Food & Drink

A tasty twist on a turkey burger

A healthful burger is in the cards. Antipasto-Stuffed Turkey Burgers.
A healthful burger is in the cards. Antipasto-Stuffed Turkey Burgers. Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey

This plump, juicy burger is my desire-driven answer to the nutritional call to limit the portion size of a piece of lean meat to a deck of cards.

While that is sound advice, unfortunately the card imagery too often applies to how that kind of burger tastes. The dietitian side of me knows that choosing lean meat is the most healthful way to go, and that a deck-size portion is ample. But the passionate food lover in me wants something bigger, more fun and more flavorful to fill a bun.

Happily, I have found a way to make a burger that is both healthful and indulgently tasty: Stuff it.

When you stuff a modest amount of lean meat such as turkey, lean ground beef or bison with flavorful fillings, you expand the size of the burger, so your eyes widen with excitement before you bite into it. And by using mostly vegetable fillings you add not only volume and taste, but nutrition as well.

For the accompanying recipe, I took cues from a typical antipasto platter and used roasted peppers, marinated artichokes and green olives. But dozens of other options would work well, such as sun-dried tomatoes, sauteed greens and caramelized onions, to name a few.

I also like to stuff some cheese in there, which adds big flavor and a luxe, melty quality. When you pack it in the center, as opposed to putting it on top, you need only a little to get the desired effect. My antipasto theme here calls for mozzarella, but depending on what flavor profile you want and the vegetables you use, you could try feta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, provolone, Swiss or cheddar.

However you fill it, the result is a better burger that satisfies both your health-conscious and food-loving sides.

Krieger’s most recent cookbook is “Weeknight Wonders: Delicious Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). Reach her at

Antipasto-Stuffed Turkey Burgers

The burgers also can be cooked on the grill. From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.

For the burgers:

3 tablespoons chopped roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed if jarred

3 tablespoons chopped marinated artichoke hearts

2 tablespoons chopped pitted green olives

3 tablespoons shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 1/4 pounds extra-lean or lean ground turkey breast

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the spread:

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the burgers: Toss together the peppers, artichokes, olives and mozzarella in a medium bowl; this will be the burger filling.

Make the patties: shape the ground turkey into 4 rounds of equal size. Form each of those into 2 equal-size patties (for a total of 8). Spoon the filling onto 4 of the patties in equal amounts. Top with the remaining patties, working the meat around the edges to seal the burgers closed. (The burgers will be 4 to 5 inches in diameter.) Season on both sides with the salt and pepper.

Grease a nonstick skillet or nonstick grill pan with cooking oil spray; heat over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the burgers and cook for 5 minutes, then turn them over and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are lightly browned and the meat is cooked through.

For the spread: Whisk together the tomato paste, balsamic vinegar and salt in a small bowl.

Serve the burgers on butter lettuce leaves, or on whole-grain buns topped with lettuce, tomato, and a few basil leaves.

Yield: 4 servings.

Per serving (burger and spread only): 290 calories, 26 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 19 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 115 mg cholesterol, 480 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar