Bunless Burger Bonanza!

I love me some burgers, and — truly! — since going gluten free, I think of burgers as jumping-off points for really fun meals. When I think back to how I felt after eating a burger with a bun (and, especially at restaurants, trying to figure out how to consumer the massive meal I was served), I realize how I don’t miss the bread.

As you can see from the variations below, think of the basic burger as a canvas for tasty variations. Serve with gluten-free fries (Tater Tots are GF!) or mashed potatoes or a green salad. Or any salad you like. Burgers are quick and easy weeknight meals.

Condiments can range from the traditional ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard to pesto sauce or salsa. Add your favorite cheese, if cheese is your thing.

  • Basic CheeseburgerBurger. Cheese. Oh, and whatever else floats your boat. Include the condiment(s) of your choice. Serve on a bed of shredded lettuce or baby lettuce mix.
  • Bacon CheeseburgerTop your Basic Cheeseburger with two slices of fried bacon and grilled onions. Promise yourself you’ll go to the gym in the morning. Make this even more decadent by drizzling gluten-free barbecue sauce over the whole thing.
  • Avocado BurgerYes, this is as simple as it sounds. Top the Basic Cheeseburger with sliced fresh avocado. Or guacamole, if you prefer. You can make a light avocado salad with cubed avocado, diced tomatoes, diced onion, and a bit of lemon juice. Add a little salt and pepper and you have an elegant topping for a burger! Serve on a bed of shredded lettuce. Skip the cheese if you want. Ain’t nobody judging your burger.
  • Goat Cheese, Spinach, and Pesto Burger: Prepare your basic burger. Serve on a bed of freshly chopped or wilted spinach. Top with a tablespoon or so of pesto sauce. Finish with a dollop of goat’s cheese. For extra credit, if you have extra roasted garlic around the house (hey, you might!), spread a thin layer of garlic over the burger before adding the pesto. Note: carmelized onions also work very well with this combination. So do roasted red peppers. If you want to gussy up your spinach, lightly dress it with a vinaigrette.
  • Huevos Rancheros BurgerHave I mentioned my love of Huevos Rancheros? No? Hmm, you need to read more of my recipes! Seriously, this traditional Mexican breakfast dish can be adapted to just about any meal you can imagine. In this incarnation, the burger takes the place of the tortilla, and the rest of the ingredients are layered on top of the meat. Start with a few spoonfuls of tomatillo salsa on your plate (I prefer the tanginess of tomatillo, but if you’re a tomato salsa person, go your own way). Add the burger, with or without melted cheese (a pepper jack is perfect here). Top with a fried egg and sliced avocado. Finally, drizzle more salsa over the top. Serve with fries, tortilla chips, or even refried beans (heck, if you have leftover refried beans, you can substitute them as the base for your Huevos Ranchero burger).
  • Mediterranean BurgerTop your basic burger with a salsa of chopped tomatoes and cucumber. Sprinkle crumbled feta cheese over the top. Serve over a green salad lightly dressed with a lemony vinaigrette dressing. Tomato-Cucumber Salsa: Chop the tomatoes and cucumbers (use a seedless English cucumber if available), season with salt and freshly ground pepper. If you like red onion, add some into the mix. For added flavor, mix in a teaspoon of chopped fresh mint and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves. Let the flavors marinate together at room temperature while you make the rest of the meal.
  • Smash BurgerI like a smash burger when I’m grilling indoors. The concept is simple: instead of forming patties in advance, place balls of ground beef — about four ounces each — onto a hot grill. Let sizzle a minute and then smash down with your spatula to form a thin patty. Season with salt and pepper and cook until done. Only flip once during cooking. Add your favorite fast-melting cheese.