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What Toppings to Add to Your Burger

A ranking of the most popular burger toppings.

Nothing quite compares to a freshly grilled burger. No matter what time of year, I always treat myself to at least one burger per week.

I’ve realized that you can tell a lot about someone based on their favorite burger toppings. Everyone understands the importance of cooking your burger to the right temperature, but finding the best burger toppings plays an equally important role.

burgers with toppings

Think about it for a second. Even minor additions like bacon or lettuce add some delightful crunch to every mouth-watering bite. Less common options like avocado or a fried egg can add wonderful volume and consistency to your burger.

I take my American cuisine seriously, so I’ve had more than a few discussions around this issue with my friends and family. Narrowing down the perfect burger topping to one or two items seems like an exercise in futility. 

Today I’ll share the 13 best burger toppings that kept coming up in dinnertime discussions.

13 Best Burger Toppings

  1. Cheese
  2. Bacon
  3. Lettuce
  4. Tomatoes
  5. Onion
  6. Condiments
  7. Pickles
  8. Avocado
  9. Fried Egg
  10. Green Chiles
  11. Onion Ring/Fried Onions
  12. Sauteed Peppers & Onions
  13. Mushrooms

Cheese

I’m something of a cheese junkie, so it’s no surprise that I’d rank cheese as the crown jewel of burger toppings. A burger just feels naked without some cheese! 

I love the versatility this staple ingredient brings to the table. Simply mixing up your choice of cheese can transform your burger’s taste.

The most common cheese to add to your burger is cheddar cheese. If you go to a fast-food restaurant or a backyard barbecue, you’ll most likely be getting a nice slice of cheddar to top off your burger. 

While cheddar is popular, you can add almost any type of cheese you want to your burger. Some of my runner-ups include pepper jack cheese, American cheese, and Brie.


Bacon

Bacon makes almost anything taste better. If I ever open a culinary school, I will codify that into my first law of cooking.

Just thinking of a crispy, smoky strip of bacon fresh out of the oven makes my mouth water. While it’s a magical ingredient, you can find significant variances in quality, just like any other topping.

I’m partial to thick-cut, smoked varieties. A little bit goes a long way with high-quality bacon. I’ve never needed to add more than two strips to a burger for the perfect amount of crunch with every bite.

When in doubt, add bacon.


Lettuce

Beyond offering some excellent nutritional benefits, lettuce adds some beautiful color and texture to any burger. Most people won’t start gushing when you talk about adding lettuce to your burger, but it’s an unsung hero in the mix.

Lettuce helps offset the salty flavor of ground beef. What’s more, I find it much easier to digest a massive serving of protein with a bit of help from some greens. 

Let’s face it, when you’re tearing apart a jumbo-sized burger, some of your toppings typically fall off. If you combine any stray lettuce and tomato, you’ve got yourself a makeshift salad. Therefore, you’re eating healthy, right?


Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the most iconic toppings for a burger. While adding a tomato to your burger can seem obvious, selecting the right kind of tomato requires more artistry.

You’ll want to consider the size of your tomato, so it sits nicely under the bun. Different tomatoes have different flavor profiles. Adding a tasty variety like a beefsteak tomato will give you a much different outcome than sweeter cherry tomatoes.

I tend to prefer a bit of acidity with my burgers, so I choose my tomatoes accordingly. I add a slight drizzle of olive oil on top to enhance their natural flavor.

Experiment with different tastes and textures to see what works best for you!


Onion

Think back to all the best burgers you’ve had in life. Odds are, they included some types of onions. 

Whether you go with raw, sliced, or caramelized onions, they add a spicy kick to compliment your burger’s inherent oily, salty flavor. 

I use the sweetness of caramelized onions to help moderate any heavy aioli sauce. If I’m feeling indulgent, fried onion strips and bacon make for a truly decadent experience.

Onions are an incredibly versatile ingredient by nature. You’re only limited by your imagination when figuring out how to work them into your favorite burger recipe.


Condiments

Imagine your favorite pasta without any sauce. Scary right? I feel the same way about a burger bun left undressed. You need some kind of condiment to tie everything together.

It’s great to stick with some tried and true ketchup in almost any scenario. If you want to class it up, try going for some spicy chipotle ketchup. 

