Spicy Turkey and Zucchini Burger

Recipe adapted from the cookbook Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6


  • 1 pound ground turkey meat
  • Just under 2 cups, lightly packed, coarsely grated zucchini (from about 2 to 3 small zucchinis or one medium zucchini)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced, onion greens included
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (spearmint)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (tender stems included)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sour cream sauce:

  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper


1 Make the sour cream sauce by placing all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl and stirring until combined. Chill until ready to use.

2 Mix the turkey zucchini mixture: In a large bowl place the grated zucchini, sliced green onions, chopped mint, cilantro, and garlic, ground cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir to combine.

With your hands, mix in the ground turkey until the zucchini mixture is well distributed through the ground turkey.

3 Form patties: Use your hands to form 3 to 4 inch wide patties, placing them on a baking sheet. Note that the patties will be rather wet, so they may be a little tricky to handle.

4 Fry gently: Heat 3 Tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan on medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, lower the heat to medium.

Working in batches, place the patties in the pan. Let cook for about 5 minutes, then flip the patties over and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes.

You want them to brown and to gently cook all the way through. If the temperature is too high, they'll get browned on the outside but the inside will still be raw. So, cook them gently.

If the outsides are browned and the insides still aren't done, lower the heat and cook longer.

5 Remove to paper-towel lined plate: Once the first batch of patties are done, remove to a paper towel-lined plate while you cook the second batch. Or you can keep the patties warm in a 200°F oven.

Makes 8 large patties or up to 18 small ones. Serve with the sour cream sauce.

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  • Ellen

    Delicious; this is a keeper. Instead of burgers, I spread this into a casserole, just under an inch thick, and baked at 350 for about 20+ minutes until cooked through. It turned out great! Next time I’ll sprinkle some paprika on top for color. I also added the oil to the turkey… no harm done. The sauce is so good; I made it entirely with plain Greek yogurt.

  • Salma

    Made these with few minor tweaks. I used minced chicken and didn’t have mint so didn’t include it. Also added 3 cloves of minced garlic instead of 1. Was a huge hit with my family who are picky eaters!


  • Lisa Myers

    My family loves these meatballs! My husband has celiac disease, and this is one dish he can eat that he loves. We eat them plain with no sauce because they are that good! To save some time and labor to do other things in the kitchen, I put them in the oven for about 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees and they turn out just as good. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  • Cheryl

    Absolutely wonderful, even for cooks like me with more enthusiasm than skill. I made a mistake and put oil into the turkey mixture (the 3 TBL go into the pan). The burgers didn’t hold together, and the next time I make the recipe, I may make the mixture into meatballs (on purpose). The combination of spices is perfect. I was reluctant to add the mint (with cayenne???), but it was perfect. Pretty foolproof.


  • Mary Beth Nupp

    I made these burgers exactly per the recipe. The only way I found to improve them was to nestle one, cut in half, in pita bread and top with diced cucumber, feta cheese and the recipe’s sour cream sauce. Soooooo good! Very well received by the whole family!!


  • Barbara

    I made the burgers according to the recipe, just cutting back the cayenne a bit, and in small patties. I served them with tehina instead of the yogurt sauce, with Israeli salad and pita. Easy enough for a weeknight dinner and very tasty! Definitely a keeper!


  • Joanne

    I plan to make these for the first time tomorrow and will add za’atar seasoning, which contains sumac, to the sauce.

  • Lauren

    I made these tonight and first off, they were so easy to make, second of all they were delicious! I will definitely be making these again. I love that you can store the extra patties in the refrigerator and use them for lunches or leftovers for the rest of the week.


  • Carrie

    As a novice cook, these were very easy to make and were delicious!


  • Jeanne

    This is the end of boring turkey burgers! Actually, I made mine with chicken mince as I’m living in Singapore right now and ground turkey isn’t sold here. And I cut the cayenne in half for my first attempt and I thought perfect for my heat tolerance. I’m doing online Weight Watchers and it fits right into the program. These smelled DIVINE as they were cooking and were just delicious. Will be making them again. Thank you, Elise, for the great recipe. I shared your link with my Facebook friends.


    • Elise Bauer

      Thanks Jeanne, I’m so glad you like it! Can’t take credit for the base recipe, it’s by Yotam Ottolenghi in his seminal Jerusalem cookbook. I highly recommend this cookbook for its innovative and delicious recipes.

