Oklahoma Onion Burger

5 from 16 votes
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An Oklahoma onion burger, if you’ve never heard of one, is one of America’s great regional burger styles. A smashed patty, grilled onions, sometimes pickles, cheese and mustard, these are great with beef or venison.

An Oklahoma onion burger on a plate.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

This is no fancy restaurant burger. No, this is diner food. Sid’s Diner, to be exact. Many places make onion burgers, but Sid’s in El Reno, Oklahoma is widely regarded as one of the premier place to get this mystical concoction. An onion burger consists of a finely ground patty, smashed on a flat top, topped with finely sliced onions, then cheese (for a cheeseburger), topped with pickles and mustard, all on a potato bun.

Every element plays a role. A rich patty, seared hard but still cooked medium at the center. Lots of tender-to-crispy-to-burnt onions. Melty cheese, usually American, although I use cheddar slices. Sharp pickles, ideally sweet-hot bread-and-butter pickles. A little ballpark yellow mustard, and that potato roll — a soft, welcoming, smushable bun that links all this amazing together.

This is dirty food, folks. Late night diner food. Comforting, craveable food that makes you want to eat a second, or even a third patty. One is not enough. But then you eat a second, and you like that one, too… but you immediately feel guilty about it. Onion burgers are that kind of food.

I’ve mentioned a few key details already: potato buns, yellow mustard, zippy pickle slices. The cheese needs to be able to melt quickly, so get the pre-sliced kind. True Oklahoma onion burgers use American cheese, but I hate the stuff, so I use pre-sliced cheddar slices.

The onions need to be sliced very thin, with a knife if you have good knife skills, or a mandoline or even a meat slicer. But watch your fingers if you use these last two!

An onion burger with the top bun off, showing the insides.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

The meat, whatever it’s made of, needs to be fatty and fine. I used venison — a doe I shot in Oklahoma, thus this post — ground in a 4.5 mm die (the “fine” die in most home set-ups), with beef fat, pork fat or bacon ends to a ratio of 85 percent lean to 15 percent fat. You can’t really go too much lower than this because the fat in the patty keeps it from sticking to the pan. Anything more than about 20 percent gets too fatty.

If you are using pre-ground meat, just make sure it’s got that 15 percent fat or thereabouts. 

You need something to smash your patties. I use either a bacon press or a stiff, diner-style spatula. Both work fine. In a pinch you can use a small pan to squash your patty.

These come together quickly, so have all your ingredients at the ready, and bang ’em out for your friends and family!

This is only one of many styles of venison burgers I have here on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. I have a standard, classic venison burger, a green chile elk burger that’s fine with deer meat, a chorizo burger where you mix Mexican chorizo with ground beef or venison, and a mushroom-Swiss venison burger. Hope one of these interests you! 

If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.

An Oklahoma onion burger on a plate.
5 from 16 votes

Oklahoma Onion Burgers

This is a classic Oklahoma onion burger, with sliced onions, cheese and maybe some pickles and mustard. Damn good, and easy to make.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 large yellow or white onion, sliced very thin
  • Salt
  • 1 pound finely ground venison or beef
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • Black pepper
  • 4 slices cheddar, American or other cheese
  • Pickles, mustard and burger buns

Instructions 

  • Slice the onion very thinly, then toss it with a little salt in a bowl and set aside for a few minutes. Divide the meat into four patties.
  • Heat a large frying pan or flat top over medium high heat for a few minutes. When it's hot, add the canola oil. When it's hot, place a patty on the pan and smash it with a spatula or bacon press. Hold for 30 seconds. Sprinkle black pepper on the patty, then cover the patty with onions. It's OK if a few spill onto the hot pan. Cook like this for 2 minutes.
  • Carefully flip the burger. You want to scrape the pan to get everything, in case you have some spots that have stuck. I use my off hand to hold the onions onto the patty as I flip. Once flipped, Press down on the patty to sink the onions into the meat.
  • Add salt and pepper to the patty and lay a slice of cheese onto it. Let this cook for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on how cooked you want your meat. Two minutes will give you a nice medium.
  • To get everything off the pan, place the bun on the cheese and use the spatula to lift the burger off the pan. Set it on the bottom bun. Add pickles and mustard if you want. Optional: Get another pan hot and melt some butter in it to toast the buns before you use them. About 30 seconds should get you a nice toasty brown.

