Every Burger Topping Imaginable, Ranked

Extensive burger research was conducted to bring you these definitive burger topping rankings.

As what could fairly be called America's favorite food, hamburgers have evolved across the decades to incorporate an impossibly wide array of toppings and styles over the years. What other entree could be capably paired with condiments as diverse as chili, kimchi, and doughnuts? In fact, the amount of choices we have when selecting our burgers can be pretty overwhelming. So I have taken upon myself the unenviable but heroic task of ranking just about everything you could possibly put on a burger.

This will not be some paltry list that starts at lettuce and tomato and never gets more wild than grilled onions. This is a guide that embraces the full range of creativity available to you as a burger consumer—a list built for online culinary discourse. That being said, there have to be some limitations, so I've stuck with two main parameters:

1. I must have personally tasted a burger topping for it to qualify.

I have eaten a lot of burgers in every region of the country, so the list is pretty extensive. Still, some favorite toppings of yours might not show up. Sorry, but in the interest of fairness and (at least some) brevity, this was a necessary limitation.

2. Some ingredients skew more or less specific at my discretion.

For example, American and Brie cheeses are different enough to warrant separating, but I'm not going to waste time distinguishing between iceberg and romaine lettuce. I'm not listing 20 different types of hot sauce. I recognize this is subjective, but some cuts needed to be made. Plus it's my list and I'll do what I want with it.

With those necessary caveats out of the way, let's do this.

70. Turkey Bacon

Just... why? The vast majority of turkey bacon is rubbery, and it doesn't gel with the flavor and texture of a beef patty, no matter how you cook it. The only reason someone would add turkey bacon to a burger is because they thought it was somehow healthier, and burger choices made for the sake of health rarely result in a better tasting burger.

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69. Spinach

Spinach leaves are sufficiently different from romaine and iceberg lettuce to warrant a mention, and this is a surprisingly common green on gastropub-style burgers. While it is less watery than its lettuce counterparts, it tends to wilt on a warm burger, creating a mushy, strangely fuzzy texture that just doesn't work with the rest of the sandwich.

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68. Peanut Butter

The salty, nutty flavor of peanut butter atop a deeply savory beef patty seems like a great match, but every bite ends up tasting like a novelty, and even slightly too much peanut butter can totally overwhelm the burger. Pass.

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67. Pineapple

Pineapple on burgers comes up more often than you'd think. Yet while grilled pineapple can be paired with a range of savory dishes, including pizza and hot dogs, overly sweet ingredients can be harder to pull off on a burger, since they risk drowning out the savory notes of the meat.

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66. Marinara

There are many pizza-inspired burgers out there that make use of marinara sauce—even Burger King released one. But marinara plays best with mozzarella, and neither one complements beef as well as chicken or pork. Mashing up two beloved dishes won't always result in a win.

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65. Doughnut

Okay, so technically the doughnuts function as a bun in this scenario, but I'm still counting it as a topping because when it comes to doughnut burgers, no one is talking about anything but the bun. This idea always seems appealing, and it certainly is photogenic, but the combination never tastes as good or distinctive as I want it to. Not bad, but too out there to just be "meh."

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64. Fresh Bell Pepper

Far too often, the bell peppers on top of a burger are green—a choice that's mostly just boring and doesn't add anything that other toppings don't do better. Even more interesting bell peppers would do better on the side, where their flavors can truly shine.

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63. Sauerkraut

Maybe it's just my love of sauerkraut on hot dogs and sausage, but sauerkraut feels out of place on a burger. It's almost uncanny, and when it's not paired with the snap of a sausage, it kind of puts me off. Sorry, sauerkraut. I'll always love you, just not in this context.

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62. Queso

The low placement of queso on this list might make some people angry, but it's not about the flavor—it's a textural issue. I don't like cheese sauce dripping off my burger while I'm trying to eat it. Give me a melty slice that'll cling to the patty, not a big puddle of gloop. If I want queso full of beefy flavor, I have plenty of other options.

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61. Fries

Fries on a burger? Totally fine. In fact, really good fries can make a blah burger taste slightly better. But if you don't finish your burger right away, the fries turn to mush, thus ruining everything that's good about them. There are better ways to get potatoes atop your patty, all of which will be discussed later.

