5 Uniquely Canadian Burger Recipes (Including a Veggie Version)
The origin of hamburgers is international, fascinating and, to an extent, controversial, but there is no contention about their popularity in North America. Photo: Jerry Cooke/Corbis via Getty Images
Move over pizza and fried chicken. Take a break, salad and sushi. It’s time to talk about burgers.
Known also as the hamburger, it’s essentially a sandwich of fillings including a patty of ground meat, typically made of beef, inside a sliced bun.
The origin of hamburgers is international, fascinating and, to an extent, controversial. But there is no contention about their popularity in North America.
According to a survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of American hamburger chain White Castle, burgers are the go-to menu pick for one in five Americans. Averaging five burgers a month (three to four for boomers), the 2,000 self-identifying hamburger enthusiasts admitted to sticking to traditional options in contrast to something new (33 per cent versus 16 per cent) but when they do it’s for “something completely different from any burger I have ever eaten.”
Closer to home, Le Burger Week is a countrywide restaurant festival that celebrates Canada’s best burgers. Since launching in Montreal 12 years ago, more than a thousand restaurants have participated, with many creating special burgers that the public vote on. About 500,000 people from Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Quebec City, Ottawa and Saskatoon partake in the festivities, with Calgary also joining in this year.
Try these five unique burger recipes, with some coming from festival participants and others from some of the top kitchens in the country.
Cosmos, Quebec City
Known for their trendy vibes and eclectic dishes, this restaurant meets café and lounge is a crowd-friendly space that has an abundance of menu options. For this year’s festival, Cosmos has created a Caesar chicken burger, that has adopted the flavours of the classic Canadian cocktail.
Cosmos’ Caesar Burger
Makes 2 burgers
2 large chicken breasts or 4 small ones
1 half-pack (170 g) of bacon
500 g Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
1 romaine lettuce heart, chopped
2 buns, split
2 tsp (4 g) Montreal chicken spice
1 tbsp (7 g) paprika or smoked paprika (if you do not have a smoker or can’t find liquid smoke)
1 tsp (5 ml) liquid smoke
2 tbsp (30 ml) maple syrup
1½ cups (355 ml) olive oil
2 cups (500 ml) mayonnaise
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup (125 ml) grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup (65 ml) milk
2 tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Combine marinade ingredients in a non-reactive mixing bowl with the chicken breasts making sure the oil coats the meat. Cover and refrigerate it for 24 hours. Alternatively, place everything in an airtight bag and refrigerate for 24 hours.
- For the caesar dressing, mix the ingredients together in a large bowl until the sauce is homogeneous.
- Preheat the barbecue or grill on high to 400 F.
- Sear the chicken breasts and continue to grill over indirect heat, reducing the temperature to 350 F until the breasts are cooked inside but still tender. When cool enough to handle, tear the breasts into two or three pieces each.
- Bake or pan-fry the bacon slices and set aside.
- Place one torn chicken breast on a grill (or on a sheet pan if using an oven) and top it with three slices of bacon, and half the Parmesan cheese.
- Toast the buns then add caesar dressing to the bottom of both buns, top with the chicken au gratin and garnish with chopped romaine.
District Saint-Joseph, Quebec City
This restaurant and bar meets performance hall in the Saint-Roch neighbourhood is anything but standard, nor are its smash burgers. The latter features patties that have a crisp, seared crust surrounding a juicy interior because it’s been flattened or smashed onto the griddle or skillet with a spatula. At District Saint-Joseph, the ground beef patty is gussied up with braised pork belly, pulled pork and pineapple, plus a treasure trove of other toppings.
District Saint-Joseph’s Burger Hawaii Five-Ö
Makes 1 burger
2 slices of braised pork belly
4 oz (113 g) medium-lean ground beef shaped into a patty
Salt, pepper, and steak spices, to taste
50g homemade pulled pork
Dark beer BBQ sauce, to taste
1 slice of pineapple
1 tbsp (15 ml) maple syrup
1 slice Bergeron smoked gouda cheese
1 brioche burger bun
1 tbsp (15 ml) butter
Iceberg lettuce, finely chopped
3 to 4 slices of pickled red onion
Thousand Island sauce, to taste
- Preheat the cooking surface (griddle or skillet) on high or 500 F.
- On the heated cookware, separately brown the pork belly and reheat the pulled pork with the BBQ sauce. Set both aside.
- Place the pineapple slice on the cooking surface then pour the maple syrup over it. Cook until caramelized and set aside.
