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Build a Better Burger: Homemade Ketchup, Homemade Buns! Yum!

March 26, 2009


Last Friday, I was poking around the Saveur web site, looking for…well, actually, I don’t remember exactly what I was looking for. Because I was sidetracked almost immediately by a link to a slideshow of Homemade Condiment recipes. Now, any of you who have been reading this blog for a little while probably know that I am completely ga-ga for making at home any kind of food you’d otherwise buy (see ricotta, yogurt, mayonnaise, pizza, pasta, pumpkin butter, and cannolis. I made the homemade Nutella in the LA Times a few weeks ago – it was awesome.) And so, here’s a little of how the rest of the weekend unfolded:

1. <clicking through the slideshow> Hello, Spicy Guinness mustard…I must make you! <bookmark> Click, click.

2. Wait…homemade ketchup??

3. Cannot think about anything else except making homemade ketchup. Woke up in the middle of the night and immediately began thinking about homemade ketchup.

4. Saturday afternoon. Made homemade ketchup. Oddly obsessed by this project (as I am not, in general, an enormous ketchup fan, at least like some people I know. My brother went through a phase where he put ketchup on everything — and I mean everything — that my mom cooked for dinner. I used to look incredulously at his plate and say “but there’s a sauce on that, you don’t need ketchup!” Since then, my feelings about ketchup have been kind of pleasantly ambivalent, which is why it was a little odd that I was so struck by the need to make this ketchup. Again, I say, it’s this thing I have for making homemade versions of things you’d otherwise buy.)



5. Taste homemade ketchup. It’s lick-my-lips delicious. Now…wondering what to put said ketchup on.

6.  Five minutes of digging through my freezer yields a pound of frozen pastured ground beef from Kingbird Farm. Jackpot! Burgers it will be.

7. Five more minutes of digging through said freezer reveals that I have no burger buns stashed away. Do not feel like going to store.

8. Still on a high from my homemade ketchup extravaganza, I now decide to make my own burger buns. Trusty Peter Reinhart has a recipe for them in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (which, by the way, is one of the best cookbooks I have in my collection. If you at all want to learn about baking bread, I can’t recommend the book enough.)



9. Burger bun making and burger bun baking commences. I’m literally dancing around the kitchen because the dough is a dream to work with and the buns, as they come out of the oven, are plump and round and so darn cute! Success.



10. Realize that amount of ketchup I made will not, in fact, be used up by just the burgers alone — even though I did make sliders (mini burgers) and will distribute the ketchup over a greater surface area. Begin to wonder what else I can cook that would be good slathered in ketchup.


11. Open the door of my little jelly cabinet pantry and see our potatoes at the bottom, still left from our CSA share, sprouting shoots like gangbusters. Realize I can kill two birds with one stone: potatoes need to be used, and spicy oven fries will be just the thing to slather with the ketchup.

12. Man, oh man, oh man. Burgers are sah-woon worthy! A little coarse-grain dijon mustard smeared on one side of the bun, topped with lettuce, skillet-browned patties, melted sharp cheddar, caramelized onions, and finished with a swirl of ketchup. B and I spend our Sunday night murmuring “mmmm”, licking the juices that dribble down our hands, and swooping the thick spicy oven fries through drifts of ketchup.


13. Go to bed happy.

A few notes:

  • Sue has some really great tips over on Feelgood Eats about building a better burger. I especially like her philosophy of using grass-fed, humanely raised beef (you can taste the difference), handling it minimally, and finishing the burgers ever-so-briefly under the broiler just long enough to melt the cheese (when you’re making the burgers inside vs. a grill.)
  • Maybe you don’t have a whole afternoon to make the burger buns, but the ketchup? Seriously folks, it’s super easy. Well worth the short amount of time it takes to make it…and if you’ve looked at the ingredients on some of the more mainstream brands of ketchup, maybe you’re as horrified as I am about the junk that’s included. Homemade’s better.
  • And if you do have a few hours around the house, the burger buns are an absolutely delicious project. The dough is enriched with butter and egg, so it’s soft, tender, akin to brioche — delicious! — and you can make a big batch and freeze the ones you don’t use in a ziptop bag for future use. I have over a dozen buns frozen in my freezer now, ready for our next burger adventure.
  • One pound of ground beef yields 6 sliders, perfect for two people with good appetites!



