. (I advise two small sliders per sandwich). If you have extra, go ahead and freeze them in a baggie, separated by parchment paper.  You’ll probably eat them tomorrow.  For breakfast.  In which case, you don’t need to freeze them.
  3. I brushed a little olive oil onto my nonstick skillet, but I don’t think that was really necessary (this kind of arbitrary guessing is exactly why I hope you cooking experts comment and help me please!), but you should definitely do it for a non-non-stick (I think).  Next, cook the patties at a low-medium temperature until the bottom is nicely browned.  Once the patty has begun to cook (about five-ish minutes), flip and continue cooking until cooked through.
  4. While the patties are cooking, saute the kale and garlic in the first tablespoon of oil in a fry pan at medium heat.  Continue this until the kale is slightly wilted and before the garlic turns brown.
  5. Optional: I also toasted my bread in a little olive oil to make the bread tastier and to give it a satisfying crunch. I did this on the same skillet while the meat was cooking, but you probably won’t want your own bread in such close proximity to raw meat, and I don’t blame you.
  6. To assemble this fancy burger, I recommend putting the sauteed kale on the bottom piece of bread, then the cojita, and the burger on top.  This helps hold in the slippage.  But how you assemble your turkey burger is ultimately up to you.  Enjoy with whatever you like to drink.