Grilled Chilli-Herb Salmon Burgers (Gluten-Free + Egg-Free)
With the commencement of barbecue season on Monday, a recipe for your summer menu line-up:
Salmon burgers redolent of chillies, garlic and garden-grown dill + mint.
If you’re like me, the heartbreak of many fish and shellfish-based burgers and ‘cakes’ is the reliance on unnecessary fillers. These have just enough shredded carrot, onion, capers, Dijon mustard + oats for balance. A quick whizz in the food processor also helps hold everything together, but I do keep some of the salmon aside to fold in at the end for texture.
Fresh, high-quality salmon is a knockout here, but quality canned salmon is an easy, often more budget-friendly way to enjoy this recipe. Either option yields a burger with killer flavor that is packed with protein + healthy fats for only 200 calories apiece, and is suitable for anyone following a gluten-free, egg-free or dairy-free eating plan.
Warm or cold, you can’t go wrong, but my favorite way to serve the burgers is hot from the grill on a bed of lemon-y dressed mixed greens and herbs as shown above. Between two slices of focaccia, sourdough, or whole grain bread, or tucked into a warm pita or naan with garlicky yogurt or spicy herb sauce is simple and delicious, as is alongside veg, fruit and quinoa or brown rice.
What’s in it for me?
One 3-ounce (cooked) salmon serving provides 22 g protein, nearly 2/3 the DV of antioxidant selenium, and is a good source of several B vitamins, particularly B12. Recommendations for daily omega-3 fats range from 2 to 4 g — a serving of salmon offers ~2 g. EPA + DHA are considered the most beneficial omega-3s, and studies suggest that DHA consumed by expectant mothers is associated with decreased postpartum depression risk, and may improve communication, visual acuity, and sleep in their infants.
Oats are excellent for fiber, particularly soluble, plus vitamin B6 and the “sleep hormone” melatonin. Oats are also one of the richest known sources of manganese, a trace mineral with antioxidant properties and important roles in skeletal development, wound healing, metabolism and fetal development.
Both mint and dill, like other herbs, contain a variety of nutrients and volatile oils that offer further antioxidant benefits, plus anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. In addition to offering vitamin K, fiber, potassium and the B vitamin biotin, carrots are one of several vegetables that are more nutritious cooked than raw — in particular, you’ll absorb three times more beta-carotene.
Capsaicin in the chilli paste (Sambal Oelek) can help stimulate metabolism and release mood-boosting endorphins, and may help inhibit inflammation; while garlic is a rich source of beneficial phytochemicals. What’s more, research suggests that pairing omega-3-rich fish like salmon with garlic may help those with high cholesterol lower both total and LDL cholesterol levels, decreasing risk of heart disease.
This recipe makes 4 large, entree-sized burgers, or 8 smaller burgers that are perfect as starters or small plates. I generally make a double batch for plenty of fridge- and freezer-friendly leftovers. Once you master the technique, try mixing it up with different veg, herbs, spices, even seafood — tuna (canned or fresh), cod, trout, or another favorite fish, even shrimp or scallops are nutritious alternatives.
Give the traditional ‘burger meats’ a break, and try spicy, herby + omega-3-rich salmon burgers instead!
Tell me… Are you down with seafood burgers, or do you prefer something more traditional? What’s your all-time favorite burger?
- 18 ounces (500 grams) salmon, deboned and skinned, cut into rough chunks (or the same amount of canned salmon, bones picked out)
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill fronds
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1 to 2 Tbsp chilli paste, such as Sambal Oelek, depending on heat preference
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
- 1 small or 1/2 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped (to yield about 1/4 cup)
- 2 Tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Chopped fresh chives, for serving (optional)
- Mixed baby greens, for serving (optional)
- To the bowl of a food processor, add 1/4 of the salmon, plus the carrot, garlic, dill and mint, chilli paste and Dijon mustard. Pulse until the ingredients are uniformly minced and somewhat pasty, about 10 times. Add the remaining salmon, along with the onion, and pulse a couple times to just incorporate, but still retaining some texture. (See HGN Notes for tips to make the patties without a food processor.)
- Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the oats and capers, and stir briefly to incorporate. Cover the bowl with plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.
- Using clean, slightly wet hands or a plastic wrap-lined circle mold, form 4 large patties (or 8 small patties), transferring each finished patty onto a wax or parchment paper-lined plate or tray. Refrigerate, covered loosely with plastic, at least 30 minutes to set up further before cooking.
- Heat a grill to medium-high, or a large nonstick, cast-iron or grill pan over medium-high heat. If grilling, oil the grates very well, or oil a perforated grill tray/basket and allow that to preheat on the grill (see HGN Notes). If pan-frying, add the 1 tsp oil to the pan. When hot, add the patties and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side for large (2 to 3 minutes per side for small), or until golden brown and cooked through. Work in batches, if necessary, as to not crowd the pan. Transfer the cooked patties to a paper towel-lined plate while you prepare the plates.
- Serve your salmon burgers atop mixed baby greens (dressed in lemon juice is nice) and a sprinkling of chopped fresh chives, with other fresh or cooked veg and/or fruit, or with a small serving of whole grains or some kind of bread-y thing for sandwiching.
To make in the oven: Place formed patties on a parchment paper or Silpat mat lined baking tray, and bake in a preheated 400° F for 20 minutes, flipping the patties over halfway through.
To make a larger batch: Double or triple the ingredients, and process in batches if your food processor isn't large enough to accommodate everything at once. When the patties have chilled after forming, baking the much simpler and less time-consuming route. The burgers won't be as crispy and browned as pan-frying, but will be equally delicious!
To make without a food processor, you have three options:
1. Purchase 5 ounces of pre-ground salmon + 13 ounces whole salmon to chop at home (or rough estimates of those amounts to be yield an approximate 1 to 4 ratio of ground to chopped);
2. If nothing is pre-ground, ask the fishmonger to grind 5 oz + leave the other 13 oz whole for you to chop at home (or go ahead and ask to have that coarsely chopped). Stores vary on what accommodations they afford customers -- it never hurts to ask for help!
3. Purchase 18 oz whole salmon to mince + coarsely chop entirely yourself at home. Seafood, like meat, is easiest to chop when very cold, so place your fresh salmon fillet(s) in the freezer for 20 minutes. Remove the salmon to a sturdy cutting board, and use a sharp knife to mince (very finely chop) 5 oz (or roughly 1/4) + coarsely chop the remainder.
+ Replace the carrots with shredded zucchini or yellow squash, shredded beets or butternut squash, even shredded apple. (If using the summer squashes or apple, you may want to squeeze out some of the liquid first.)
+ Use any fresh herb you like in place of the dill and/or mint.
+ Try rolled quinoa, rye or rolled/flaked alternative, depending on preference and/or need for gluten-free.
+ Switch up the seafood with tuna (canned or fresh), cod, trout, or another favorite fish, even shrimp, crab or scallops.
An HGN original recipe.
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