I adore a grilled burger topped with mayo, lettuce, and a garden fresh tomato slice. Dubbed California Burgers, the fresh toppings over charcoal-seared hamburgers create a summer’s delight for the palate.

This Hamburger Patty Recipe adds more than just salt and pepper and elevates your Grilled Burgers to gourmet status without much effort!

California Burgers on a white plate.

Why You Must Make

  • The simple toppings are fresh and delicious!
  • Just a few simple additions to the ground beef add loads of flavor and umami.
  • This burger recipe is a perfect way to shake up your grilling routine.

I must make this disclaimer: I grew up in Iowa. So what my mom called  California Burgers is probably not the same as what those on the West Coast would envision. As far as I recall, any burger with lettuce, tomato, and mayo was differentiated from the traditional ketchup and mustard version and dubbed a California burger.

Those are still my preferred toppings, though I will add a wee bit of ketchup and/or mustard to my mayo and maybe some avocado slices. The rest of the family seems to put equal parts Heinz ketchup to burger. Yeah, I hang out with a sophisticated crowd.

Ingredient Notes

  • Kitchen Staples – Salt, Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Butter – Melt with Seasonings; Salted butter is fine.
  • Garlic Cloves – Minced.
  • Onion Powder – I use the Penzey’s brand.
  • Soy Sauce – Adds umami, the savory sense of taste.
  • Lean Ground Beef – 85-90% fat; Any leaner will make for less juicy burgers
  • Hamburger Buns – I like Brioche buns, but use your favorite type.
  • Sliced Tomatoes, Lettuce, Sliced Avocados, Sliced Onions, Slices of Cheese – Offer as toppings
  • Mayonnaise, Ketchup, Mustard, BBQ Sauce – Offer these condiments to spread on buns or top your burger.
  • California Burgers on a plate on a red and white checked napkin.

    Tips for How to Grill Burgers

  • Use ground chuck, ground touch, or even ground sirloin to make your hamburgers.
  • When mixing your hamburger with seasonings, use a tender hand. Overmixing can make your burgers less tender.
  • PRO-Tip: Use your thumb to make a slight divot in the center of the burgers. This will ensure your burgers cook evenly.
  • After placing your hamburger patties on the grill, lightly season the tops with salt and pepper. When you flip them, season the other side.
  • If using a charcoal grill, you’ll want a hot fire, above 450°. If your grill doesn’t have a thermometer attached, you can check by holding your hand 4 inches above the grate/grill top. According to Steve Raichlen, if you can only keep your hand over the heat for “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi,” your grill is ready to go.
  • To kill any e-coli, your burgers must be cooked to 160°. There will be some carryover cooking time, so you can pull them off at 150°, cover and let them rest, and the temperature should rise another 10°.
  • You can toast your burgers on the grill. To make them extra flavorful, brush them with melted butter before grilling. This will only take about 30 seconds if your grill is very hot.
  • Fire Up the Grill!

    We grill all year round. And it has to be with a charcoal grill. We love that extra dose of carcinogens smoky flavor. Bill has been known to scrape the snow off our Weber kettle grill mid-January just to sear a juicy burger. Of course, none are better than mid-summer burgers with ripe garden tomatoes…and it is our 4th of July tradition to fire up the grill. Usually, I liberally season our burgers with salt and pepper, but a Cook’s Country recipe for Grilled Steak Burgers inspired me. I added some minced garlic, onion powder, and soy sauce to melted butter that was then mixed with the ground beef. I loved the subtle garlic and onion undertones. These California burgers were such a delicious change from our typical fare.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is a California Burger?

    Any burger topped with lettuce, tomato slices, and avocado is known as a California burger, especially on the West Coast.

    How Do You Prevent Dry Burgers?

    Don’t use extra lean beef for your hamburgers. You’ll need at least 15-20% fat in your beef so it will stay moist as well as have good flavor. You can also make a seasoned compound butter by mixing butter with salt, pepper, minced garlic, minced herbs, and/or lemon zest. Chill the butter, then encase 1 tablespoon of the herbed butter in each hamburger patty.

    Grill to 160° to kill any potential bacterial contamination, but higher than that will make your hamburgers dry.

    What Should You Serve with Hamburgers?

    Besides all the usual condiments, classic picnic sides are a delicious option. Think Potato Salad, Broccoli Salad, Fruit Salad, and Coleslaw. French Fries and Sweet Potato Fries are also perfect pairings.

    More 4th of July Recipes

    My friends and I are sharing delicious Summer, American, or Red, White, and Blue recipes for Independence Day or any summer gathering. Check out my recipe index for more Grilling Recipes, too.

  1. Berry Cheesecake Crumb Tart from Hungry Couple NYC
  2. Grilled California Burgers from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
  3. Red, White & Blueberry Parfaits from Cravings of a Lunatic
  4. Red, White & Blue Deviled Eggs from Created by Diane
  5. Summer Berry Pizza from Magnolia Day.
  6. Sparkling Pineapple Cake Martini from The Messy Baker
  7. Red, White & Blue Vanilla Bean Spritzers from Pineapple and Coconut
  8. Red, White & Blue S’mores Pies from Big Bears Wife
  9. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Squares from Chocolate Moosey
  10. Red White and Blue Strawberries from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
4th of July recipe photo collage.

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California burger on a white plate over a checked napkin

California Burgers

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 13 minutes
Yield 4 servings

Dubbed a California Burger, the fresh toppings over charcoal seared hamburger create a summer's delight for the palate.


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½-1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef (85-90% fat)
  • Hamburger buns
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Sliced avocados
  • Sliced onions
  • Mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard
  • 4 hamburger buns


  1. Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl, then add garlic, onion powder, salt, pepper and soy sauce.
  2. Microwave for about 15 more seconds to infuse flavors into the butter (watch carefully so the butter doesn't boil out of the container).
  3. Gently mix into ground beef. Form into 4 hamburger patties.
  4. Lightly sprinkle with salt. When you flip, sprinkle the other side with salt.
  5. Grill to desired doneness.
  6. Serve with condiments of your choice.


If you're unsure if you've added enough seasonings, fry up a tablespoon of your hamburger mix and give it a taste. If it tastes good, you're set to grill. If it's under-seasoned, add more salt. If it's overseasoned, you can add more ground beef and gently mix to combine.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 burger

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 763Total Fat: 44gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 183mgSodium: 980mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 5gSugar: 5gProtein: 56g


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