20 Popular Burger Toppings, Ranked Worst To Best

Burger with toppings on board
Burger with toppings on board - Cook Shoots Food/Shutterstock

The fantastic thing about burgers is that there is no wrong way, per se, to top it. For example, if you have 10 people at a barbecue, chances are you'll see 10 different ways to top a burger. But some qualities make certain toppings more well-deserving of inclusion with your favorite burger recipe than others.

As a burger enthusiast and someone who tops their burger with an amalgamation of condiments, veggies, and whatever is lodged in the back of the fridge, I've done a lot of thinking about what makes a burger topping truly good. I've compared the consistency of burger toppings, as well as how well they interact with one another, to determine which are the best toppings. Above all, I believe that the top performers on this list add some value to the burger without stealing the show, and work in harmony with other toppings to create a beautiful mosaic of a sandwich.

Read more: Tips You Need When Cooking With Ground Beef

20. Onion Rings

Onion rings with burger
Onion rings with burger - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

I've never liked onion rings -- sue me. But my reason for my disdain towards this topping is more than just a personal vendetta -- it's because there's something fundamentally wrong with the structure of the onion ring. Something about the slimy, sharp onion underneath a crispy, fried coating isn't pleasing to my palate. And while I could see eating onion rings as a side to your favorite burger, adding them on top of the patty is a recipe for disaster. The shape of the rings, combined with the massive size, makes for a burger that you have to unhinge your jaw to eat. Plus, the shape of the ring means that you'll get a bite of the onion in some and none in others.

The other issue with this topping is that you can't pair it with another sauce, otherwise, you risk your rings going limp. You'd also be best off eating an onion-ring-topped burger as fast as possible because the fried topping gets soggy quickly, thanks to the steaming patty. And burgers are worth savoring, which makes onion rings an impractical topping.

19. Red Onions

Burger with red onions
Burger with red onions - Linda Hughes Photography/Shutterstock

I understand that red onions are part of the burger trinity, alongside lettuce and sliced tomatoes, but who decided that this allium would be a good topping for a burger in the first place? It's so sharp and causes a subtle, sweet burn down the back of your throat. And the worst part is that when I eat a burger with red onions, I taste it for days. This onion taints the entire patty and every surface it touches, so you're best off requesting to have your burger served without it than ordering it and trying to rid every surface of its oniony wake. Every bite you take is just onion, onion, and more onion, which can overpower the other toppings.

Another issue I have with these colorful alliums is that they're often sliced far too thick, which leads to an imbalanced ratio of burger patty to veggies. Red onions are only acceptable on a burger when they are pickled or used for a quick photo-op before promptly being tossed in the trash.

18. Crumbled Cheese

Blue cheese on burger
Blue cheese on burger - Girod199/Getty Images

If this is a showdown between sliced and crumbled cheese, you can probably guess the winner before the fight even starts. Cheddar, American, and even provolone melt so well when nestled next to a patty straight off the grill. But this isn't the case with crumbled blue cheese and rubbery feta. These tiny cheese flecks stick little clumps on top of the patty and infiltrate each bite with a potent flavor. The cheese never fully integrates with the patty, an essential element for a well-rounded burger.

However, it does win some brownie points over lower-ranked toppings because both crumbled cheeses are relatively versatile and can be matched with other toppings for a complete bite. This isn't a topping I would go out of my way to order, which is why it ranked low.

17. Chili

Chili on a burger
Chili on a burger - Cislander/Getty Images

Chili is in the "Do you really need it?" topping camp. I think of it more as a gimmick than a standard burger topping. Chili is easily customizable, giving it an advantage over other lower-ranked toppings. Add a bit of spice and heat with cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and chipotle, or stick to something milder, depending on what your palate is craving.

A bowl of chili on its own is filling enough. You're adding more protein than needed to the equation with a hearty beef or black bean patty, plus the beans, plus the ground meat in the chili. Every bite is overwhelming and leads to a burger so overwhelming that I won't want to finish it. A burger can hold its own without needing a scoop of chili on top.

