Burger Topping Ideas, Ranked
Burgers are the perfect backyard-barbecue food — but they come with a lot of pressure to pick just the right burger topping.
When you get it right — cheese for flavor, tomato for color, pickles for attitude, mustard and ketchup for style, slived avocado if you're fancy — the result is spectacular. But add just one lousy flavor and the whole thing is ruined. RUINED!
And no, we’re not being dramatic.
Here’s our opinion on the best and worst burger topping ideas, so you can avoid catastrophe at your next barbecue.
65. Crab and Cocktail Sauce
This recipe adds Alaskan King crab meat and a dollop of cocktail sauce to a grilled burger. According to our research, this abomination has not been widely adopted, which is absolutely as it should be.
The cocktail sauce sounds borderline okay, but crab and beef cozying up together? No. Just no.
We can respect a good surf and turf, but shrimp on a beef patty is as offensive as crab on a beef patty. Why are people trying to make shellfish on burgers a thing?!
This restaurant in Miami tops a half-pound beef patty with not only cajun shrimp, but watercress salad. Points for boldness but again we ask: Why?
63. Maple Syrup
Congratulations, people of the world who advocate for maple syrup on burgers: You’ve successfully ruined two of the greatest things on the planet by putting them together. (Though, to be fair, we kind of respect how wildly audacious this is.)
62. Peanut Butter
Slathering on a condiment as sweet and thick as peanut butter onto a savory burger is pushing it. BIG TIME. The folks at Boston Burger Company go so far as to add fried banana, bacon, cinnamon, sugar and a helping of peanut butter to a burger they like to call The King.
We’re all shook up.
Any type of jam — whether it be strawberry, blueberry, grape, raspberry, whatever — does not belong on a burger. At least, not by itself.
Boston Burger Company does a tribute to jam with The Sophie, topped with prosciutto, goat cheese, candied walnuts, fig jam and mixed greens, which at least makes things a little less scary.
And fine, we’ll also accept bacon jam on a burger.
60. Peanut Butter and Jelly
We've already established that peanut butter on a burger is obscene, and that jam on a burger is an embarrassment. A PBJ burger is, therefore, an obscene embarrassment. This is not a good burger topping idea.
Why yes, someone did think that using doughnuts as burger buns was a good idea. And for good measure, this monstrosity also typically comes stacked with two patties, melted cheese and bacon.
On the outside, this dish is definitely Instagram-worthy. But actually eating it seems like heartburn waiting to happen.
58. Pulled Pork
Don’t get confused — a pulled-pork burger on its own is a masterpiece. Sweet and tender barbeque pulled pork pairs perfectly with crunchy and tangy coleslaw. But add in a thick beef patty, and the dream turns into a nightmare.
Sometimes, less is more.
Oh. Hell. No. A pizza burger consists of two, mini cheese pizzas that sandwich a beef patty. We’re not making this stuff up! There’s a recipe for you to make it at home so you can cry about what you’re doing with your life in peace.
The pizza burger just looks messy. Best not to order this burger topping on a first date.
56. Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Have you ever eaten sun-dried tomatoes? They’re incredibly chewy. You could be gnawing on the dried fruit (yes, tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable) for hours* just waiting for it to break down. Add that to a burger and the chewing is all you’ll be focusing on. Next!
*This may be a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea
A California roll hamburger does exist, and no, we are not running to try it. A restaurant in Venice Beach claims that sushi on a burger isn’t on any other menu in the world…and we can see why.
Snow crab salad, avocado, ginger, lettuce and tomato are piled onto a beef patty and sandwiched between two buns. This restaurant also serves hamburgers topped with yellow tuna and eel.
This is what our nightmares are made of.
Last year, during what we can only imagine was a state of pure delirium, Applebee’s decided to introduce the “Cheetos Burger Bomb” — a bacon cheeseburger deep-fried in Cheetos tempura batter and then coated with Cheetos dust.
The menu item has only ever been served at a single United Arab Emirates location, because let’s be real, this was probably more about nabbing headlines than actually satisfying customers.
53. Caesar Dressing
Caesar dressing belongs on a salad. Not on a burger. Now you know.
52. Queso Dip
A queso burger is different than a cheeseburger. Not in the literal translation, but in taste and texture. A queso burger is drenched in a watery cheese sauce topping mixed with diced tomatoes and green chilis. Kind of like this recipe. There’s a weird flavor dynamic going on here and we’re just not feeling it.
Corn is like Number 33 on this list; the issue isn’t taste, but its impracticality as a burger topping. Not a great idea.
Save the corn for a burrito so that it won’t fall out. Better yet, add corn to the minced meat if you make burgers at home.
Alright, fancypants. We see you adding salty, fishy caviar to a perfectly fine burger and we’re calling you out!
Adding this as a topping at your backyard BBQ will almost certainly prove to be a flop. But shelling out $295 for Le Extravagant Burger topped with 18-month-old cave-aged cheddar (excuse me?), shaved black truffles, Kaluga caviar and fried quail egg might be worth it.
At least, that’s what you’ll tell yourself.
48. Buffalo Wing Sauce
Buffalo wing sauce, tasty as it is, seems a bit too potent for a burger. It may pair perfectly well on a bony chicken wing, but when it comes to a beef patty, it takes over as the dominating flavor. And that’s not what makes a good burger.
The ramen burger had its three minutes of fame back in 2013. But thinking about it now (with a clear head) it’s not an attractive burger topping…or bun for that matter.
Is it really convenient to have a string of ramen noodles dangle outside of your mouth after biting into a burger? Better to keep these two divine meals separate.
46. Artichoke Hearts
This isn’t the worst topping in the world in terms of taste; the slightly salty flavor actually pairs quite well with beef. (Pickled artichoke hearts are even better.)
But like corn, this topping makes the burger challenging to consume. And no one wants an obstacle in the way of inhaling their burger as quickly as possible.
Kimchi has an overpowering smell and flavor. Put this spicy, fermented condiment on a burger, and that’s all you’ll taste. It pairs better with fried rice. But hey, at least it’s a good probiotic.
Healthy gut, happy human.
44. Sweet Chili Sauce
Sweet chili sauce is made with red chili peppers, rice wine vinegar, garlic, fish sauce and sugar. It adds a sweet and tangy flavor if that’s what you’re going for.
But TBH, it tastes better with boneless chicken bites than on top of a beef burger.
Coleslaw shouldn’t be cheating on her husband with a beef patty. She belongs with pulled pork.
We love guacamole as much as the next person (we're not monsters), but sometimes it makes a burger soggy and messy to eat. No bueno.
41. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Yup, this is considered a burger topping, and it’s spicy as hell! Crushed red pepper flakes make it hard to enjoy a juicy burger, so we warn you to use it sparingly, unless you live for the burn.
Truffle as a burger topping is actually pretty tasty. The earthy flavor compliments the beef. But truffles aren’t an everyday topping that you have lying around the pantry. You have go to a fancy restaurant and have the professionals show you how to upgrade a burger using truffles.
Boucherie in New York City does a truffle burger that will knock your socks off.
37. Toasted Ravioli
How the heck did we come up with this one? We didn’t! Some genius thought it would be a good idea to put a toasted ravioli on a beef patty…and it kind of works. You can make it at home, so no one has to see you eat it in public.
Prepare for a mouthful of flavor and a whole lot of indigestion.
We know you want your burger to have Mexican flavor, and we do too. But a red salsa smeared on top of a burger is kind of offensive to tacos. And tacos deserve our utmost respect.
Iceberg lettuce is flavorless. It’s a waste of space on a burger. Thank you for coming to our TED Talk.
33. Black Beans
Believe it or not, some people put black beans on a burger to make it “Mexican.” In reality, it just makes things messy.
Save the beans for a burrito, where they won’t fall out — or raise suspicions about your moral judgment.
32. French Fries
How old are you?
Let’s not try to make a burger healthy by putting fruit on it.
29. Cranberry Sauce
We get it, cranberry sauce is tasty. It tastes amazing with turkey during Thanksgiving feasts. But putting it on a burger is really pushing things.
Can we all just agree that there’s only one fruit that belongs on a burger? (Hint: You can find it in the No. 5 spot on this list.)
But…why? Isn’t chili enough by itself? Why add it to an already beefy burger?
The only acceptable time to eat a chili burger is at 4 am, when you’re bleary-eyed and a little delirious after a night on the town. In the light of day, it’s a total flop.
Eggplant on a burger just makes the whole thing too heavy. Tasty? Sure. Necessary? Not really.
Hummus on a burger is not a total deal-breaker. You just need to add other toppings that complement it, which can be hard to find. Indeed, the only palatable recipe we could find with hummus is this one, which pairs the spread with roasted red pepper and caramelized onions. (Acceptable.)
Otherwise, everything that goes well with hummus simply does not go well with a burger. Carrots and hummus? Sure, but not on a burger. Celery and hummus? Yum, but definitely not on a burger.
Rabble-rousers like to argue that mayo is better on a burger than ketchup. But let’s be real: This is nonsense.
Mayonnaise is better suited for an egg-salad sandwich or a turkey sandwich than a burger. Sorry not sorry.
I’m sorry, did you mistake your burger for a hot dog?
23. Pickled Jalapenos
If you’re in the mood to make your eyes water when you eat a burger, then pickled jalapenos are an excellent topping. Otherwise, they just get in the way of enjoying the experience.
Why did we put this classic burger topping so low? Because there are 21 other toppings that are better than a plain and, let’s be honest, pretty dull tomato slice. Simple as that.
21. BBQ Sauce
BBQ sauce doesn’t fit as nicely on a burger as it does on a pulled-pork sandwich. Granted, it depends on the sauce, but too often, BBQ sauce overpowers the whole thing with tang, sweetness or some combo of the two.
20. Onion Rings
Onion rings are best when cheering from the sidelines. But if they are crunchy enough, big enough and salty enough — sure, throw em in, coach.
19. Roasted Red Pepper
This isn’t a backyard barbeque topping. It’s a pay-$27-at-a-fancy-restaurant kind of topping. And honestly, it kind of works.
18. Goat Cheese
Again, this is fancy-restaurant material. Only a professionally trained chef knows exactly how much goat cheese to add to a burger to make it taste delicious.
Do not try this at home.
When it’s on a burger, ranch dressing can mask the taste of everything else. Then again, that’s how it is with everything you dip into ranch.
Really, with this one, your mileage may vary.
16. Banana Peppers
The mild tang of banana peppers can propel your meal into the bomb-ass-burger zone. Which, as we all know, is the best zone.
There’s a difference between raw onions and sauteed onions on a burger. Raw onions mean you want to add bold flavor to the meal. Sauteed onions mean you’re feeling cheeky.
Both are perfectly acceptable. Choose your poison.
14. Mac ‘N Cheese
Hello to the psychopath who adds a scoop of mac n’ cheese to their burger every time.
It works, but for most people, it’s something you do once every lifetime. You try it, you like it, you probably never do it again.
It’s a been-there, done-that type of topping, but by all means, knock it off the bucket list.
13. Monterey Jack Cheese
Jack cheese is one of those cheeses that’s hard to obsess over, but also impossible to hate. It’s like the khakis of cheese — inoffensive and pleasant, but also pretty boring.
If it’s in your fridge, add a layer to your burger and enjoy the perfectly agreeable results.
12. Fried Shallots
Fried shallots are a sneaky addition that can totally upgrade a burger. They have a bold taste and a crunchy texture that pair well with juicy beef.
11. Fried Egg
What is it about a fried egg that makes it go well with just about anything? We don’t know, but we can affirm that it works with a burger, too. (Just be aware that this one also comes with a significant grease factor. Which is definitely not a bad thing.)
10. Sauteed Mushrooms
Beef and mushrooms go together like J.Lo and Alex Rogriguez. It’s a playful but serious relationship that just works.
If you can handle it, sriracha adds a subtle kick to a burger. And we don’t mean to slather it on like ketchup…that’s just risky. A nickel-size dab on the bun will do the trick.
8. Sriracha Mayo
Can’t handle sriracha by itself? That’s fine because sriracha mayo on a burger is even better.
7. Blue Cheese
Name a different crumbly, potent cheese that tastes phenomenal with veggies and beef. We’ll wait.
There’s nothing like taking a big hunk of meat and adding a bunch more meat on top of it. Make the bacon crispy, crunchy and borderline-burned, and you’ll enter the gates of meat-lover heaven.
A few thin slices of avocado is the only acceptable fruit to put on a burger. It’s the kind of topping that goes well with everything. Cheese? Yes, please. Fried egg? Lay it on me. Jalapenos? *drooling*.
And on the seventh day, God created pickles to be placed on burgers.
3. American Cheese
When all other cheese fails, choose a slice of American for your burger. The taste won’t overpower the burger and when it’s melted, it’s sing-from-the-Austrian-Alps good.
There’s a lot of debate about mustard versus ketchup on a burger. So much so that Obama sparked a huge media frenzy when he ordered a burger with spicy mustard instead of ketchup.
Mustard used as the only condiment on a burger turns a lot of heads, but hey, it works!
The crown for best burger topping goes to tried-and-true ketchup. It provides a dynamic flavor that sets the stage for all other condiments. A dollop of ketchup pulls the whole burger together.
It’s a classic for a reason. And way better than mayo, please.