Why America’s Falling in Love With Oklahoma’s Burgers

This regional burger uses a humble ingredient to transformative effect.

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oklahoma onion burger
Screenshot: YouTube

Regional cheeseburgers are a thing of beauty. There’s Minnesota’s cheese-stuffed burger, the Jucy Lucy (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), the Midwest’s butterburger, California’s In-N-Out–style burger with fresh toppings and special sauce... there are endless burger styles that define various regions in America. But there’s one whose popularity is currently on the rise, and it hails from Oklahoma.

What makes Oklahoma’s burgers so good

The Oklahoma cheeseburger only has one special ingredient: onions. This particular burger style isn’t new to aficionados, but it’s becoming more common to see this on the menu at restaurants nationwide, and more how-to guides and recipes are showing up online.

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On paper, the Oklahoma onion burger seems deceptively simple. But the way it cooks up is what makes this thing so special: thinly sliced onions are piled sky-high on top of a ball of beef—no joke, you add a mountain of them—and then, using a metal spatula, you smash the onions down into the surface of the meat. As the beef cooks, the onions simultaneously cook into the meat, imparting that delicious allium flavor throughout the whole patty.

When the patty’s flipped, it’s then topped with cheese. Pros place the top bun (or both halves) on top of the patty and allow the steam from the onions to permeate the bread, sometimes helping things along by draping the whole pile with a towel, and then once the meat’s done cooking, it’s good to go.

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The onions in the final product take on varying textures; the ones embedded into the beef are soft and juicy, while the onions on the edges start to take on a blackened, almost burnt appearance. Don’t be skittish about them; those are the best part, since they’ve fried in beef fat and have taken on a lot of sweetness from being deeply caramelized. Seriously, that’s it. No condiments needed.

More Oklahoma Onion Burgers | Kenji’s Cooking Show

Our friend J. Kenji Lopez-Alt has an easy recipe on his YouTube channel for Oklahoma onion burgers, and they’re as easy to make as they sound.

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One added benefit to the onion burger is that because it’s griddled, you can enjoy one at any time of year without having to fire up the grill. As much as I hate the fact that cooler months are rolling in, at least I can have delicious and simple Oklahoma onion burgers whenever I want. I highly recommend you make a few for yourself.