Homemade Ketchup

Adapted from Saveur

Printable recipe

4 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 stick cinnamon
1/4 tsp. celery seeds
1/4 tsp. chile flakes
1/4 tsp. whole allspice
2 lbs. tomatoes, roughly chopped [or, you can use a 28-oz. can organic diced tomatoes if tomatoes aren’t in season]
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
5 tbsp. brown sugar
1 onion, chopped
1 anaheim chile, chopped [optional – I left this out and the ketchup was still great]
1 clove garlic


In a 3 or 4 quart saucepan, combine the diced tomatoes with their juices, salt, vinegar, sugar, onion, and chiles (if using.) Smash the garlic and add it to the pot. Wrap the cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, celery seeds, chile flakes, and allspice in a layer of cheesecloth; tie into a bundle and add to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and chiles are very soft, about 40 minutes.

Remove the spice bundle, then puree the mixture in the blender until smooth. Strain it back into the saucepan, and return to medium heat. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes or so, until the ketchup thickens and reaches your desired consistency. Taste and adjust the salt or acid as needed.

Let cool and store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator. Ketchup will keep for 3 weeks in the fridge.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Homemade Hamburger Buns

From The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

View printable recipe

4 1/4 cups unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk or milk, at room temperature

sesame seeds for the tops (optional)


Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Pour in the egg, butter, and buttermilk and mix with a large metal spoon until all the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a shaggy ball. You can trickle in a little water if the dough seems very stiff, until the dough is soft and supple.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop, where you’ll do your kneading. Knead for about 8 minutes, until the dough is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky. You can test if you’ve kneaded it enough by pulling off a little piece of dough, gently stretching and pulling it with your hands until it’s paper thin, and holding it up to the light: if the dough stretches and holds its shape without breaking, to the point where it’s translucent, it’s done. This is called the windowpane test.


Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Roll it around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let it rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size (I use an electric heating pad under the bowl, as we keep our house on the cool side.)

Remove the risen dough from the bowl and divide it into eighteen 2-ounce pieces (for slider buns) or twelve 3-ounce pieces (for standard size burger buns.) Shape the pieces of dough into rounds, transfer them to baking sheets lined with Silpats or parchment paper, and cover them with a towel. Let the buns proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until they’re nearly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk together 1 egg with 1 teaspoon of water, for an egg wash. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash, and sprinkle with sesame seeds if you like. Bake the buns for 15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Remove them immediately from the pans and cool completely on a wire cooling rack (cool them at least 1 hour before slicing.)

Makes 18 slider buns or 12 regular burger buns.

35 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2009 10:27 pm

    Long time reader, first time comment-er….
    I have been making ketchup for a few years. A definate hit with friends and family! One step even easier…cook it down in your crockpot, then can it up.
    This is a frequent reqest for presents at Christmas!
    The buns look super yummy!

  2. March 27, 2009 12:23 am

    I actually made my own hamburger buns today because I was too lazy to go to the store and get them and making my own seemed like the better solution. I used this recipe at king arthur that is similar to the recipe here.

  3. March 27, 2009 5:21 am

    Cool! I saw this in Saveuer and was definitely intrigued. If in remember correctly, there was also a soy sauce recipe that looked interesting. The buns are adorable too! These have me wishing for summer.

  4. March 27, 2009 5:31 am

    Hi Amy! This is a great post, I’ve got to zip over to Saveur to check this out – I’ve been trying to tweak out a homemade ketchup for about a year now.
    Your burger buns look delicious, I think the brioche style is the key, I’ve had a lot of burgers on foccacia lately and it just isn’t the same.