  • Eddie

    These burgers were delicious, I baked them instead of frying added chipotle seasoning placed on onion buns, absolutely a hit, thanks so much

  • Milu

    Loved burger recipe. Added teriyaki garlic sauce to dressing mixture for flavor.


  • holly

    I have made this recipe over and over again and shared it with friends and colleagues who also adore it. Thank you for sharing it!!! WE LOVE IT! The yogurt sauce, too!


  • Carol Watkins

    This looks wonderful. Do you peel the zucchini before grating it?

  • Liz S

    The zucchini really adds a great depth of flavor as well as helping with the overall juiciness. We make this all the time!


  • Brie

    My mom made these for me and I loved them so much! We put them on warmed Naan bread :)

  • Glen

    Made meatloaf with this base recipe. Added one egg to mixture and homemade burnt toast croutons. Baked with previously browned onion, garlic, green pepper and orange pepper. Cooked one hour. Made gravy with the pan leftovers. Glazed top for last10 minutes with ketchup. Awesome. The base burger recipe is my favorite!

  • Jackie

    These were fantastic! The sauce was sooo good. In my opinion, the burgers didn’t need bread. In fact, I cooked up small ‘meat’ balls and dipped those in the sauce. Believe the reviews and impress your friends.
    I just had some leftovers, I still can’t believe how tasty this is. Change up the spices if you want. I was tired of cumin and used ground coriander seed instead- not much. Elise, thanks again for a great recipe!

  • Sharon Marriott

    Everyone loved them here. The boys gave them a big thumbs up. We added fresh garden tomatoes, a bit of stone ground mustard mustard and garnished it with shredded kale.

  • Alexa

    Holy moly these were amazing. I will definitely be making these throughout the summer!

  • jenn

    These look wonderful, do you eat them as a burger with a bun, or alone with a side dish?

    • Elise Bauer

      I would eat them without a bun, though there’s no reason you couldn’t use a bun if you wanted to.


    Yum! I made these even easier than they already are – grated the zucchini with the grating attachment on my food processor, then chopped the green onions, garlic, mint and cilantro in the regular bowl of the food processor. I opted for ground chicken instead of turkey since that is the only thing my neighborhood stores carry that hasn’t been previously frozen. Instead of making the sour cream sauce I topped with a store-bought tzatziki sauce. They were so good! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Christine

    Has anyone tried this recipe as meatballs?

    • Marcia Coman

      I always make them as meatballs or Poppers as One Lovely Life calls this recipe (onelovelylife.com/chicken-zucchini-poppers-gf-df/ but Elise had it first after Jeruselm!). I don’t cook in pan with oil, I put them in the oven for 20-25 minutes. I also squeezed out some of the water in the zucchini. See my Aug 1, 2013 comment.

  • Heather

    Made these this week – delicious! Added some breadcrumbs and an egg, doubled the herbs; also added some cucumber to the yogurt sauce. Delicious! I would recommend using a non-stick pan!

  • :D

    What do you serve these delicious turkey burgers with?

    • Elise Bauer

      Whatever you want, a salad perhaps? Try a grated carrot salad.

  • Joc

    Looks delicious… Not such a huge turkey fan, can you switch it out & put chicken or beef mince instead? Excited to try this!

    • Elise Bauer

      I would try it with ground chicken (thighs if you can choose).

  • Abby

    This was one of the biggest hits of any recipe we’ve tried! My man made a riff on the sauce based on what we had available: all yogurt (greek lowfat), sriracha, cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper. Fantastic and spicy!

  • Savannah F.

    This recipe is so delicious. A little spicy for me so I reduced the cayenne. Definitely a keeper. Thanks for all the yummy recipes, Elise.

  • Megan

    These were delisious! thank you!!! there were so many flavors in every bit!!

  • Verni

    I’ve been a long time silent visitor to your site. But this recipe compelled me to write something for the first time. I halved this recipe since I am by myself and it turned out spectacular; I absolutely love it! Probably the best turkey recipes I have ever tried. Thanks Elise :)

  • Liz

    I recently discovered (in a desperate attempt to use up squash from our garden) that if you put about 4x as much zucchini as the recipe calls for into zucchini bread, it turns into a deliciously moist, almost bread-pudding-like kind of zucchini bread… :)

  • Cheri

    These were very nice. I didn’t make the sour cream sauce — made a thousand island dressing (had the ingredients on hand). I also used a grill pan. The patties were a little on the wet side – but that was my fault for not squeezing the liquid from the zucchini. Will definitely make again.

