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Caramelized Onion Burgers With Arugula

This story is in partnership with National Cattlemen’s Beef Association on behalf of the Beef Checkoff. I received compensation, but all opinions are my own.

Oftentimes we think of beef burgers as indulgent, but they can easily be part of a healthy and delicious lifestyle (you know I stand for both)!

Beef burgers can be an ideal, nutrient-dense, flavor-filled, high-quality protein base for vibrant vegetables, flavorful fruit, satisfying whole grains and low-fat dairy. That makes it easy to pack more nutrition in every scrumptious bite!

The great thing about beef is its versatility. From high- or low-percent lean, Chuck to Round Ground Beef is a customizable base for building a better burger for everyone! Plus, its classic flavor can’t be beat.

To build my burger, I’ve paired my beef patty with ooey gooey muenster cheese (I do live in the cheese state, you know!), deliciously sweet/savory caramelized onions and bright, peppery arugula.

The combination is not only nutritious, but each ingredient complements the next. I loaded it all up on a whole grain bun and served it with a side of my favorite Strawberry Cucumber Salad to make for one satisfying and balanced summer meal.

Customize your own burger with these fresh tips

  • Start with 3-4 ounces of juicy, nutrient-dense cooked ground beef (85% or leaner)
  • Add layers of crunchy, vibrant vegetables, such as spinach, carrot slaw and red peppers
  • Top with flavorful fruit such as pineapple, mango and tomatoes
  • Add low-fat cheese, avocado or hummus for extra creaminess
  • Build your base with a whole grain bun
  • Pair with nutrient-packed sides like roasted potatoes, juicy watermelon or sweet corn

How to make the best burger with caramelized onions


  • Ground Beef. You can use any type of Ground Beef for this recipe. I like 85% lean/15% fat when making burgers, as I think it provides the perfect balance to make one juicy burger!
  • Onions. You’re going to make the best caramelized onions, ever. I prefer to use sweet onions, like Vidalia, but really any onion will do. Let them cook in just a little bit of oil at a medium-low temp for at least a half an hour – until they’re golden brown – and then add a touch of apple cider vinegar to really take them from good to GREAT.
  • Cheese. Any mild white cheese will work here. I am in love with muenster, Havarti, gouda or provolone. Look for low fat varieties or the thin slices for that cheesy flavor with less fat.
  • Arugula. It has a little bit of a bite to it, which is why I love it! But if you’re not into the peppery punch of arugula, go for fresh baby spinach or watercress. Both are mild options and go well on any burger.
  • Whole grain buns. There are so many whole grain options out there these days, and I like to look for one that offers at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per bun. It’ll help fill you up and keep you satisfied longer.
  • Mayo. This is optional – if you’re a mayo fan, go for it! But if you aren’t, you can totally skip it or substitute with mashed avocado, low-fat Greek yogurt or hummus. To up your mayo game, add some fresh lemon juice and minced garlic for a lemony garlic aioli.


  • A skillet for making caramelized onions.
  • A wooden spoon to push the onions around.
  • Measuring cups and spoons (or you can wing it).
  • A grill or grill pan.
  • A spatula to flip the burgers.
  • A meat thermometer to check that your beef burgers are cooked perfectly.
  • A few plates for making patties and clean ones for serving.
  • Forks to dig into the Strawberry Cucumber Salad.


  1. Start by making the caramelized onions. Heat about half a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet on medium-low heat. Peel and thinly slice the onions. Add them to the skillet and put your patience pants on because it takes at least 30 minutes for these babies to caramelize. Use a wooden spoon to push them around every so often, but don’t babysit them too much. Season them with salt and black pepper. Once they’re golden brown and super soft, add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and let them come to a simmer. This will enhance the flavor to something extra special. Set the onions aside until you’re ready to build your burgers.
  2. While the onions cook, prep your other ingredients. This is a good time to toast your buns on the grill or grill pan until their edges are nice and toasty. Not only does this give the bun some crunch, but the bun will hold up nicely to any condiments you slather on it. Also, form your burger patties and season them with salt and black pepper. You can also prep your salad at this time, too.
  3. Now it’s time to grill the burgers. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium or medium-high heat. If you’re in the mood to be outside, use a regular grill! If you’re staying inside today, use a grill pan. We’re just looking for grill marks and a perfectly cooked burger, which can be achieved either way. Once the pan is hot, place the burgers on and let it cook 4-5 minutes or until it browned and crisp and you can see the burger is starting to cook up the sides. Give them a flip and cook another few minutes, then add the cheese slices on each burger. Cook a few more minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the burgers reads 160 degrees F.
  4. Build your burgers by placing the cooked patties on the bottom buns, then top each with caramelized onions, arugula and the top bun. This is your chance to add mayo (or lemony garlic aioli), if you wish.
  5. Serve the burgers with my Strawberry Cucumber Salad (link), which is a delightful mix of fresh strawberries, English cucumber, red onion, feta and roasted pistachios with a light balsamic dressing. Yum!

Caramelized onion beef burgers with peppery arugula


Caramelized Onions

  • ½ tablespoon oil
  • 2 medium sweet onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper


  • 1-pound 85% lean Ground Beef
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 slices provolone, muenster or Havarti
  • 4 whole-grain hamburger buns, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (optional)
  • 1 cup arugula


  1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet to medium heat. Add the onions and cook 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re browned and caramelized. Season with salt and black pepper. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the vinegar. Stir until the mixture is thickened. Remove from the heat.
  2. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium heat. Form the ground beef into 4 equal-sized patties. Season both sides with salt and black pepper. Place the patties on the grill and cook 4-5 minutes per side. Place a slice of cheese on top of each burger and cook 1-2 more minutes or until melted. The burgers are done when a thermometer inserted into the center reaches 160 degrees F.
  3. Place the burger patties on the bottom bun. Spread mayonnaise on each top bun (if using). Top the burger patties with caramelized onions and arugula and place the top bun onto each burger. Serve immediately.

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