Tennessee Burger with Bourbon and BBQ Sauce

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Juicy burgers made with ground beef and seasonings topped off with balsamic caramelized onions and a homemade bourbon BBQ sauce made for the perfect summer burger.

A top view of a burger with caramelized onions on top, a bun with BBQ sauce, tater tots, and mixed vegetables.

You can call me a burger snob.  It’s ok, I know I am.  For years I refused to eat beef burgers.  I just didn’t really like them and had absolutely no interest in making them for myself.  My husband on the other hand loves a good burger so over the years I’ve started eating them again. 

However, I rarely eat a burger when I am out unless I know it’s going to be good.  There are probably only 2 or 3 restaurants that make burgers that I will eat and I won’t eat burgers at a cook out.  I just don’t like not knowing what people put in their burgers.

The key to a great grilled burger is having the right percentage of fat and not much filled.   The beef for burgers should be either 85/15 or 80/20.  There is no need for a ton of filler.

I do like trying new gourmet burgers that have a good, solid burger at the core but fancy toppings all around.  This Tennessee Burger with Bourbon BBQ Sauce had my mouth watering as soon as I saw the picture.


  • ground beef (I usually use Certified Angus Beef and prefer 85/15)
  • red onions (you can skip these in the burger if you’d like)
  • salt and pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • breadcrumbs (I prefer regular breadcrumbs and not Panko in burgers)
  • balsamic vinegar (it has to be balsamic for the onions, don’t use anything else)
  • bourbon (any brand will do as it flavors the sauce and the onions)
  • ketchup
  • Dijon mustard (or brown mustard in a pinch)
  • honey
  • Frank’s red hot (or other hot sauce)

I know this looks like a ton of ingredients but it’s really not hard to make.  The burger is just a combination of beef, spices, a little breadcrumbs, and onions.

Pin Images:   A top view of a burger with caramelized onions on top, a bun with BBQ sauce, tater tots, and mixed vegetables, text title, Ingredients on a cutting board.

The caramelized onions take the longest so start them first.   Slowly saute them in a pan with oil and a pinch of sugar.   Once they have softened and are beginning to caramelize you add in the balsamic vinegar and bourbon to give them a punch of flavor.

How do I grill a burger?

Grilling a burger is easy.  Heat the grill to medium heat.   Add the burgers over direct heat and cook for 4-5 minutes per side or until you have your desired doneness.  Do not keep flipping the burgers.   Just do one side, flip, then the other and take the temperature while they are on the second side.

Can I substitute the bourbon?

Just know that the alcohol in the bourbon cooks out of the onions and the sauce if that is what you are worried about.  If you don’t like bourbon or don’t want alcohol you can use apple juice in place of it in both the onions and the sauce.   You could also just add a bit of water to the onions in place of the bourbon. 

Can I make the sauce ahead of time?

You can make the BBQ sauce up to 2 days in advance.  Simply store it in an air tight container in the refrigerator.  You can heat it up before using or use it cold.  It will last for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

Can I add cheese to the burger?

You can.  While the onions and sauce pack a ton of flavor we usually don’t add cheese to these burgers but if you want to either cheddar or American cheese work well with these.  Place the cheese on the burger the last 2 minutes of grilling and shut the lid so that it will melt.

How do I store these burgers?

Store the parts of the burgers separately. The BBQ sauce and onions should go in small containers to be placed in the refrigerator.  Both will last up to 1 week.  The burgers should also be placed in a container and put in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Once the onions are cooking start on your BBQ sauce.  It’s easy to make as you just combine the ingredients in a saucepan and let it cook until it thickens.  The BBQ sauce is sweet, tangy, and has a bite from the bourbon. 

A plate with a burger, tater tots, and mixed vegetables on it.

Then you can start on the burgers.   Combine the burger ingredients and make them into 4 patties.   I like to shape my burgers then put an indentation in the middle of them to help them cook flat. 

Then you put the burgers on the grill and grill them until you reach the desired temperature.  I prefer mine medium on the side of medium well but temp them to yur desired temperature.

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Once they come off it’s time to assemble them.  I like to put my BBQ sauce on the bottom bun followed by a leaf of lettuce.   Then I put the burger on.  Caramelized onions go on top of that with the top of the bun.

This Tennessee Bourbon Burger a simple burger but the complex flavors of the sauce and onions really make it something special.   If you like gourmet burgers you need to give this one a try!

If you’ve tried my Tennessee Burgers or any other recipe on Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks please take a minute to rate the recipe and leave a comment letting me know how you liked it. I love hearing from you! You can FOLLOW ME on:

A top view of a burger with caramelized onions on top, a bun with BBQ sauce, tater tots, and mixed vegetables.

Tennessee Burgers

Juicy burgers topped with caramelized onions and Bourbon BBQ Sauce.
5 from 16 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4 burgers
Author: Hezzi-D


  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 c. thinly sliced red onion about 1 large onion
  • 5 Tablespoons bourbon divided
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ c. ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons Frank’s Red Hot
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 c. breadcrumbs
  • 1 ½ lb. ground beef
  • 5 hamburger buns
  • 5 lettuce leaves


  • In a medium skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sugar and red onions and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the onion is caramelized.
  • Add in 3 tablespoons of bourbon, vinegar, and ½ teaspoon of salt.  Cook for 2 minutes or until the liquid is almost evaporated.  Remove mixture from heat and cool for 5 minutes.
  • In a small saucepan combine the remaining bourbon, ketchup, Dijon
    mustard, honey, Frank's Red Hot, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from
  • In a large bowl combine the ground beef, remaining Worcestershire sauce, and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Divide the beef into 5 patties.  Sprinkle with remaining salt.
  • Grill the burgers on a gas grill over medium heat for 4-5 minutes per side.
  • Place 1 tablespoon of BBQ sauce on the bottom of each bun and top with a lettuce leaf. Then place the burger on top of the lettuce. Place 1-2 tablespoons of the red onion mixture on top.
  • Enjoy!


Recipe adapted from Cooking Light-July 2011

A plate with a burger on a bun, a bun with bourbon BBQ sauce, tater tots, and vegetables.

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  1. I love a good burger to start off the summer grilling season. And the flavors sound wonderful!

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