Spicy Southwestern Buffalo Burgers

I finally made a trip to Sprouts recently (and was impressed), and I was delighted to see ground buffalo there, so I decided to try some. Of course, the only thing I could consider making for my first buffalo dish was a burger!

I have read in several sources that buffalo meat has 70-90% less fat and 50% of the cholesterol of beef. It is also higher in protein, iron, and all the omega and amino acids. Though buffalo is surprisingly non-gamey in flavor, it does have a slightly sweeter, lighter taste, and doesn’t feel as greasy on the palate.

I happened to have an unopened jar of spicy Southwestern mustard, so I decided to go with that as the inspiration for my buffalo burgers. I created a spicy, Southwestern seasoning mix for the meat, and topped my burger with grilled onions, lettuce, mustard, and mayo (sorry, I can’t stand tomatoes unless they’re breaded and fried or cooked in a complex sauce, and I think they ruin sandwiches). The grilled onions are key here.

I also chose spelt buns for these burgers, having never eaten spelt before. Spelt is an ancestor and cousin of modern wheat and, as it is lower in gluten, may be better for some folks with mild gluten sensitivity. It also has a higher nutritional value, being rich in vitamin B2, a very good source of manganese, and a good source of niacin, thiamin, and copper. An ancient grain with a long history in the Middle East and Europe, it was very popular in America up until the 20th century when farmers turned to more intensive wheat growing. While the texture of these spelt buns is the same as their regular whole wheat counterpart, the flavor is slightly sweeter and definitely nuttier. This complemented the other ingredients perfectly to create a rich burger; I was impressed.

I grilled both the onions and the burgers on a George Foreman grill, but you could use an indoor or outdoor grill or cast-iron skillet just as well.

1 lb. ground bison meat
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 red onion, sliced into thin rings
1 jalapeño, deseeded and sliced
~8 leaves green leaf lettuce
4 slices of Cheddar cheese
spicy Southwestern mustard, bought or homemade, to taste
mayonnaise, bought or homemade, to taste
4 spelt or whole wheat buns, toasted

1. In a large bowl, combine meat, Worcestershire sauce, and all the herbs and spices. Mix thoroughly with your hands and then form into four balls of about one quarter pound each. On a clean, even surface such as a glass cutting board, roll the meatballs out into patties and pound lightly with your palms.

2. Grill patties until cooked through to your personal taste. I like mine just well done. Be especially attentive with buffalo burgers – because of bison’s lower fat content, they are not good when overcooked. On a George Foreman grill, I find that about three and a half to four minutes is just right.

3. Meanwhile, toast your buns and slice the other ingredients and set aside for assembly.

4. Once burgers are done, remove them from the grill and assemble your burgers: on an open-faced bun, spread mustard on one side and mayonnaise on the other. On top of the bottom bun, place patty, then top with jalapeños, cheese, onions, and lettuce. Place top bun atop the burger and press down gently.

5. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 quarter pound buffalo burgers. Really, really delicious.

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