It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s gloomy and lockdown restrictions mean we’re all stuck in our homes even more than we otherwise would be at this time of year. In other words, the conditions are perfect for making cheeseburger tacos.
Cheeseburger tacos might sound like some outlandish Taco Bell special, or the kind of stoner fare that would inspire Harold and Kumar to go on a night-long quest, but they weren’t dreamed up by craven fast food marketers or spat out by some unholy junk-food algorithm.
Instead, they were born in Mexico City. Later, chefs like Alex Stupak (of the now-shuttered Empellón Cocina in New York) further popularised the dish, which eventually made its way over to the UK. The first time I ever tried cheeseburger tacos was during a memorable (and frozen-margarita-heavy) night at Bad Sports in Hackney (RIP). I had them again at Temper in Soho, where they were the favourite plate of the night.
These particular tacos take inspiration from that latter version of the dish, created by chef Neil Rankin. The key to making them is not simply to shove a burger into a tortilla in lieu of a bun. Rather, cheeseburger tacos should feel like a true hybrid, a mingling of both dishes.
And so, I’ve added adobo sauce and pickled jalapeños to my classic burger sauce base of mayonnaise, yellow mustard and ketchup. I’ve also borrowed Rankin’s idea of creating a zesty, quick green sauce made from coriander leaves, garlic and lime juice. Those sauces are layered on a tortilla and crowned with half of an American-cheese-enrobed burger patty, before a finishing scattering of white onions and coriander. If you wanted, you could go even further. Add chunks of avocado, or sliced tomato – or swap the beef for your preferred meat-free alternative.
I don’t need to tell you that cheeseburgers and lagers (and tacos and lagers, for that matter) are a tried-and-true combination. Given the richness of this dish, I wanted to reach for a lager with a hoppy edge to it, and Beak Brewery's new Déšt Pilsner delivers on that promise. Made from German pilsner malt and Saaz and Hallertau Mittlefrüh hops before being cold-conditioned for a month, it’s crisp and snappy, with a warm, toasty malt profile alongside a nuanced noble hop character and just the right amount of bitterness.
With a taco in one hand and a glass of lager in the other, I can close my eyes, position myself in front of the radiator and the SAD lamp, and – for just a moment – pretend I’ve traded my living room for Mexico.
Makes 8 tacos
For the burger sauce:
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons American-style yellow mustard
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from a jar of chipotles in adobo)
2 tablespoons pickled jalapenos (from a jar), minced
For the coriander sauce:
100g coriander leaves
2 garlic cloves
Juice of 3 limes
Large pinch flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
For the tacos:
800g coarsely ground beef mince
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 slices American cheese singles
8 15cm corn tortillas
1 sweet/white onion, finely diced
Large handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1. First, prep your burger sauce. In a small bowl, add all ingredients and mix to combine. Set aside.
2. To make your coriander sauce, add the ingredients to a blender or food processor, or use a handheld blender. Blend until the sauce looks like a thick pesto. Add a small amount of water to loosen if needed.
3. Divide your mince into four 200g portions. Gently form each into a relatively thick, puck-like patty; compress just enough for them to stay together without packing too tightly. Season each half of the patties with a generous pinch of flaky salt.
4. Place a large, lidded frying pan over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil. Once hot, add the patties. Leave undisturbed for roughly 2-3 minutes, or until a nice, dark crust forms on the bottom of each. Flip and cook for 2-3 more minutes on the reverse, until dark and crisped. Turn the heat to medium-low and, using tongs, gently cook for an additional 4-5 minutes, using tongs to turn regularly and sear off the sides of the patties, or until just slightly pink in the middle. Two minutes before they finish cooking, place a slice of American cheese on each patty, turn the heat to low and cover – this will help the cheese melt.
5. When the patties are done cooking, transfer to a plate and leave to cool. Meanwhile, place a small frying pan on medium-high heat. Once hot, add a tortilla and cook for roughly 30 seconds on each side, or until warmed through and just starting to turn golden. Transfer to a plate and cover with a tea towel; repeat with the seven remaining tortillas.
6. To build your tacos, place a good dollop of burger sauce on each tortilla and, using the back of a spoon, spread nearly to the edges. Top each with a dollop of the coriander sauce. Slice the cheese-covered burger patties in half and place one half, cut side down, in the centre of each taco. Top with the diced onions, coriander leaves and additional blobs of ketchup, if desired. Serve immediately.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen.