Red, White and Blueberry Burger

When the Los Angeles Times challenged burgermeisters from across the country for their best burger recipes, the gauntlet was thrown down! I’m always up for a challenge, but I must admit, the notion of switching gears to share a different facet of my kitchen experience gave me a wee bit of trepidation. What would happen if I put the buttercream frosting aside for a while? Would Cakewalker friends abandon me if I picked up a wide spatula for flipping burgers instead of pastry bags?


Sutter Street in Old Town Folsom

Where I live: Sutter Street in Old Town Folsom at the Folsom Mercantile Exchange, circa 1856.


I had to test the waters, so I wrote up a recipe and baked some burger buns one day. It was still baking, right? And I made sure to keep close to sweet by using a nice measure of brown sugar in the recipe. Still, dare I do an about face? I posted a picture of those buns cooling on the stove onto Cakewalker’s Facebook fan page. And to my surprise and delight, friends wanted to know more about the buns!


Fresh baked Brown Sugar Burger Buns by Cakewalker


With your affirmative nod, the support of my family & friends and my promise to come back to things sugary sweet, I accepted the challenge and entered the first Los Angeles Times’ Battle of the Burgers. The requirements were simple: submit a recipe and an essay stating why it was the best, baddest burger out there—a photo to accompany the entry was highly encouraged, but not necessary. From nearly 90 entries, a public vote determined the 20 semi-finalists. Those 20 recipes were then tested by the LA Times Test Kitchen to which 5 were chosen from the paper’s Food staff as finalists. I’m so excited to tell you that the recipe for my Red, White & Blueberry Burger finished as a Top 5 finalist!


The Top 20 Burgers

Photo credit: courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2011
Test Kitchen & Interns


My sweet reward included an invitation to the LA Times to meet the staff, visit the Test Kitchen and have a photo taken to appear in print along with the burger recipe in the June 30, 2011 Food section of the Los Angeles Times—just in time for the Fourth of July holiday! My family and I were welcomed by the warm and gracious staff making our visit there the pinnacle of an extended Father’s Day weekend.


 Watch the LA Times “Battle of the Burgers” video

To answer the numerous requests for, and to mark the occasion of my first recipe published outside this blog, I present to you the essay, photo and recipe for the Red, White & Blueberry Burger. My heartfelt thanks to all of you for the support and votes—it made this joyous accomplishment that much sweeter! 


On a recent Saturday afternoon I was intrigued by a Facebook post from the LA Times calling for the best burger recipes. By default, I’m wired sweet, but there’s an undeniable savory side to me as well. So I went to the garden for some inspiration keeping the Fourth of July tucked in the back of my mind. There I spied our blueberry plants whose green fruit was just starting to hint at a shade of blue. And the jalapeno plants were beginning to set flowers…spring was well underway and that’s when I sprang into action. My garden tour brought to mind some blueberry jam I had canned the previous summer and some chipotle peppers in Adobo—both within reach in the kitchen pantry. 

To me, this is one of the best burgers ever because it showcases the essence of American food and culture. The gorgeous red ripeness of a grapefruit-sized Hot House tomato; its firm, yet tender flesh cut to release its juice. White onions born from our fields and sliced thin, floured and seasoned then fried in pork fat to a golden crisp. Under it, a sheet of artisan Point Reyes Blue Cheese perfectly melted and draped over a pure ground chuck beef patty grilled to perfection. What pulls it all together? My sweet and smoky Blueberry Chipotle BBQ sauce. The quintessential summer berry meets the melting pot of chili peppers in a bold sauce that captures both the sweet heart of America and the spirited fire in our bellies. And the hand-held meal is encased in a malty-sweet Brown Sugar Burger Bun. NOTHING says Fourth of July or any summertime BBQ more than this Red, White & Blueberry Burger!


Red, White and Blueberry Burger by Cakewalker


Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 35 minutes

Yield: 6 burgers

Serving Size: One burger


This Top 5 finalist in the first Los Angeles Times’ Battle of the Burgers features seasoned fried onion rings and artisan blue cheese atop a grilled chuck beef patty on a homemade bun. It all ties together with a sweet and smoky Blueberry Chipotle BBQ sauce!


    Blueberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle chiles (about three chiles)
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the chipotle chile can)
  • 5 rounded tablespoons blueberry jam or preserves
  • Fried onions:
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 rounded teaspoon fresh ground sea salt
  • 1/2 rounded teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 rounded teaspoon Creole-type seasoning (like Tony Chachere's or Emeril's Essence)
  • 1/4 cup rendered bacon fat or oil
  • 1 white onion, peeled and sliced very thin (about 1/16 inch) into strings or rings
  • Brown Sugar Burger Buns (recipe here)
    Approximately 2 pounds ground chuck beef
    15 ounces blue cheese, preferably Point Reyes Original Blue, sliced
    Curly red leaf lettuce leaves, washed and dried
    Large red tomato, sliced


    For the Blueberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce:
  • In a food processor, combine the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, garlic, chipotle chiles, adobo sauce and blueberry jam. Purée all the ingredients until very smooth. This makes about 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce, which will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 1 week.
  • Make the Fried Onions:
  • In a large plastic bag, combine the flour, baking powder, sea salt, pepper and Creole seasoning, shaking to thoroughly mix together. Add the onions and shake to coat. Transfer the onions to a bowl, tapping off any excess flour mixture.
  • In a cast-iron skillet heated over medium-high heat until hot, add the bacon fat. When the fat is hot, add the onions in small batches, frying until crisp and golden brown, three to five minutes per batch. Drain the onions on a paper towel and set aside.
  • Final assembly:
    Moist mesquite wood chips in a smoker device (or foil pouch) for the grill, if using an outdoor grill
    Ground chuck hamburger patties (formed to match the width of the bun), seasoned with garlic salt and fresh cracked black pepper
    Brown sugar burger buns, sliced in half
  • Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat until hot. If using a grill, fit a smoker device (or foil pouch) with the mesquite wood chips to smoke while grilling.
  • Oil the grill top and add the burgers. Grill the burgers on each side until cooked through to desired doneness, eight to 12 minutes. Top the burgers with cheese and continue to grill just until the cheese melts, one to two minutes.
  • When the burgers are almost finished grilling, toast the buns: Place the buns, cut side down, on the grill to lightly toast. Remove the burgers and buns.
  • Assemble the burgers: Dress the cut sides (top and bottom) of each burger with a good spread of barbecue sauce. Top each bun bottom with a burger patty. Top the cheese with another dollop of barbecue sauce, then divide the onions, mounding a pile of onions over each burger. Top each mound of onions with a slice of tomato, followed with two to three leaves of lettuce. Top each burger with a bun top and serve immediately.


The 35-minute cook time is a combined approximation of the time to cook the patties and bake the buns.

Each burger: 1,001 calories; 59 grams protein; 86 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 46 grams fat; 25 grams saturated fat; 175 mg. cholesterol; 20 grams sugar; 1,812 mg. sodium.

Re-published from June 30, 2011




  1. Brooks…these burgers are the things dreams are made of! Congratulations!!!

  2. Oooh these look amaaazing! 🙂

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