Turkey Burger Yakitori Style Recipe

Schools are back in session and the State Fair is behind us for another year, but there is still plenty of time—and good weather—to keep firing up those backyard grills. And the all-American beef burger isn’t the only way to use ground meat on the grill. Here in Ground Turkey Yakitori, turkey is jazzed up with garlic, ginger, and other seasonings and slathered with a sweet soy glaze for extra flavor.

Yakitori is a Japanese type of skewered chicken, and restaurants specializing in this style of grilled chicken are as popular in Japan as fried chicken places are in the U.S., says meat expert and cookbook author Bruce Aidells, who created this recipe for Real Food. The classic yakitori is made with skewered diced chicken, slathered in a sweet soy glaze not unlike teriyaki. Skewers of vegetables are popular as are other meats like beef and pork. Sometimes the chicken is chopped, seasoned, and formed into meatballs called tsukune. “Instead of chicken, I have used ground turkey, which has a little more flavor,” says Aidells. Serve the patties with grilled green onions either over steamed rice, or place them on a bun and combine some of the soy glaze with mayonnaise to spread on the bun. You can also garnish the burger with crispy iceberg lettuce, grilled green onions, and ripe tomato. The meat mixture could also make tasty meatballs.

Ground Turkey Yakitori

Makes 4 servings

Ground Turkey Mixture
114 pounds ground turkey, preferably dark meat
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion (white part only)
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
12 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Sweet Soy Glaze
14 cup Japanese Mirin wine or sweet sherry
14 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with
1 tablespoon cold water
16 green onions, green part trimmed to leave about 8-inch-long onions

Optional, if serving over rice
rice, cooked to package directions

Optional, if serving as burgers
hamburger buns
12 cup mayonnaise
leaves of iceberg or romaine lettuce
sliced tomatoes

1. To make the patties, in a mixing bowl combine the ground turkey with garlic, ginger, green onion, honey, soy, egg, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Squeeze and mix until well blended. If serving over rice, form into 8 equal patties, about 12-inch thick. If serving as burgers, form into 4 patties about the size of the bun. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you are ready to grill.

2. In a small skillet toast sesame seeds over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes or until lightly golden and fragrant. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

3. Pour mirin and remaining sweet soy glaze ingredients except dissolved cornstarch into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then stir in the cornstarch and water mixture. Continue to boil until lightly thickened, about 15 to 30 minutes. Set aside.

4. To make the patties, grill over a medium-hot fire for about 3 minutes a side. Brush with the sweet soy glaze and turn over. Grill 2 minutes more then brush again, flip, and grill 2 additional minutes, taking care not to scorch the glaze.

5. Grill the onions, brushing them with the glaze until soft and bearing a few char marks, about 5 minutes. Turn frequently so as not to burn the glaze.

6. Right before serving, brush the patties and green onions on all sides with the glaze and then sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds. Serve either on top of rice or as a burger sandwich.

7. Note: If making burgers, combine 2 tablespoons of the glaze with 12 cup mayonnaise and spread over both halves of a toasted sesame hamburger bun. Garnish with lettuce, tomato, and grilled green onions.

Nutrition info Ground Turkey Yakitori (per serving): Calories 385 (165 From Fat); Fat 18g (Sat. 5g); Chol 144mg; Sodium 1241mg; Carb 21g; Fiber 3g; Protein 33g

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.