Of course, you can’t go wrong with fattier dressings like Thousand Island, mayo, or ranch. Ranch especially makes a great dipping sauce for fries. 

If you’re craving a little variety, I recommend trying out some barbecue sauce for a touch of tangy sweetness.


Pickles

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a taste for fermented flavors. Kimchi anyone? Pickles have become an absolute must when I’m deciding what to put on a burger.

I’ve read that pickles traditionally come as a sandwich side because they help cleanse your palate. Pickles help you taste every delicious ingredient you include in your burger more clearly. 

From a textural standpoint, it’s hard to beat the satisfying crunch a pickle offers. They add a brilliant acidity to the mix that enhances the meat’s flavor.

Add a few pickle slices to some freshly melted cheese, and they aren’t going anywhere. There’s a strange satisfaction to keeping all of your toppings lined up.


Avocado

I’m an avocado addict. I’ll add avocado to any dish that can reasonably include it (and probably several that can’t).

It’s impossible to overstate how well avocados pair with a juicy burger. The creamy, buttery flavor complements every type of cheese I’ve tried.

They add considerable volume to your burger, and they can slip and slide underneath even the most robust buns. My strategy has become mashing the avocado straight onto the bun in advance to circumvent this issue.

Some of the fancier burger bars I’ve been to charge a pretty penny for the addition of avocado. It’s been worth it every time.


Fried Egg

There’s a famous burger shop by my house that claims their fried egg burgers cure hangovers. I’ll just say I’ve never had a rough morning after eating one and leave it at that.

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Fried eggs cause the yolk to run down your patty. Some diners might find the mess a bit off-putting. Not me. I consider the residual yolk on my plate as an underrated dipping sauce.

While I’ll eat eggs at any time of the day, some of my friends consider them brunch food. If you’ve never had a breakfast burger, you’re missing out. Try a fried egg on your burger, and you might find a perfect substitute for your morning omelet.


Green Chiles

I travel to Arizona and California regularly to visit friends and family. Southwestern cuisine holds a special place in my heart because of the memories it’s helped me create. It also tastes incredible.

Green chiles are a staple ingredient in southwestern dishes for good reasons. They add a spicy kick that cuts through the savory overload of red meat and cheese. 

Adding green chiles as a burger topping can turn the heat up more than you might expect. I’m speaking from personal experience. I recommend having a creamy side like coleslaw to help take the edge off.


Fried Onions

For me, onion rings bring back fond childhood memories. We’ve all been on fast food runs where we’ve picked up more fried onion rings than we probably should have. Everyone needs to indulge now and then.

Sometimes I want my burger to function as the ultimate comfort food. In those cases, I throw a couple of fried onion rings on top and savor every bite. 

When choosing any type of fried onion as my topping du jour, barbecue sauce becomes a necessity. The tangy finish marries perfectly with the onions’ crispy, crunchy goodness. 

Remember to sprinkle on your favorite seasoning to take your fried onions to the next level.


Sauteed Peppers & Onions

Your burger patty doesn’t need to be the only ingredient with a little bit of char. I can’t get enough smoky flavor with my meat, so sometimes, I like to kick it up a notch with some sauteed peppers and onions.

They’re low-calorie, and they add tremendous flavor to any dish. If you’re trying to enjoy a burger while watching your diet, give them a try. 

They’re a natural substitute for green chilies if you don’t have any on hand. Try adding a touch of chili oil to bring out some heat. 


Mushrooms

Another great addition to your burger is sauteed mushrooms. Sautee your mushrooms until they are golden brown and add them to the top of your burger. You can also cook up the mushrooms with some onion.

A great combo for burgers with mushrooms is; cheddar cheese, BBQ sauce, fried onion and mushrooms on top of a juicy burger. This combination is definitely one of my favorites if you want a Southwest-style burger. 


Final Thoughts

Burger toppings are an art form in their own right. They offer seemingly endless culinary possibilities that I would happily try out. I’m fond of hitting up burger bars in my area and trying to improve upon their recipes.

Deciding on toppings for a burger depends on the occasion and what you’re craving. Some ingredients scream class while others evoke comfort.

I hope I’ve given you some new ideas to include in your repertoire. Why not try them out the next time you invite a few friends over for a burger bash or on your favorite fast food burger.

Remember to get creative and have fun with whatever you choose to whip up!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.