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8 & $20: Flavorful Greek Turkey Burgers With Halloumi

A few tricks and toppings, plus a vibrant white wine, take this beef alternative from dull to delicious
Photo by: Christine Dalton
Greek Moschofilero is a natural pairing with salty Halloumi and creamy tzatziki.

Christine Dalton
Posted: May 26, 2015

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That’s all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you’ve got a feast for family or friends. That’s the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

Turkey burgers get a bad rap.

Everyone seems to have had a negative turkey burger experience. Bring up the beef burger’s leaner, health-conscious cousin, and you’re sure to hear about hockey puck–textured, flavorless, dry patties.

I, however, am firmly on team turkey burger. When you take the time to make these versatile patties at home, you can easily boost the flavor and moistness by adding herbs, spices and extra liquid. I constantly experiment with my base recipe, adjusting it to complement the toppings I choose.

The ingredients of this Greek-inspired recipe were driven by an impulse purchase. Shopping at my local grocery store, I succumbed to an “It’s Grilling Season!” display and picked up one of my all-time favorite ingredients: Halloumi cheese. This semisoft Cypriot cheese—made from either goat, sheep or cow milk—is pleasingly salty, has a high melting point and can take on a delectable char, making it a great addition to your summer grilling repertoire.

Since access to a grill in my New York City apartment is, sigh, but a dream, I settled for pan frying the Halloumi, which turned out golden-brown slabs that were crusty and crispy on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside. Two slices fit perfectly on top of the burger patties, which I jazzed up with diced red onion and a touch of olive oil (to add some fat to the lean turkey meat). I kept my patties’ flavors fairly basic, but feel free to experiment—perhaps with cilantro, Dijon mustard or even soy sauce—depending on the flavor profile you want.

To finish my creation, I added a slather of tangy tzatziki, a Greek yogurt sauce flavored with cucumber, lemon juice, garlic and dill. I purchased a premade version for the sake of time, but it could also easily be homemade. The thick, flavorful sauce combated the turkey burgers’ vulnerabilities of blandness and dryness. I added a sprinkle of arugula for freshness and texture, all atop a chewy hamburger bun, and my burger was complete!

With a traditional beef hamburger, I immediately choose red wine, maybe a Syrah or Zinfandel, but a bold wine could overwhelm this creation. Turkey itself can pair either with white or red, but I figured a white would best flatter the salty cheese and zesty tzatziki. I chose three bottles to test out: a light Italian red and two fresh, acidic whites, one from Spain and one from the country that inspired the meal, Greece.

I opened the red first, a Dolcetto d’Alba, thinking that if any red were going to complement the dish, it would be one with juicy, fresh fruit, high acidity and low alcohol. Unfortunately, the pairing fell flat; the salt from the Halloumi turned the wine’s subtle tannins bolder and more bitter.

Next, I followed my original hunch with an Albariño from the Rías Baixas region of Spain. Also known as “Green Spain,” the cool, maritime area yielded a vivacious, fresh wine with hints of brine that complemented the Halloumi while cutting through the fat in the burger and the yogurt sauce.

The third choice easily won my vote. Aside from keeping in theme with my meal, Moschofilero, an aromatic indigenous Greek variety, presented a pristine match. The wine’s vibrant acidity counterbalanced the creaminess of the sauce; its minerality complemented, rather than clashed with, the cheese; and the concentrated fruit held up to the meat in the burger.

Flavorful Greek Turkey Burgers With Halloumi


Pair with a lively white with good acidity, such as Antonopoulos Moschofilero Péloponnèse 2013 (89 points, $13) or Bodegas La Cana Albariño Rias Baixas La Caña 2013 (90, $18)

Total time: 25 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Approximate food cost: $25

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 8-ounce package of Halloumi cheese
  • 4 tablespoons tzatziki sauce
  • 4 hamburger rolls
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Tomato, arugula, sliced red onion (optional)

1. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, red onion, breadcrumbs, egg white and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and combine until ingredients are evenly distributed. Do not overwork the mixture. Divide evenly and form into 4 patties.

2. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add the patties to the pan and cook until lightly browned, approximately 5 minutes. Flip and cook on the second side until lightly brown, about another 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. While pan frying the burgers, slice Halloumi crosswise into 8 slices. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in a smaller pan over medium-high heat, add the Halloumi slices (after flipping the burgers) and cook for about 1 minute on each side, until light golden-brown.

4. Toast the buns and spread a dollop of tzatziki sauce on the bottom bun. Add burger patty, 2 slices of Halloumi and, if desired, tomato, arugula or red onion to taste. Serves 4.

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