Xi’an Cumin Lamb Burgers

August 5, 2022


Grilling meat on the barbecue will become a popular American tradition as Memorial Day approaches in just a few short weeks. This recipe for Xi’An-inspired Cumin Lamb Burgers is a terrific way to kick off the grilling season.


In our post on street food in Xi’an, China, we mentioned that many meals in the region feature a spice blend of chili and cumin, which is frequently roughly powdered and sprinkled over items like lamb kebabs, potatoes, fried chicken, and biang noodles.

When it comes to China, this is an unusual combination. Typical uses for cumin and chili powder include chili, tacos, and other similar dishes. Isn’t that what makes trying new foods so exciting?

Some of the Chinese regional meals that we now know and love—and that I provide recipes for on this blog—were ones that my family and I didn’t even know existed until we arrived in China. And we’re CHINESE, too. The first Sichuan restaurant opened in Northern New Jersey about 15 years ago. We had no idea what it was like until then.

When we discovered the wonderful Northern Chinese combo of cumin, chili, and lamb, it was only a matter of time until I turned it into a burger. Onion and peppers are sautéed in garlicky yogurt with sliced cucumbers and cilantro on top of these burgers that have been mildly seasoned with cumin.

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and if you’re searching for something a little out of the ordinary, this recipe is for you!


  • 450g of ground lamb
  • 285g of plain Greek Yogurt
  • 4 Brioche or Potato buns
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 de-seeded and diced cucumber
  • 1 thinly sliced medium red onion
  • 1 de-seeded and thinly sliced jalapeno
  • 1 small de-seeded and thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup of fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorn


  1. Toast the red chili flakes, cumin seeds, and Sichuan peppercorns on a dry pan. Grinder the ingredients into a coarse powder. Set aside.
  2. Form 4 patties out of the lamb mixture and about half of the spice mixture. Each patty should have salt on both sides.
  3. A grill or cast iron skillet should be heated to a searing temperature. Burgers should be seared for one to two minutes per side until crisp.
  4. Place on a plate, cover with foil, and set aside to rest. If using a cast iron skillet, add some vegetable oil to the pan and add the onion and peppers. Fry until caramelized. If you grilled your burgers outside, just sauté the onions and peppers in a different pan. Add half of the remaining spice mixture on top.
  5. Garlic and yogurt should be combined, and salt should be added to taste. Add the remaining spice mixture and stir.
  6. Spread some of your yogurt mixture on the bottom of the bun, then top with some chopped cucumbers to assemble the burgers. Add extra yogurt, fresh cilantro, the onion/pepper mixture, and the hamburger to the top. Serve!
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