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60. Mozzarella

In most burgers where it shows up, mozzarella is only there for the melt, or for pairing with tomato sauce in those ill-advised pizza burgers. It just doesn't have the signature salty note of cheese that you want on a burger. I'd sooner go without cheese than have mozzarella piled on top.

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59. Thousand Island

Thousand Island dressing would rank much higher if I were equating it with other burger sauces like McDonald's Big Mac sauce, as many lists scattered across the internet tend to do. But I'm not, because the two aren't the same. So Thousand Island, the inferior option of the two, falls all the way down here.

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58. Brie

I actually kind of like the flavor of this mild soft French cheese paired with ground beef, but the texture of it melted over a patty hasn't really worked the few times I've ordered a burger with brie. Maybe it's a skill issue, requiring the proper temperature to keep the cheese from feeling tacky with each bite. Whatever the case, you can do better than brie burgers.

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57. Pesto

Pesto and chicken are a great combination, but even when the pesto is well made, its basil and olive oil components just aren't strong enough to elevate a burger. The herbaceous flavors can't compete with the hulking beef patty enough to add anything.

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56. Sweet Relish

As a component of a burger sauce (more on that later), sweet relish has its place on a burger. As a standalone condiment relish, it's mostly just sweet–a flat flavor that only distracts.

55. Goat Cheese

The creamy, cooling effect of goat cheese can be a nice complement to some other toppings, like caramelized onions or bacon. However, it's a very specific utility player, not a star, and it only works within particular condiment combinations. (We do, however, recommend it on your watermelon burgers.)

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54. Avocado/Guacamole

Guacamole and avocado are two menu options that always trick my brain; I'm incapable of resisting them when I see them offered, and I always think they're going to taste better on my burger than I remember. Instead, what I receive is a mushy pile of bland fats, each of which would have been better enjoyed on their own. Guacamole is best paired with chips, not beef patties.

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53. Tomato

We all know a good, fresh tomato eaten in peak season is a mind-blowing culinary experience. That's not what you're getting on most burgers, though. You're getting a pale, watery slice of mealy flesh and slimy moisture that rapidly cools down your sandwich. If I never ate another tomato on a burger, I wouldn't miss them.

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52. Pepperoni

Pepperoni slices on a burger can be fun, but the soft, chewy pepperoni doesn't quite work with the texture of a hamburger patty. This is a shame, because pepperoni's spicy notes seems like a nice alternative to bacon. Maybe we need to try making burgers topped with cupping pepperoni instead?

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51. Olives

As we close in on the top half of these topping rankings, we're getting into stuff that's totally fine on a burger, but unremarkable most of the time. Olive brine is a nice addition in combination with other toppings, but it just can't carry a burger by itself. (The Michigan olive burger combines the olives with Swiss cheese and mayo, which helps boost everything up a few notches.)

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50. Potato Chips

Potato chips add some nice crunch to a cold sandwich, but, thin as they are, they can't stand up against the steamy moisture of a burger. They stay crunchy for a few minutes, so depending on the speed of the service at the restaurant, it could be okay—and they add some nice salt, at the very least.

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49. Salsa

Salsa being this low in the list just makes me realize how many great burger toppings are out there. The fresh flavor and acidic spice of tomato salsa can definitely work on a southwestern burger; it just doesn't have the kick that a lot of other condiments offer.

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48. Arugula

Arugula is the superior alternative to spinach in the "too fancy for iceberg" section of burger greens. It's got that peppery flavor and better crunch, and it doesn't carry so much moisture that your burger feels waterlogged. In my opinion, it's just a little too healthy tasting to be an everyday burger topping.

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47. Honey Mustard

This is yet another casualty of my aversion to excessive sweetness on a burger. It's one of the better options if you do like something sweet, however, as long as it's a good honey mustard. It's got to balance the syrupy notes with the tangy mustard bite, rather than veering too hard toward the honey end of the spectrum like so many versions of this condiment tend to do.

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46. Feta

Some salty, crumbly feta can certainly work on a burger, but since feta lacks the meltiness of other cheeses, it's not ideal. Crumbles can tumble right out of the bun when they don't adhere to the patty, and this makes each bite a little more awkward, as you're trying to secure and tear away a sizable hunk of cheese with each bite.

