This grilled pesto turkey burger recipe may seem a little strange when you look at the ingredients (who ever heard of putting chopped walnuts in a burger?)
But they taste amazing!
The pesto ingredients add the flavor that is sometimes missing from ground turkey.
The eggs prevent them from being too dry.
And the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese keeps them from falling apart.
As with most burgers, these patties can be made ahead of time. Letting them sit in the refrigerator for a day actually improves the flavor, since the spices have a chance to blend in better.
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Here’s your shopping list:
- meat – 2 pounds ground turkey – you can also use ground chicken or lean ground beef
- dairy and eggs – 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 large eggs
- herbs – fresh basil. You’ll need enough for 1 cup of chopped basil, which is a lot! Or substitute 3 Tablespoons dried basil.
- bread crumbs – 1/2 cup – you can use gluten-free bread crumbs if desired.
- vegetables – 1 cooking onion, 4 cloves garlic
- nuts – walnuts or pecans (enough for 2 Tablespoons of chopped nuts)
- seasoning – 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.
How to make pesto turkey burgers on the grill
Finely chop enough nuts to make 2 Tablespoons.
Finely chop the onion. I like to use a mini food processor for this. It’s so much easier than chopping by hand!
If using fresh basil, finely chop enough to make 1 cup.
Mince 4 cloves of garlic.
Start the grill up so it will be nice and hot by the time you put the burgers on.
Make the burgers
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a fork.
Mix in 1 cup chopped fresh basil (or 3 Tablespoons dried basil), 1/2 cup bread crumbs, the chopped onion, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 Tablespoons chopped nuts, the minced garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.
Add the ground turkey and mix well.
I usually start mixing with a spatula or wooden spoon. Then once the egg has been incorporated, I use my hands. It’s messy but it gets everything evenly distributed with the meat.
If your mixture seems too dry or isn’t holding together well, add up to 4 Tablespoons of water until it feels sticky.
Shape into 1/2 inch thick patties.
This will allow them to cook evenly, where thicker burgers tend to burn on the outside before they are cooked all the way through.
I make 8 quarter pound burgers with this recipe, but the number will depend on how big you make them.
Grill the burgers
Grill over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes per side (or until no longer pink inside).
Let them cook for the full time on one side without touching them.
Then flip them and cook for the full time on the other side (without touching them). You will end up with much juicier burgers this way.
If you find that your turkey burgers cook too fast on the outside while the middle is still raw, you may need to reduce your grill’s heat. Try cooking them for 8 to 10 minutes per side over low heat instead of medium.
To speed up this process, turn the burners to high under an area of the grill where nothing is cooking (assuming you have some empty space). This will provide a higher cooking temperature, but the turkey burgers won’t burn since they aren’t directly over the higher flames.
Serve with hamburger buns and condiments.
How to cook on the stove
Although these pesto turkey burgers are delicious when cooked on the grill, you can also make them on the stove.
Put a little oil in a frying pan and heat over medium heat for a minute or two until the oil is hot.
Using a grill pan (if you have one) is even better. You get the same grill lines and I think the burgers even taste pretty similar to being grilled on a gas BBQ.
Then cook the burgers in the pan following the same directions as for grilling.
What to serve with turkey burgers
The same toppings that you would use for a regular burger also go well on a turkey burger.
Add sliced onions, tomatoes and cheese along with lettuce, pickles and avocado if desired.
Condiments such as ketchup, mustard, relish and guacamole are also good choices.
To let your guests add their own fixings, put together a burger toppings charcuterie board.
Then serve with:
- French fries or chips for a traditional burger joint meal.
- A fresh salad (like our mandarin romaine salad or coleslaw) for a healthier option.
- Grilled asparagus
- 4-ingredient caprese pasta salad
How to store
If you’re making the burgers ahead of time, store the uncooked patties in an air tight container with parchment paper between each patty.
They can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a day.
Or frozen for up to 3 months and then thawed before cooking.
Let the burgers sit out for about 20 minutes before putting them on the grill. This will let the meat come to room temperature and make them cook more evenly.
Other cookout recipes you might like
Pesto Turkey Burgers
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup fresh basil finely chopped, or 3 Tbsp dried basil
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- 1 cooking onion finely chopped
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped walnuts or pecans
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 pounds ground turkey or chicken
- Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl.
- Mix in the basil, bread crumbs, onion, grated Parmesan cheese, chopped nuts, minced garlic, salt and pepper.
- Add the ground turkey and mix well.
- Shape into 1/2 inch thick burgers.
- Grill over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes per side (or until no longer pink inside).
- Serve with hamburger buns and condiments.
- You can also make these turkey burgers on the stove. Add a little oil to a frying pan and cook on medium heat following the same directions as you would for grilling.
- If your turkey burgers are too dry and don’t hold together well, try adding up to 4 Tablespoons of water to the ground turkey mixture before making the patties.
- The recipe tastes just as good substituting ground chicken or ground beef for the turkey. If you are using full fat beef, adding the water isn’t necessary.
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This post was originally published on July 6, 2015 but was updated with new content on July 25, 2022.