  • Kelly

    I too salted my zukes 1st. I also added more of the herbs, lots in yard! Then I do add some panko or bread crumbs to make the moisture right. Made these 4 times so far. Love them for breakfast! Also I heated some up the other day & decided to lay them in a flour tortilla added some homemade tzatzik & fresh cukes & toms from garden. Rolled up & yummy eating!!

  • Argonaught

    I made these on the grill by first keeping them on a sheet of foil until they firmed up, then transferring them directly to the grill for the final bit of cooking. I love them SO much! The creamy/tangy sauce is necessary and delicious! Thank you!

  • Marcia Coman

    I needed an appetizer for a party I was going to so I made these into meatballs. I did ring out about a cup of water from the zucchini and then just rolled them in balls and baked for about 20-25 minutes. Then used the sauce to dip them in. They were a hit! My friend had sumac in her pantry so we added it to the sauce. Very good!

  • rapper450

    Oh my goodness, were these good! I was a little pressed for time during prep so overlooked draining my zucchini, but I doubt it had too much of a negative effect as they held together OK in the pan and everyone chowed down on them anyway! I loved the flavors of mint and cilantro in the turkey, and the sour cream sauce was to die for! I had held back a little on the cayenne but I will not in the future. All the flavors allowed me to reduce the sodium by 50% and not miss it at all!


  • Arcey

    Just made these today for a potluck. They were quite good. Glad I doubled the recipe because now I still have some meat mixture left to make more for myself!

    I made a silly mistake when adding all the ingredients to the meat mixture. I wasn’t really thinking and added the oil (the last ingredient on the list) to the meat mixture. As soon as I did that, I slapped my forehead and said d’oh! I realized after it was meant for frying, not as an ingredient. But ya know, it didn’t hurt at all, and who knows, maybe it even made it better. :)

    A couple of suggestions:
    1. Something is missing from the ingredient list item “1/2 freshly ground pepper.” I’m sure you meant 1/2 tsp., but it may be good to add it in to the recipe.

    2. I recommend using an ice cream scoop (the old kind) to form the patties. Keeps your hands cleaner and forms patties the same size and nice and round. After to scoop the mixture into the oil, just pat it down a little with the back of the scoop. You can use a 4 oz. or smaller scoop.

    • Elise Bauer

      Great catch and great suggestion, thanks! (the typo is now fixed)

  • zh

    Made these last weekend for company and they were delicious. I used grated crookneck squash instead of zucchini and everyone ate every bite. Thanks so much for the recipe!!

  • Walter Underwood

    This was a keeper.

    We have the Jerusalem cookbook, so I checked that, too. I included the egg and made them a little smaller than burgers, maybe crab cake size. They are easier to brown with more oil, which Jerusalem recommends.

    Essentially, I cooked these like “turkey latkes”, with enough oil to brown easily and a medium-hot pan.

    I don’t see any reason to “cut back on the spicy stuff” as an earlier commenter did. It may seem like a lot of cayenne, but it is just enough to bring out the flavors. Perfectly spiced.

    Oddly, our Safeway stocks ground turkey in 1.25 pound lots (precisely, two brands), so you might want to adjust recipes to that size.

  • Li

    So good! I sautéed them as per recipe then baked in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Sauce was amazing!

  • LPP

    Made these last night. DELICIOUS. This recipe is going in the regular cycle of favorites. I served it on a bun for my picky nine-year-old who loves hamburgers to fake her out. Worked! I especially loved the lemon sauce.

    My only complaint is that it took too long to fry them in batches so we ended up eating in shifts (my pan isn’t that big). Could you put all the patties on a cookie sheet and bake them in the oven? How long do you think it would take and at what temp?

  • Jesse Gardner

    We just made this the other night for dinner, and it was delicious. My wife cooked it a bit too long (always nervous about poultry getting cooked enough). Thanks for sharing!

  • M Hundley

    I made these for dinner this week and they were a hit! These will definitely go into a regular rotation this summer.

  • Alex

    Made these tonight after staring longingly at the picture for a few days. They were fantastic! Even my fiance, who is notorious for not liking turkey burgers, wanted me to make them and LOVED them! If I can find sumac, I’d love to try them with that substitution. Thanks so much for another wonderful recipe! You’ve never steered me wrong!!!


