A Cheese (Hold the Beef) Burger

March 5, 2011 · 31 comments

filed in: Dairy,Main Courses,Vegetables,Vegetarian/Vegetarian Option

A Cheese (Hold the Beef) Burger

If you’re a North American of a certain age, you’ll recall a mid-1980s series of commercials in which a popular fast foods chain disparaged the allegedly puny size of its competitors’ burgers by asking, “Where’s the beef?” You’d have good cause to ask in the case of this particular burger since it includes no beef whatsoever. Instead, a grilled cheese patty is the star here.

For years I’ve enjoyed what are called grilling cheeses, which have high melting points and can be browned on a barbeque grill or stovetop grill pan without losing their shape or otherwise turning into a gooey mess. These include Mexican queso blanco, Cypriot halloumi, Indian paneer, Greek kasseri, and certain varieties of farmer’s cheese. And the thought occurred: why not a cheese-glorious-cheese-and-only-cheese burger made from one of these ingredients? Just to be on the safe side, I checked The Free Online Dictionary, which defines a burger as:

A sandwich consisting of a bun, a cooked beef patty, and often other ingredients such as cheese, onion slices, lettuce, and condiments…. A similar sandwich with a nonbeef filling.

So, yes, this sandwich walks like, talks like, looks like, cooks like, and ultimately is a burger, although an unconventional one.

This simple and very quickly prepared recipe is ideal for a weeknight dinner when cooked on the stovetop and is also a great vegetarian option to offer when barbecuing on weekends. Four minutes or less of cooking time and you’ve got a main course. Enjoy!


For the burgers:

1 teaspoon olive oil
12 ounces queso blanco, queso fresco crumbling cheese, paneer, or halloumi, sliced into 1/3-inch thick or thicker pieces (taste first, as some brands of these cheeses, particularly halloumi, can be very salty. If necessary, rinse the slices to remove some of the salt)
4 kaiser-style rolls, each sliced into two rounds
1/2 fresh lemon
Salt, if needed, and pepper

For garnish:

I opted for a combination fresh spinach, baby greens, sliced tomatoes, sliced avocado, and sliced onion. Use whatever garnishes you prefer for burgers.

For optional sauce:

I opted for garlicky aioli on one occasion and chipotle-seasoned mayonnaise on another. Both were tasty. Use whatever sauces you prefer for burgers or serve them plain.


  1. Preheat a barbeque grill or a non-stick grill pan (if cooking on the stove top) to medium-high heat and, when hot, brush the grill surface with the olive oil.
  2. Grill the cut sides of the rolls until warm and lightly browned.
  3. Place the cheese patties on the grill surface and cook for approximately one minute until the cheese has browned. Flip the cheese over and cook until lightly browned. Give each cheese slice a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Add salt, if needed, and pepper to taste.
  4. Immediately serve each cheese slice on a grilled roll with the garnishes and sauce of your choice. Makes four servings.

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{ 30 Comments...read them below or add one }

Elizabeth March 26, 2011 at 10:24 am

I’ve never successfully grilled cheese, but this looks like a great reason to try again. Yum!


Barbara April 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Even grilling cheeses will melt if sliced very, very thin. Aim for 1/3-inch thick (or more) slices of the cheeses identified above, and you should do well.


betty March 16, 2011 at 6:42 pm

oh man this looks so good!


Delishhh March 13, 2011 at 7:07 pm

OMG this looks fabulous. I love cheese – but i eat so much cheese that eating burgers like this i would have to remove some of my other cheese eating. But this is my type of food.


Barbara April 8, 2011 at 5:03 pm

I’m with you, Ewa. Given a choice, I’ll always skip dessert in favor of the cheese course, and if I’m desperately hungry by mid-afternoon it’s always cheese and crackers for me.


A Canadian Foodie March 12, 2011 at 9:25 am

BRAVO! Standing ovation!!!! Do you hare me clapping? Brilliant idea. I LOVE this cheese but cannot source it here. It comes, it goes. The small fresh cheese maker can’t get it going and it drives me crazy as I love this cheese. I also love this idea and CANNOT wait to get my hands on more of this cheese to recreate this idea. YUM! Now THIS is a vegetarian burger! This is good stuff, Barbara!

BUT – the Queso Blanco I have had is inherently different than paneer. Not even close cousins other than they are fresh cheeses. I have made my own paneer – and do enjoy it – but the Queso Blanco I have had is not at all grainy …much creamier and definitely made with raw milk. What am I missing? If it is as easy to make as paneer, I want the recipe! I have been neck deep in the throws of planning a local food conference here within slow food and have not posted for three weeks. Important work. Time well spent: BUT…I have not read, written, cooked and I miss my life and reading YOU! I am catching up slowly! Valerie


Barbara March 12, 2011 at 11:21 am

Thank you so much for your (too!) generous comments, Valerie. I used store bought queso blanco, which is dead easy to make, for this round of this recipe. I found the flavor and texture to be quite similar to the commercial paneer I used to buy while living in Africa, but perhaps there are variations in the creaminess of the latter depending the source milk used and the maker.

