The Oklahoma Onion Burger is a classic all-American recipe. During the hard times of the Great Depression, when jobs were scarce, locals in El Reno, Oklahoma had a bright idea. Onions were plentiful and cheap, but meat? Well, that was a different story. So, they figured, why not pile on the onions and skimp a little on the meat? Fast forward, this humble burger recipe is now a national treasure.

post sponsored by Oklahoma Joe’s
Oklahoma Onion Burger ready to eat.

While the days of five-cent burgers are long gone, this Dust Bowl-era depression burger is now one of my favorite comfort foods. On any day or night of the week, a thin, crispy, and juicy burger patty topped with melted cheese and lots of caramelized onions always warms my soul!

Before breaking down how to make the best onion burgers, a quick shout out to Oklahoma Joe’s Judge Charcoal Grill. This is my go-to rig for making all kinds of magic happen in my backyard. I love this grill. It’s built like a tank. And the size? It’s freakin’ huge! You can grill, smoke, and sear all at once.

Plus, it’s got adjustable dampers that let you dial in the perfect temperature. Oh, and did I mention it’s got handy extras like a built-in temperature gauge and storage shelves? It’s basically a backyard BBQ lover’s dream come true, which is why I can’t stop talking about it!

Why You’ll Love the Oklahoma-Style Onion Burgers

I love this smashed onion burger recipe because it’s more than just a burger. It honors the past. Every tasty mouthwatering bite reminds us of the power of simple food made well. I’ll never know what it was like to endure the Depression, but the sound of sizzling beef with onion vapors filling the air is a comfort that cannot be underestimated.

  • Hamburger Patties – For the ground beef, I’d go with 15 percent beef fat for the tastiest and juiciest patties. 
  • White Onions – You’ll need lots of onions for this recipe. You can also use yellow onions. 
  • Hamburger Seasoning – Seasoned meat is just the start of what makes this burger so freakin’ delicious. Don’t skip the kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.  
  • Condiments – Each burger gets a slice of American cheese. You can add some sliced dill pickles directly to the burger or serve them on the side.
  • Hamburger Buns – Brioche burger buns are the perfect complement to seasoned beef and sweet caramelized onions. However, feel free to use your favorite buns.
  • Special Burger Sauce (Optional) – This tasty sauce is easy to make with your favorite mayo, ketchup, relish, white vinegar, and sugar. 

For another fun take on beef and onions, check out this Flying Dutchman Smashburger, where the onions take the place of the buns! I’ve even made Burger-Stuffed Onion Rings… So this combo is really proving to be an obsession of mine.

The onion burger is dipped in special sauce.

It’s amazing how the most delicious recipes, come together with simple ingredients. You’ll be amazed at how good these burgers taste, especially when dipped in that special sauce!

Pro Tip: Add the onions after the smash!

While some smash burger recipes might instruct you to smash the hamburger meat directly onto the caramelized onions, like my Cheesy Onion Smash Burgers and Oklahoma Onion Patty Melt, this recipe respectfully differs. Adding the onions after the smash delivers a crispy beef patty that is so freakin’ delicious! 

If you love the combo of beef and onions, check out these OTFC recipes: Patty Melt with French Onion Au Jus, Steak Onion Skewers, and Grilled Steak with Cheese Stuffed Onions.

How to Make the Best Onion Burgers 

Prep Time

Alright, let’s get grilling, sizzling, and smashing! First things first, start by making the special sauce recipe. You’ll want to mix all the ingredients in a small bowl or Pyrex measuring cup. Place in the fridge until it’s time to slather it on each Oklahoma Onion Burger. Chili cheese is another good dipping option, if that’s something you’d be more interested in.

Now, onward to the hot griddle. Fire up your Oklahoma Joe’s Judge Charcoal Grill, aiming for a super high heat temperature of around 450° degrees F for direct cooking. 

Grab your ground beef and form beef into burger balls for each hamburger patty. You should end up with about 6-8 patties when using about 2 pounds of ground beef. 

Oklahoma Joe’s Grilling Time

Next, it’s time to make our beef patties from the prepped balls. If you’d like to switch it up, give this same recipe a go but with chorizo and make a chorizo smash burger, or add some seafood for some surf and turf action!

Now, add a cast iron skillet or large plancha to the preheated grill. Place a burger ball on the large skillet, cover it with parchment paper, and smash the top of the burger with a sturdy spatula. Season each single patty with salt, pepper, and garlic. Then, let it sizzle for about a minute and a half. 

The beef patties are formed into balls, then smashed.

Before flipping, add your sliced onions on top of the patty, then carefully, without smashing, turn the patty over and season the second side. Slap a slice of cheese on top and let it melt into gooey goodness for another minute or two.

The onions go on the smashed burger before flipping.

