Skip the ground beef and go for a juicy Bison Burger instead! Lean ground bison meat is actually a great protein source and it tastes delicious with some melted cheese and caramelized onions on your favorite brioche hamburger buns.

A bison burger with caramelized onions on a white plate.
Table of Contents
  1. What You'll Need
  2. How to Make Bison Burgers
  3. Recipe FAQ's
  4. Tips for Success
  5. What to Serve With Bison Burgers
  6. Storage and Reheat Instructions
  7. More Gourmet Burger Recipes
  8. Best Bison Burgers Recipe Recipe
  9. More States I Have Visited in my American Eats Series

Welcome to Montana Week on House of Nash Eats! All this week I'm sharing recipes inspired by the flavors of the Treasure State as part of my American Eats series where I explore some of the most famous foods from each state, once state at a time.

Montana is famous for its great American wildlife. If you find yourself in Big Sky Country, there is a good chance you are there to see bald eagles, rainbow trout, elk, bears, and bison. If you are looking for a home where "the buffalo roam," Montana is the place. Except what people sometimes refer to as buffalo are actually American bison.

A couple years ago we had the chance to live in Montana for part of the summer while Paul was working remotely. It's one of Paul's favorite states and he has visited often for their world famous fly-fishing, so it was fun for us to spend a large amount of time there together as a family beyond the vacations to Yellowstone National Park that my family has made almost yearly since I was a kid.

It was while we were in Montana that I first tried my first bison burger, which are a popular menu item at many restaurants there, along with elk burgers. We tried both flavorful bison burgers and elk burgers and found them each to be surprisingly delicious!

The elk burgers tasted a little more gamey, but the bison burgers had just a wonderful juicy burger taste like you would expect from any traditional beef burger.

Ground bison is a better source of lean protein than ground beef because of its lower fat content! It actually has fewer calories and fat than beef and tastes every bit as good. Now we tend to pick up ground bison from the store and use it almost as often as we use ground beef for making anything from tacos to stroganoff to these mouthwatering burgers that we topped with classic fixings like crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and swiss cheese for those of us who like cheeseburgers best.

What You'll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

  • Ground bison - I haven't had any difficulty finding this at our local grocery store in the meat section next to the ground beef. Grass-fed bison burger is easily found at Safeway, Costco, Whole Foods, and most grocery stores. If you don't see any out, you can always ask the butcher about ordering some.
  • Seasonings - You'll want to use some kosher salt and black pepper with a little onion powder and garlic powder. You can also use your favorite burger seasoning instead of the spices to compliment and highlight the flavor of the meat. Something as simple as Montreal steak seasoning works great, but you can use any burger blend you like.
  • Buns - Make your own brioche hamburger buns or pick up a package from the store.
  • Toppings - Feel free to use any burger toppings you like. We kept it pretty classic for these bison burgers using thick sliced tomatoes, fresh lettuce leaves, caramelized onions, swiss cheese, and plain ol' mayo. But a good aioli or even your favorite bbq sauce with some crispy bacon would be incredible here too!
Ingredients for making bison burgers.

How to Make Bison Burgers

It doesn't take long at all to cook bison burgers on the grill so I recommend having your favorite toppings and any other meal components like sides ready to go before you start making the burgers.

  1. Season the meat. Normally I recommend only seasoning the outside of your burgers, but in this case I like to gently work the seasonings into the ground bison meat in a large bowl before shaping our patties. I find that with a lean meat like ground bison this helps to draw out its natural flavor better without overpowering it so you just taste the salt, pepper, and spices.
  2. Shape the patties. Divide the meat evenly into ⅓-pound balls and shape into patties that are slightly larger than your hamburger buns. This allows for the shrinkage that will happen when the burgers hit the grill. Use your fingers to create a depression in the center of each patty. This will help the bison burgers to cook more evenly and keeps them flat without needing to press them with a spatula on the grill and risk losing all the delicious, meaty juices that make a good burger so mouthwatering!

For the juiciest bison burgers, try to avoid overhandling the meat by squeezing it together too tightly or working the seasonings in too much or you will end up with a tough burger. The patties should just hold together so they aren't dense when finished cooking.

  1. Prepare your grill. Once the bison burger patties are seasoned and shaped, get the grill going. Our favorite method is to cook the burgers over the direct heat of a charcoal grill, but a gas grill or pellet smoker will work just as well. Make sure the grill grates are clean by using a grill brush to scrape them clean.
  2. Grill. Once the charcoals are hot, place the burger patties directly on the hot grill grates right over your heat source. This is called direct heat. You can place the lid on or off the grill - it doesn't matter when grill burgers. Don't move the burgers at all once they are on the grill grates. Not only can this cause the burgers to fall apart, but they won't get the beautiful grill markings that come from searing the meat on the hot grill grates. Let them cook for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Flip. Once the burgers have cooked on the bottom, you will notice that they will have shrunk and some juices will have collected on top of the burgers. Resist any temptation to press down on the burgers with the back of your spatula! It's a rookie mistake and you'll end up with dry, sad burgers for sure. Give the burgers one flip, then leave them alone again. They only need to cook for another 2-3 minutes on this side as well until they are medium-rare and still pink in the middle. It's 140-145°F if you are using a meat thermometer.
  1. Top with cheese. If you are like me and appreciate a good cheeseburger, add your sliced cheese during the last minute or two of grilling. You can put the lid on the grill to help it melt if you need to, although usually I find that it melts quickly just from the heat of the burgers and the hot grill. Remove the burgers to a plate when the cheese is melted and they are cooked to your favorite degree of doneness and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving.

