California Burgers

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Make delicious California burgers topped with melty cheese, crisp lettuce, creamy avocado, and sweet-salty homemade bacon jam right in time for grilling season! These burgers are the ultimate recipe for backyard gatherings and game days, but if you ask me, I’m making them again this weekend.

These grilled California burgers put a fun spin on a classic American cheeseburger. You’re gonna love ‘em.

Close up of an assembled California burger on a brown stoneware plate.


These California burgers are the ultimate summer treat! My husband and I love enjoying these on our patio during warm evenings. Burgers are kind of our favorite way to unwind and enjoy a delicious meal together. A cozy date-night at home, if you will.

I mean, it’s a juicy grilled patty stacked with fresh avocado, lettuce, and bacon jam! These burgers are gourmet without even trying, and they’ve become my new obsession. And, of course, I’m sharing this obsession with you so you can enjoy them all summer long, too! These burgers are gourmet without trying. Talk about California Dreamin’.

Why We Love These California Burgers

Extra juicy. There’s nothing like a homemade burger. These burger patties are juicy, tender, and perfectly grilled. Once you add the toppings, it’s like an explosion of flavors squashed between two fluffy buns. 

Bacon jam. Sticky, tangy, sweet-salty bacon jam is right up there with my homeland’s ajvar as one of my all-time favorite condiments. The homemade jam I make for these burgers is some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Best of all, it’s easy to make on the stovetop.

Better than a restaurant. Not going to lie, these homemade burgers stack up to some of my restaurant favorites. Loaded with gourmet toppings, they’re just as good, if not better, minus the gastropub price tag.

Bacon jam arranged over a burger patty.

What Is a California Burger

It depends on where you live, but most California burgers have one thing in common: fresh veggies piled on top of a juicy beef patty. On the West Coast, a California burger is topped with avocado, so that’s what we’re doing here. And since I’ll never pass up an occasion to add bacon or cheese to a recipe, I’ve amped up my Cali burgers with homemade bacon jam and melty Swiss. Hello, summer in a burger bun!

Ingredients for California burgers with text labels overlaying each ingredient.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Here’s what’s in a classic California burger, at least according to yours truly. Scroll to the recipe card below the post for a printable list of ingredients with amounts. 

  • Ground Beef – 80/20 lean ground beef. It’s just the right amount of juicy without being greasy.
  • Swiss Cheese – Or any cheese you’d like, sliced up thinly.
  • Hamburger Buns – I use chewy ciabatta buns, but you can use regular burger buns, pretzel buns, you name it. You can also make bunless burgers or wrap them in lettuce if you’re keeping it low-carb.
  • Butter and Mayo – Melted butter is used to toast the buns, and mayonnaise is used to spread over the top. 
  • Lettuce – I like the crispiness of butter lettuce in these burgers. Other options are iceberg or Romaine lettuce, or different greens, like arugula or spinach.
  • Avocado – It’s not a California burger unless it’s topped with creamy avocado slices! I use Hass avocado, but you can use whatever kind is in season.
  • Bacon Jam – I include an easy recipe for homemade bacon jam. It’s quick and it’s AMAZING. Feel free to use your favorite store-bought jam if you’re really short on time.

How to Make California Burgers

I make my burger patties from scratch, but you can absolutely sub in your preferred store-bought patties and skip that step. Either way, these California burgers are quick and easy to make. Here are the steps:

  1. Cook the burger patties. Shape the ground beef into patties and season them on all sides with salt and pepper. Grill your burgers on medium-high until they’re done to your liking. For me, that’s medium-rare.
  2. Make it cheesy. Next, melt a slice of cheese over each burger patty. Afterward, take the burgers off the grill.
  3. Toast the buns. Rest the burgers while you butter the burger buns and toast them on the grill. This step is optional, but recommended!
  4. Build the burgers. Last but not least, spread mayo over the buns. Starting with lettuce, layer on your cheesy burger patty, bacon jam (see below), and avocado. Close your burger with a top bun, and dig in!

How Long Should I Grill My Burgers?

Unsure of how long to leave your burgers on the grill? Here’s a quick cheat sheet for burger grilling times over medium-high heat:

  • 4 minutes per side for medium-rare (my go-to)
  • 5 minutes per side for medium
  • 6 minutes per side for medium-well

Homemade Bacon Jam

The bacon jam really makes these California burgers. To make it, start by crisping up some diced bacon. I’ll usually do this in a skillet (since I need a pan to make the jam anyway) but you can also use the air fryer and dice it up afterward. Drain the bacon over paper towels afterward to absorb most of the grease. 

