These easy elk burgers use ground elk meat, simple spices and a secret trick to cooking the juiciest elk burger either on the grill or stove-top.

Elk burger made with ground elk meat, ghee and spices on a bun with melted cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion.
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Something I didn’t expect about shopping in Florida is the abundance of wild game meat I’ve been able to find!

It’s pretty weird to me that things like ground wild boar, venison and elk meat are all sold pretty consistently in places like Sprouts and Whole Foods here vs. in NY.

My parents did see a wild boar off the side of the golf course they played on last week but I don’t really think Florida is elk and venison territory.

At least not to the extent that NY is.

Who knows, maybe I’m wrong?

In my head though NY seems like it’d have a way better market for these meats than Florida.

I’m not complaining though because it’s been fun to switch it up in the kitchen from just beef and bison to include things like ground elk meat and make an elk burger for some variety.

Ground elk meat in a bowl to make elk burgers.

Ground elk meat pretty much looks exactly like ground beef.

If anything, it’s a little more red in color.

The main difference is in the fat content of the meat. Just like venison, elk meat is quite lean compared to beef and even bison.

So when making something like an elk burger, to get that juicy grilled burger most of us crave, you need to add some fat. Adding fat to any lean ground meat is one of the key tenets of grilling the perfect burger.

When I make venison meatballs, I mix the meat with a bit of pork to achieve a higher fat content.

Ground elk meat with ghee to make a juicy grilled elk burger.

But for these elk burgers, I decided to use butter.

Ghee to be exact which is just clarified butter. Clarifying removes the milk solids (proteins) from the butter so ghee is usually something that everyone can tolerate, even those that are dairy-free.

I personally use ghee for cooking so that’s what I chose for this elk burger recipe.

If you’re good with dairy though and prefer to use a high quality grass-fed butter instead, that will work just as well.

Elk burger patties before grilling on a plate.

HOW TO MAKE ELK BURGERS

Place the elk meat in a large bowl. Add the ghee or butter to the meat along with the spices.

Work the mixture together with your hands until thoroughly incorporated and form into evenly sized patties.

Place the elk patties on a plate and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes while the grill preheats.

The refrigeration time allows the added fat (ghee or butter) to solidify so that it doesn’t just completely seep out of the burgers when cooking.

Once the grill is hot, place the burgers on the grates and cook for about 3-4 minutes per side for a medium-rare to medium cooked elk burger.

Here is where I implore you not to overcook your burger.

I say this all the time when it comes to red meat (specifically, recipes like my cranberry pesto stuffed lamb or balsamic dijon beef tenderloin) but it’s even more important with wild game like elk.

Cooking beyond medium will dry out elk meat (and any wild game for that matter) faster than you can say “elk burger”.

Please, just don’t do it.

I make the same plea in this grilled venison backstrap recipe. It’s basically just a sin.

If you want a juicy burger, this is a must.

If using cheese on the burgers, add a slice to each burger about 1 minute before removing them from the grill to allow enough time for the cheese to soften and start melting.

Perfectly grilled and juicy elk burger on a bun with melted cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onion and ketchup. Served with fries and a salad.

HOW TO SERVE THIS ELK BURGER RECIPE

Let’s talk burger toppings!

I’m a “gotta have it” when it comes to lettuce, tomato, ketchup and cheese (I used a sharp goat’s milk cheddar on these) on my burger kind of girl.

Elk burgers are no exception to that.

Red onion is an option too for you raw onion lovers out there (I’m not one of you). More of a fermented red cabbage girl myself.

And then there’s the bun.

Choose a regular bun, gluten-free bun, brioche bun, potato bun…whatever type of bun you like for your burgers.

Or, go bun-less!

In fact, you could even make a burger bowl with these elk burgers instead!

Juicy elk burger recipe cooked medium rare on the grill.

Alongside the burgers, a simple salad and fries will do the trick for me.

Jicama fries, eggplant fries or, perfectly crispy rosemary baked fries are great options if you’re looking for something a beyond the standard fry.

Oh and don’t forget parsnip fries either. They’re probably the best “veggie-fry” alternative in terms of mimicking potatoes out there. So crispy and good!

Salad-wise, I always default to my baby kale salad recipe (because it’s really such a great salad!) as my favorite, easy greenery.