- Place the beef patty on the area where the pork fat has rendered and press it flat (smash) with a spatula to form a thin patty on the flat surface. Season with salt, pepper and/or steak spices to taste.
- When the patty is well caramelized, turn it over with a spatula and place the slice of cheese on top.
- Melt the cheese by covering the patty with a dome.
- Butter both the cut sides of the bun, and toast on the griddle.
- Assemble the burger in the following order: bottom bun, Thousand Island sauce, Iceberg lettuce, beef and cheese patty, pulled pork, pork belly, caramelized pineapple, top bun brushed with Thousand Island sauce.
Donna Mac, Calgary
For casual share plates, Beltline’s Donna Mac serves fresh, flavour-packed numbers that pair well with its eclectic wine and cocktail list. The all-day menu features fan favourites like the fried cauliflower with whipped pimento cheese and the spiced Donna mac & cheese, while other toot that the vegetarian burger featuring a sunflower and sweet potato patty spiked with gochujang hot sauce is the must-try.
Donna Mac’s Veggie Burger
Makes 8 burgers
2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tsp (8 g) canola oil
150 g sunflower seeds, shelled and quick blitzed in a blender
1 tbsp (4 g) parsley, chopped
1 tbsp (6 g) lemon zest (zest of one lemon)
½ tsp (1 g) ground cumin
½ tsp (1 g) ground coriander
⅓ cup (60 g) Sesame Seeds
Kosher salt, to taste
1 tbsp (3 g) chives
Lemon juice, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup (140 g) quinoa, cooked
8 burger buns, split
Gochujang (red chili paste) hot sauce or desired hot sauce, to taste
- Toss the sweet potatoes with the canola oil. Roast at 350 F for approximately 30 minutes. While the sweet potatoes are still warm, place them in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment to mash (or mash by hand in a large bowl). Add remaining ingredients and mix with a paddle until the mixture is combined and has no visible chunks.
- Divide the mixture in portions and roll each into a ball, before flattening it into a patty.
- To cook, shallow fry the patty in a pan with canola oil until crispy on both sides.
- To serve, place mayo, lettuce and pickles on the bottom burger bun. Add the veggie patty then top everything with hot sauce.
*To make this vegan-friendly, Donna Mac omits the mayo and serves the patty on their housemade sourdough bread.
Langdon Hall, Cambridge, Ont.
Langdon Hall Country House Hotel and Spa is a Relais & Châteaux property with a CAA/AAA five-diamond restaurant. It’s here, surrounded by 75 acres of Carolinian Forest in the Waterloo Region, that executive chef Jason Bangerter serves a thoughtful, garden-forward menu using the freshest grown ingredients. While the menu changes with the season, one thing remains constant: The Wilk’s Burger. Named after Eugene Langdon Wilks, who once called the property his summer home, it is the epitome of deliciousness.
“This burger is very simple,” says Bangerter. “[It’s made from] only beef; no binding agents or flavoring additives in the mix. It’s the essence and quality of the beef that makes the magic. It is critical that you source the highest quality beef and handle it with care. Proper sanitation is essential: clean hands, cold cutting boards, cold, sanitized meat grinder (if grinding the meat yourself).”
Langdon Hall’s Wilks’ Burger
Makes 2 burgers
14 oz freshly ground brisket and chuck (your choice in the ratio of lean to fat beef)
kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp (15 ml) vegetable oil
2 slices of smoked Mont Jacob cheese or any smoked cheese
2 soft buns, toasted
Bacon + Molasses Compote:
1 lb. bacon, cut into lardons (small strips)
1 tbsp (1 g) fresh cracked black peppercorn
1½ cups onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ cup (60 ml) maple syrup
½ cup (120 ml) fancy molasses
3 tbsp (3 g) fresh chopped thyme leaves
1½ tbsp (23 g) triple crunch mustard (grainy mustard)
2 tbsp (30 ml) sherry vinegar
Bacon + Molasses Compote:
- In a medium-sized saucepan, render the bacon on medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon and drain off the fat, reserving a tablespoon.
- Add the tablespoon of bacon fat back to the pan to cover the bottom. Add the onions and garlic and cook low and slow, until caramelized over low heat. About 30 minutes.
- Add the maple syrup, molasses, thyme and crisp bacon. Cook until the resulting mix is sticky. There should be no residual liquid on the bottom of the pan.
- Take off the heat and finish with the mustard, sherry vinegar, salt and more pepper if desired.