  5. March 27, 2009 7:30 am

    It is 7:30 a.m., I am looking at these photos and now have a craving for a burger!(I haven’t even had breakfast yet). I am definitely going to make my own buns from now on after seeing this post!

  6. March 27, 2009 9:10 am

    Wow! These look perfect! Love the homemade ketchup without all those chemicals and those buns are just.too.cute!!!

  7. March 27, 2009 9:13 am

    I am totally impressed, by both the ketchup and the hamburger buns. Wow! Very inspiring.

  8. March 27, 2009 9:37 am

    I have been toying around with making homemade veg burgers for my clients with homemade buns. Seeing how yours turned out lit the fire under me! They will be on next week’s menu. Thank you!

  9. March 27, 2009 9:41 am

    These look so professional! Nice sliders. I had sliders from Kona Grill the other night and the buns were very sweet.

  10. March 27, 2009 9:44 am

    WOW! What an impressive feat. Can I tell you that everything looks mind-blowing delicious? Especially those homemade buns–I really can’t stand the store bought doughy mess, so I love that you made your own perfect looking buns! And that ketchup looks divine!! Wow, I could definitely go for one of these burgers even though it’s only breakfast time!

  11. March 27, 2009 1:40 pm

    This is an awesome, awesome post. I’m about to go on vacation and part of that will be spent at home, puttering arounfd the house. I am determined that during that time I am going to make homemade ketchup (and I’m ambivalent too!), mayo (your post was very helpful, thanks for referring back to it), salad dressing and chicken stock. I’m excited just thinking about it.

    Really, this whole post made me smile. Nice writing, great food.

  12. March 27, 2009 3:07 pm

    I am so excited about this post! I’ve been baking lots of bread this year, and it’s really boosted my confidence, which got me to thinking last week that I really needed to learn how to make buns, since those would be really useful. I can’t wait to try them!

  13. Betsy permalink
    March 27, 2009 3:28 pm

    Yum yum – these look delicious and those buns are so darn cute!

  14. March 27, 2009 5:02 pm

    Wow, if only every burger I’ve ever eaten looked like this! Stale, moist burger buns and standard ketchup don’t hold a candle to this! Thanks so much for the recipe.

  15. trufflesteph permalink
    March 27, 2009 7:10 pm

    Unbelievable. I don’t eat beef, and I generally don’t like ketchup except on the occasional fry–but OH. MY. you actually made me drool with these recipes! Consider this a thank you from my husband, because I think he’ll be getting lucky (with burgers) tomorrow. And maybe a turkey version for me, because really, I must give ketchup another chance. With homemade buns. Yum.

  16. Grace permalink
    March 27, 2009 7:56 pm

    Great post! I’ve been wanting to make my own burger buns, and the mini ones are adorable! Question: what did you use, buttermilk or milk? I wonder what the taste difference would be in using either?

  17. Anitta permalink
    March 27, 2009 8:05 pm

    Love your site. Do you freeze the buns before baking or only after. I have the bread book but haven’t gotten around to making anything in it yet! I am ready to start now!! The ketchup and lasgna are on the list now!!

  18. March 28, 2009 6:26 am

    Nicole – I can see how people would love this for a gift…yum!

    TheBon – aren’t homemade delicious?

    Kristin – I don’t remember soy sauce, but I do remember worcestershire sauce…yet another condiment on my list to try making. 🙂

    Sue – ooh, burgers on focaccia would be interesting. Different, you’re right, but interesting, nonetheless!

    Eileen – I know, that happened to me every morning this week when I’d look at the blog!

    food librarian – yes, chemical free is key, especially HFCS.

    Christina – thanks!

    Dana – oh, what a great idea! I bet they’ll love them, especially with homemade veggie burgers…yum!

    Hillary, Elyse – thank you both! 🙂

    Melissa, Lindsey – thanks to you both for the nice comments! I hope you enjoy the buns; they’re really delicious.

    Betsy – thanks!

    Kasey – it’s so true. 😉

    trufflesteph – hope you (and your husband) enjoy!