But, this bok choy salad or my creamy cucumber salad with pickled red onions are also refreshing, cool and crisp options for the vegetable portion of your plate. Especially if you’re enjoying these elk burgers in the summer.

For a winter side idea, try garlic balsamic roasted potatoes and asparagus and get your vegetables and starch all in one easy dish.

Medium rare elk burger cut in half on a plate with melted cheddar, tomato, lettuce, onion and ketchup.

WHAT DOES ELK TASTE LIKE?

I think people get scared off when it comes to wild meat thinking it will taste too gamey.

However, if you learn how to handle and cook it properly, that’s not the case. Pan-seared woodcock is the perfect example of that.

A good recipe that involves wild game will usually have a trick or two up its sleeve that results in a delicious outcome.

For these elk burgers, it’s the added fat to the ground meat and not overcooking them.

For things like my Instant Pot venison roast recipe, it’s the longer cook time and wonder of the pressure cooker in a delicious array of cooking liquids.

If you follow the rules with this recipe, the result will be a juicy tasting burger not much different than beef!

The garlic, onion, turmeric and oregano round things out for a perfectly seasoned burger.

I think burgers taste best when not bombarded with other flavors. The purpose of a good burger is to let the meat itself shine, right?

There’s just enough spice in this recipe to highlight the elk meat rather than overpower it. I think you’ll like it!

And if you don’t want to make burgers with your ground elk meat, try a stroganoff instead. Use this venison stroganoff recipe for inspiration just use the elk meat in place of venison.

Easy recipe to use up ground wild elk meat in a medium rare juicy elk burger.

LOOKING FOR MORE BURGER RECIPES? TRY THESE TOO:

BBQ beef and beet burgers – the color on these burgers is jaw dropping!

Grilled halloumi lamb burger

Blueberry BBQ brie burger

Juicy bison burgers

Spicy bacon chickpea burgers

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4.86 from 98 votes

Elk Burgers

Servings: 4 servings
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 8 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total: 28 minutes
elk burgers.
These easy elk burgers use ground elk meat, simple spices and a secret trick to cooking the juiciest elk burger either on the grill or stove.

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound ground elk meat
  • 4 tablespoons ghee, or grass-fed pastured butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 slices sharp cheddar cheese, optional

For serving

  • lettuce
  • tomato
  • onion
  • ketchup
  • buns of choice

Instructions 

  • Place the ground elk meat in a large bowl.
  • Add the ghee and seasonings and mix until well combined.
  • Form into four similar sized patties and place on a plate. Transfer to the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes while the grill heats up.
  • Heat an outdoor grill to a medium-hot heat. Once hot, place the burgers on the grill and cook for about 3-4 minutes per side or until medium-rare to medium (an internal temperature of 135-140°F is achieved). Alternatively, you can cook the burgers on a cast iron skillet on the stove top over medium-high heat using a touch of ghee or butter in the pan.
  • If using the cheddar, place a slice on top of each burger about 1 minute before removing the burgers from the grill. Make sure to close the lid of the grill so the cheese melts.
  • Serve burgers with chosen toppings on a bun if desired.

Nutrition

Serving: 1SERVINGCalories: 482kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 38gFat: 31gSaturated Fat: 17gPolyunsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 144mgSodium: 605mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4g

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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34 Comments

  1. I never comment on recipes but I had to this time. I’ve grown up on wild meat but it’s an awkward time when feeding it to people who aren’t used to it. I didn’t taste any gaminess with this recipe and it was absolutely a delicious, very juicy, wonderfully seasoned burger. Soooooo good. I can’t wait to make this again.

    1. The butter is grated cold and incorporated into the elk meat mixture. It melts when the burgers are cooking.

  2. 5 stars
    Got my hands on some elk meat and decided to make these burgers — they were so flavorful! Will definitely look for more elk meat to make again!

  3. We eat burgers a LOT so I loved this switch in protein. They turned out perfectly! The butter in the patties made them extra delicious.

  4. This was my first time working with elk and it turned out amazingly well! Thank you so much for the recipe. The ghee really helped keep it moist.

  5. 5 stars
    My dad gave me some of his prized elk meat and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. These turned out great!! Thanks for the recipe.