Simple ingredients and old-school techniques come together to make these iconic Oklahoma Fried Onion Burgers. You're going to love the flavors of the onion and cheese all blending with the juicy hamburger patty! Smashed onion burgers are sure to become a favorite family dinner night recipe.
What is an Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger?
During the great depression, restaurant owner Ross Davis started making smash burgers at the Hamburger Inn in El Reno, Oklahoma. Onions were inexpensive, so they were a great way to add flavor, allowing him to cut down a little on the amount of expensive beef he used!
These burgers are made by smashing a ball of hamburger meat onto a hot griddle and then piling super thinly sliced onions on top. The onions caramelize into the patty and are topped with a slice of cheese. All of the flavors come together nicely on a steamed bun. You can still find the Oklahoma Onion Burger in burger joints across the state, like Johnnie's Charcoal Broiler and Sid's Diner.
Also known as depression burgers, this recipe will become a favorite for you and can be cooked at home in a cast iron griddle or skillet, or on a flat top grill.
Ground Beef: This burger is supposed to be simple, so you don't need any fancy meat blends. I use an 85% lean ground beef so that the burger is nice and juicy. If you want something more exotic then my Elk Burger recipe is for you!
Onions: It doesn't really matter what kind of onion you use, as the inherent flavor is overtaken by the caramelization. So grab whatever yellow or white onions you have. The only thing that is important here is that it is sliced paper-thin.
Cheese: I used American cheese because it is the traditional topping for this recipe, but you can replace it with your favorite cheese.
Potato Buns - Potato buns have a great softness that can hold up to the pile of filling for this burger. They also add a little tiny bit of sweetness to round out the flavors. You can also use your favorite bun style or make homemade hamburger buns!
Prep the Ingredients
- Cut your raw onions as thin as possible. A mandolin works great for this if you have one, or you can also use a very sharp knife.
- Thin onion slices cook quickly and they also almost melt into the burger.
Shape Beef -
- I like to use a scale to divide the meat into 4-ounce portions so that the beef patties are equal.
- Form the beef into round balls. The less you handle the meat the juicier it will be, so set them aside once they are shaped into a ball.
Step One: Press the Burgers
- Place the ground beef balls onto a hot cooking surface.
- Working quickly, press each ball firmly with a large spatula, pressing it into a thin patty.
Step Two: Add Onions
- Pile the sliced onions in separate mounds on top of each patty. Try to get an equal amount of onions on each one. It is okay if some fall off onto the griddle. This isn't supposed to be neat and clean.
Step Three: Flip Burgers
- After 2-3 minutes the bottom of the burger should have a nice brown crust. If you look closely you will see some of the juices starting to come up on the top of the patty. Now is the time to flip the burgers and onions.
- Scrape up any meat pieces that are left on the griddle and place them on top of the burger.
Step Four: Steam Buns
- Place the bottom bun directly onto the burger patty, then add the top bun and steam them for one minute.
- Set the buns aside and add the cheese.
- Once the cheese is melted, use your spatula to transfer the patties and caramelized onions onto the steamed buns.
- The Oklahoma Onion Burger is traditionally topped with mustard and a few dill pickles, but it is acceptable to add ketchup, or whatever toppings you enjoy.
- Of course, you have to have French fries when you are enjoying an Oklahoma Burger! There is nothing better than crispy Parmesan Truffle Fries to complement a hamburger dinner!
- Onion rings with some ranch dip are also a popular pairing in Oklahoma.
- Sure, you could serve them with steamed vegetables. But why take the joy out of life?
- To effectively smash the burgers, you will want to use a very stiff metal spatula that has zero bend. You may find it helpful to use two spatulas, with one crossed over the other. This allows one of the spatulas to give leverage and pressure pushing the other spatula evenly to form the meat into a patty.
- Once the meat has been pressed into a patty you want to leave it as undisturbed as possible. The more that you press it and handle it the more juices will be pressed out of the meat. Just quickly press it down and then leave it alone until you are ready to flip it so that you end up with juicy and delicious burgers.
- Steaming the buns makes them soft and makes them taste freshly baked. You don't want to leave them on the burger for too long or they will get soggy. Just about a minute is the perfect amount of time.
You can refrigerate the cooked patties and onions in an airtight container. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days or in the freezer for up to three months. Store the buns separately at room temperature and then steam the buns when you're ready to reheat the burgers.
Really any onion can be used for this recipe because the cooking method removes much of the onions' flavor, leaving you with delicious, melt-in-your-mouth caramelization. I personally love sweet Vidalia onions as they give just a hint of a different flavor, but it isn't noticeable enough to truly matter.
One thing that makes the Oklahoma onion burger so delicious is how the onions cook into the patty. This adds additional flavor to your hamburger. But you could also cook the onions on separately on the hot griddle, or caramelize them in a skillet while the smash burgers are cooking on the griddle.
To keep the meat juicy, you don't want to handle it very much. , then the fats stick to your hands instead of in the meat mixture. If you make a ball and then smash it quickly down onto the griddle, you sear the meat and lock in the juices more; that's why smash burgers are popular; they are juicy on the inside and crispy and well-cooked on the outside, and usually thin.
Let me know how you like this recipe by leaving a review! And follow along on Instagram @stateofdinner for behind the scenes and to be among the first to know when new recipes post!
Oklahoma Onion BurgersRecipe by:
- 2 medium white or yellow onions (thinly sliced, about 2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 4 slices American cheese
- 4 potato buns
- Use a sharp knife or mandolin to slice the onions very thin.
- Divide the ground beef into 4 equal-sized balls (4 ounces each).
- Heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Once it is hot, add the oil to the pan or griddle.
- Place the 4 hamburger balls onto the pan and quickly press the meat with a sturdy spatula to form a hamburger patty. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder then quickly top each of the patties with about a half cup of sliced onions. (It is okay for some of the onions to fall off the burger and onto the pan.)
- Allow the hamburger and onions to cook for about 2 minutes, without touching or disturbing them. Once the meat has browned, flip them over, scraping up any meat that has stuck to the pan and placing it back onto the burger.
- Place the buns on top of the meat patty for about a minute to steam them. Once they are soft, remove the buns and place a slice of cheese on top of each patty.
- When cooked to your desired doneness, place the cheese-covered patties and onions onto the buns and serve immediately.