For the longest time, I thought lamb was strictly reserved for holidays like Christmas and Easter. (My mom doesn’t eat lamb, so I only ever ate it when I celebrated holidays at friends’ houses). But about five years ago, I had my first lamb burger at a restaurant in Brooklyn, and I realized what I’d been missing. It was one of the best burgers I’d ever had, and I became determined to create my own version—in slider form, that is.
The best thing about the burger was how well-seasoned it was. When cooking lamb, you don’t want to drown out its unique flavor, but you do need enough of a kick to counterbalance it. That’s where harissa—a Tunisian chile paste made up of peppers, citrus, cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds—comes into play. Its flavor perfectly tempers the richness of the lamb, and trust me: Once the sauce (or powder; it’s sold both ways) is in your kitchen, you’ll find endless ways to use it.
These sliders also include quick-pickled red onions, crumbled feta, and a harissa mayo that I now use on a variety of sandwiches. I still eat lamb rather sparingly, but these sliders are proof you don’t have to wait for an extra-special occasion.
Harissa Lamb Sliders
Serves 6 to 12
For the Pickled Onions
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 small red onion (about 3 to 4 ounces)
For the Sliders
- 3 sprigs fresh parsley
- 3 springs fresh cilantro
- 8 to 10 fresh mint leaves
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 pounds ground lamb
- 1 tablespoon harissa powder (or 2 tablespoons harissa sauce)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 ounces feta cheese
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 12 slider buns or dinner rolls (potato, brioche, etc.)
For the Harissa Mayo
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 teaspoon harissa powder (or 1 tablespoon harissa sauce)
Make the pickled onions: Pour the apple cider vinegar and cold water into a Mason jar or another airtight container.
Add the sugar and kosher salt and use a spoon to stir until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved.
Halve and then thinly slice the red onion (about 1 cup). Add to the vinegar mixture and make sure the onion is completely submerged. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Make the sliders: Finely chop the parsley and cilantro, about 1 tablespoon each. Add them to a large bowl. Finely chop the mint leaves until you have 1 tablespoon and add it to the bowl. Mince the garlic (about 1 tablespoon) and add to the bowl.
Add the ground lamb meat to the bowl. Sprinkle in the harissa powder or sauce and kosher salt.
Using either your hands or a rubber spatula, thoroughly mix everything together. Shape into 12 (3-inch wide) patties (about 3 ounces each) and place them in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the harissa mayo.
Make the harissa mayo: Whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, and harissa powder or sauce in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the sliders.
Cook the sliders: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Meanwhile, crumble the feta cheese (about 2/3 cup). Cook the sliders.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet or pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add 6 lamb patties to the skillet and cook, flipping them halfway through, until browned, cooked through, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a patty registers 160 degrees F, 8 to 10 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and repeat cooking the remaining patties.
Split the buns in half and put them cut-side up in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush the cut sides with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake until golden-brown and toasted, 3 to 4 minutes.
Assemble the sliders: Drain the pickled onions. Spread the harissa mayo on the top and bottom of the buns.
Sprinkle the bottom bun with feta, and then place pickled onions on top.
Place lamb patties down on top of the pickled onions. Close with the top buns.
Recipe Note: The lamb patties can be stored in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.