Greek Burgers with Feta and Olives
Here in Greece, we love burgers. But they’re quite different from the US version; plain ground meat is rarely used for burgers.
The traditional Greek burgers are beef patties called biftekia/mpiftekia (pronounced beef-tek-ya). They are made by mixing minced meat with herbs and/or spices, onion, bread and olive oil.
Just like similar Greek recipes, there are countless variations for biftekia as well. Each family and each restaurant or tavern serves its own version. But the above mentioned ingredients are always included in the patties! The ground meat is usually beef, but mixtures of beef and pork or beef and lamb are also not uncommon.
The authentic Greek bifteki recipe includes ground beef, onion, bread, olive oil and some herbs like parsley, oregano or mint. Sometimes all these herbs and even more are added. Those are the burgers you’ll find in any Greek tavern if you ever visit Greece during the summer. They’re usually served with freshly cut French fries. People also order tzatziki and horiatiki Greek salad as side dishes. If you 've never tried Greek burgers before, you really don’t know what you’re missing! IThey are perfect for any backyard BBQ. The flavor and the aroma when you grill those delicious patties on a charcoal grill (the classic way of grilling meat in Greece) are really hard to describe. Simply put, it’s amazing!
Greek burgers are thicker than their US counterparts, and are almost never served in burger buns; they are served with fresh crusty bread slices, often brushed with olive oil and oregano and grilled right next to the burgers for a few minutes. Greek pitas (those used in souvlaki and gyros) are also quite common.
Biftekia can be also baked/grilled in the oven of course and that’s the way our mamades (mommies) used to cook them for us; especially during winter, when BBQ was out of the question. Many times those oven roasted burgers were accompanied by roasted garlic lemon potatoes and a simple lettuce-spring onions-dill salad, with a lemon-extra virgin olive oil dressing.
When you use the oven to cook biftekia, you can either roast them in a baking pan (brushed with olive oil or lined with parchment) or grill them using the oven grate. It’s up to you. If you choose the latter, make sure to put a pan under the grate for any drippings from the patties.
Ten days ago we put five recipes up in a poll. We asked our friends and audience to choose which ones they’d like us to cook next, but never expected such a landslide (44%) in favor of the recipe for Greek burgers. The recipe chosen was a variation of the classic biftekia, enriched with feta and olives!
There are many recipes for feta stuffed burgers, or burgers combined with feta in some other way. The combination is indeed delicious. There are also a few recipes for burgers with olives. This recipe was created one day that we decided to include both the olives and the feta in our beef patties; the result was so delicious we ended up making this again and again, and one day we wrote the recipe down and measured the ingredients to share it with all of you through our blog. It would be a shame not to do so!
Our biftekia recipe include: lots of fresh mint, which is in our humble opinion the key ingredient for Greek burger patties, onion, bread, extra virgin olive oil, a little garlic (you can omit this if you don’t like it) and one egg, which helps keeping the shape of the patties and adds flavor. We also add a little red wine vinegar. This is something common in the Greek cuisine both in biftekia recipes as well as in keftedakia (Greek meatballs) recipes; it helps the ground beef to become a bit fluffier. Plus, the vinegar and the herbs help reducing health risks from grilling the meat in high temperatures.
And of course we added the other two ingredients that make this recipe different from the classic biftekia: Kalamata olives and feta. We prefer to buy whole Kalamata olives and remove the pits ourselves, as they taste better this way. The reason is that the flesh of the olive isn’t exposed directly to the brine like in pitted olives. We also used a good quality barrel-aged feta. This one was cubed in order to incorporate it into the patties, but you can also use crumbled (as long as the crumbs are bit thick and aren’t mashed).
A simple way to serve biftekia is with red onion, mixed with fresh parsley and some ripe tomatoes. Add some pitas and tzatziki and the result is fantastic!
Preparing these delicious Greek beef burgers, with feta and olives is very easy. Let's see how.
- 500gr/17oz/1lb ground beef
- 60gr/2oz (half medium sized) onion, finely chopped *
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 100gr/4oz bread (about 2 slices from a dense loaf) **
- 5gr/0.2oz (20 leaves) fresh mint, finely chopped
- 60gr/2oz whole Kalamata olives (about 15 olives) ***
- 100gr/4oz feta, cubed or crumbled
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
- 1 egg
- salt, pepper
* or grated and strained
** if using the classic super market bread (suitable for toast), then use 4 medium sized slices
*** if using pitted olives, then you need 50gr/1.7oz
Remove the crust from the bread (pic.1). Fill a medium sized bowl with water, add the bread and let it soak (pic. 2).
Slice each olive open (pic.3) and remove the pit (pic. 4). Chop them into small pieces (pic. 5).
Drain the bread (squeeze well with your hands to remove any excess water). Add all the ingredients except the feta in a large bowl: ground beef, onion, garlic, bread, olives, mint, egg, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper (pic. 6).
Knead the mixture (pic. 7) for at least 3 minutes. You need to continue mixing even though it seems that everything is incorporated in the first minute. Keep a timer nearby and continue kneading for the 3 minutes mentioned. This is the secret for tasty Greek style burgers (mpiftekia/biftekia).
Add the cubed feta (pic. 8) and fold it into the mixture (pic. 9). Do not overmix here, you simply want to incorporate the feta in the mixture. You don't want to mash it. Cover the bowl with film and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, to allow the flavors to develop.
Remove from the fridge and form the burger patties (pic. 10). Keep them in a bowl/plate/pan (pic. 11), cover again with film and put it in the fridge for at another 30 minutes to help them keep their shape.
When this time has passed, you can brush your oven grate with olive oil (pic. 12) and add the burgers (pic. 13).
Put a baking pan under the grate for any drippings and bake in preheated oven, at 200 degrees Celsius/ 390 Fahrenheit, using the fan setting. Bake the patties for 40 minutes flipping them halfway through.
Serve with tzatziki (here's the authentic Greek tzatziki recipe if you want to make some ahead) and/or French fries. You can also serve those with some garlic lemon roasted potatoes, it's a delicious combo!
Ourselves, we like using pitas instead of bread to serve them (like in the photos at the top) and red onion mixed with fresh parsley.
1. You can use any type of bread you like: white bread, whole wheat, multigrain etc.
2. You can also bake them in a pan (brushed with olive oil) or on a pan lined with baking paper.
3. These patties are not as dense as their American cousins, so please be gentle handling them over the grill. Only flip them once with a metal spatula halfway through cooking.