These bison burgers are the quintessential classic American burger made with lean ground bison instead of beef. Cooked perfectly either on the stove-top or grill until juicy and tender, they’re then loaded with all your favorite toppings including melted cheddar and a crave-worthy burger sauce. You won’t miss beef at all after biting into one of these patties.

A bison cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and sauce on a bun, served on a white plate, with more burgers blurred in the background.
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I used to be a burger purist thinking only 80/20 ground beef would do. Some time in the last ten years though, that changed. With the growing availability of bison in grocery stores it slowly became a favorite and if it were possible to get half a bison in my chest freezer downstairs instead of a cow, I would.

This bison burger is my favorite go-to burger recipe. We all have that recipe that’s a summer staple, the one we make for any get together or summer holiday, and this is it for me.

With perfectly cooked juicy bison patties, a soft squishy hamburger bun, melted cheddar cheese, crispy lettuce, ripe tomatoes, caramelized onions and a simple burger sauce, there’s literally nothing more I could want out this burger.

It’s classic American perfection and I think you’ll agree with the first bite.

A juicy bison cheeseburger with lettuce, melted cheese, and caramelized onions on a bun, served on a plate with a blurred background.

Here’s why you’ll love this recipe

  • Bison does not taste nearly as gamey as some of its relatives. This is especially true in burger form when you pair it with all the delicious topping options. In fact, burgers are the perfect gateway recipe for getting into eating bison.
  • You can cook this on the stove top in a skillet or outside on the grill. Both ways are great but I actually slightly prefer the cast-iron skillet approach so you can enjoy them all year round.
  • This recipe uses simple seasonings but brings big flavor to each patty. This bison burger tastes like your favorite pub burger and you can easily make it at home.

Simple ingredients to make the best bison burgers

These burgers are mostly about the toppings so there’s not much to the basic recipe. We like simple for our burgers and that’s exactly what these are.

  • Ground bison — If you can find it, use 85/15 meat. Most bison is 90/10 and that’s just fine if it’s what you have.
  • Salt & pepper — Use the best salt you have.
  • Garlic & onion powder — I like using ground powders to season the burgers rather than finely chopped garlic and onions. The bison patties hold together better using spices and you don’t bite into pieces of undercooked pungent garlic or onion.
  • Worcestershire sauce — This adds a nice salty umami flavor to the burgers.

Toppings

Like any good burger, these bison burgers are primarily about the toppings. Choose your favorites and while it’s tempting, don’t go overboard. I like to select three or four maximum so they don’t completely overwhelm the flavor of the bison and so you can actually get your mouth around it.

  • Sliced cheddar cheese
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Crispy green leaf or Bibb lettuce
  • Dill pickles — I love using these spicy garlic dill pickles when I have them on hand.
  • Caramelized onions
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Burger sauce — use the recipe from our burger bowls.

How to cook the bison burgers

The recipe offers two options for cooking the burgers — grill or stovetop. Here’s a quick rundown of each but the full recipe can be found below.

Grill

You can use a gas or charcoal grill. Preheat either until its hot and make sure the grates are clean. Place the burger patties directly over the flame and grill for about three minutes until the burger releases easily to flip. Grill for another two minutes then top with cheese during the last minute of grilling.

Remove from the grill and let the burgers rest for about five minutes before topping and serving.

Stovetop

The stovetop option makes this recipe accessible any time of year and a heavy duty cast iron skillet is all you need.

Heat some butter in the skillet until hot. Place the patties in the skillet, working in batches, and cook for two to three minutes per side for a medium-rare burger.

Top with cheese during the last minute of cooking and cover the skillet with a lid so that it melts nicely. Follow the same resting criteria as the grilling method above.

My Pro Tips

Recipe Tips

  • Don’t over mix the ground bison. Be gently when forming the burger patties and don’t work the mixture to death. This isn’t meatloaf and the less it’s handled the more tender and juicy the burgers.
  • Please, please, please don’t overcook these burgers. In general, a burger has no place being cooked past medium in my opinion, but this is especially true with bison. Medium-rare is the sweet spot for bison and using a meat thermometer is the best way to ensure you don’t cook beyond that point.
  • Keep the meat cold before cooking. If you want to pre-form the patties ahead of time, that’s fine just make sure to keep them in the refrigerator until they’re ready to be cooked.
  • Be picky about your bun. The wrong bun can make or break a burger. A soft, squishy hamburger bun (potato buns are great) is the perfect selection for these bison burgers. Avoid brioche, seeded buns and big bakery-style rolls. The focus should be on the bison and toppings, not the bread.
  • Use the indent tip in the recipe below to help keep the burgers from puffing up in the middle when cooking.

What to serve with the burgers

If you’re grilling the burgers, consider throwing some grilled potato wedges on there too for an easy side. Make sure to save some burger sauce for dipping!

In the summer, I love making this grilled vegetable orzo salad for any cookout and it goes really well with these burgers too.

If you’re making these inside during colder months, break out your air fryer and try these air fryer baby potatoes, air fryer sweet potatoes or air fryer red potatoes for crispy carb-loving side options.