The queso blanco I have made seemed creamy enough to me, and there are several good recipes for it online: at http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/e-216.pdf (using vinegar) and http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/2009/10/homemade-cheese-queso-blanco.html (using lemon juice), among others. For a cook of your enormous talents, home made queso blanco should be very do-able … perhaps with cream substituted for some of the whole milk? to avoid any hint of grittiness?


Kathy - Panini Happy March 10, 2011 at 7:06 pm

What a great idea! I was just talking about halloumi with a friend last night. I definitely need to try more of these grilling cheeses.


Devaki @ weavethousandflavors March 10, 2011 at 11:41 am

This is marvelous especially as we’re al trying to eat more vegetarian. You just took grilled cheese up a several notches and then some. love it! Woo hoo..eat more cheese! First time here and lovin’ it. chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors


Barbara Bakes March 8, 2011 at 11:16 pm

What a fun idea. I’m definitely trying this one as soon as the weather warms up.


Megan March 8, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Oh my goodness, as a cheese lover, this looks marvelous. I’ve seen those cheeses abut never bought any. I guess I need to get out of my comfort zone and actually but some of these cheeses. And try a cheese burger!


Karen March 8, 2011 at 11:42 am

Mmmm, finally a grown-up version of the humble grilled cheese sandwich. This is a fantastic idea, Barbara! I can almost taste the melted cheese. Much better than any burger with a beef patty!


deeba March 8, 2011 at 10:30 am

Love it…just perfect for meatless days, and I think just cheese just rocks. Your photographs are very fetching B!!


SMITH BITES March 8, 2011 at 7:13 am

really like this one Barbara – and beautiful photos as always!


Claudie March 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Great idea. And, moreover, since paneer cheese is so easy to make, I think I might try to create my own with different flavorings which will enhance even more this burger.


Barbara March 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm

You’re right that paneer and queso blanco (which is essentially the same cheese) are a cinch to make. I actually did use my own homemade queso blanco the first time I made this recipe, and it worked out very well. To make the recipe more accessible to readers, however, I used store bought cheese for this second-round published recipe. There’s little or no difference in the flavor or cost.


Maria March 7, 2011 at 10:01 am

My kind of burger, love it!


Alessio March 6, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Lovely cheesy burger, gotta try Halloumi cheese asap! Have postponed this yummy experience for way too long!


Shaina March 6, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Oh how perfect! We often grill cheese, but I’ve never thought of making a grilled cheese “burger.” Gorgeous!


Cookin' Canuck March 6, 2011 at 12:45 pm

A burger starring cheese? You’re speaking my language. What a wonderful variation on the regular burger.


Suzanne March 6, 2011 at 9:09 am

Love this idea! You are always coming up with something breathtakingly delicious and simple. Which makes everything you make a dish that I want to make. This one is no exception! And by the way, all of your dishes that I have made (which are many) are ALL perfectly perfect.


Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes) March 6, 2011 at 6:43 am

That looks delicious, Barbara. Paneer burgers are actually quite common here in India.


marla March 5, 2011 at 9:53 pm

I am so happy you posted this cheesy burger. First of all it looks great. It is perfect for vegetarians (of which I am not) and it uses my favorite toasting cheeses. When I was in Mexico along with my scrambled eggs each day they had a slab of toasted cheese. One of the best things I have ever had. I must get some of this pronto!


Kiran March 5, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Mmmm…. Yummy vegetarian burger. Got to try this simple recipe.


sonia March 5, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Wow…the burger looks and sounds interesting. Loved the filling of paneer in it, will try for sure!


bellini March 5, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Well I am in! I have some halloumi in the fridge and the grill is on.


Barbara March 5, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Unless you’re a salt lover (which I must say I am), you might want to taste and then possibly rinse the halloumi slices before grilling. Some halloumi brands are VERY salty.


Rocquie March 5, 2011 at 1:54 pm

What a great idea. It is like a cross between a grilled cheese and a hamburger. Cheese is far and above my favorite food and I love bread and veggies, so I’m in.


Katrina March 5, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Fun, yummy burger. My sister used to work at McD’s and she was a vegetarian, she’d order the Big Mac, hold the beef.


Lana @ Never Enough Thyme March 5, 2011 at 11:59 am

Genius! Absolute genius, Barbara. I love burgers too, but often want something a little different. My usual choice is to fall back on either a turkey burger or a grilled portabello. But this grilled cheese burger beats all those by a mile. This is most definitely on the menu for our next barbecue!


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