Adana Burgers with Pomegranate Molasses Barbecue Sauce

A tangy-fruity pomegranate molasses barbecue sauce finishes these juicy lamb-beef burgers.
A tangy-fruity pomegranate molasses barbecue sauce finishes these juicy lamb-beef burgers.

Each Friday night, those of Jewish faith around the world come together with family and friends to revel in time together around the table.

It is the purest TGIF, a pause to acknowledge and appreciate life and relationships.

And of course, an occasion to share scrumptious eats with gusto.

“52 Shabbats” (The Collective Book Studio) makes that a breeze, too. The new cookbook is by Faith Kramer, a Bay Area food writer who writes extensively on Jewish customs and cooking.

You needn’t be Jewish, either, to appreciate the more than 50 recipes, arranged by the seasons, that showcase global flavors and contemporary flair. Make “Pomegranate Molasses Brisket,” then turn leftovers into “Brisket Fried Rice.” Braise a batch of “Spicy Beef Tzimmes,” and turn some into “Friday Night Tamales.” Take a loaf of challah and transform into “Challah Fritters with Sweet Tahini Sauce.”

I took advantage of last week’s mini heatwave to dive into the “Summer” section of the book early by trying my hand at “Adana Burgers with Pomegranate Molasses Barbecue Sauce.”

Traditionally, this spicy, seasoned mix of ground lamb and ground beef is wrapped around long metal skewers that get grilled. In Kramer’s easier version, the mixture gets formed into patties instead that you can enjoy on pretzel burger buns as I did, or stuffed into pita or served alongside pilaf or grains.

The meat mixture stays moist thanks to chopped onion in the mix, and it gets heat from cayenne, and smokiness from paprika. The meat also gets seasoned with a smidge of dried mint, which is not always an ingredient to find on store shelves. But I learned this handy trick for making your own from cookbook writer Jessica Battilana: Just microwave fresh mint leaves on a paper towel-lined plate for a few second or until they are dried enough to crumble. Genius!

The barbecue sauce requires only a handful of ingredients.
The barbecue sauce requires only a handful of ingredients.
Feel free to peel the cucumbers -- or not.
Feel free to peel the cucumbers — or not.

The burgers get finished with a quick-and-easy barbecue sauce that’s just pomegranate molasses simmered with tomato paste, a pinch of sugar, and a touch of salt until thickened.

Serve the burgers with a simple salad made with sliced cucumbers tossed with rice vinegar, chopped red onions, and a load of chopped fresh herbs. Kramer likes to peel the cucumbers, but I left the skin on mine, which worked just fine.

These burgers come off the grill moist and juicy, with a depth of smoke and spice. The barbecue sauce’s bold fruity tang of pomegranate immediately makes these burgers standout from the pack. While you can enjoy the cucumber salad alongside, I really liked tucking a few of the cuke slices inside the bun for added crunch and texture.

Get ready to fire up the grill. Because Fridays were made for burgers like these.

The end of the work week was made for burgers like these.
The end of the work week was made for burgers like these.

Adana Burgers with Pomegranate Molasses Barbecue Sauce

(Serves 6 to 8)

For the barbecue sauce:

1/2 cup pomegranate molasses

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

For the cucumber-herb salad:

1/2 cup rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more if desired

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 large cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)

1/4 cup mixture of finely chopped fresh mint, cilantro, dill and/or flat-leaf parsley

For the Adana burgers:

1 small onion, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon dried mint

1 teaspoon paprika

2 teaspoons mild Turkish red pepper paste (available at Middle Eastern stores or online) or 2 teaspoons tomato paste mixed with an additional 1 teaspoon paprika

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground lamb

Vegetable oil for the grill

To make the barbecue sauce: In a small saucepan over low heat, mix together the molasses, tomato paste, sugar, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Do not allow to boil. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside to cool and thicken. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

To make the cucumber-herb salad: In a large bowl, mix together the vinegar, onion, salt, and pepper. Add the cucumber slices and toss until evenly coated. Taste and add sugar, if desired. Just before serving, add the fresh herbs and toss again.

To make the burgers: In a large bowl, mix together the onion, salt, black pepper, cayenne, mint, paprika, and pepper paste. Add the beef and lamb and knead with your hands until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Shape the meat mixture into 8 to 10 patties.

Oil a grill grate or grill plate of a charcoal or gas grill, electric grill, or stovetop grill pan. Preheat to medium-high. Grill the burgers, turning occasionally and adjusting the heat as necessary, until cooked to your desired doneness, 8 to 10 minutes for medium-rare.

Serve the patties with the sauce and alongside the cucumber salad.

From “52 Shabbats” by Faith Kramer

More Recipes Highlighting Pomegranate Molasses to Enjoy: Cranberry-Pomegranate Mousse Pie

And: Pomegranate-Glazed Roast Quail

And: Fig, Walnut & Freekeh Salad

And: Syrian Kale and Carrot Salad with Shattered Dates

And: Pistachio and Pomegranate Meatballs

Print This Post


  • Love the combo of ground beef/lamb. So I know these burgers are terrific — perfect for Friday, or any day of the week. Terrific looking recipe. But I wouldn’t expect anything less from Faith — I’ve been following her writing for years, and she’s wonderful. Neat dish — thanks.

  • Hi John: So true! You can never go wrong with one of Faith’s recipes. These burgers will satisfy at any time of the year.

  • It sounds like the two of us have been enjoying similar flavors. In this large world of ours, sometimes it feels like foods bring us all together.

  • Hi Karen: That was pretty funny that you recently posted about lamb patties redolent of Middle Eastern flavors, too. But lamb and pomegranate molasses make for a dynamic duo that can’t be denied. 😉

  • This burger with pomegranate molasses barbecue sauce is something truly special. Never seen anything close to. And looks super tasty. Something to try preparing this weekend. Looking forward. Thanks

  • Hi Vicky: Even though it’s three components — burger, sauce, and pickled cucumbers — it’s fairly fast to put together. Hope you enjoy it! It definitely makes for a tasty supper.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *