I love lamb and these juicy burgers are one of my favorite things to grill in summer. A fun fresh take on a classic, these spicy lamb burgers are packed with bright herbs, fresh chilis and lots of feta cheese.Jump to Recipe
Recipe, body text and images updated August, 2021.
Growing up in a one-horse town, there were never many options. Our restaurants were limited to a couple of greasy spoons, some (excellent) Mexican holes-in-the-wall, and a few Chinese dives.
My mom, a cultured sort who was raised in the city, did what she could to expose our palates to the more interesting side of culinary life, despite the few choices in our rural supermarkets. One of the benefits of living out in the boon docks, however, was easy access to farm-fresh meat and produce. My parents frequently bought meat from pastured cows, lambs and pigs from local ranchers. And they did it way before it was cool to be a locavore. Heck, the word locavore didn’t even exist.
Lamb Lovers Unite!
We had an extra freezer in our laundry room, where there were pounds and pounds of meat, shrink wrapped in individual packages. Lamb was a specialty of my mom’s. We feasted on garlic and rosemary stuffed roasted leg of lamb with mint jelly on holidays. In summer, grilled lamb chops, generously sprinkled with garlic powder and salt. Her guests, sometimes avowed lamb haters, couldn’t help but succumb to its succulence. In all honesty, many didn’t realize they were eating lamb at all.
After leaving home at 18 to go to college, I started eating my way around Los Angeles and discovered a true and abiding love for city living and foods I had never tasted before. One of my favorite discoveries was Middle Eastern and Indian foods, specifically the way they prepared lamb. I couldn’t get enough of the searing heat in some dishes that was usually tempered with cooling yogurt sauces (and a cold beer). Served this way, the lamb was an earthy base upon which layers of complex flavors were built, spice by spice.
When I had a kitchen of my own, I began experimenting with these new-to-me flavors. My pantry soon filled with cumin, several varieties of dried chiles, corriander, fennel, garam masala and the like. I cooked lamb as often as we could afford it (which wasn’t much), with my husband acting as the ever-eager taste tester. Luckily, he too came from a family of lamb lovers.
Spicy Lamb Burgers – A Fresh Take on a Classic
This recipe for lamb burgers is a riff on his mother’s recipe. In fact, his grandmother also made lamb burgers. His mom’s are studded throughout with fresh herbs and feta cheese. Mine are too, but with quite an added kick from ground chiles, smoked paprika and ground cumin. Drizzled with yogurt sauce, and topped with more fresh herbs, these are a unique twist on an American classic. Serve them at your next cook out. Don’t forget the ice cold Bard’s or New Planet and the Udi’s Gluten Free bun. Even the haters will love them.
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Spicy Lamb Burgers
- 2 pounds ground lamb
- 3 large scallions finely minced
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon ground New Mexican chile powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
For the Cucumber Sauce
- ½ cup low fat Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons finely grated cucumber
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 pinch ground cumin
- Heat a grill over medium-hot flames.
- Place lamb, shallot, herbs, spices, salt and pepper and feta cheese in a large mixing bowl. Mix together with your hands (or a fork) until evenly incorporated. Shape into four patties. Set aside.
- Mix ingredients for yogurt sauce and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Oil the grill and cook burgers for 5-7 minutes a side, or until done to your likeness.
- Serve immediately, drizzled with yogurt sauce and topped with additional fresh herbs like mint, thyme, or cilantro…and maybe a handful of baby spinach too.