16. Bacon

Burger with bacon topping
Burger with bacon topping - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

I'm opening the floodgate for a torrent of hate mail on this one, but I will still say it proudly — bacon cheeseburgers are overrated.

Granted, the bacon does add a unique meaty flavor that can amp up a turkey or a chicken patty to something more comparable to its beef counterpart. And it plays well with others like cheese, ketchup, eggs, and barbecue sauce. However, the issue with this topping is its texture. I've found when people make bacon for their burgers, they tend to overcook it past the point of no return. This leads to a slice of bacon that shatters when you bite into it, which alters the eating experience of a soft patty and a plush bun. But, if you undercook your bacon, you risk imparting more grease than necessary on your patty. It's a lose-lose situation.

15. Jalapeños And Chile Peppers

Jalapeños on burger patty
Jalapeños on burger patty - Jiri Hera/Shutterstock

Spice lovers will enjoy biting into a spicy chile pepper or a more moderate jalapeño on their burgers, but I'm not a member of that crowd.

If anything, I appreciate the chile pepper for its crunchiness and textural contrast. The issue with these condiments is that they're often small and sparse on the burger, so you can get a concentrated bit of spice in one bite and virtually no heat in another. This makes a jalapeño-topped burger inconsistent, thus pushing it back in my ranking. The logical solution would be to use a chili sauce or a hot sauce instead, which spreads more evenly on the patty and gives you a back-of-the-mouth burn with every bite.

14. Mushrooms

Mushrooms on burger patty
Mushrooms on burger patty - Pictafolio/Getty Images

When I was younger, I despised the slimy texture of mushrooms. They're rubbery, and if you neglect to clean them well enough, you may feel the dirt on the back of your molars. So, why would anyone think they're a good topping for burgers — or any sandwiches, for that matter?

The only time a mushroom can be a decent burger topping is when it's paired with cheese, onions, or something to hide its texture. But, a good burger topping should stand proud without any help from other toppings -- which makes this a moot point. The best alternative to including the mushroom in your burger experience is to cut it into the patty itself. The slimness of a portobello or an umami-rich shiitake can be easily subdued by ground beef, quinoa, or some other binder, rather than being too distracting.

13. Sliced Tomatoes

Tomatoes on burger with pickles
Tomatoes on burger with pickles - mathias facello/Shutterstock

I'll admit that tomatoes aren't my favorite fruit. I kindly order my burger sans tomato or inconspicuously remove it from the patty when the sandwich arrives at my table. If the tomato is cut too thick, it can result in the entire sandwich tasting almost entirely like a tomato rather than a greasy, stick-to-your-ribs burger.

Fundamentally, tomatoes lack flavor, especially the big beefsteak tomatoes found in grocery stores during the depths of winter. When you bite into one of these flavorless rounds of seeds and mucusy goop, you're met with a puckering pop that's anything but pleasurable. I'll take them on my veggie burger if, and only if, they're thinly sliced — and preferably a more flavorful, heirloom variety.

12. Pickles

Homemade pickles in jars
Homemade pickles in jars - Rudisill/Getty Images

Of the stereotypical trio of toppings, pickles are more deserving of your burger than a red onion or tomato. Plus, every pickle is different, so you can opt for a sweeter one or stick with a classic dill pickle for your sandwich.

But, like jalapeños, pickles are small and sparse on a patty and many restaurants fail to put nearly enough pickles on a sandwich to make it worthwhile. If I'm ordering a burger, I want a bit of topping in every single bite. So, until someone can invent a mega-pickle that covers the entire patty in briny goodness, the pickle is relegated to the middle of the burger topping pack.

11. Relish

burger with cheese, relish and mustard
burger with cheese, relish and mustard - Collins Unlimited/Shutterstock

Relish is one condiment I forget exists until I see it in a sauce caddy. It's made of a blend of chopped vegetables, spices, and seasonings, and it doesn't have to be the super sweet condiment often found in a squeeze jar. Instead, you can boost the taste and texture of your relish by adding extra dill pickles, sour pickles, or a bit of onion to give it a sharp edge.

