Not many people know that my love for food has an even deeper connection because the first jobs I had starting from the age of 16 were in restaurants. From bussing tables to serving people fish and chips and burgers, I've seen it all and have a few too many horror stories to tell if you've got the time. But I'll spare you…for now!
In college I worked at Red Robin (or, as we affectionately called it, The Dirty Bird) because, well, I needed to support my drinking habit like any good college student. Oh, and I guess pay the rent. Priorities! As you can imagine that Red Robin life was not entirely glamorous. We're talking dealing with inconsiderate tourist, singing that infamous happy birthday song more times than you can imagine and coming home after 12 hour shifts smelling like ranch and campfire sauce. Ah, the glory days!
Even though I wouldn't jump at the opportunity to relive my time at the Dirty Bird, I still, to this day, find myself craving their food. It's not often, but sometimes I get a mean hankering for some fries with ranch and campfire sauce or a bleu ribbon burger. I know it's nothing fancy, but there's just nothing better than the taste of nostalgia.
What I usually crave most is the teriyaki chicken burger. Juicy chicken breast, melty Swiss cheese, caramelized pineapple, crisp lettuce, tomato, a healthy slathering of mayo and salty, sweet teriyaki sauce create the perfect marriage of flavors in one extremely underrated burger combo, in my opinion. And while I could just pay a visit to the Dirty Bird to get my teriyaki chicken burger fix, why not just whip up a knockoff version at home?
I've had the RR teriyaki chicken burger countless times both growing up and when I worked there so I was able to come up with my own recipe quicker than you can say, "freckled lemonade." I made a quick yet flavorful teriyaki sauce to double as a marinade and glaze, because why buy it in the bottle when you can make a delicious one from scratch? Using toasted whole wheat buns and the rest of the classic teriyaki chicken burger fixins, my Red Robin teriyaki chicken burger dupes tasted just as good (if not better) than the real deal.
Teriyaki Chicken Burgers
Makes 4 burgers
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons ginger paste or fresh ginger, minced
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 4 whole wheat hamburger buns
- 4 slices Swiss cheese
- 4 pineapple rings
- 4 heirloom tomato slices
- Shredded iceberg lettuce
- Mayo – lots of it!
In a liquid measuring cup, combine all teriyaki sauce ingredients minus the cornstarch and water. Place chicken breasts on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap (fun fact, Stretch Tite is both a favorite brand of Ina Garten and yours truly). Using a rolling pin or something heavy ish, like a bottle of balsamic vinegar (because I've definitely done this before), pound the chicken breasts until they are of even thickness. They don't need to be super thin, you just need to ensure that the thickest part is about the same thickness of the thinnest part. Remove the plastic wrap and cut chicken breasts in half, cutting at an angle where the chicken breasts roughly fit the shape of a hamburger bun.
Add chicken to a Ziploc bag or shallow dish and pour over half of teriyaki sauce marinade. Refrigerate and let chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours to deepen the flavor. Refrigerate remaining teriyaki sauce.
Before cooking chicken, heat remaining teriyaki sauce in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Combine cornstarch and water and add to teriyaki sauce. Stir to combine until the sauce is thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
Remove chicken from marinade and grill over medium high heat for 10 minutes, flipping once. Brush chicken pieces with glaze on both sides and add Swiss. Cover and cook for another 1-2 minutes until cheese is melty. Remove from grill.
While chicken rests, add pineapple rings to the grill and brush with remaining glaze. Cook for about a minute per side until pineapple is caramelized. Toast buns while pineapple cooks. Multitasking, woo!
Spread a healthy shmear of mayo on each toasted bun. On the bottom of each bun, add shredded lettuce followed by a tomato slice. Top with chicken, a pineapple slice and top with other bun half. Enjoy!