If you grill bison burgers until they are well-done they will be tasteless and dry. I prefer them cooked medium-rare (140-145°F) and I don't recommend cooking them beyond medium doneness (150°F). Remember that the internal temperature will continue to rise about 5 degrees while they rest before eating.

Recipe FAQ's

What is the best cheese for a bison burger?

When it comes to cheeseburgers, almost any melty cheese will be good. Our top picks are sharp cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, and Pepper Jack. But Havarti, American cheese, provolone, and Monterey Jack are also great choices, along with many other options.

Is bison meat good for burgers?

Yes, bison meat is wonderful for burgers! It can easily compete with the best burger you have ever had in terms of juiciness and overall savory meaty flavor that has the slightest sweetness to it.

Does bison burger taste the same as beef?

There is a subtle difference but the distinction is so slight that most folks would hardly be able to tell. Bison is sometimes described as slightly sweeter or more "earthy" than ground beef, but it is not gamey at all. It's just a mild, beefy flavor that any burger lover is sure to appreciate.

Is a buffalo burger actually bison?

People often mistakenly refer to American bison as buffalo, which is a misnomer. Actual buffalo are native to Africa and Asia, while

Tips for Success

  • Cooking method: We prefer grilled bison burgers, but you can also make them in a hot cast iron skillet with a little oil for about 2 minutes per side, same as the grill. You can also make these in your air fryer at 370 degrees F for 5 minutes on one side, then flipping and cooking them for another 2-3 minutes on the second side.
  • Additional Mix-Ins: Some people like to add even more to their bison patties like 1-2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce and two tablespoons of olive oil, heavy cream, mayonnaise, or stoneground or dijon mustard as a way of adding some fat into an otherwise lean patty. Personally I have found this to be unnecessary as long as you are careful not to overcook your burgers.

What to Serve With Bison Burgers

Bison burgers somehow seem like even more of a treat, so we like to serve them with some of our favorite burger side dishes to round out the meal. Crispy air fryer tater tots with fry sauce are always popular around our house, but here are some other sides that go great with burgers.

Storage and Reheat Instructions

If you have leftover burgers that have already been cooked, you can keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Reheat in the air fryer or microwave until hot, then serve. It's easy to dry out leftover bison burgers when reheating, so our preference is really to cook only what you need and avoid having leftovers, but they are still okay reheated.

If you have any uncooked patties, they can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 2 months. You can even grill them direct from their frozen state - it will just take an extra minute or two on the grill.

Hands holding a bison burger with all the fixings.

More Gourmet Burger Recipes

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Best Bison Burgers Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Amy Nash
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Skip the ground beef and go for a juicy Bison Burger instead! Lean ground bison meat is actually a great protein source and it tastes delicious with some melted cheese and caramelized onions on your favorite brioche hamburger buns.

Ingredients
  

Burgers

  • 1 ⅓ pounds ground bison
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Fixings

Instructions
 

  • Sprinkle salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder over ground bison in a large bowl. Gently mix together.
  • Shape into patties about 4" around and ¾" thick or slightly larger than the buns you plan to use.
  • Get the charcoal briquets going for a charcoal grill or preheat your gas grill to high heat. Place bison patties onto clean, hot grates directly over the heat and grill for 2-3 minutes before flipping and grilling another 2 minutes on the other side. Top with cheese as soon as you flip the burgers so it has time to melt.
  • Remove bison burgers from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • Skillet Version: Heat 1-2 Tablespoons oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Place bison patties in the skillet and cook for 2 minutes without moving the patties. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes until medium-rare to medium.
  • Air Fryer: Preheat air fryer to 370°F. Arrange the patties in a single layer and cook for 5 minutes. Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes until done.
  • Additional Mix-Ins: Some people like to add even more to their bison patties like 1-2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce and two tablespoons of olive oil, heavy cream, mayonnaise, or stoneground or dijon mustard as a way of adding some fat into an otherwise lean patty. Personally I have found this to be unnecessary as long as you are careful not to overcook your burgers.
  • Freezing: If you have any uncooked patties, they can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 2 months. You can even grill them direct from their frozen state - it will just take an extra minute or two on the grill.

Nutrition

Calories: 771kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 43g | Fat: 49g | Saturated Fat: 24g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 265mg | Sodium: 1098mg | Potassium: 548mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1087IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 221mg | Iron: 5mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

More States I Have Visited in my American Eats Series

Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • IdahoIllinoisIndianaIowa • KansasKentuckyLouisiana • MaineMarylandMassachusettsMichiganMinnesotaMississippiMissouriMontanaNebraskaNew JerseyNew YorkOregonPuerto RicoSouth CarolinaSouth DakotaTexasUtahWisconsin

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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