Kitchn Love Letters

The Surprising Technique That Has Forever Changed the Way I Grill Burgers

published May 4, 2023
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Pita lamb burger split open on plate so we can see the filling. Sliced cucumbers and yogurt next to it
Credit: Christine Gallary

When I first came across this lamb burger recipe from Anissa Helou many years ago in an issue of Bon Appétit magazine, I rushed to make it, due to its very novel approach. Instead of a standard beef patty sandwiched into a burger bun, the recipe has you stuff a highly spiced ground lamb mixture into the pocket of a pita! The whole thing is grilled until the lamb is cooked and the pita is crisp on the outside. I was immediately sold on this concept from the first time I tried it. In fact, it’s now become one of my favorite lamb recipes ever!

Why I Love Spiced Lamb Burgers 

Unlike regular burgers that can get soggy pretty quickly, this lamb burger is crispy on the outside and super flavorful inside, as the pita soaks up all the delicious flavors of the filling as it cooks. The lamb is seasoned with a lot of onion, parsley, and warm spices, and cooks up tender and incredibly juicy. While all the delicious juices stay in the burger, it’s also surprisingly not very messy to eat and is a great handheld meal. 

How to Make Spiced Lamb Burgers 

To make the spiced lamb burgers, start by combining ground lamb, very finely chopped onion (you can grate the onion instead — just be sure to use the juices too), chopped parsley, olive oil, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Chill the mixture for at least an hour to let the flavors meld, then stuff it into pita breads that have been cut open to form pockets.

Place the stuffed pitas on a medium-heat grill, cover, and grill until the filling is cooked through and the pitas are golden-brown and crisp on the outside, four to five minutes per side. The recipe says that you can make the filling ahead of time, or even stuff the pitas up to an hour before cooking. That means you can also stuff these at home and take them along to grill somewhere else if your cookout isn’t at home. 

They’re hearty and delicious, and I bet you can even use mini pitas with pockets if you want a slider-sized version instead. I usually serve these burgers with a side of tzatziki and sliced cucumbers or Greek salad, but they’re also great with hummus or even a zippy romesco sauce.

If You’re Making Spiced Lamb Burgers, a Few Tips 

  • Cut the pitas open with scissors. A pair of kitchen shears comes in handy to cut into the side of the pitas. After you cut about halfway around, insert your hands into the pita to gently open up the pocket. I like to use pitas that are about 6 inches wide.
  • Taste for seasoning. After mixing up the filling, cook and taste a quarter-sized portion by microwaving it for 15 seconds or pan-frying it in a little oil. I’ve always needed to take the salt up a little.
  • Grill covered. You want an optimal grill temperature of 350ºF to 400ºF. Keep the grill covered and adjust the heat as needed to maintain that temperature range. 

Get the recipe: Spiced Lamb Burger