How to Make the Oklahoma Onion Burger (AKA—The Burger Ree Drummond Made Us Want to Eat)

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Best try this Oklahoma onion burger "sooner" than later.

Dear fellow Americans (and citizens of the world), Oklahoma has been holding out on us. Unless you’re an Oklahoma native, you’ve likely never had the privilege of enjoying an authentic Oklahoma onion burger.

We stumbled across this burger beauty thanks to our favorite Oklahoma gal, Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman). Shared on her tantalizingly delicious Instagram stories, she recently posted herself digging into one of these glorious burgers at a local Oklahoma diner, tagging it #IYKYK (if you know, you know). Sorry, Ree, we don’t know—but perhaps it’s time we should.

While every state seems to have its own signature burger recipe, just one look at this juicy burger was all we needed to see to know we had to try and recreate the recipe for ourselves.

What Is an Oklahoma Onion Burger?

Smothered in onions and topped with classic American cheese, it may sound simple, but this isn’t your average cheeseburger with caramelized onions. What makes the Oklahoma onion burger special is how it’s made (and they probably use some of these burger tips too).

Unlike other burger recipes that require you to shape the patties before cooking, Oklahoma onion burgers are a type of smash burger. To make an Oklahoma-style smash burger with fried onions, the ground beef is shaped into a ball, seasoned generously with salt and pepper, topped with a giant mound of paper-thin sliced onions, and then smashed onto a screaming-hot griddle using a grill press or large metal spatula.

The meat is seared on the first side until a lovely crust forms (thank you, Maillard reaction) and then flipped to allow the onions to cook in the beef drippings until caramelized and slightly crispy. Top the burger off with some good old-fashioned American cheese, serve on your favorite fluffy hamburger bun and get ready to sink your teeth into something truly special.

Oklahoma Onion Burger History

The story goes that the first Oklahoma onion burger was invented in the 1920s during the Great Depression when the price of beef made it unaffordable for most Americans.

Seeking a way to stretch their beef further, Ross Davis, the owner of an El Reno, Oklahoma, restaurant called the Hamburger Inn, started smashing onions (which were cheap) into the beef as it cooked to add bulk to their burgers.

His recipe became an instant hit and the rest is history. Today, El Reno, a small town outside of Oklahoma City, remains home to some of the state’s best onion burgers, from eateries such as Sid’s Diner and Robert’s Grill. If you ever visit in person, know that, according to state law, it’s illegal to take a bite out of another person’s hamburger in Oklahoma.

How to Make an Oklahoma Onion Burger

Yield: 4 burgers (or 2 if you want double patties)

Ingredients

Oklahoma Onion Burger ingredientsLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

  • 1lb ground beef (we recommend 80/20 ground chuck)
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2-4 hamburger buns
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Yellow mustard
  • Dill pickle chips
  • Other burger toppings of your choice

Directions

Step 1: Slice the onions

slice up some onionsLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Using a mandoline slicer, set to its thinnest setting, slice the onions into paper-thin pieces. Set aside.

Editor’s Note: Watch your fingers! Mandoline slicers are incredibly sharp. Use the guard most mandoline slicers come with or a cut-resistant glove when slicing the onions. If you don’t own a mandoline, you can also use a very sharp knife to slice the onions. Just remember, the thinner, the better.

Step 2: Shape the beef

Oklahoma Onion Burger meatballs Lauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Divide the ground beef into four equal portions and gently shape them each into a ball. Try your best not to overhandle the meat—a common burger mistake.

Step 3: Mound

Oklahoma Onion BurgerLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Preheat a flat-top grill plate (or electric griddle) over medium-high heat. When the surface is hot, melt the butter onto the surface, and then place one ball of beef onto the griddle. Working quickly, season the beef generously with salt and pepper and then top with a heaping mound of the thinly sliced onions.

Step 4: Smash

smashed burger Lauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Using a cast-iron grill press or a large metal spatula, smash the burgers flat, pressing the onions into the meat as you work. Keep smashing until the burgers are about 1/4-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining three burger balls and onions.

Step 5: Flip

Oklahoma Onion BurgerLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Let the first side of the burger cook until a nice crust forms and the edges of the meat have started to crisp. Carefully flip the burger so the onions are now under the patty. Press again and then let cook until the onions have caramelized, and the burger is cooked to your preferred doneness.

Step 6: Assemble

Oklahoma Onion Burger Lauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Transfer the finished burgers to buns (we went for a double patty because…why not?) and top with your choice of burger toppings. Keep reading to learn how Oklahoma natives prefer to finish these burgers.

How to Serve an Oklahoma Onion Burger

In our research, we learned natives of Oklahoma typically enjoy these burgers dressed simply—a bit of mustard and pickles (here are our favorite pickle brands) will do. You don’t want to overpower the flavor of the beef and onions, which are the real stars of the show.

Whether to toast the bun seemed contested by Oklahoma onion burger connoisseurs. Some enjoyed the flavor and texture a toasted bun lent the burger. Others seemed to prefer placing the top of the bun over the burger as the cheese melted, claiming the steam from the onions not only warmed the bun but infused it with extra onion goodness.

Personally, we opted to toast the buns. We appreciated the added stability the toasted bun gave these mega-juicy cheeseburgers. However, we think both methods would yield outstanding results. You could even go without a bun…just don’t tell the Pioneer Woman. To each their own!

Can’t get enough burgers? Don’t miss this guide about how to make your burger perfect every time.

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Lauren Habermehl
Lauren Habermehl is a recipe developer, food photographer and creator of the blog, Frydae. She is a prolific quoter of FRIENDS, lover of weekend DIY projects and procrastinating fitness enthusiast who enjoys exploring the Milwaukee-area with her husband, daughter and ugly mutt named Tyson Doodles.