Chicken Sausage and Zucchini Burgers with Mozzarella and Marinated Red Onions

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First things first:

1) If you cannot find ground chicken sausage (I get mine at Whole Foods and my local Safeway, Trader Joe’s does not carry it), ground chicken, turkey, or pork are all great alternatives.

2) You do not need an outdoor grill to make these burgers! You can cook them on an indoor grill pan or cast iron skillet. Grill pans are cool because you get the cool grill marks, but they cook the exact same way as a normal cast iron skillet. I always get asked, so my favorites are linked below.

Burgers are the best, but you can’t go around eating a beef burger every single night of summer. Chicken and turkey burgers are such an awesome lean protein option, but they get a bad rap for being dry and tasteless.

But that doesn’t have to be the case! With beef you can literally just salt it and throw it on the grill and have a delicious burger, but we have to work a little harder for chicken and turkey burgers to be delicious. BUT IT’S POSSIBLE!

Last summer I wrote this recipe for Cholula-Cheddar Turkey Burgers and people still write me to tell me that their family makes them regularly! Turkey has the tendency to dry out when grilled, but I added an egg and cheese to the mix to keep things nice and juicy.

With these Chicken Sausage and Zucchini burgers, I add a full grated zucchini to the burgers, taking a cue from my favorite Ottolenghi burgers (which are really more like meatballs). Here, the combination of chicken sausage (or plain ole ground chicken – see the Notes for what spices to add to make plain chicken = chicken sausage), a full grated zucchini, and an egg yolk are what keep the burgers so tender and juicy. Using chicken sausage also means that there’s already a ton of flavor in the meat without us having to add a ton of seasonings aside from the fresh basil and mint. Quick and easy is the name of the game.

I top these burgers off with some flavor-packed marinated onions, and I highly recommend not skipping them.

Everything here can be made ahead of time – in fact, the onions and the burger patties are even better with a day to marinate. Perfect make ahead meal, just grill them up when you’re ready to eat!

Chicken Sausage and Zucchini Burgers

Servings 4 people

Ingredients

Marinated Red Onions 

  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano 
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Burgers

  • 1 pound ground chicken sausage (not links, ground sausage) (see notes below if you can’t find chicken sausage! ground chicken + a few extra seasonings is perfect!)
  • 1 large zucchini, grated
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped mint leaves
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into round slices (omit for Whole30)
  • 4 burger buns (omit for Whole30)
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise

Substitutions:

  • Red onion—> use any onion or shallot
  • Red wine vinegar—>     any vinegar works, but red wine vinegar will make the onions beautifully pink after a couple of hours.
  • EVOO—> omit if you don’t have it. We want the flavor, we don’t need oil here.
  • Oregano—> 1 teaspoon of any dried herb you have, like rosemary or thyme
  • Chicken sausage—> I love using chicken sausage here because it has so many great seasonings already in it, making our job easier! But to mimic chicken sausage, simple use ground chicken (or turkey!) but add another 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon oregano, and a pinch of cayenne.
  • Zucchini—> yellow summer squash.
  • Breadcrumbs—> any kind works! If you have a couple slices of bread you can blend that up and use it!
  • Egg yolk—> 1 tablespoon ground flax + 2 1/2 tablespoons water. Stir together and let it sit for 5 minutes. This “flax egg” will work in a pinch.
  • Basil and mint—> Use whatever fresh herbs you have. Cilantro, parsley, oregano, will all work. Or, use 1 teaspoon dried herbs.
  • Non-stick cooking spray—> lightly drizzle each burger with cooking oil and rub it all over the patty. You don’t want it to drip off, that will cause grill flare ups.
  • Mozzarella—> gouda, white cheddar, shredded mozzarella (instead of fresh), goat cheese, blue cheese… really whatever you have!
  • Burger buns—> I almost always use English muffins, that’s what’s pictured here! These burgers would be lovely on top of a big salad with lots of summery toppings like blueberries and cucumbers.
  • Mayonnaise—> room temperature butter or nonstick cooking spray.

Instructions

  • Thinly slice 1 small red onion into rings, then pop the rings apart so they’re not attached. Toss onion rings, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and leave at room temperature while you cook. If possible, do this the night before, the onions get more delicious and turn hot pink with more time! Store any leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator. They keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  • Combine 1 pound chicken sausage (see NOTES below if you can only find ground chicken), 1 large, grated zucchini (about 1 1/2 cups grated), 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, 1 large egg yolk, 1/4 cup chopped basil, 2 tablespoons chopped mint, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Use your hands to combine the mixture.
  • Refrigerate the patties for at least 30 minutes, or freeze for 10 minutes to firm them up before grilling.
  • Preheat an outdoor grill to 450°F. (See notes below for how to cook indoors). 
  • Divide mixture into four patties. Grab one of your burger buns for reference, and make your patties slightly larger than the buns. They’ll shrink when you cook them and become the perfect size. 
  • Spray both sides of the burgers with non-stick cooking spray, then place on the grill (see NOTES for indoor cooking instructions!). Cook for 6 minutes. If the burger does not release easily from the grill grate after 6 minutes, give it another minute. It should not stick if it’s ready to flip. 
  • Meanwhile, smear mayonnaise all over both sides of the burger buns. 
  • Flip burger and cook for 3 minutes. Add mozzarella to each burger, then close the grill and continue cooking for 3 additional minutes. 
  • Add burger buns to the grill, cut side down, during the last 1 minute of cooking to toast. 
  • Serve the burgers on the buns with marinated red onions. 