- Chill, reserve covered in the fridge.
- Place a medium sized stainless steel bowl over another bowl filled half-way with ice (this will help keep the meat chilled while you’re working with it).
- Place the ground chuck and brisket in the empty chilled bowl. Using latex or other kitchen sanitary gloves, mix the meat by hand with a kneading motion, squeezing the meat together. This agitation is key to binding the burger patties so they do not fall apart. Work the meat until it appears tacky, about 5 minutes.
- Portion the meat into two 7-oz meat balls, and press them into patties. Using your hands, form the patties evenly and try to ensure there are no large pockets of air inside. Wrap each individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
- When ready to cook, unwrap the burgers and season heavily with kosher salt and cracked black pepper on both sides. Allow the burgers to come to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a medium-sized fry pan or cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. When the oil begins to gently smoke, carefully place the burgers in the hot pan. Cook the burgers for 2 to 3 minutes on each side to caramelize and sear the meat, checking occasionally so that you don’t burn the meat. Golden brown is the goal.
- Once seared on both sides, transfer the patties to a baking tray lined with a wire rack. Spoon a ½ -inch layer of the bacon compote on the patty and top with a slice of smoked cheese.
- Finish cooking the burger in the oven for 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the finished patties to a toasted soft bun.
- Serve with your choice of condiments and sides. At Wilks’ Bar we serve this burger with Worcestershire mayo, crispy fries and garden pickles.
Note: Mont Jacob is a wash rind cheese from Quebec and is supple and elastic. It has a slightly spicy, buttery aroma and a milky taste; it’s fruity and well-balanced. Langdon Hall cold smokes the cheese to add some savoury umami. Any smoked cheese would be good to use as it will play nicely with the sweet and smoky bacon compote. Good old cheddar is also a good choice.
Street Hawker, Vancouver
At the newly opened Street Hawker, it’s all about nostalgia with a Southeast Asian flare. Here, chef and co-owner Justin Cheung serves creative handheld eats from a casual counter space that includes smashed-to-order burgers which are spiked with mango mac sauce, coconut milk fried chicken and prawn toasts – all stacked between soft coconut griddled potato rolls.
Street Hawker’s Kimchi Bacon Smash Burger
Makes 2 double smash burgers
For the Sauce:
1 tbsp (15 ml) mayonnaise
1 tbsp (15 ml) sriracha
1 tsp (5 ml) juice from kimchi (optional)
For the Relish:
1 tbsp (15 ml) kimchi, roughly chopped or diced to 1/2-inch
1 tbsp (15 ml) white onion, diced to ½-inch
½ tsp (5 ml) vegetable oil
For the Burger:
12 oz freshly ground beef (ask your butcher for a 75/25 blend of lean to fat beef or make your own blend. Street Hawker uses brisket and chuck)
4 to 6 strips of cooked bacon
4 slices of American cheese
2 buns, split in half (preferably 4-inch Hawaiian sweet rolls, potato roll, or brioche bun)
Iceberg lettuce (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Mix the mayonnaise and sriracha together to make the burger sauce. If you are using kimchi from a jar, you may reserve a teaspoon of its juices to mix into the sauce. Set aside.
- For the topping, heat the oil in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the onion and kimchi and briefly fry for 10 seconds. Set aside.
- For the burger patties, divide the ground beef into four 3-oz balls. Set aside.
- Heat a cast iron pan to medium and gently toast the buns. Set aside.
- Wipe the cast iron pan clean with a paper towel and increase the heat to high. Smash one patty at a time by using a burger press directly onto the dry cast iron pan. In a circular motion continue pressing until the patty is thin, around 5 inches in circumference. If you’re using a metal spatula, use tongs in your other hand to push against the spatula.
- Release the press and season with salt and pepper to your taste. Let the patty fry for about 20 to 30 seconds before flipping over.
- Once the patty is flipped, place a slice of American cheese on the top surface. After 10 seconds, remove the patty and set aside. Repeat the process until you have created and stacked two double patties with cheese.
- To assemble the burgers, place the double stack of patties with cheese on the bottom half of the toasted bun. Top with the kimchi onion mixture, bacon and the lettuce. Spoon a tablespoon of burger sauce on the top bun. Crown the burger and repeat the same process with the second burger. Enjoy on its own or with your favourite sides!
Note: Alternatively, you can make four smaller burgers with a single patty and cheese. If you are hungry and craving a bold umami experience, Street Hawker does suggest doubling up on the patties because they are thin and crisp.