Turkey-Spinach Burgers with Sweet Soy-Ginger Sauce

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Photo Ben Gebo Photography

Ben Gebo Photography

STRATEGY SESSION: In this recipe, I substitute turkey for pork to keep total  fat, saturated fat, and calories low. To cook the burgers, I use macadamia nut oil because olive oil’s flavor would be inappropriate in this setting.


For 25 years, I’ve been happily married to someone whose food preferences are at the furthest verge from mine. He craves comfort; I seek adventure. He likes mellow; I love spicy. He wants familiar, I need surprise.

To give you the full flavor of it: Over the past month, I’ve been working on a broccoli soup (coming soon to Recipe of the Week). On the first round, I pureed the soup and added a little tarragon. His reaction? “There’s something weird in it.” The next week, I omitted the tarragon, but left the soup chunky to lower the glycemic index. Response:   ”I’d like it better if it were completely pureed.”  (My rejoinder: “I’m going to puree ALL of your food from now on.”) And so it goes.

To limit this dynamic, I usually alternate cooking for him and for myself. Once in a while, however, our tastes intersect, and these burgers are a case in point. They’re complex enough for me and soothing enough for him. Unless you hate ginger or scallions, they’re probably in your sweet spot too!

Serving suggestions: I like these burgers with an Asian-inspired slaw of Napa cabbage, bean sprouts, and red bell pepper dressed with sesame oil, rice vinegar, and maple syrup or honey. (Also on the waiting list for Recipe of the  Week.) I’ve also served them with snow peas or sugar snaps, blanched 1 minute, and tossed in sesame oil and soy sauce.

Note:If you wish to reduce the sodium content of the sauce (from 717 to 502 mg per serving), you can substitute low-sodium for regular soy sauce; however, you may need to adjust the quantity of brown sugar as well. If you’re pressed for time, you can speed-cool the reduced sauce: Transfer it to a stainless steel bowl and set the bowl in an ice-water bath. Stir occasionally until cool, approximately 5 minutes.

Special note: I am delighted to announce that these quirky turkey burgers were ranked #3 out of 3166 posts in the Foodbuzz Top 9 on January 27th, 2010.

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  • January 25 2010, 6:15 PM

    Wow! this looks fantastic! I’m glad I just stumbled across your blog! thanks for sharing :)

  • January 25 2010, 6:35 PM

    These burgers really are delicious. HInt: Be careful not to overcook them. Turkey can dry out in a hurry!

  • January 25 2010, 10:20 PM

    Isn’t there anyway to eat healthy other than icky dry, dry turkey and weird tasting tofu? If y’all could offer something that everyday people could get excited about eating everyone would probably be more excited about trying to eat better things. OK - all you perfect people who have amazing nutritional habits - bring it on - I’m sure there will be lots of negative comments to this comment

  • January 25 2010, 10:56 PM

    Hello, Trish. I’m trying to understand your tone. It’s not exactly congenial. But, since you’ve issued what seems to be a challenge, I’ll try to respond. If you look at my list of recipes (just click the RECIPES button at the top of the page), you’ll see that there is only 1 recipe for turkey (this one) and you’ll find exactly NONE for tofu. In addition, these turkey burgers will NOT be dry unless you overcook them. However, if turkey’s not your thing, there are many other options. All you have to do is open your eyes and mind to them.

  • January 26 2010, 9:31 AM

    Deborah: Sorry if I sounded terse - I didn’t mean it to come off that way. I’d truly like to eat healthier and my husband and I are doing better than we have in the past. I guess I wish there was a way of making some of these recipes without having to resort to ground turkey since neither of us even care for the flavor of turkey. It also seems that more and more recipes these days (not this one particularly) depend on a lot of spicy hot ingredients which we also don’t enjoy. I know I should try to be more open minded but having tried some of these recipes and being very disappointed makes it hard to keep experimenting. I do enjoy your blog and have saved several things to try. I enjoy your website as well. Please chalk up my slight crabbiness yesterday to it being a Monday and us suffering through one of the worst winters in many years here in Nebraska. No sunshine for 10 days can put some people in an awful mood! Thanks for what you’re trying to accomplish.

