Spiced Turkey Burgers with Ancho Chili Sauce

By Sally Cameron on May 21, 2012

chicken & turkey, the daniel plan,


If you’re looking to grill some burgers this weekend, try spiced turkey burgers as an alterative to beef. This recipe has south-of-the-border flavors with cumin, herbs, garlic, avocado and tomato on whole grain or gluten-free buns. Add ancho chili mayonnaise instead of the usual mustard or ketchup for one great burger.

Although traditional beef burgers may be an American institution, I don’t enjoy them because I’m not a beef-eater. Now a turkey burger is a different thing. Those I enjoy, but there are a few things to understand when buying ground turkey.

Buying Ground Turkey

When purchasing ground turkey, there are multiple options. The amount of fat in ground turkey varies depending on what goes into the grinder, and fat content controls the flavor and moisture of your burger. Read labels and ask questions if purchasing from a butcher counter.

Ground turkey can be very lean from all ground breast meat with almost no fat, to lean with a mixture of breast and thigh meat, or all thigh meat. Some of these mixes have added turkey skin, which increases fat content. Know what you are working with and you can achieve flavorful, moist turkey burgers that fit your nutritional needs.

If you buy the leanest ground turkey breast with almost no fat, you’ll need to add a little olive oil to the mixture or you risk ending up with dry burgers. Frankly, that’s not what I choose for my burgers. I prefer dark meat for more moisture and flavor.

A Better Burger

For a generous burger, I use 5-6 ounces (168 grams) of ground turkey per person. That much protein in a burger (approximately 34 grams) and a tossed green salad or grilled vegetables make a good meal. If you plan to add other side dishes, you might consider making thinner burgers of 4 ounces each.

To spice up your burgers add ground cumin, garlic, chopped fresh oregano (or cilantro) and chives, salt and pepper. Depending on the turkey mix that you purchase, you may need a little olive oil for healthy fat and flavor.

Buns or No Buns

Now to the rest of the burger. Choose whole grain burger buns for more fiber and better nutrition than white burger buns. Look for smaller organic whole grain buns made by Rudi’s Bakery. Since going gluten-free, we now use Udi’s Whole Grain Hamburger Buns or skip the bun altogether and just enjoy the burger without the extra carbs or for those following a grain-free diet.

Top Your Burger with Fresh Flavors

To top off the grilled turkey burger, add a slice of fresh tomato, a thin ring of sweet onion, a few slices of avocado and be sure to make the ancho chili sauce. It’s a combination of mayo, lime juice, ancho chili powder, paprika, plus salt and pepper. Want some heat? Add a little ground chipotle, Tabasco or Sriracha.

For mayo, I choose Vegenaise.  It has a clean, light taste. Look for it in the refrigerated section of your market, not on the shelf. It’s made by Follow Your Heart. Try their horseradish sauce too. It’s fantastic.

Grill your burgers until done (160-165 in the center) and serve with grilled vegetables or a tossed green salad for a healthy summer dinner.

Tool Note

For perfectly formed burgers, I use a large size round metal ring. You can buy them at kitchen supply and restaurant supply stores and online in single sizes or better yet, in a set for many uses.

Another tool I could not live without is rimmed baking sheets. I have them in full, half, quarter and eighth sizes. The quarter sizes gets constant use. It’s what the burger are on in the above photo. Quarter sheet pans have a million uses.

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Spiced Turkey Burgers with Ancho Chili Sauce

Turkey burgers are a delicious alternative to traditional beef burgers. Add flavor with herbs and spices, a flavorful chili dressing, avocado and tomato slices, packed into a gluten-free or whole grain bun and you have one great burger. Serve with grilled vegetables or a tossed green salad. For Paleo eaters, skip the bun and enjoy it as a patty. That is usually how we eat it these days.


  • 12 ounces ground turkey 340 grams, breast and thigh combination or thigh
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 large garlic clove minced
  • 1 tablespoon  fresh chopped parsley or cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Burger Toppings
  • 2 slices ripe tomato
  • 2 thin slices red or spring onion
  • 2-4 slices of avocado
  • A few leaves of green or red lettuce
  • 2 gluten-free or whole grain burger buns optional
  • Ancho Chili Sauce
  • ½ cup Vegenaise or mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon ground ancho chili powder or a chili powder blend
  • 1 teaspoon ground sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed  lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • For heat optional, add  a little ground chipotle, Tabasco or Sriracha


  1. In a medium bowl, combine ground turkey, cumin, garlic, parsley or cilantro, oregano, chives, salt, pepper and olive oil. Mix well but gently with your hands. Form into patties, cover with plastic film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours.
  2. While the burger patties are setting up, make the ancho chili sauce and refrigerate until serving. The recipe will make more than you need. Extra is good on a sandwich or as dip for raw vegetables.
  3. Fire up the grill. Make sure the grill is brushed clean, then coated with a grill-safe spray or a little oil on a wad of paper towels with tongs. Turn heat down to medium and add your burgers. Grill on one side until browned and grill marks have formed. Turn the burger and finish cooking until they reach 160-165 in the center with a digital thermometer. They will feel firm but not hard. To speed cooking, cover the burgers with a disposable aluminum pan or lid if using a pan.
  4. To build your burgers, place lettuce on the bottom of the bun, add the burger, and top with tomato, onion, sauce and avocado.
  5. Alternative Cooking Methods – No grill? No problem. Cook the turkey burgers indoors on your stove top. Use a grill pan or a non-stick saute or fry pan. To speed cooking, cover the burgers with a lid after turning. Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.


Leave a Comment
Sally | 05/22/2012 at 5:19 am

These look fantastic! I haven’t been able to convince my family to be enthusiastic about turkey burgers, probably because mine were too bland and dry. Not any more! Thanks for this post and the olive oil tip. Way back in my restaurant days, I encountered a chef who suggested putting crushed ice in the meat (which was ground beef). I hadn’t thought of that until reading this. I bet it would be worth experimenting with. At the time I was appalled, was it cheating? But when you think of it, a little bit of water wouldn’t hurt and might make them juicier, as long as you pump up the other flavors like you’ve done in this recipe. Can’t wait to try them! Thanks Sally. I’ll let you know if I experiment with the crushed ice 🙂

Mary | 05/22/2012 at 8:55 am

These sound delicious Sally! I LOVE turkey burgers. Always looking for a new recipe. Great tip about the olive oil. These are going on the barbeque ASAP.

Madonna | 05/23/2012 at 2:45 pm

Just wanted to report in and tell you I just made these and they were so good. The fresh herbs and spice just takes them to a new level. Also the good fat from the avocado helped carry the flavor. Brilliant. Thank you so much.

Tracy Jones | 05/29/2012 at 10:10 am

I made the Turkey Burger for Memorial Day and it was amazing! I did use the oil with the turkey meat and they were moist and delicious. The sauce added so much flavor and I served mine with avocado as well. Even my kids loved them!

Stephanie, the Recipe Renovator | 05/30/2012 at 10:00 am

I will definitely be making this ancho chili sauce lickety split! Need to figure out a bean burger that I like. Gorgeous photos, as usual!

Lauren | 07/16/2013 at 9:21 am

THIS IS THE BEST TURKEY BURGER RECIPE! I make it all the time for my family and guests. Everyone LOVES it! I usually add guacamole on the bun instead of the avocado slices. I think it gives it even more flavor. Thank you so much for the recipe! 🙂

    Sally | 07/19/2013 at 6:07 pm

    Love the guacamole idea! Good for you! Thanks for commenting!

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