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45. Ranch

The buttermilk flavor of Ranch dressing falls short of the work that eggy mayo performs within a burger. Perfectly enjoyable in the right circumstances, just unremarkable. It's better on pizza.

44. Provolone

Crucially, provolone is a nice melter, and it's a bit more savory than mozzarella, making it a better option if you want some Italian flavor for your burger. Still, there are more pronounced cheese flavors to be found.

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43. Worcestershire Sauce

The fermented flavor of Worcestershire is pretty damn good on a burger, but as sauces go, it's not texturally substantial enough to pull everything together. Ketchup, mustard, mayo—these are thick condiments, and they form their own layer on a burger. Steak sauce, not so much.

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42. Roasted Red Pepper

Just as arugula feels too "healthy" to regularly appear on top of burgers, roasted red peppers just feel a little too vegetal to show up in the mix too often. Still, the mildly sweet, roasty flavor is nice, and combined with some fattier sauces or and cheese it can be very welcome.

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41. Bacon Jam

I appreciate the balancing hint of sweetness you get with bacon jam, but it can be too much of a good thing. A solid option if used with discretion, but too distracting if not.

40. Blue Cheese

Blue cheese is divisive, and it's hard not to weigh personal bias when ranking it among the burger toppings. I'm not big on blue cheese burgers because I don't actually like blue cheese that much in any circumstance, and yet I appreciate what its funky bite can do for beef. As a compromise, it ends up here, somewhere in the middle.

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39. Muenster Cheese

Muenster is such a great melting cheese that at one point I had it ranked much higher in the list, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt like it's just too mild to be so close to the top. Still, it's not hard to see why Jimmy Buffett included it in "Cheeseburger in Paradise." 

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38. Ham

Rich and savory-sweet, ham adds a nice dimension to burgers, a fun way to bring pork into the proceedings without zooming straight toward bacon. Unfortunately, ham doesn't always work well with other popular burger condiments, and so it loses ground in the rankings for its inability to be a team player.

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37. Hash Browns

The working man's fries on a burger. Hash browns give you some great fried potato flavor with added crunch, and the unique shredded texture works well as a topping on what is essentially shredded beef. Let's see more of this in the burger landscape, please.

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36. Teriyaki Sauce

In the good ol' U.S. of A, the quality of teriyaki can vary wildly. For this burger combo to work, you'll need a sauce that's savory and tangy; skew too sweet, and the whole thing kind of falls apart. Like ham, teriyaki can often clash with other toppings, so proceed with caution.

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35. Pimento Cheese

We're getting into the part of the list where everything that follows is just varying degrees of delicious, which means you can't get made at me. Pimento cheese is tasty and fun enough that I'm surprised I don't see it paired with burgers more often—though Chick-fil-A is now piling it onto chicken sandwiches. This burger topping is also recommended by the certified cheese experts at Cabot.

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34. Kimchi

There was a time when kimchi burgers were the thing at gastropubs, and it's easy to see why: kimchi's fermented flavor offers a sour and umami kick that too many burgers aim for and miss out on. Though it has a brightness that balances out a burger's fat, I just don't crave kimchi as a regular burger topping—it almost feels too showy. In this tough competition, that alone can ding a topping in the rankings.

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33. Buffalo Sauce

Buffalo wings are inarguably one of America's all-time greatest ideas. It can be very good on a burger, but as is the case with several other toppings on this list, it can just be a bit overwhelming, hogging the spotlight. I want my sauce to complement the burger, not outshine it.

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32. Coleslaw

God, this is getting hard. Whose idea was it to compile a list this long? Coleslaw tastes great on a burger. The mix of fattiness from the dressing and crunch from the cabbage is great. Still, because slaw usually has a mild vegetal flavor, it's mostly there for texture and temperature contrast, so its not an utterly essential burger topping.

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31. Mustard

It pains me to place mustard so low, as mustard is an essential condiment in its many forms. The problem with mustard on a burger is that it doesn't work that well by itself. Combined with mayo or ketchup it's a fantastic addition—in fact, if either of those condiments are present on a burger, I prefer them to be paired up with mustard. But if you want to top the burger charts, you can't just be one of many condiments complementing the beef. You have to stand alone.

