Oaxaca Burger with Manchego, Avocado and Pickled Habanero Onions

Central Mexico's Oaxaca is home to a refined cuisine of earthy, spicy flavors and its crowning glory is mole. Gathering the ingredients needed to prepare this rich sauce may take some effort, but the end result - smoky, earthy with a delicate balance of fruity heat - is well worth it. Paired with nutty Manchego cheese, creamy avocado and spicy, acidic onions, this sophisticated burger hits all the right notes.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 5 hr 55 min
  • Prep: 1 hr
  • Inactive: 4 hr
  • Cook: 55 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Pickled Habanero Onions: 

3/4 cup fresh lime juice

3/4 cup distilled white vinegar

3 tablespoons superfine sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 habanero chile, seeds removed

1 large red onion, peeled, halved, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices


2 tablespoons canola oil

1 small Spanish onion, coarsely chopped

3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

3 cups chicken stock

1 cup pureed plum tomatoes

1/4 cup pureed chipotle in adobo

3 tablespoons molasses

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons ancho chile powder

1 tablespoon New Mexico chile powder

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground chile de arbol

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1/4 cup crushed blue corn tortilla chips

1/4 cup chopped fresh mango

1/4 cup golden raisins

1 ounce semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped


1 1/2 pounds ground chuck (80/20 percent), or ground turkey (90/10 percent)

2 tablespoons canola oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1 cup grated Manchego

4 hamburger buns, split and toasted, if desired

1 ripe Hass avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced


  1. For the pickled habanero onions: Combine 1/2 cup water, the lime juice, vinegar, sugar, salt and habanero chile in a medium saucepan. Boil the vinegar mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the heat and cool for 5 minutes. Put the onion slices in a small bowl. Pour the warm vinegar mixture over the onions and toss to coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 48 hours, stirring the mixture a few times.
  2. Meanwhile, for the mole: Heat the oil in a saucepan until it begins to shimmer. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, about 30 seconds. Stir in the chicken stock, pureed tomatoes, chipotle, molasses, honey, maple syrup, ancho chile powder, New Mexico chile powder, cinnamon, allspice, chile de arbol and ground cloves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring the mole to a simmer and cook, about 5 minutes. Add the almonds, chips, mangoes and raisins. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mangoes are soft and the mixture is reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Return the mixture to the saucepan over high heat. Add the chocolate and cook until reduced to a sauce consistency, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. For the burgers: Preheat the grill to high for direct heat. Divide the ground meat into 4 equal portions, 6 ounces each. Form each portion into a 3/4-inch burger. Make a deep impression in the center of each burger, using your thumb. Brush the burgers on both sides with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the burgers until golden brown and slightly charred on both sides and cooked to medium doneness, about 8 minutes. About a minute before removing the burgers from the gill, top with the Manchego and cover the grill. Transfer the burgers to the buns and top with a large dollop of the mole sauce, a few slices of avocado and some of the pickled habanero onions.
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