While that cheese is melting, warm up your buns on the grill. Place the top of the bun on the melted cheese and then the bottom bun on top of the top bun. This might sound confusing, but all it’s doing is allowing the buns to warm and become soft. Placing the bottom bun on top of the top bun while on the grill allows the bottom bun to warm but also prevents it from becoming too soft.

Once everything’s nice and melty, pull off your burger and let it rest. Repeat the process for the rest of your patties.

Assembly Time

Now comes the best part: putting it all together! Stack those juicy patties on your warmed buns, slather on that special sauce, toss on some pickles, and get ready to devour the best burgers ever made using the epic smash technique! 

The smash burgers are assembled.

What to Serve with the Oklahoma Onion Burger 

You can’t go wrong with a side of some crispy golden brown fries with some spicy ketchup for dipping. If you’re feeling up for something a little extra, sweet potato fries or tater tots would work too. If you want to double down on the onion theme, grab some frozen onion rings and heat them up in your air fryer while the burgers are cooking. 

What to do with Leftovers & Reheating

Wrap the cooled-down patties tightly in foil and keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. When it’s time for seconds, make more caramelized onions and then heat the patties on the plancha again, adding more cheese, as needed.

More on Smash Burgers

FAQs for the Oklahoma Onion Burger

Where is the home of the Onion Burger? 

The original home of the Onion Burger is El Reno, Oklahoma. If you find yourself in The Sooner State, Sid’s Diner, which opened in 1989, is now famous for making the iconic burger.

​What’s the taste difference between white onions and yellow onions?

White onions tend to have a milder taste with a slightly sweeter flavor profile, especially when caramelized. Yellow onions have a more robust and pronounced sharp “oniony” flavor. 

What’s the best way to avoid crying while slicing onions? 

I’ve tried all the tricks, including refrigerating the sweet onions for 30 minutes before slicing, cutting them under running water, and wearing goggles, but, ultimately, I power through it and cry if I want to!

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Oklahoma Onion Burger with special sauce.

Oklahoma Onion Burger

This classic burger recipe celebrates Oklahoma in a big way with the Oklahoma Onion Burger made with an Oklahoma Joe's Grill!
Author:Derek Wolf
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients 

Beef

  • 1-2 lbs Ground Beef 85/15
  • 2 cups White Onions sliced
  • 1.5 tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 1.5 tbsp Black Pepper
  • 1.5 tbsp Garlic Powder

Special Sauce (Optional)

  • ½ cup Mayonnaise
  • ½ cup Ketchup
  • 2.5 tbsp Relish
  • 2 tbsp White Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp White Sugar

Burger

  • Brioche Burger Buns
  • Sliced American Cheese
  • Dill Pickles chips

Instructions 

  • In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for the special sauce then place in the fridge until ready to use.
  • Heat your Oklahoma Joe’s Judge Charcoal Grill high heat (around 450F) for direct cooking.
  • Grab a handful of ground beef (around 1/4 lbs… ish) and gently roll it into a ball. Repeat this for 6-8 balls or until you’re out of meat.
  • Add a cast iron skillet or plancha over the flames to heat until it's slightly smoking (about 450 on the skillet).
  • Add a burger ball to the skillet. Place a piece of parchment over one ball and then firmly press with the spatula until the burger is “smashed” on the skillet.
  • Season the patty with salt, pepper, and garlic. Let cook for another 1-1.5 minutes.
  • Before flipping, top with a handful of sliced onions on the unflipped patty. Carefully flip the burger patty over and then season the new side.
  • Top with a slice of cheese and let melt for 1-2 minutes.
  • Top each burger with the ton bun on the cheese and the bottom bun on the top bun. Helps to warm up the buns!
  • Once the cheese has melted, pull off and rest. Repeat for the rest of your patties.
  • Build your burger with the special sauce, pickles and 1-2 burger patties. Serve and enjoy!

Notes

Pro Tip: Add the onions after the smash!
While some smash burger recipes might instruct you to smash the hamburger meat directly onto the caramelized onions, my recipe respectfully differs. Adding the onions after the smash delivers a crispy beef patty that is so freakin’ delicious! 

Nutrition

Calories: 578kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 44g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 13g | Monounsaturated Fat: 15g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 92mg | Sodium: 3250mg | Potassium: 587mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 202IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 3mg

Derek Wolf

Derek is the driving force behind Over the Fire Cooking. He started cooking with live fire in 2016 and decided to start a social media page so his friends and family could follow the journey. Fast forward to today and Over the Fire Cooking has spread across multiple platforms with millions now following Derek's fire cooking journey. He's a southern fellow who enjoys everything from classic BBQ to Central and South American inspired dishes. Whatever he's cooking up, it's guaranteed to be so freakin' delicious!

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  1. 5 stars
    I have not cooked this one yet, but…

    I always slice my onions in half vertically so I can lay them flat for slicing, and leave root end on both halves while slicing, etc. This is a good way to limit or eliminate the tears…. Leave the root send intact!