Relish allows you to get pickles in every bite rather than having to work around the awkward shape and sparsity of the rounds. However, some toppings have a more pleasurable mouthfeel than relish, which is why this condiment ranked towards the middle of the group.

10. Lettuce

Burger with lettuce
Burger with lettuce - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Lettuce is one of the most underappreciated condiments on a burger. Given the option between red onions, tomatoes, or lettuce on a burger, I would choose lettuce every time. Simply put, it's not as obtrusive as other condiments and it can be used as a keto-friendly alternative to bread.

My only issue with adding lettuce to a burger is that it must be crunchy or else it just sticks to the roof of your mouth. It's hard to keep the lettuce crisp with the steam and weight of the patty, which can make it unpleasant to eat. But if you find a cheap, crunchy iceberg that can sit underneath your patty, it's a perfect bite with a balanced diversity of textures.

9. Eggs

Egg on a burger patty
Egg on a burger patty - Juanmonino/Getty Images

A brunch burger wouldn't be complete without a fried egg on top. When you bite down on the burger, the egg is supposed to ooze out all over the patty and bun, which is a delightful textural surprise. And since the egg is rather bland in flavor, it won't compete with the rest of your sandwich the way a more obtrusive topping, like chili, would.

However, the issue with adding a fried egg to your burger is that it walks a thin line between being too decadent and fatty. The protein content of the topping can make the sandwich feel overwhelming, and it isn't a condiment that I would deem necessary for a good burger.

8. Mayonnaise

Salmon burger with mayonnaise topping
Salmon burger with mayonnaise topping - FotosDo/Shutterstock

I will never understand why some people have a strong aversion to mayonnaise. It's creamy and distinctively eggy, and as long as it's properly emulsified, it will impart a sublime mouthfeel on your sandwich. But there isn't much there when it comes to the flavor of mayonnaise. If anything, I add mayonnaise to a burger more for texture than I do for taste. The condiment provides a fatty reprieve from the other crunchy toppings but it isn't so rich it overwhelms the entire patty like an egg would.

Mayonnaise doesn't stand a chance against dressed-up aioli, which is a better vector for flavor and seasonings. Otherwise, its blandness puts it below more punchy condiments like mustard, barbecue sauce, and ketchup.

7. Avocado And Guacamole

Closeup of guacamole on a burger
Closeup of guacamole on a burger - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Avocados aren't just for toast, they can also go with your burgers. I love this topping because it can be used for beef, chicken, turkey, veggie, or fish burgers. The avocado flavor is mild, but it does add a pop of color and a decadent texture to your sandwich, which should be celebrated.

However, avocado does bring a fatty element to a sandwich that's already perfectly fatty enough without it. Plus, any creamy or melty condiment — like cheese, mayonnaise, and ketchup — doesn't work well with the flavor of the avocado (or guacamole). However, guacamole itself can act as a vehicle for other low-ranking toppings. For example, you can easily chop up a red onion or jalapeño into smaller bites to integrate into your guacamole. It ensures you get a little bit of everything in each bite.

6. Mustard

Mustard and mustard seeds
Mustard and mustard seeds - Ollo/Getty Images

Mustard is such a wonderful pairing for burgers, and I'm so sad to see it often pushed to the side while popular toppings like ketchup, onions, lettuce, and pickles take center stage. The flavor of plain yellow mustard is subtly spicy but not overwhelmingly so, which can add a pleasant back-of-mouth heat to beef, poultry, or veggie burgers. If you want a more powerful punch, swap it out with a spicy brown or grain mustard instead. These unique mustards have a stronger flavor, and the texture can easily liven up a more plain patty, like turkey or chicken.

Mustard works well with cheese, bacon, and aioli. But mustard alone doesn't add the sweetness that a good burger craves. If you can get past its color, it's one topping I highly recommend using on your next burger.

5. Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue sauce on a grill
Barbecue sauce on a grill - Nwphotoguy/Getty Images

If you're after a sweet and smoky flavor, add some barbecue sauce to your next burger. Burgers often lack sweetness, which is why adding a condiment like barbecue sauce could do something for the overall flavor and complexity of the sandwich.