  • January 26 2010, 9:51 AM

    No worries. I was simply puzzled by your apparent irritation. I couldn’t figure out what I had done to provoke it. Meanwhile, I’d like to address some of the issues you’ve raised.

    Turkey is a lean protein and therefore a common feature in healthy recipes. If you don’t like it, that’s that.

    Re spicy foods: Just in case you missed my little intro above, my husband is with you. He won’t eat half of the things I’ve written about. However, if by “spicy” you mean “hot”, you still have some options: Amazing Black Beans, Fennel with Garlic and Parsley, Macomber Turnip Fries, Salvadoran Meatballs, Salad of Roasted Beets…, Skinny Joes, New Year’s Eve Beef Tenderloin…, and- if you omit the red pepper flakes- Shrimp Marinara and Zuppa di Pesce.

    The reason many healthy recipes are spicy is that food has to stimulate certain receptors in the brain to be satisfying. Reducing fat reduces flavor, and that reduces the stimulating/satisfying impact of food. To compensate, many people turn to up the spices and heat. That’s just a fact, and- if you don’t like spicy- it does limit your choices. Nevertheless, I hope you find a few things here that you’ll like and I have some non-spicy items coming up (a turnip soup next week, then a grapefruit slaw, some non-spicy seared scallops, a pork tenderloin with port wine reduction…). Stay tuned…

  • January 27 2010, 3:09 AM

    Very savory.
    This is very healty recipe…

  • January 27 2010, 4:46 AM
    Coking Rookie

    Lovely recipes, wonderful site. I will be visiting here often to learn your healthy tips. So far I only try to use chicken broth and yogurt instead of oil and butter, and it does not always taste as well as I’d like it to :-). I certainly want to find out more techniques.

  • January 27 2010, 7:56 AM

    I’ve been trying to go the healthy way for a while now. But mostly that turns into something with too many green things in it. And, although I love the colour, I HATE leafy greens!!! So, this one’s perfect for me. Happy cooking!!!

  • January 27 2010, 8:35 AM
    Carol Egbert

    Thanks for a great recipe. I love ginger, spice and even ground turkey. Congratulations on both your top 9 spot and your measured response to comments.

  • January 27 2010, 9:43 AM

    Thanks and thanks! I’m very happy that this recipe was in your sweet spot!

  • January 27 2010, 9:46 AM

    Thanks so much for your comment. I’m thrilled that I can sneak some spinach into someone who hates leafy greens!! I hope you’ll come back often for some other non-leafy-non-green recipes. Next week’s Turnip Soup isn’t green either…

  • January 27 2010, 10:05 AM

    Cooking Rookie,
    Thanks for your comment. I love rookies!! Many years ago I had a teacher, Ed Purcell, who had won the Nobel Prize in Physics when he was 40. (He was 66 when I met him.) Because it was a small class, I got to know him fairly well and I once asked him what it had meant to him to receive the prize when he was so young. He said that it had enabled him to remain a beginner his whole life. By that, he meant that it had allowed him to receive grants to study whatever he wanted- no matter how far from the field in which he had made his mark. His Nobel was for nuclear magnetic resonance (the basis for MRI), but when I worked with him, he was studying the motility of one-celled organisms (flagellated protozoa). He said being a rookie kept his imagination fed and made him feel alive. At the time, I was a 26-year-old graduate student in English preparing for medical school. He was commenting to some extent on my change of career. Anyway, he died in 1997 and I haven’t thought of him in a long time. He was a lovely man, and your comment brought back a very sweet memory. Thanks again.


    P.S. I noticed that you tried to communicate with me on Foodbuzz, but something odd happened when I tried to open your message. I didn’t want you to think that I ignored it…

  • January 27 2010, 10:05 AM

    Thank you!

  • January 27 2010, 10:06 AM

    I made a slight error: Monica Bhide’s Indian-Style Chili contains ground turkey, so I currently have 2 turkey recipes on the site, not just 1.

