Whole30 Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Burgers with Basil Aioli are a great addition to your weekly meal plan or Labor Day cookout. They’re easy to make, Whole30 and Paleo-friendly, and can be enjoyed anytime of day. Try them between a lettuce bun, overtop a salad or even with some eggs and sweet potatoes in the morning!
You wouldn’t know it from this recipe but when it comes to burgers I’m actually somewhat of a purist. I’m talking a great mince of high-quality chuck seasoned with nothing more than coarse salt and freshly-cracked peppercorn. If we’re talking cooking method, I’ll always prefer a griddle-smashed burger over a flame-grilled one. Lately, though, I’ve been experimenting with flavours and textures. It turns out that not only is there a whole world of burger possibilities, but some of them can actually taste pretty frickin’ amazing! And, as usual, no bun required.
You may have already seen/made my Whole30 Greek Burgers, which use lamb mince, pine nuts and are heavy on the Greek-inspired flavours. Yes, pine nuts! Trust me, it works. This time around, I went a different, albeit similarly mediterranean, route. It should come as no surprise that these Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Burgers have sun-dried tomatoes in them. They’ve also got sautéed onion, garlic and fresh oregano, which I proudly grow in my garden (read: terracotta pot on my deck). Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I use ground chicken, which is more delicate than beef or lamb and doesn’t overpower the flavours of the sun-dried tomatoes.
I grilled these Whole30 beauties to perfection on my handy, though not as flavourful as charcoal, propane grill. If you don’t have a grill and want to make some seriously delicious burgers, I recommend getting a cast-iron skillet. Please, don’t try to cook burgers in a non-stick pan. If you want that beautiful, crispy, caramelized meat, you’ll need a skillet that can handle high-heat cooking. I always recommend this Lodge Cast-Iron model. Equally well-suited, though not as conducive to the ‘smashed’ technique, is this Lodge Cast-Iron grill pan. It will give you those perfect grill marks, which are cool but not necessarily tastier. Lodge makes some of the best cast-iron products I’ve ever had the pleasure of using and for around 15 bucks you can’t go wrong. As with other cast-iron products, you will have to maintain and season it regularly. The trade-off is a high-quality, non-stick pan that will likely outlast you. (*Disclaimer: the links above are Amazon Affiliate links and I receive a very small commission if you choose to purchase. This is one of the ways you can help support my blogging activities.)
The (not-so) Definitive Guide to Making Whole30 Burgers From Scratch
I feel like this warrants a blog post of its own. However, since we’re already on the topic of burgers, I see no harm in sharing the tips that help me achieve great results. These apply to Whole30 and non Whole30 burgers alike.
I realize that most people have a hard time keeping their burgers from falling apart on the grill. Yet the urge to use ‘binders’ and ‘fillers’ is one that I neither understand nor endorse. There is absolutely no need to add milk-soaked, crusty bread or to crack eggs into the mix when making burgers. Sure, you can do it if you want, but why? Is it because you once heard that you have to? Or is it because it tastes better? Call me crazy, but I don’t really like the sound of a meat-bread sandwiched between a bun. Instead, take advantage of the fact that when you are making burgers from scratch you are in control of what goes in it. And with great responsibility comes great burgers. Wait. I think I switched those around. Anywho, I encourage you to forego the fillers and want you to focus on the art of burger-shaping. I don’t really know if this is actually an art form, or a word for that matter, but it should be. Here are a few tips that have helped me keep burgers intact during cooking.
Remove Burgers From Fridge 45min before cooking:
Cold meat on a hot grill will result in a tough finished product. The meat will seize up and stiffen a bit. Allowing the meat to come to room temperature will also help to ensure a perfectly cooked burger because the centre of the meat will be at the same temperature as the outer edges.
Work the Mixture Well, But Not Too Much:
People have a tendency to either over-work or under-work the meat. I refer here to how much time is spent mixing the meat with the other ingredients. Overworking the meat will result in a tougher finished product. Underworking it will lead to a burger that falls apart. There is no golden rule here. You will have to make a few burgers from scratch to get the hang of it. Note that this does not apply to ‘purist’ burgers with nothing more than ground meat. Those require very little ‘mixing’.
Air Bubbles Are Your Enemy:
Most people form the burgers into patties and stop there. This is a mistake. There will inevitably be little pockets of air that develop within the patty and these can start to crumble away if you’re not careful. I use a ‘baseball and glove’ technique to remedy this problem. It’s actually the same technique I use to make Meatballs.Form a ball with the ground meat mixture. Then, pretend that the ball of meat is a baseball and that you have on a catchers mitt in one hand. Hold the meat-ball using your free hand and proceed to ‘whip’ it into the other hand that has on the imaginary mitt. Kind of like you would if you were tossing a baseball into a glove. Does that make sense? Maybe I’ll make a YouTube video on it so that you know exactly what I mean. In any case, this will help expel any trapped air in the meat. After doing this a few times you can proceed to form the ball into a patty.
Let the Grill Do Its Job
If the burger sticks to your grill it’s because a) it’s not hot enough, b) you tried to flip it too soon or c) your grill is not clean. Be patient, don’t play with the burger, and always clean your grill before cooking. It also helps to ‘grease’ your grill grates by brushing them with a bit of avocado oil. I use a paper towel to do this.
Whole30 Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Burgers with Basil Aioli
For the Basil Aioli:
- 1 cup Whole30-compliant mayonnaise homemade or store-bought
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped or grated
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
For the Chicken Burgers:
- 2 pounds ground chicken substitute ground turkey
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano substitute 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt – plus extra for sautéed onions
- 1 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon avocado oil
- 1 head iceberg lettuce cut into bun shapes
- sliced red onions for serving
- sliced tomatoes for serving
- sliced pickles for serving
For the Basil Aioli:
- In a food processor, combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth. Transfer to a jar, cover with a lid and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes before serving. Can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
For the Chicken Burgers:
- Add olive oil and onion to a cold skillet. Place over medium heat, season with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, around 18 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to let cool.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, oregano, dried basil, sautéed onions, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands until combined. Divide the mixture into 6 equal parts (or 8 parts for smaller, 1/4 lbs burgers). Form into patties using the ‘baseball and glove technique outlined above’ and brush both sides with avocado oil.
- Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. If using a Traeger, preheat to 500F. Place the burgers over direct heat (or towards the back perimeter on a Traeger) and grill until grill marks form, around 6 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until the thickest part of the burgers reach 165F internally, around 4 more minutes.
- Transfer the burgers to a serving platter and serve with lettuce buns, onions, tomatoes, pickles and Basil Aioli.