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Smoky Lamb Burgers with Mint-Chile Pickled Cucumbers Recipe


Smoky Lamb Burgers with Mint-Chile Pickled Cucumbers

The recipe for these smoky lamb burgers came out of wanting to create a kicked-up burger that was no-fuss and would taste delicious with an ice-cold beer...

I have two secret ingredients in this burger that give it that smoky, peppery edge. The first is black cardamom. The flavor is a bit lighter than green cardamom — earthier and with a woodsy smokiness. Black cardamom is used throughout North and East African cooking, in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine, and even in Sichuan cooking.

But, don’t worry if you only have the green kind. It works beautifully here as well because there is still the second secret ingredient: pimentón de la Vera. If you’ve never used it before, this dish is a great intro — it’s smoked paprika and is a key ingredient in Spanish cooking. Both of these spices meld together here and bring out what’s best about lamb.

Now, I’m a burger-with-pickles kind of gal, so I had to do a super quick pickle (ready in an hour!) to go with these. Thinly sliced cucumbers get quick-pickled with Thai green chiles, some fresh mint, garlic, and thinly sliced shallots. The shallots pickle, too, so I use both along with some fresh chopped mint and a nice piece of butter lettuce to top this burger. 

These burgers are not for the faint of heart — they are big and bold! Feel free to turn this recipe into sliders or more modestly sized patties if you so desire. Enjoy!

Click here to see 7 Must-Have Spices.

Calories Per Serving


*Note: I use my spice grinder to grind the whole pods of black cardamom, and then I pass it through a fine mesh sieve to get rid of the coarse bits.


For the mint-chile pickled cucumbers

  • 3/4 cups rice vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 Thai green chiles, halved
  • 1 shallot, sliced thinly
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 2 mini seedless cucumbers, sliced thinly
  • Handful of mint, torn roughly

For the lamb burgers

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 shallots, chopped finely
  • 4 -5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground black cardamom*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne, or to taste
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • Vegetable oil, for coating the grill
  • 4 buns, toasted


For the mint-chile pickled cucumbers

In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, salt, and sugar until dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to coat. (I like to put the cucumbers in a wider, shallow container to increase the surface area as they are pickling.) Let sit at least 1 hour before serving, but they can also be refrigerated and will keep for a few days.

For the lamb burgers

In a medium-sized skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Swirl the pan as the foam subsides and continue to heat until butter starts to brown. Don’t let it burn! Immediately, throw in the shallots, garlic, and spices and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent sticking, until the shallots are translucent and cooked through. Remove and let cool briefly.

Place the lamb in a bowl and make a well in the center. Add the cooled shallot and spice mixture and mix thoroughly. Do not overmix or the meat will get tough. Form the mixture into 4 equal patties, keeping the center a bit thinner than the edges. You can also make this mixture up to 1 day ahead of time and the flavors will come together even more beautifully.

Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat and coat with a thin layer of oil or grill on the outdoor grill. Cook for about 4 minutes per side to get to a medium-rare and longer for more well cooked burgers. Serve the burgers on a toasted bun topped with the pickled cucumbers and a few of the pickled shallots.