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Pan-Asian Pesto Burgers with Avocados and Mango

This burger is the result of me trying to figure out what to have for dinner based on what I had on hand, which included leftover herbs in my refrigerator, an overabundance of basil from the garden. I got the inspiration to combine the pork and crab in a burger because I make a spring roll that combines the two in the filling. The spring roll recipe also includes cilantro and mint (in the filling and the dipping sauce), so I added those in a quick and easy “pesto” along with basil, since the three-herb combination is a classic and so-delicious combination.

When I first made the burger, I used canned crab, which I had in my pantry (I keep it on hand to make easy crab cakes). The burger is delicious using the canned crab—the fresh herbs and lime juice really brighten the flavors, so you would never think “canned” when you take a bite. But then I decided to splurge and buy 1/2 a pound of fresh crab meat—it sent them over the top. But I love having the option of making the burgers with either fresh or canned.

So why cashews in the pesto and in the topping? I had a great mango-avocado salad at a Vietnamese restaurant; it had dried shrimp crumbled into it. Dried shrimp are hard to come by where I live in Texas, so I opted for nuts to get the same crunch and saltiness. And, you guessed it, cashews were what I had on hand. I loved the way they worked, so I decided to keep it simple and use them in the pesto, too. Using the honey-roasted cashews was a happy accident; I mistakenly bought the honey roasted instead of the plain the second time I made the burgers. I found I liked the subtle hint of sweet, so they stayed.


1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 and 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon bottled Chinese chili-garlic oil
1/3 cup honey roasted & salted cashews
1/2 cup Colavita Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Salt to taste
1 and 3/4 pounds ground pork
8 ounces lump crab meat, picked over (or canned crab, drained, is just fine, too)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons bottled Chinese chili-garlic oil
1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 large limes
1 large ripe mango, halved, pitted, peeled, thinly sliced
2 small California avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, sliced
1 tablespoon Colavita Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 and 1/2 cups bagged, pre-washed baby spinach leaves
1/3 cup honey roasted & salted cashews
Salt to taste
6 good-quality, large sesame seed hamburger buns, split horizontally
vegetable oil for brushing grill


In a food processor process the basil, mint, cilantro, ginger, 1 tablespoon chili-garlic oil, 1/3 cup cashews & 1/2 cup olive oil until smooth. Season pesto with salt to taste.

Gently blend pork, crab, 1 & 1/2 teaspoons chili-garlic oil, 1 & 1/4 teaspoons salt, & 6 tablespoons of the pesto in large bowl. Form into six patties; place on platter & cover with plastic wrap. Chill at least 20 minutes (in ice cooler or refrigerator).

Grate 2 teaspoons zest from limes; squeeze 1 and 1/2 tablespoons juice from limes. Combine zest, juice, mango, avocados, & remaining tablespoon olive oil in medium bowl. Toss in spinach & remaining 1/3 cup cashews. Season with salt to taste.

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Toast buns on grill, cut side down, about 2 minutes. Brush grill rack with vegetable oil. Grill patties on grill rack, cover, and cook, turning 1x, until cooked through about 5-6 minutes per side. To assemble, spread each bun bottom with remaining pesto, then top with a patty and an equal portion of avocado-mango mixture. Add bun tops and serve. Makes 6 burgers.


(1) Try to keep the crab in lumps throughout the burger rather than breaking it up as you blend. That way you get wonderful chunks of crab throughout each bite.
(2) If using canned crab, buy the lump-style at the supermarket (other varieties are really shredded)
(3) The chili-garlic oil is in the Asian foods section, right next to the soy sauce.