Notes

Potato buns are traditional for an Oklahoma onion burger, but any burger bun will do. Pre-sliced American cheese is also traditional, but I personally prefer slices of cheddar. 

Nutrition

Calories: 333kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 120mg | Sodium: 260mg | Potassium: 442mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 281IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 221mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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22 Comments

  1. Wow! I have to say this was the best venison burger ever. I’ve made this 2x this week and I just want to thank you for sharing your wild game recipes. I used american cheese but will switch to cheddar on my next one. Also thank you for all the detail and sharing your experiences. I cannot wait to try your venison ragu. Thanks again.

  2. I’m a newlywed experimenting with ways to fix venison hunted by my husband. Wow were these burgers a hit! Made them just as you suggested — yellow mustard and pickles. Outstanding! Thank you! Nice to surprise my spouse with a dinner he’s never tried

  3. Sounds Devine . Like a round plumper version of the patty melt i grew up with on Maine.

    However, you nutritional info /macros seems off. 3 g carbs? One onion alone is closer to 30z . And the bun?

  4. Have been craving a diner type burger for a few years now and all of the other recipes on Google that I have tried are dry, basic homemade burgers. While yours EXCEEDED my expectations. Truly delicious!!!

  5. THANKS! For sharing this recipe. Outstanding flavor. My choice of protein was Bison, and Ifollowed your recipe throughout. WOW

  6. I’m born and bred in Northeast Oklahoma. Suddenly Oklahoma Onion burgers are a thing and it makes me chuckle because we’ve been doing it this way our whole lives. I do ground venison and beef fat when I make my burger at a 10% ratio. And it works – not too dry not too greasy. Grill grates flipped over and using the back side I sauteed the onions a little bit first season the Patty with my favorite seasoning smash them down & let them go! Just do it. The more you smash them flat the better the crispy meat edges are. Toasted buns are a must. Happy Spring 2021! Just waiting on a fresh garden tomato to make it perfect.

  7. What is the correct ratio of bacon to venison for ground meat? And should the bacon be raw or pre-fried? We’ve only recently started to use venison with higher amounts of silver skin for sausage. I’m wanting to start using more ground meat for burgers, etc.

  8. I grind my venison lean, with no fat for health reasons. Also seems to keep better frozen than it did when I added fat while grinding. Our FL deer are very lean. Mostly use for Mexican, Italian, chili etc and just brown in olive oil. Question: for burgers, could I just add some bacon fat to the meat while making the patties?

  9. Going Back up state deer hunting after Thanksgiving and taking this recipe. Looking forward to making the burgers for my hunting buddies. I have made these before and everyone loved them. The only change I made is to toast the open face of the buns with butter. Yummy

  10. Veronica: I thought that at first glance, but I think it just looks that way because the color of the sliced onions & meat are similar.

    Great, now I’ve spent *even more* time looking at this picture and I’m drooling – I blame you, Hank.

  11. As a native Okie, I didn’t realize this was unique to us. you’re making me homesick! Mark “Spach” Amspacher used to make up a good one at The Diner in downtown Norman as I recall. I might have to make up a batch with the doe I took last Saturday….

  12. Dang Hank!
    We are always looking for another way to utilize deer. Have all your books and looking forward to the next one. This recipe was the bomb man. We live in the heartland not a 100 miles from the northeast border of Oklahoma so this recipe hit pretty close to home. As a husband and wife hunting team we have taken four archery deer and my first with an air rifle and we were grinding burger this morning so we made these burgers for lunch. Yowza! Thanks Hank,
    Marty Horn

  13. Just had lunch now I’m bloody starving again!

    Hank what’s your recipe for potato bun’s – I’ve eaten potato breads before but never made them.
    SBW