Grilled Bison Burgers with Caramelized Onions

published Jul 23, 2022
Bison Burger Recipe

Swapping bison for ground beef makes for a sweeter, leaner, and more environmentally-friendly burger.


Prep5 minutes

Cook40 minutes

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A photo of a bison burger on a plain bun, with melted white cheese, sauteed onion and lettuce on the bottom.
Credit: Perry Santanachote

In the early 18th century, there were more than 60 million bison roaming the grasslands of North America, providing sustenance for Native American tribes across the plains, from Alaska to northern Mexico. By the late 1800s, commercial hunting by European settlers nearly decimated the bison population to extinction. 

Through conservation and restoration efforts, the bison population has grown again and you can buy ethically raised bison from your local butcher and meat subscription services. Not only is bison more environmentally sustainable than beef, but it can also be used interchangeably for nearly any recipe that calls for beef, including your go-to burger recipe.

What Do Bison Burgers Taste Like?

Bison meat doesn’t taste gamey. Instead, it tastes similar to beef but sweeter and leaner. 

Credit: Perry Santanachote

What Spices Go Well with Bison?

A simple dusting of salt and pepper works well, but our burger seasoning also goes great with bison burgers. These flavors also go particularly well with the sweet undertones of bison. 

  • Horseradish
  • Mustard
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Shallot
  • Juniper berries (small, dark berries with a piney aroma that complements game meats)

Bison Burger Recipe

Swapping bison for ground beef makes for a sweeter, leaner, and more environmentally-friendly burger.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


For the caramelized onions:

  • 1

    large sweet onion

  • 1 tablespoon

    unsalted butter

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground juniper berries (optional)

For the burgers:

  • 1 pound

    ground bison

  • 1 tablespoon

    Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 slices

    mild white cheddar cheese

  • 4

    brioche buns

  • 4 leaves

    green leaf lettuce


Make the caramelized onions:

  1. Halve and thinly slice 1 large sweet onion. Melt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 2 teaspoons black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn brown and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes more. Add 1/2 teaspoon ground juniper berries if desired and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat.

Make the burgers:

  1. Prepare an outdoor grill for direct, medium heat (350 to 375ºF).

  2. Place 1 pound ground bison, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 2 teaspoons black pepper in a medium bowl. Mix well by hand, but do not overmix. Divide into 4 portions, then shape each portion into a 3 1/2 to 4-inch wide patty about 1/2-inch thick. Press an indentation into the center of each burger with your thumb to prevent swelling in the center as they cook.

  3. When the grill is ready, scrape the grill grates clean if needed. Place the patties on the grill, cover, and cook until grill marks for on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Flip the patties, cover, and continue to grill until medium doneness (about 125°F on a instant-read thermometer), 2 to 4 minutes more. During the last 30 seconds of grilling time, top each patty with 1 slice of mild white cheddar cheese. Split 4 brioche buns and place cut-side down on the grill; cook until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes.

  4. Assemble the burgers: Place a patty on each bottom bun. Top with the caramelized onions and a green leaf lettuce leaf, then close with the top buns.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The caramelized onions can be made up to 4 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.