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30. Butter

Damn, butter burgers are good. The richness from a pat of butter really does help make a burger something special—just ask Midwest restaurant chain Culver's, a fast casual brand built on the ButterBurger. This topping could easily have jumped into the top ten if the fattiness didn't feel a little superfluous, as the butter mingles with the grease from the burger itself and any oiliness from the cheese.

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29. Fresh Jalapeño

Jalapeños are a very welcome burger topping thanks to their sharp flavor and fresh crunch. The only problem is that they can be a bit of a blunt instrument to add heat. Moreover, they come in a better format for burgers, one that you might be able to guess and which you'll definitely see later in this ranking.

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28. Mushrooms

Mushrooms' earthy taste is a classic complement to savory beef, and the ol' mushroom and Swiss is a longstanding burger combo for a reason. But mushrooms really only sing in the context of a mushroom and Swiss burger. A top-tier topping wouldn't always need a supporting player to be its best self.

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27. Swiss

Like Muenster, Swiss is a great melter that can often be too bland. Still, its creamy, nutty taste brings a little something to the table, and it can be a nice occasional departure from the other tangier go-to varieties. And of course the mushroom Swiss combo is an all-star, for sure.

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26. Tomato Jam

If you want to bring sweetness into a burger, this is the way to do it. The sweet, savory, acidic notes present in tomato jam brings plenty of complexity without overpowering the burger patty like other jams can (see bacon jam above). Outside of ketchup, this is the ideal way to bring tomato to the party.

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25. Lettuce

Lettuce. A tough call. We're talking about iceberg and romaine here, primarily—the big, wet leaves with a watery crunch. I can't deny that burgers often feel incomplete without it, but that might be largely visual, since I don't always miss the lettuce when it's gone. It's mostly functional, a tool for adding resistance to each bite, and it does its job well.

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24. Mayo/Aioli

Like mustard, mayonnaise and aioli work better on burgers when they are combined with other condiments. I can't deny that the creamy, rich flavor they bring is an excellent addition to a burger, however, and they get respect for being the basis of most worthwhile burger sauces (more on those later).

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23. Hot Sauce

The vinegary bite of hot sauce pairs great with a burger, and a little heat on the meat is a nice change of pace. It's just not substantial enough to stand on its own, and when the sauce has nowhere to go, it often just absorbs into the bun.

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22. Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue burgers are often a go-to order for me at a new spot, but I've realized it's because of the combination of ingredients that typically accompany the sauce, not just the sauce itself. Barbecue is still a great burger condiment, and a nice way to get some sweetness as long as it's not too cloying.

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21. Giardiniera

There's about to be an increasing number of pickled items on this list going forward, and giardiniera is a great place to kick off. The spice from these pickled veggies is made to pair with beef (in some form or another), and the crunch is very welcome on a burger. The chunks of carrot and pepper can sometimes be too much for your teeth to run into, and that dings it a little in the rankings, but it's a minor complaint.

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20. Remoulade

I'm always happy to scan a menu and see a burger with remoulade. The New Orleans favorite shares a lot of traits with special/burger sauce, with some extra Southern heat for good measure. Sometimes you'll even get some crunch from diced pickles in the mixture. As we proceed with the top 20, we're officially in "no wrong answers" territory.

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19. Caramelized Onions

Another wonderful way to add a little sweetness, caramelized onions bring a rich flavor that doesn't need much else to make a burger great. I just miss the firm bite that the onions lose in the caramelization process, since crunch is so central to the best burger toppings. That's not how everyone feels, though; the Oklahoma onion burger is a steamed pile of mush, and it's beloved without anything crunchy on top.

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18. Pepper Jack Cheese

Now we're getting into the really good burger cheeses. Jack cheese can be a little bland, but the spice of the peppers is always fun to encounter. It's usually not that hot, but contains just enough interest to elevate the burger. If you fear spice, you can always put it on just one part of your burger.

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17. Onion Rings

A big part of why barbecue burgers are so delicious is the onion rings that often come on top. The mix of crunchy batter and still firm onion is unparalleled. Unfortunately for onion rings, though, they have a cousin I'm even more fond of, and it's one that we'll encounter in the top 10.

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16. Pickled Onions

Pickles and onions are both burger essentials in my book (spoiler alert, I guess), and wedding the two works as well as you'd expect. The one small issue with pickled onions is that they often fail to bring the crunch of classic pickles or raw onion slices.

