Homemade Burger Bar – Classic Toppings and Spicy Alternatives

A burger loaded with toppings sits on a white plate surrounded by various burger topping ingredients

A burger bar is a backyard staple in the summer season, but it can easily go from delicious to drab if you don’t provide enough options for your guests’ varied tastes. With this combination of classic and spicy toppings, you'll satisfy both burger purists and burger innovators. Begin with standard toppings that some guests are sure to love, then provide more zesty alternatives for the adventurous members of your party.

Before Grilling

The perfect burger bar requires more than just the patties, so start with a checklist of all the non-food items you need. Use this as your grocery list, and keep it handy when you're setting up so you don't forget anything. Set up a beverage area separate from the food and leave plenty of room on the burger bar so guests can set their plates down while they reach for toppings. Along with food, must-have items include:

  • Sturdy paper plates, placed at the beginning or front of the burger bar
  • Several knives in front of each condiment with a small plate to rest them on
  • Forks for guests to use when lifting tomato or onion slices
  • Utensils and plenty of napkins at the end of the setup

Plan on making two sizes of burgers – 6 ounces for the hearty appetites and 4 ounces for smaller ones. Salt the burgers right before you place them on the grill for the best texture and moisture.

Basic Toppings

Include some or all of these favorite toppings:

  • Mayonnaise, ketchup and yellow mustard
  • Iceberg lettuce leaves
  • Thinly sliced tomatoes
  • Thinly sliced onions (red or white)

Flavorful Alternatives

Folded paper labels let your guests know what interesting choices you've provided for their burgers. Whet your guests’ appetites with these possibilities:

  • Spicy chipotle mayonnaise, made from blending canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce with traditional mayonnaise
  • An assortment of gourmet mustards, such as hot wasabi mustard
  • Spicy arugula lettuce, watercress or shredded kale
  • International inspiration such as kimchi, harissa, curry mayo or hot peppers

Make It Your Own

Let your personality shine through when you choose both foods and decor for the burger bar:

  • If you can't live without pepperoncini at every meal, be sure to include a bowl of those as a burger topping.
  • If flowers are your thing, place some bright seasonal bouquets in tin cans flanking the rear of the burger bar.
  • To live up to your designer aesthetic, set condiments in decorative serving bowls and place lettuce and tomatoes on fanciful platters. On the flip side, keep is casual by serving condiments in cupcake trays.