Next, caramelize shallots in the same pan, then add garlic, bacon, maple syrup, and cider vinegar. Simmer that for a good 15-20 minutes until the jam has thickened, and you’re ready to go. For printable details and instructions, be sure to scroll to the recipe card.

A hand holding up a California burger.

Recipe Tips & Variations

  • Grease the grill grates. We don’t want stuck-on burgers!
  • No grill? No worries. If you don’t have a grill or the weather isn’t on your side, you can pan-fry your burgers in a preheated skillet on the stovetop instead. Just keep an eye on them since the cooking times will vary.
  • Check the burgers for doneness. I usually go by time (see above), but if you’re unsure whether your burgers are cooked, use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature is 165ºF. Any higher than that, and they’ll end up dry.
  • Make it vegetarian. Make a vegan bacon jam by replacing diced bacon with your preferred plant-based bacon, or use tomato jam instead. Swap the beef burger for a black bean burger.
  • Make it lean. For a leaner burger patty, try my grilled turkey burgers instead of beef in this recipe.

Serving Suggestions

Serve these California burgers burger joint-style with a side of French fries dipped in ketchup or aioli. I also love these spicy Cajun fries or crunchy air fryer onion rings.

Since we’re going California-inspired, I’ll pair these burgers with a La Scala chopped salad of Beverly Hills fame, with coastal fritto misto or crispy calamari as a starter. It’s one of my favorite ways to entertain friends alongside a strawberry pomegranate mojito in the summer!

Burger with beef patty, avocado slices, and bacon jam served on a brown plate.

Storing and Reheating Leftovers

Place your leftover burgers in an airtight container and store them in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Reheat the burgers in a skillet with a little oil until they’re warmed through. You can also use the microwave.

Can I Freeze These Burgers?

I usually have a bunch of prepared beef patties stashed in my freezer at any given moment. The raw patties can be stored in a single layer, either in a freezer bag or airtight container and frozen for up to 3 months. The cooked burger patties can also be frozen. Defrost the patties in the fridge before cooking or reheating.

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5 from 1 vote

California Burgers

Make juicy gourmet California burgers topped with crisp lettuce, creamy avocado, and sweet-salty homemade bacon jam.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 burgers


For the bacon jam

For the burgers

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, for the grill grates
  • pounds ground beef, 80/20
  • teaspoons salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 4 ciabatta buns
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • butter lettuce
  • 1 large avocado, sliced
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For the bacon jam

  • Cook the bacon. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it's crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Discard all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon grease.
  • Sauté the aromatics. Add the shallots to the pan with the bacon grease. Sauté until the shallots are caramelized. Add the garlic and saute for 15 seconds or until fragrant.
  • Sweeten things up. Return the bacon to the skillet and stir in the maple syrup and apple cider vinegar. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the jam has thickened to your liking.

For the burgers

  • Prep. While the bacon jam is simmering, preheat the grill to medium-high heat and brush the grates with olive oil.
  • Form the patties. Divide the beef into 4 equal portions and form each portion into a patty. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Grill. Place the burgers on the grate, close the lid, and grill for 4 minutes (see note). Flip the burgers, close the lid, and grill for an additional 3 minutes.
  • Make it cheesy. Place a slice of Swiss cheese on each patty, close the lid to the grill, and grill for 1 minute or until the cheese has melted.
  • Let ‘em rest. Remove the burgers from the grill and allow them to rest while you toast the buns.
  • Toast the buns. Cut the buns in half and brush both sides of each (cut side) with butter. Place the buns on the grill, cut side down, and cook for 15 seconds or until golden brown.
  • Assemble the burgers. Spread mayonnaise on both sides (cut side) of each bun and place butter lettuce on the bottom half of each. Top the lettuce with a burger patty, some bacon jam, and ¼ avocado. Place the top buns on top to close the sandwiches. Serve.


  • Grilling the patties for 4 minutes on either side should yield medium-rare burgers. If you would like your burgers medium, grill for 5 minutes on either side. If you would like your burgers medium-well, grill for 6 minutes on either side.


Serving: 1burger | Calories: 1111kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 58g | Fat: 81g | Saturated Fat: 28g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 14g | Monounsaturated Fat: 34g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 206mg | Sodium: 2016mg | Potassium: 1082mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 520IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 191mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

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  1. Michael Paquette-Delcollo says:

    I love ❤️ everything in the California Burger

    1. Katerina says:

      I’m so glad you loved the California Burger! Thank YOU! 🙂