It feels like a lifetime ago now that I embarked on my journey to build a better chicken burger… okay, okay, it was more like two weeks ago (but who’s really counting).
After dozens of variations attempted and way too much protein consumed I narrowed it down to a simple flavor combo that is pure chicken thigh magic! I find the chicken thigh to be a more flavorful cut of meat than the usual lean chicken breast, it’s also very affordable if you’re on a tight food budget.
My quest began after having a meal of Trader Joe’s chili lime chicken burgers, it made me wonder if there was a better way. Though good for what they are the TJ’s patties are a little thin and on the drier side, which is why I use them as “sandwich buns” – they’re definitely sturdy.
The idea of a better chicken burger got caught in the back of my mind, the dormant dusty part of the mind where you store all of your “good ideas” that you’re not sure you’ll ever pursue. Then one night after making hot wings the idea hit me like a ton of bricks – “buffalo chicken thigh burgers”!!! I had to make this dream a reality.
There’s nothing complicated about this one – though I attempted to make it more difficult than it had to be at first. All you need is:
- 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 large egg
- 2 oz of crumbled blue cheese
- Buffalo sauce, of your choice
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
That’s it. Really.
You can make plain chicken thigh patties by just using the thighs, egg, salt & pepper if you’d like. After many many flavor combos and a few taste tests with family I’ve found the mix of blue cheese crumbles and buffalo sauce to be my #1, and I don’t even like blue cheese! Like, I normally have a strong blue cheese aversion – it must be black magic.
Other successful cheese combos included:
- mozzarella – a nice dense patty with a mild flavor
- mozz & cream cheese – definitely a juicy chicken burger
- cream cheese – it works but not really anything outstanding about it
- cheddar – the patty got a nice crisp crust but the taste wasn’t my favorite
*If you go plain Jane with no mix in’s try dressing it up with your favorite seasoning!
*If you decide to experiment with flavor crumbled cheeses seem to work nicer than shredded, it creates little cheese pockets.
I buy the boneless skinless thighs from the store vs the bone in skin on to make my life a little easier here, it’s usually a few dollars more but worth it for me. I also use a designated cutting mat for raw chicken to prevent cross contamination of all the fun things that come with handling raw meat, like salmonella.
Dice all four chicken thighs into smaller chunks, there’s no need to be exact with it since you’re just chucking it into a food processor anyways. I like to spread it out once diced so I can sprinkle the salt and pepper on before grinding the chicken thigh, it just seems to work out better for me doing it here. The amount of salt and pepper added is more of an individual preference thing, I do about 4-6 grinds of both cracked black pepper and pink Himalayan salt.
Try not to overload your food processor when grinding the chicken thigh, for four thighs it took me two batches of grinding. Don’t worry about getting a perfect smooth consistency, you can leave it a little chunky! Just make sure there are no full blown chicken nuggets hiding in there – it’ll make your patty fall apart when cooking.
Once you have the chicken thigh ground add it to a medium mixing bowl with one large egg, the ratio is one egg per every four chicken thighs. The egg is the all star here, it plays the role of your crucial binder – he’s the little guy that’ll keep your patties from falling apart. This is also a good time to mix in the cheese as well, I recommend using food safe disposable gloves so you can hand mix this. I use gloves because the feeling of raw chicken gives me the heebie geebies, it’s definitely not my favorite sensation.
If you’re into strict meal prep I recommend weighing and portioning out your four thigh servings after adding the egg, then you can add 1/2 oz of crumbled blue cheese to each portion.
Also hold onto the buffalo sauce until the end! I brush it on the cooked patties instead of mixing it in here because the added sauce makes everything too wet. Wet patties fall apart – I figured that one out for you in one of my numerous test batches.
Once mixed separate it into four chicken thigh burgers, there’s no super secret method to this part. I just make a small ball and the drop it into the pan so it flattens out when it hits – you don’t need a lot of distance in the drop (we’re not looking to make a mess).
REFRIGERATE THE PATTIES FOR ABOUT 30 MINUTES BEFORE COOKING!
The refrigeration step is VERY important if you want your burgers to stay in an actual burger shape. Allowing the chicken and egg mix to cool gives the delicate chicken patty a fighting chance, it firms it up some. When room temp the patties tend to split and stick to the pan more when you actually try cooking them.
While your patties are chilling this would be a great time to wash your dishes, the fat from the chicken thigh becomes harder to clean if you let it sit out for a while!
Here’s a few patty pro tips when it comes to cooking them:
- Make sure your skillet is already warm and well oiled before adding the patties.
- They release easier when you need to flip them if you use a metal spatula.
- If you’re unsure about if they’re cooked through I recommend using a food thermometer, it’s a really great kitchen investment if you don’t already own one.
- Keep the patties you’re not cooking in the fridge until you’re ready for them.
- Don’t cook above a medium temp to prevent burning the outside before the inside gets a chance to cook through.
- They are grill-able! Just be gentle with them, you should only need to flip them once.
The cooking time will vary depending on your skillet type and oven.
Once your patties are done transfer them to a cooking sheet, I used an oven safe cooking rack so it wouldn’t have to sit in the extra liquid when broiled. Add about 1/2 tbsp of your favorite buffalo sauce to the top of each chicken burger and broil on low until it looks bake in!
Don’t forget to check the internal temp with a food thermometer to make sure they’re cooked through, it can be tricky to eyeball chicken thigh. If you don’t have a food thermometer cut one to make sure the center is done.
If for some reason you’re patty isn’t all the way cooked through and you’ve already cleaned all of your dishes you can pop it in the microwave for about a minute or so to get rid of any raw chicken anxiety. The patties won’t dry out if you do that, that’s why they’re perfect for packing in work lunches!
I like them on their own with a bit of extra buffalo sauce for dipping, but they also make fantastic lettuce wrapped sandwiches and a satisfying protein for salads!
Buffalo Chicken Thigh Burgers
- 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 large egg
- 2 oz crumbled blue cheese
- Buffalo sauce, of your choice
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- Cut your chicken thighs into small chunks, season with salt & pepper.
- Run the chicken thigh through a food processor, it doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth – just make sure there are no large chunks.
- In a medium sized bowl mix your ground thigh meat, egg, and blue cheese. I recommend wearing food safe gloves and hand mixing.
- Form your chicken thigh mix into four patties and refrigerate for approx. 30 mins. Refrigeration is an important step in keeping the patties from falling apart when cooking.
- Cook in an already heated and well oiled skillet to prevent sticking. You should only have to flip these once, using a metal spatula usually works best. This is a delicate mix so try not to over work the patties when cooking – that may cause them to fall apart. These can be grilled if you are careful!
- Transfer the cooked patties to an oven safe tray and brush the top of each with about 1/2 tbsp of your favorite buffalo sauce. Broil on low until the sauce is baked in.
- If possible check the finished patties with a meat thermometer to make sure the middle is cooked through, chicken thigh can be tricky to eyeball.
- Enjoy as a burger or on it’s own with a little extra buffalo sauce for dipping!
Nutrition per chicken thigh buffalo burger as prepared (according to MFP):
- 206 kcal
- 26.6 g protein
- 10.4 g fat
- 0.6 g carbs
Nutrition will vary depending on how big your chicken thighs are and what types of cheeses / sauces you decide to use.
Until my next post just remember,
Hydrate. Satiate. Celebrate!