Cajun Burgers with Caramelized Onions

A well-crafted, juicy, grilled burger is perhaps the ultimate source of stomach-pleasing euphoria in my house. There’s just nothing else quite like the experience of that first bite! I am constantly playing with the spices and toppings on my burgers, in an endless search for the one winning combination that will take me to zen “burgerdom” bliss. And this recipe came pretty darn close, especially with a mound of glistening, sweet, caramelized onions crowning it.


IMG_0725Now, I usually stick to the age-old rule when it comes to my burgers: KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Or, if you prefer the less-rude phrase: “Less Is More”. Basically, burgers taste best when they are practically unadulterated, with the exception of just the right amount of salt, pepper, and perhaps a spice or two for some flair. This recipe follows these guidelines pretty closely, which also makes these burgers uber simple to make. What makes the burgers “Cajun” is the creole seasoning mixed into the patties, which creates a  uniquely subtle flavor reminiscent of the deep South. The outsides of the patties are finely dusted with a bit of sea salt and ground pepper to taste, and that’s pretty much it!

Here’s the thing though: so many people make BRICKS… not burgers. I don’t know about you, but I don’t imagine a good burger as a dense, hard, ball-like thing. Not even the fast food companies show their burgers looking like that in advertisements! But for some reason, that’s the way so many people make them! I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “Oh, I make the BEST burgers, just wait and see!”… only to let me down with another beef brick ball. I know I’m opinionated about my burgers. Does that make me a burger snob? Is there even such a thing?? Who knows, maybe some folks just like them that way… but when I think of a burger, I know I think of a semi-flat, saucer-shaped patty that aligns perfectly between two slices of… romaine lettuce (c’mon, this is a Paleo recipe, no wheaty buns here!). And something tells me I’m not the only one out there who feels this way.

If we’re on the same page now, then pay a little respect to that grass-fed cow, and heed the following advice: BE GENTLE. When mixing the seasoning into the beef, do it gently. Yes, you want to mix it up enough so you don’t have dry pockets of seasoning exploding in your mouth unexpectedly, but don’t get carried away with it… just think butterfly kisses, NOT hulk-smashing, when you’re mixing the beef. Once your beef is mixed with the seasoning, you can use a burger press (like the one I use) to get perfectly sized and shaped burgers (or your hands if you’ve got a good feel for it). But again – form the patties gently! Try not to overpack and smush the meat down into the press, if you’re using one… grab just enough meat to almost fill it, flatten it out a little with your palm, and voila! The magic is complete.

IMG_0727How many patties you make is determined by how thick you like your burgers (or how many people you need to feed). I shaped my beef into 3 separate patties, each 1/3 lb., because I happen to think that 1/4 lb burgers are too wimpy for my cavewoman appetite… and 1/2 lb is just too much. So I compromise at 1/3 lb. But you could just as easily make two 1/2 lb, or four 1/4 lb patties – heck, you could even be crazy and make yourself a double quarter-pounder and relive your comatose fast food days! But that’s probably not a healthy decision, so just load up on extra veggies instead. :P* Just be sure to adjust your cooking time accordingly if you opt for a bigger burger, as thicker patties will require a bit more time on the grill for the same temperature. Don’t forget to make a little indentation thumbprint on one side of each patty when you’re done (you’ll see why next).

One last tip, this time about grilling the burgers: wait for the burger to “sweat”! Here’s how:  place the patties thumbprint side up on the grill grate for the first round of grilling action, because that thumbprint is where you’re going to watch for it. When the patty is ready to be flipped, you’ll see a little pool of “burger sweat” start to form in the thumbprint. It’s like the burger’s way of telling you: “Okay, FLIP!” So don’t flip until you see it. For 1/3 lb patties, sweat formation takes just under 4 minutes on medium-high heat. After you’ve flipped it, let the other side cook for just under another 4 minutes, and your burgers will be cooked to medium-well.

IMG_0729Give your burgers a minute or two to rest, to let the juices redistribute. Then top the burger with your warm caramelized onions, as well as your other favorite condiments… I chose yellow mustard, my homemade spicy garlic ketchup, and a few slices of fresh jalapenos for heat. Don’t forget to serve it on fresh romaine lettuce “buns”  for a truly Paleo-style burger!


Cajun Burgers with Caramelized Onions
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: (3) ⅓ lb burgers
  • 1 medium sweet yellow onion
  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef, preferably grass-fed
  • 2 tbsp cajun/creole seasoning (I use Todd's Dirt - it's gluten free, and nothing artificial!)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  1. To prepare the caramelized onions, use a large chef's knife to cut the onion in half from stem to root. Slice the ends off each half, and peel the outside layer off. Discard.
  2. Place the onion halves flat-side down, and slice each one diagonally to create half-moon pieces.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized nonstick pan on medium-high heat, and when the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion slices.
  4. Stir to coat them in the oil, then turn the heat down to medium-low.
  5. Allow onions to cook for 30 minutes, stirring periodically to prevent them from sticking to the pan. They should be golden yellow and soft when finished!
  6. While the onions are cooking, prepare and grill the burgers. To do this, start by placing the ground beef into a bowl and add the cajun seasoning. Loosely mix the seasoning into the beef with your fingers.
  7. Shape into patties, and season both sides with sea salt and ground black pepper to taste. Make a shallow little thumbprint in the middle of each patty, on one side only.
  8. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  9. Place your patties on the grill grate thumbprint side up. Let cook until you start seeing "burger sweat" forming in the thumbprint, then flip (just under 4 minutes for ⅓ lb patties). Close the grill lid while they're cooking.
  10. Grill the other side for just under 4 minutes for medium-well (or less time if you prefer them rarer). Don't forget to close the grill lid again while they finish cooking.
  11. Remove patties from the grill, and let them rest for a few minutes on a plate.
  12. Add your now-cooked caramelized onions to the top of your burgers, along with any other desired condiments and toppings! Serve on fresh romaine lettuce "buns".

Recipe adapted from Freerange Human

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