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15. Pastrami

Before I moved to Los Angeles, I had never thought to put pastrami on a burger, and boy, was I missing out. With the pastrami fried up and crisping at the edge, it makes a spectacularly salty and peppery addition to a burger with just enough textural contrast. I'm now a zealous convert.

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14. Heinz 57

Jimmy Buffet (RIP) was right: With its truly singular mix of tang and spice and god knows what else, Heinz 57 was made for pouring on burgers. It's so balanced that it's capable of complementing beef all by itself, and of course it's even better in the presence of cheese. A fridge essential for any burger lover.

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13. Chili

Beef on beef seems redundant, but chili just takes everything great about a burger and amps it up. The cheaper and simpler the chili the better it is as a condiment too. You just want that heat and smoke, and maybe a little bit of sweetness. Beans or no beans, chili is always a winner.

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12. Egg

Eggs on burgers used to be everywhere, but as we've moved away from pub burgers toward the more streamlined smash burger, it seems to have fallen out of favor. Well, bring eggs back, please, because they kick ass on a burger. The soft texture and mild flavor cuts against a burger just enough to work, and a runny yolk makes the whole thing decadent.

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11. Bacon

As we've seen over and over already, both salt and smoke are always welcome on a burger, and bacon also gets you some nice crunch if it's done right. There's not much to say here—bacon and burgers are a classic pairing for a reason.

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10. Onion Strings

These bad boys are what pushed back onion rings in my book. They're extra crispy, and much more manageable than rings, which are prone to get pulled out of a burger whole. And all the extra surface area on the skinny strings brings a lot more flavor.

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9. American Cheese

This is an obligatory top ten ranking. I can't deny that the perfect meltiness of American cheese is inextricable from our notion of a classic burger. I know American cheese is beloved. It's so universal as to be undeniable. The only problem is that I don't actually like American cheese that much, in any circumstance. I've just always been put off by its milky flavor. I'm wrong, and I recognize I'm wrong, so it's here at number 9.

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8. Pickled Jalapeño

Pickled jalapeño slices from the jar are a little more toned down in their heat while still being plenty spicy, bringing a briny flavor along with the heat of fresh jalapeños. This is an elite burger topping, and I keep a jar in my fridge at all times for just that purpose.

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7. Ketchup

Why even try arguing with ketchup? It's tangy and sweet in equal measure, it has been the universally accepted burger condiment forever, and it's enough of a match for beef flavor that it will probably stay that way.

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6. Special Sauce

There are a lot of different takes on "special" or "secret" sauce for burgers, but we all know very well what I'm talking about. It's Big Mac sauce, or In-N-Out sauce, literally made for burgers. It's creamy, a little sweet, a little tangy, and a little bit of everything you need. Again, it's not just Thousand Island, it's somehow better than that. It's burger sauce.

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5. Green Chile

Some time spent living in New Mexico may have brainwashed me, but green chile cheeseburgers might just be the best style of burger, period. They hit a perfect spot between bringing some extra grassy, smoky flavor, a little acidity, and being mild enough to let the burger shine. A burger with green chile and cheese needs nothing else, and it will still knock your socks off.

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4. Raw Onion

As the top half of the rankings have shown, you can't really go wrong with any style of onion—but the simple bite of the raw onion is still the best. Maybe a little frying can help, just enough to get them to sweat, but it's primarily used for sharpness and crunch, and it brings those two things better than any other topping.

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3. Another Burger Patty

In our modern burger era, plenty of cooks have correctly realized that two thin patties is almost always better than one thicker one. You get double the crusty browned surface area (flavor!) and the cheese gets more melty; it's just a better experience. Even if you can't finish every last bite, you never regret ordering a double.

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2. Pickles

Crunch. Acidity. Sourness. Vibrant color. Pickles are great because you get pickles. Like the best toppings, they fill in the blanks, making up for any possible shortcoming the burger might have, or vastly improving an already great burger without trying to steal the spotlight. Burgers just feel naked without them.

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1. Cheddar Cheese

If I could only have one thing on a burger for the rest of my life, it has to be cheddar. The meltiness is so satisfying, the richness complementary. American cheese might melt the best, but cheddar's got enough earthy flavor to add something special even as it stays more concentrated on the patty. It's the ideal form of hamburger's ideal partner.

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