  • Mish

    I forgot to mention in my comment that I put the patties in the freezer to harden before grilling them and they still stuck to the grill.

  • Annie

    This recipe is amazing!!! I’ve never had turkey burgers this moist and flavorful. Even my 18 month old loved them! Obviously I cut back on the spicy stuff for her sake but still so good. Thanks Elise!

  • Hong

    Tried the recipe tonight and my husband and I really loved it! I would drain the moisture from the zucchinis the next time.

  • Mish

    I made these with the Italian herbs as Elise suggested, because that’s what I had on hand, omitted the scallions because I didn’t have any (but love them and will definitely add next time), and followed the adjustment to the sauce to use Sumac powder. I made half on the grill but they shrunk and were sticking to the grill so I made the second batch in the pan. They were definitely plumper and more moist. I’m going to purchase a grill basket of some sort and try grilling it again, and will also try to control the temperature better. Anyway, my verdict? This is a fantastic recipe. So very tasty and different. Can’t wait to try it with the mint and cilantro as well. You can easily skip the sauce as the burgers are great on their own, but it’s such a nice, unique sauce, why not enjoy it?

  • Sam

    I’d love to make these, but as it’s just my husband and I, 8 burgers at once might be too much. I’d like to make 4 for dinner/leftovers now and freeze 4 for a later date. Do you think it would be better to freeze them raw or cooked? Or would neither work out very well? Thank you!!

  • Nina

    We just made this tonight and are going to add it to our “keepers” list :) The sauce was amazing.

  • Rich

    I scan your blog periodically and try out something when it catches my attention. This one clicked for me as a great summer alternate burger. My wife and I were really shocked how good this was! I followed your suggestion to a commenter who couldn’t handle hot stuff and made it Italian style. I think you could make this burger with just about any combination of herbs and spices that appeal to you. Asian? Southwest? Latin? I bet any would be great. Thanks Elise!

  • Michael Selz

    Though they are very wet before cooking, with some care, this is very grill-able. They came out great cooked on medium heat. Just don’t turn them too early. Or too often.

  • Jerry

    Another “keeper”! Oddly, my local grocery did not have ground turkey. I improvised with a boneless/skinless chicken breast and two thighs and while I had the Kitchenaid grinder hooked up I also ran the zucchini through it. Perfectly moist with wonderful texture and flavor. I thought I had sumac but it turned out to be ground sour grapes. Worked fine as a substitute! I would recommend using smaller zucchini. Mine were on the biggish side and had some seeds that didn’t grind up. No biggie unless you’re worried about presentation. Thanks for another wonderful recipe.

  • Arcey

    Meant to add to my post a few seconds ago:

    What about part sour cream and part plain (not Greek) yogurt?

    • Elise Bauer

      You could easily make a sauce with regular plain yogurt instead of Greek yogurt. And you could make the sauce with all yogurt too, though if you did that, I would cut back on the lemon juice as the result would be a little too acidic.

  • Arcey

    Would all yogurt (not Greek) be good instead of part sour cream and part Greek yogurt? Looks great!

  • Shannon L

    This recipe is Gluten Free!

    Made this a few days ago – awesome just as printed, nice amount of heat from Cayenne.
    Just as good reheated the next day.

    Sauce was good, lemon peel is the key. Could possibly use another flavour layer added. Perhaps like a very small amount of Agave nectar or honey.

    Tried freezing patties for about 15 min prior to frying but didn’t seem to matter much. Thought they would be less sticky.
    Good advice to fry low & slow. Kept moist and the herbs didn’t burn.


  • Claire

    I just made them and both my parents liked them. Finding anything that they BOTH like is a miracle! Thanks for the recipe, it was a big hit, and we will definitely remake them.

  • joanne stone

    …made these burgers for lunch…..yum…..they were so good….what a wonderful use of extra zucchini…..who knew?!

  • Mark

    Sounds and looks fantastic! I have some nice zucchini from our CSA, but I don’t have turkey on hand. Do you think this would work with ground beef?

    • Elise Bauer

      Sounds interesting. If you try it with beef, please let us know how it turns out for you.

      • Mark

        The burgers were good with beef. Otherwise I followed the recipe as written. I’ll have to get some ground turkey to try next.

