Mexicali Burger with Esquite and Pepita Crema

Pairs well with:


Bright and full-bodied, this Zinfandel wine is a curious contradiction in tastes.

This burger captures the flavors of the food from Mexicali, a town just south of the border.Esquite, a popular street food dish made of corn, gives a great texture and taste to the burger. Pumpkin seeds, a frequent component of authentic Mexican cuisine, make an appearance here in a uniquely delicious Pepita Crema. Lastly, the “secret” ingredient of Cocoa Chile powder in the burger really sets this burger apart. The burst of real Mexican flavors in my Mexicali burger will rock your world!


Pepita Crema:

1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted

2/3 cup thick Mexican crema (can substitute crème fraiche)

1/2 tablespoon agave nectar (or honey)

1 clove garlic, chopped


3 ears sweet corn, husks removed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon Mexican-style Chili Powder

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/3 cup crumbled cotija cheese


2 pounds ground chuck

1/3 cup finely minced red onion

2 clove garlic, crushed and finely minced

1/2 serrano pepper, stem, seeds, and veins removed, finely minced

1 tablespoon McCormick Cocoa Chile Blend

1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack

8 ounces Queso Quesadilla (or Queso Chihuahua), shredded (can substitute Monterey Jack)

6 good-quality hamburger buns, split

2 cups blue corn tortilla chips


Preheat a gas grill to medium-high heat.

To make Pepita Crema, in the bowl of a food processor, combine pepitas, agave, honey, and garlic; puree.

To make Esquite, grill corn over medium-high heat until charred on all sides (but not burnt), about 6-8 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove from grill. When cool enough to handle, shave kernels off cob. In a medium fireproof saucepan over medium-high heat, add butter and Chili Powder. Cook for 30 seconds. Add corn kernels. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a small bowl. Add mayonnaise, lime juice, and cotija cheese; stir until well combined. Drain before serving.

To make the patties, in a large mixing bowl combine minced beef, red onion, garlic, serrano, Cocoa Chile Blend, cilantro, oregano, salt, and pepper. Handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it, mix well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form the portions into patties to fit the buns.

Brush the grill rack with peanut oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, just until done, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare. During the last few minutes of cooking, top the burgers with equal amounts of cheese and place the buns, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly.

To assemble the burgers, spread a generous amount of Pepita Crema on the cut sides of buns. On each bun bottom, place a patty topped with cheese, a generous amount of Esquite, and a layer of blue corn tortilla chips. Add the bun tops and serve.

Makes 6 burgers.