    Grace – I used buttermilk because I like a little tang, but honestly, I don’t think you’d find too much difference. It tenderizes the dough either way.

    Anitta – freeze them after they’ve baked and fully cooled. Definitely do try some recipes from the bread book – pain a la ancienne is one of my favorites in there.

  19. March 28, 2009 11:47 am

    Wow, this looks fantastic. I actually had making homemade buns on my long to do list and I just bought the book on amazon a week ago. Perfect timing!

  20. March 28, 2009 1:42 pm

    Love that Peter Reinhart book! Thank you for posting the burger bun recipe, as my copy is tucked away in storage. 🙂 I now have an immense craving for sliders, so thanks for that, too.

  21. March 28, 2009 8:59 pm

    I make buns all the time, but I’ve never made my own ketchup! I think I need to try this. The burgers look fantastic.

  22. March 29, 2009 12:30 am

    These are so cute and are totally making me want a second dinner right now! I just recently made bbq sauce from scratch because I thought we had some so didn’t pick any up at the grocery store and I was not going back – necessity the mother of invention. My husband, who loves bbq sauce like you wouldn’t believe, was like why have you been holding out on me for 9 years!

  23. March 29, 2009 11:02 am

    Very impressive and inspiring! I can imagine a fabulous cook out with the homemade buns and ketchup to compliment some delicious grilled burgers.

  24. March 29, 2009 7:38 pm

    whitney – what a coincidence! You *must* make them now! 🙂

    croquecamille – such a great, informative cookbook, isn’t it? It’s one of my favorites.

    Sara – enjoy!

    MermaidSweets – homemade bbq sauce also sounds delicious!

    BMK – thanks!

  25. March 29, 2009 7:55 pm

    A-MAZ-ing and inspiring! I love homemade ketchup. I used to make it all the time but have completely forgotten about that little trick. Must get back on that.

  26. March 30, 2009 6:46 am

    You are the bomb. I want to be your friend. 😉

  27. April 10, 2009 4:40 am

    I once made my own ketchup when I ran out and staunchly refused to have a burger without it. It was… interesting. Yours looks much more organised (and tasty) than mine was 🙂

  28. Nancy permalink
    May 5, 2009 10:09 am

    The recipe here says 1/4 butter. Is that 1/4 cup or 1/4 pound?
    These sound and look so good. I’m making them today if I get the answer to this question!

  29. May 5, 2009 10:15 am

    Hi Nancy – it’s 1/4 cup. Thanks for the catch!

  30. August 7, 2009 12:27 pm

    I was ambitious and made the buns the other night for the bison burgers my husband was making. I didn’t feel like running to the store to get buns… boy am I glad I didn’t! The buns were spectacular! We couldn’t stop eating them!

    Also, try this homemade BBQ sauce – It is also amazing! Homemade condiments are always better than store bought!

  31. June 13, 2010 8:45 pm

    I found your site searching for the perfect slider bun recipe, and I am so glad I did! First of all, the recipe is excellent—my buns were golden and light; secondly, the recipe is rather forgiving—I had no bread flour on hand, threw in a 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour for kicks, accelerated the second proofing in an overwarm oven…and they were still lovely.

    But best of all, I have discovered your lovely blog! Keep up the good work!

  32. November 18, 2010 12:58 am

    Just made these buns tonight since I’ve never had sliders before. I halved the recipe and there were still a couple extra buns for the pound of meat I used, so I sampled one early. Even by themselves, these are delicious!

  33. April 11, 2011 6:14 am

    I know this is a little old but I just wanted to say I made these yesterday with buttermilk and they were PHENOMENAL. They turned out just as pretty as in your pictures! Thanks for the great recipe.

  34. Churakokoro permalink
    May 1, 2012 3:32 am

    Cool ! a perfect ketchup & bun recipe both looks very temptation. Thank you for sharing (^O^).

  35. May 23, 2012 10:10 pm

    Does this taste like store ketchup? I have tried multiple recipes and they all tasted weird to my family. I just wish I could make my own and get them to eat it!

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