Marinated Red Onions 

  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano 
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Burgers

  • 1 pound ground chicken sausage (not links, ground sausage) (see notes below if you can’t find chicken sausage! ground chicken + a few extra seasonings is perfect!)
  • 1 large zucchini, grated
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped mint leaves
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into round slices (omit for Whole30)
  • 4 burger buns (omit for Whole30)
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise

Substitutions:

  • Red onion—> use any onion or shallot
  • Red wine vinegar—>     any vinegar works, but red wine vinegar will make the onions beautifully pink after a couple of hours.
  • EVOO—> omit if you don’t have it. We want the flavor, we don’t need oil here.
  • Oregano—> 1 teaspoon of any dried herb you have, like rosemary or thyme
  • Chicken sausage—> I love using chicken sausage here because it has so many great seasonings already in it, making our job easier! But to mimic chicken sausage, simple use ground chicken (or turkey!) but add another 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon oregano, and a pinch of cayenne.
  • Zucchini—> yellow summer squash.
  • Breadcrumbs—> any kind works! If you have a couple slices of bread you can blend that up and use it!
  • Egg yolk—> 1 tablespoon ground flax + 2 1/2 tablespoons water. Stir together and let it sit for 5 minutes. This “flax egg” will work in a pinch.
  • Basil and mint—> Use whatever fresh herbs you have. Cilantro, parsley, oregano, will all work. Or, use 1 teaspoon dried herbs.
  • Non-stick cooking spray—> lightly drizzle each burger with cooking oil and rub it all over the patty. You don’t want it to drip off, that will cause grill flare ups.
  • Mozzarella—> gouda, white cheddar, shredded mozzarella (instead of fresh), goat cheese, blue cheese… really whatever you have!
  • Burger buns—> I almost always use English muffins, that’s what’s pictured here! These burgers would be lovely on top of a big salad with lots of summery toppings like blueberries and cucumbers.
  • Mayonnaise—> room temperature butter or nonstick cooking spray.

Notes

  • No grill? Smear mayo all over the cut side of the buns, place on a baking sheet, and broil for 2 to 3 minutes until light golden brown. Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Use a paper towel to smear the oil all over the skillet. Cook the burgers for 6 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 4 minutes. Add the mozzarella on top of each burger, pour about a tablespoon of water directly onto the skillet and quickly cover the skillet with a lid or baking sheet for 2 additional minutes until the cheese is melted and the burger is cooked through. This steams the burger to help melt the cheese!
  • Love toppings? Add more! These burgers have so much flavor, and get so much oomph from the marinated onions, that I like keeping them simple. But some butter lettuce, ripe summer tomatoes, or even pickles would be delicious on there!
  • Make it Whole30 by using iceberg lettuce to create a crunchy lettuce “bun”. Instead of cheese, use a Whole30 compliant mayo to make a yummy burger sauce by mixing mayo, lemon juice, and garlic powder together.
Author: Caroline Chambers
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Join the Conversation

  1. Sarah Dee says:

    Thanks for the recipe! We put ours on spinach and arugula and it was so nice and light!

  2. caroline chambers says:

    that sounds PERFECT!

  3. Made these last night – followed your recipe exactly and WOW…. no words for these amazingly juicy and flavorful burgers!!! These will be a summer staple in our house for sure. SO GOOD.

    1. caroline chambers says:

      we have made them SO MANY TIMES already!!!! so glad you love them, too.

  4. Loved the mint and basil combo – so nice to use a few plants that don’t usually overlap in such an excellent pairing! I topped with feta, plain red onion and sriracha mayo and it was a massive success. Thanks for the grill pan tips too – I usually end up with burgers sticking to the pan!

    1. caroline chambers says:

      SRIRACHA MAYO! Yum, love that addition. So happy the grill pan tips helped – a lot of people seem to hate using theirs because they get so messy! Always preheat it really well before adding anything to it! xo

  5. Tried these out last night! My first time trying out one of your recipes, and already ordered the Just Married cookbook 🙂 Husband approved!

  6. Jenn Searls says:

    How large is large on the zucchini? My mother-in-law’s garden has been producing some whoppers!

  7. Jenn Searls says:

    Reply to myself 🙂 My MIL gave me a 2-1/2# zucchini that was as long as my forearm and I got 3 cups from 1/2 of the zucchini.

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