Adding unexpected or creative toppings to burgers creates something special for a small cost. Borrowing combinations from pizza, pasta, and even breakfast dishes can offer creative inspiration for unique toppings, and using different patties, from beef and chicken to fish and black bean, can complete the flavor profile. Hosts can also offer a mix-and-match burger bar of patties and toppings for a personalized burger experience far removed from the hamburger's humble origins.
The versatile, inexpensive egg can take a burger to the next level. A fried egg with crispy edges and an oozing center adds diverse texture and indulgent flavor, and ups the nutritional value.
Pineapple is a go-to for meat and fruit combinations. The bright sweetness offsets umami-rich meat (and meat substitutes) to make the flavors pop.
This traditional side dish adds creamy, zesty crunch to burgers. Since it is cabbage-based, even a generous heaping doesn't cost much, and the extra bulk can provide the same satisfaction with smaller patties.
Stuffed mushrooms are rich in flavor and meaty, giving a burger a double patty effect. Play around with what goes in the mushroom for flavors bacony or cheesy, herbal or spicy.
Nature's butter, avocado is rich and creamy, which means it can replace traditional condiments such as mayonnaise. Given the high fat content, adding even a bit makes the meal more satisfying, keeping hunger at bay longer.
Experts know potato chips are even better on sandwiches than on the side, and burgers are no exception. Add a generous layer of chips atop a burger for an extra blast of flavor and crunch.
GRILLED PINEAPPLE AND HAM
Hawaiian pizza's classic combination works on burgers, too. Char-grilled pineapple and salty ham create a strong spectrum of flavors, from sweet and bright to salty and fatty.
MAC AND CHEESE
The decadent addition of gooey mac and cheese makes a monster of a sandwich that works well with slightly smaller patties, since it's basically a double main dish.
Kimchi is a spicy, salty Korean dish of inexpensive cabbage, onions, and chilies. A small amount adds pungent spice and acidity, giving burgers an Asian flair and tummy-friendly probiotics as a bonus.
Sweet summer corn with a big dose of roasted char adds a touch of freshness to burgers. Grilled corn salad or relish works too.
This blend of chickpeas and sesame tahini is full of plant protein and subtle flavor. It gives burgers a Mediterranean twist, and is creamy enough to replace cheese and mayonnaise for anyone conscious of their cholesterol intake.
Olives offer a lot of flavor in a small, low-cost package. The bright saltiness and healthy fats are a change of pace from typical bacon, but with a similar effect.
MAPLE SYRUP AND BACON
For those who can never choose between sweet or savory, this breakfast-inspired burger topping provides both. The sweet maple syrup brings out the salty, fatty bacon, creating an explosion of flavor.
Thick, creamy, and spicy, peanut sauce can be slathered on burgers to replace all other condiments. The Asian-inspired flavor works on any patty. Garnish with scallions, cilantro, or fresh chilies.
Curry paste is typically diluted in water or broth, since it is quite concentrated, so a small amount goes a long way on a bun. It can also be mixed with condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, or mustard for something different.
This Korean paste is spicy, tangy, a touch sweet, and all flavor. The complex layers hit all the right places on the palate, similar to ketchup. Use a teaspoon on its own, or add it to favorite toppings.
Cheap and classic, french-fried onions offer extra flavor and crunch. Make them yourself or use store-bought, which are inexpensive as well, for textural diversity and an indulgent vegetarian option.
Hoisin is a sweet and pungent Chinese condiment used in many Asian barbecue sauces. It's packed with flavor and naturally sticky. Try a bit in place of ketchup.
Fresh onion on a burger is classic and tasty, but using a concentrated form of onions such as onion jam is even more flavorful. The caramelized onions offer more sweetness in their cooked form, pairing even better with strong cheese and bacon.
TRUFFLE CHEESE AND MUSHROOMS
If you've ever dreamed of topping a burger with truffles, first try cheese infused with it, which carries all the earthy flavor at a lower cost. Adding mushrooms further enhances the flavor and complements the cheese.
This yogurt-based dip and sauce is made from thick Greek yogurt, cucumbers, and fresh garlic. The creaminess and spiciness add a refreshing pop, while still being light. It's best made a day in advance.
The bright flavors of herbs, garlic, and olive oil contrast with a rich, fatty burger patty or add flavor to a dry and mildly flavored veggie or chicken patty. This is an all-purpose condiment that works alongside other traditional toppings.
FRIED GREEN TOMATO
Replace typical raw tomato with a crunchy and tangy fried green tomato slice for a bit of crunch and extra-refreshing acidity. It's indulgently rich yet light, and works on all kinds of patties.
Any kind of stuffed pepper works well on a burger, from a jalapeño popper to a potato- and cheese-filled poblano, and fills in well with a smaller patty.
Those who want to keep things light, or just make sure to get their greens in, can opt for a healthy serving of sprouts. The subtle crunch and refreshing herbal flavor mimics lettuce, but with added nutritional benefits.
On a burger it brightens and works well with classic toppings such as tomato and bacon, mashing up burger and a classic salad. It's cheap to make at home, too.
Wasabi is part of the horseradish family, so it is spicy in a way that is different from chilies. It hits your entire nasal passages, breaking up the richness of fatty foods such as beef patties. Add it straight, or make a wasabi mayonnaise for a lighter effect.
Crisp, tart, and fresh, cucumber salad lends a light touch to burgers. It might be a bit odd with beef, but works well with turkey, chicken, fish, and veggie patties.
Cream cheese lovers already know it goes with everything. Replacing cheddar or American cheese with a schmear of cream cheese is easy and familiar, but seems impressively out-of-the-box.
This sweet-and-sour cabbage-based condiment is a staple in the Southern United States. It can be eaten as a side dish or replace other burger condiments to add a uniquely spiced tang.