  • Jessica

    I have been eyeing Jerusalem in my local cookbook store for some time now, and after making these burgers for dinner tonight I have decided I have to purchase it! These were great burgers! I was happy because the recipe incorporated a lot of ingredients from my food basket this week, so it was great to use all of the fresh veggies for the dish. My boyfriend said it tasted very gardeny, which was true.

    I wasn’t sure if it would be better bunless or with bun, but I decided to try it with a soft fluffy kaiser bun and it was perfect. Very fresh and perfect for a hot summer night!

  • Emily

    Made these tonight. Feels so great to be using veggies and herbs from our garden! These burgers were the first moist turkey burgers I have ever had! And very flavorful! The only thing is that they were VERY salty. Well, I don’t know if it was the burgers or the sauce or both. I am pretty sure I followed the recipe. I will definitely make these again, but cut back on the salt next time. Thanks!

  • Bethany

    These look amazing. We’re sadly not a super spicy family. If you wanted to take some of the zing out, what would you do – cut back the cayenne pepper?

    • Elise Bauer

      You could cut back on the cumin and the cayenne for this recipe to make it less spicy. Or you could change it up entirely and use Italian seasoning with basil and parsley for the herbs instead of cilantro and mint.

  • Ari Brown

    Made these tonight and they were everything a regular turkey burger is not- moist, tender, full of flavor, and something I’ll be making again soon. I didn’t get to the yogurt sauce, so I just mixed some sumac in with the burgers, and sprinkled some on top while they were cooking. So delicious, as all your recipes always are!

  • Tina

    Oh my goodness!!! These are truly the best burgers – my husband and I both agree!

    I made the burgers according to the recipe, but for the sauce, I left the sour cream off and just used the yogurt. Delicious!

    Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  • Megan S

    My whole family loved the taste of these turkey burgers! This is such a good feeling since normally they just stick to beef ones.
    This recipe is a keeper :)

  • [email protected]

    Looking forward to trying to put these on the grill I hope they are not too wet…

    • Elise Bauer

      They are quite wet, but maybe if you use a grill basket that will work.

  • B.A.

    Would I be able to substitute summer squash for the zucchini?

    • Elise Bauer

      You mean patty pan squash? I find patty pan squash to be a little firmer and drier than zucchini. But it all depends on the individual squash. YOu could always sprinkle some water on the shredded squash if it feels too dry.

      • B.A.

        They are not pan but long yellow summer squash. It might not be pretty, but it just might work! Thanks Dear.

  • Robin from Israel

    These look delicious! If I wanted to use sumac in the sauce (here in Israel it’s easy to find), how much should I use and how much lemon juice to cut out?

    • Elise Bauer

      Put in 1 1/2 teaspoons of sumac, and reduce the lemon juice to 1 1/2 teaspoons.

  • Todd

    Any reason why these couldn’t be BBQ’d?

    • Elise Bauer

      They’re very wet, so they may not be happy on grill grates.

      • L.D.

        I wonder if you put these patties in the freezer for a while they would hold together on the grill, just a thought?

        • Nancy

          Yes, it would work. I made these a few weeks ago from the Jerusalem cookbook and after they were formed, I put them in the freezer. Once fully frozen, they did pretty well on the grill. They were amazing as was the Yogurt/Sour Cream sauce to go with it!

    • Glynis Maruk

      There are products made for a grill, I am sure they have made these thinking of fish and sliced veggies, but is a handled basket that you could put the burgers in, and when it is time to turn, they would be held together nicely.

  • Jessica

    Hi Elise, looks great! Do you drain the moisture from the zucchini at all, or just mix it in as-is? Thanks, love your site! :)

    • Elise Bauer

      I haven’t yet tried draining the moisture from the zucchini, but you easily could, especially if you had very moist zucchini. Just add the salt to the zucchini first, let it drain, then add the other ingredients.

  • Judy B.

    FYI, Penzeys Spices, which is a great company. carries sumac. As for this recipe, I’ll be trying this very soon – looks like something my husband, 9-year-old daughter, and I would absolutely love; I have all the ingredients except for the green onions, but that’s easily remedied.

    • Mary Ellen

      Did you know, you can cut off one or two inches of scallions (from the rooted end), and using a pencil or similar, make holes in garden soil, then insert those pieces. Within two to four days, you will have new scallion greens that are always useful in seasoning salads and what not.

      • Elise Bauer

        Great tip, thanks!

      • Jen

        I keep the bottom, rooted ends, in a glass of water on the window sill in the kitchen. The greens grow very quickly!