Hands holding a burger with bacon, lettuce, grilled onions, tomatoes, and sauce on a bun.

Prep and storage

The bison patties can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook them.

You can also freeze uncooked patties. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and keep in a freezer safe bag for up to three months.

If you have leftover bison burgers, store the burgers without any toppings in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Reheat slowly and gently so that you don’t dry them out. These burgers are best eaten fresh.

FAQs

Is bison good for burgers?

Yes and we hope this recipe proves it! Bison is very similar to beef but leaner in nature. Because of its lower fat content, cooking bison burgers to medium-rare or medium and not beyond is key in a juicy, good-tasting burger.

What does bison taste like?

Bison is quite similar in taste to beef but with a subtle grassy and sweet undertone. In a recipe like these burgers, you’ll mostly taste the toppings so it’s a great way to ease into game meats even though bison meat itself if not gamey at all.

Can you mix bison meat with other meats?

Yes, you can. Bison can be blended with any other red meat. Beef, lamb, elk and venison are all great choices for a mixed burger.

Bison cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, and sauce on a bun, served on a white plate.

More burger recipes to try

This grilled halloumi lamb burger is packed with delicious Mediterranean flair. The thick piece of halloumi takes on a wonderful charred taste on the grill and the pesto that accompanies the lamb burger adds the perfect freshness to each bite. 

Our Indian chicken burgers recipe is paired with a yogurt cucumber slaw that’s wonderfully refreshing in contrast to the savory Indian spices in the burger. This a chicken burger unlike any you’ve had before. 

Another unique twist to your burger game is this blueberry BBQ brie burger. Melted brie is topped with a quick and easy blueberry sauce that complements the beef deliciously. This burger has fancy restaurant vibes but is easy enough to make at home.

And lastly, don’t miss out on our elk burgers. They’re another wild game burger that’s a great alternative to beef and the recipe includes a great tip for keeping game meat moist and juicy when grilling.

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5 from 7 votes

Juicy Bison Burgers

Servings: 4 servings
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
A bison cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and sauce on a bun, served on a white plate, with more burgers blurred in the background.
These juicy bison burgers are lean, delicious alternative to beef. Topped with all your favorites including a crave-worthy burger sauce, they're the perfect summer burger.

Ingredients 

  • 2 pounds ground bison
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Toppings

  • 4 of your favorite squishy, soft hamburger buns
  • 4 slices cheddar cheese
  • Sliced tomato
  • Bibb or green leaf lettuce
  • Dill pickles
  • Caramelized onions
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Burger sauce

Instructions 

  • Combine the ground bison with the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Gently combine with your hands.
  • Form into equal sized patties that are slightly (about 1”) larger than the buns you plan to use and make a small indent with your thumb in the middle of the patty — this helps the meat not balloon in the center as it cooks.

Grill Option

  • Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to a high heat. Make sure the grates are clean and hot then place the burger patties directly over the heat and grill for about 3 minutes before flipping over and grilling the other side. Don’t flip the patties prematurely, they should easily release from the grill grates when they’re ready to be flipped.
  • Top with cheese if using during the last minute of cooking and cover the grill so it melts nicely. Remove the burgers from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes before assembling them on a bun with your desired toppings.

Stove Top Option

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, place the bison burgers in the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes without touching them before flipping and cooking for the same amount of time on the other side or until they are medium-rare to medium.
  • If using cheese, add it on top of the burgers in the last minute of cooking and cover the skillet with a lid to allow it to melt. Follow the same resting period as the grill before assembling.

Notes

 

Nutrition

Serving: 1SERVINGCalories: 701kcalCarbohydrates: 23gProtein: 51gFat: 44gSaturated Fat: 19gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 176mgSodium: 1110mgPotassium: 806mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 175IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 214mgIron: 8mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: American
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Founder and Writer at Running to the Kitchen | About

Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.

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18 Comments

  1. Yum! i have always wanted to try bison! These look so good, especially with the pomegranate and feta!

  2. I would be SO irate if someone ruined my spa day!!! There’s nothing like having that time to just RELAX. Anyhoo, I’m kind of obsessed with bison burgers, if it’s on a menu, I order it. I’m loving the addition of pomegranates and feta!

  3. Wow, your spa day sounds amazing! And so does this bison burger. The addition of the pomegranate and feta is perfect!

  4. I spotted a picture of your burgers on foodgawker and hand to come and see some more! Great recipe. Loved your spa story; it would have been nice if Mr. Metrosexual and his garnish with the annoying voice had proper spa etiquette. But I hope you enjoyed your time, nonetheless.

  5. I am SO craving one of these burgers right now. Think it definitely would be hard to get my hands on some bison though here in Australia, so I will just have to use another meat instead – but I definitely will be making these!

  6. Love it! Mr. Metrosexual….hahahaha! This burger could make anything better! Love the use of tangy and tart feta and pomegranate.

  7. That would have annoyed me too! How true that the idea of an afternoon at the spa is such a lovely dream, but when you actually do it, it is not as great as you think. It cracks me up that you were dreaming of burgers all the while.