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Top chicken burgers with cheddar and apple for sweet, tangy flavors

(Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post/Food styling by Gina Nistico for The Washington Post)
Apple-Cheddar Chicken Burgers
Total time:35 mins
Total time:35 mins

Cheddar cheese and apple are such a power duo, I think they qualify for an official couple name. Chapple, perhaps?

Okay, I’m pushing it, but the pair is meant to be together — on a cheese board where crisp apple slices offer bright, fresh contrast to sharp bites of cheese; warmed together in a sandwich for a leveled up sweet-tart-savory grilled cheese; or for dessert where a chunk of cheddar balances and complements a wedge of apple pie.

This recipe brings the two together as toppings for juicy, chili-seasoned chicken patties for an out-of-the ordinary burger experience, which is a breeze to get on the table. For the patties, just mix ground chicken with chili powder, finely grated onion and salt, and form into burgers. Ground poultry can get sticky, so keep a bowl of cold water nearby to keep your hands wet and, for optimal texture, avoid overworking the mixture. I prefer a blend of light and dark chicken for maximum juiciness, but you could use all white meat, if you prefer. You could also substitute with turkey.

The grilled apple rings are easy to prep, too, and can be made ahead. Cut the apple into rounds, scoop out the core with a small spoon or melon-baller, then brush the rings with oil, and grill the rings until they soften and take on attractive grill marks. Any variety of sweet apple will work — I went with red apple here because I like the color it brings to the mix.

Grill the burgers for about five minutes per side, then top each with a slice of cheese, cover, and let it melt over the patty. A little sharp cheese goes a long way to provide rich, savory flavor. Then top each burger with a slice of the grilled apple and serve either on buns with a lettuce leaf or in lettuce cups. I like to slather mine with mustard for an added layer of creamy tanginess, but with or without that, the char-grilled burgers, wafting with chili and crowned with the dynamic duo of sweet, juicy apple and sharp melted cheddar are a sure win.

Apple-Cheddar Chicken Burgers

Make Ahead: The apple rings can be grilled up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container until needed.

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  • 1 pound ground chicken, preferably a mix of white and dark meat
  • 1 tablespoon grated yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 large sweet red apple (8 ounces), such as Honeycrisp
  • 1 teaspoon neutral high-heat oil, such as grapeseed, canola or avocado oil, plus more for the grill
  • Four (3/4-ounce) slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 whole-grain burger buns, optional
  • 4 large leaves bibb lettuce, or more if not using buns
  • Dijon mustard, for serving (optional)

Step 1

In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, onion, chili powder and salt and, using your hands, mix the ingredients gently, but don’t overwork the mixture (it’s okay if the chili powder is not totally evenly distributed). Form the mixture into 4 patties about 3 1/2 inches in diameter. (If the mixture gets sticky, wet your hands with cold water.)

Step 2

Slice the apple crosswise to get four center-cut apple rings each about 1/2 inch thick. Using a melon baller or small spoon, remove and discard the core of each ring. Brush both sides of the apple slices with oil.

Step 3

Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Place the apple slices on the grill and cook until they are tender but still retain their shape and grill marks have formed, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Step 4

Brush the grill or grill pan with the oil, then place the patties on top. Cook until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees, about 5 minutes per side. Then top each patty with a slice of cheese, cover and cook until the cheese is melted and the burger reaches a temperature of 165 degrees. (If you don’t have a lid for your grill pan, you can use a deep skillet as a cover.)

Step 5

Serve the burgers topped with apple slices, on buns with one lettuce leaf each, or in lettuce cups; spread with mustard, if desired.

Nutrition Information

Per serving (1 burger)

Calories: 291; Total Fat: 18 g; Saturated Fat: 7 g; Cholesterol: 120 mg; Sodium: 381 mg; Carbohydrates: 8 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 5 g; Protein: 26 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

From cookbook author and registered dietitian nutritionist Ellie Krieger.

Tested by Suzy Leonard; email questions to

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