  • January 27 2010, 10:35 AM

    These look great! I am always looking for ways to use ground turkey that will appeal to my hubby. These just might do it! Congrats on the Top 9 today!

  • January 27 2010, 11:02 AM

    Thanks very much for your encouragement and support (and your friendship on FB). Much appreciated!

  • February 3 2010, 1:15 PM
    Carla Riley

    This looks delicious! I personally love experimenting with burgers as they can be so wonderfully diverse. Here is a tip for those who tend to get dry patties:

    Skin and shred a zucchini in the mix. This will maximize the moisture! Not to mention the extra veg that you are getting per serving!

  • February 3 2010, 1:28 PM

    That is a terrific suggestion. I hadn’t thought of zucchini. My inclusion of spinach in this recipe has a similar purpose. In addition, I use roasted poblano pepeprs in bison burgers sometimes- which also tend to be dry. Thanks very much for the idea. I’ll put it to use immediately!!

  • February 4 2010, 10:46 PM

    I tried this tonight and my kids LOVED it!!! We had it on wheat buns with sprouts and tomatoes. I can’t wait to try it on the grill when the weather gets better. Thank you!

  • February 4 2010, 11:45 PM

    Your comment makes my day! Having struggled for years to find healthy things my son would eat, I’m thrilled that your children liked these burgers. Thanks so much for letting me know.

  • February 8 2010, 10:37 AM
    Rose Coleman

    A HUGE HIT! I made these numerous times and the second time I was in a hurry and left out the 1 tbsp of the reserved sauce and yes they were a bit less moist though really tasty so be sure to add the extra sauce to the meat mixture before cooking. I made these as 2″ sliders for a Super Bowl party last night — people loved them!

  • February 8 2010, 10:48 AM

    I am SO glad you and your guests enjoyed them. They’re a big hit in my house too!


  • February 24 2010, 11:49 PM
    Abby C.

    A great recipe - this will become a staple in my house.

    I also tried it with salmon - I chopped the raw salmon in my food processor and made the patties - even better than the turkey!!! Yum!

  • February 25 2010, 12:13 AM

    Brilliant idea!! I wish I had thought of it! I’ll definitely try it. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • March 16 2010, 11:59 PM

    I made this tonight and all I can say is:”Wow”. These were amazing! My husband kept saying how much they tasted and had a texture like pork. We served it alongside spicy asian slaw from here: http://cookincanuck.blogspot.com/2010/02/spicy-asian-slaw-recipe-with-napa.html A healthy, low-calorie, delicious meal. I love your site! Thank you.

  • March 17 2010, 12:09 AM

    I’m thrilled that you and your husband enjoyed them!! Thanks for letting me know.

  • June 7 2010, 10:56 AM

    I made these last night for myself, my partner and my non-spice eating friend and they were blown away. Can’t wait to try more of your recipes.

  • June 7 2010, 11:20 AM

    I’m SO glad you enjoyed them. You might also like Lazy Woman’s Robatayaki Chicken:

  • January 4 2011, 10:26 AM

    i have been utilizing online recipes for a while now, and this delicious recipe is the first ever to prompt me to leave a glowing comment of praise. these turkey burgers are absolutely delicious. my boyfriend is die-hard red meat, but he devoured these burgers. they are full of flavor, easy to make, and feel amazing going down knowing they’re healthy. well done!

  • January 4 2011, 10:53 AM

    Your comment absolutely makes my day!! Thanks SO much for taking the time to comment.

  • February 10 2011, 2:00 PM

    These turkey burgers were delicious! I made these last night and they were a hit with the family. Thanks for the recipe =)

  • March 8 2011, 8:35 PM

    Deborah, I was referred to your website from a friend, as I have been working on a healthy diet eating plan. The turkey burgers recipe was easy and delicious, I almost felt guilty eating it. Hard to believe such flavour is a well balanced meal. I can’t wait to try more of your recipes.

  • March 8 2011, 8:41 PM

    I’m so happy you enjoyed them. Thanks for letting me know.

  • May 28 2011, 3:04 AM
    last minute oferty

    Fantastic news! thank for the infor, love to hear more

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