Southwest “Chili” Burgers with Avocado Crema and Lime-Marinated Slaw

Accolades 2004 Finalists
Serves Makes 6 burgers
Pairs well with:

Cabernet Sauvignon

This rich red easily complements your homemade chicken dishes, red meats, game, and mildly seasoned pastas.



1/4 head napa cabbage, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Chili Rojo:

1 dried ancho chile and 1 dried pasilla chile, seeded, stemmed, and soaked in warm water
for at least 30 minutes, or 4 tablespoons good-quality ground chile
1/2 to 1 minced fresh jalapeño chile
1/4 cup minced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup hearty red wine (like Zinfindel or Cabernet Sauvignon), plus more if needed


2 pounds freshly ground beef
6 tablespoons Chili Rojo (from above)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Avocado Crema:

2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 jalapeño chile, finely minced (optional)
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
Zest of 1 lime, finely minced
Juice of 1 lime
1 large ripe tomato or 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

6 one-ounce sharp Cheddar cheese slices
6 good-quality soft hamburger buns
1/3 cup of remaining Chili Rojo (from above) mixed with 1/2 cup ketchup



To make the slaw: mix all the slaw ingredients together. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to marinate.

Prepare charcoal grill for medium-hot direct-heat cooking.

To make the Chili Rojo: add all chili ingredients, except extra wine, into a blender or food processor. Puree thoroughly, using extra wine if necessary to make a thick, smooth sauce.

To make the burger patties: take 6 tablespoons ground beef and mix with 6 tablespoons Chili Rojo. Make 6 equal hand-formed patties with the remaining ground beef. Place 2 tablespoons of the chili mixture onto the center of each patty. Carefully enclose each patty around the chili mixture to form a ball. Carefully flatten each ball back into a thick patty, keeping the chili mixture inside. Season the patties liberally with salt and pepper.

To make the Crema: mash the avocados in a food processor or with a potato masher. Add the rest of the ingredients and fold gently until thoroughly mixed.

When the grill is hot, oil the grill rack and cook the burgers over a medium-high flame until done, about 3 minutes per side for medium rare. If the exterior of the patties begins to burn, move them to a cooler side of the grill until the centers have had a chance to cook. Add a slice of cheese to each patty about 1 minute before they are done. Let patties rest off the heat for 1 or 2 minutes after cooking, and meanwhile toast the buns on a cooler side of the grill.

To assemble the burgers: spread each bun bottom with a layer of Avocado Crema. Add about 1/3 cup slaw, a patty with melted cheese, then a tablespoon of chili ketchup, and finally the bun top.

Note: I like the “whole cow” approach to ground beef and use two parts chuck to one part rib meat to one part sirloin or round. This gives the mixture a variety of texture and beefy flavor. If you are limited in choices, chuck is by far the best meat for grinding and for burgers.