The thick condiment is a fantastic pairing for bacon and eggs, where it can balance out the overwhelming fatty, greasy undertones, but it can also go well with different veggies like lettuce, tomato, and onions (especially caramelized ones). You can play with different barbecue sauce brands to find one that works for you, whether you like a more garlicky flavor or pronounced hickory notes. Overall, this condiment has more of an edge than ketchup, but it's still not nearly as popular, which is why it ranked lower.

4. Ketchup

Ketchup on burger
Ketchup on burger - Pidjoe/Getty Images

If there is a "kid-approved condiment," it's most definitely ketchup. It's sweet, which isn't a flavor often found and associated with burgers. Plus, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise are a perfect trio of condiments because the flavors mesh and help each other out rather than competing with one another.

The one qualm I have with ketchup is that it needs to be added sparingly because the condiment shouldn't hide the taste of the patty. Too many people smother their patties in ketchup, which gives them the consistency of meatloaf rather than a burger. You should still be able to pick out a burger underneath your ketchup rather than watch it flow out from under the bun like coursing lava.

3. Caramelized Onions

Caramelized onion halves
Caramelized onion halves - Alleko/Getty Images

Caramelized onions add a sublime caramel undertone to your burger without taking it too far out of the savory realm. This flavor is welcomed in a burger that tends to gravitate toward all things meaty and heavy elements. Besides helping balance the flavors of your patty, cooking the life out of your onions also curbs the unique, acrid onion flavor that could potentially ruin your entire sandwich.

But anyone who has made a batch of homemade caramelized onions knows it can take an hour or longer to get the perfect color and soft texture. Unfortunately, you can't expedite this much, so I recommend reserving this burger topping for a restaurant -- or making a big batch for eating throughout the week.

2. Aioli

Aioli on burger
Aioli on burger - heather sinese/Shutterstock

Please don't settle for anything less than perfection when it comes to burgers. Instead of grabbing that jar of plain Hellman's, you'll want to step things up and go with an aioli. This condiment allows you to customize your mayonnaise base with flavors that suit your burger. For example, you can make a homemade garlic aioli for your lamb burger or use a hot sriracha aioli to spice things up.

Aioli is a perfectly engineered condiment when you're seeking a burger with an upscale, gourmet feel. The only reason aioli couldn't nap the top spot is that it doesn't have the perfect mouthfeel nor the rush of nostalgia you'll find with my all-time favorite burger topping.

1. Sliced Cheese

Cheeseburger on wooden surface
Cheeseburger on wooden surface - Paulo PFZ STUDIO/Shutterstock

Say cheese! Seriously, there's no reason not to smile when you get a burger topped with a melty piece of cheese that infuses itself into every bite. It's my favorite topping for a burger because of how seamlessly it brings the sandwich together. This topping has become so normalized in the burger world that seeing a naked hamburger patty is a bit of a culture shock.

There are many different types of cheese to add to your burgers, but the best is the plasticky slices of American lurking in your deli drawer. Its thinness and texture are designed for melting, which means you can easily slap it on for the last couple of minutes of cooking and call it a day. It's a condiment that's easy to add to your patty at home or order at your favorite burger joint.


Burgers with topping in tray
Burgers with topping in tray - Sian Kennedy/Getty Images

Like all things in the food world, burger toppings are subjective. But, to try to break this down and make it a bit more objective, I reviewed some of the most popular burger toppings based on several factors. For a burger topping to be considered popular, it has to be widely available. So gold leaf, signature sauces, and flavor oddities didn't make the cut for this review.

The key point of comparison for each of the toppings was if they were truly representative of the definition of a topping -- which, to me, is a condiment, spread, or ingredient that adds value to the overall experience of eating a dish. I put toppings lower on the ranking if they clashed with the sublime consistency of a burger or otherwise detract from the eating experience. For example, toppings that got soggy easily or dominated the flavor profile were placed lower. I also ranked toppings higher if they were compatible with other accompaniments (because who adds only one condiment to their burger?) and if they could be easily adapted to different patty proteins -- like chicken, veggies, or turkey.

Read the original article on Tasting Table