Tomato Burger Buns Recipe

Good cheeseburgers aren’t hard to come by in Paris these days (my favorite comes from Burger and Fries, an In ‘N Out copycat), but I greatly enjoy the ones we make ourselves for lunch on weekends, with homemade buns, organic ground beef from the Batignolles greenmarket, and slivers of comté cheese lounging on top.

Having gleefully discovered that I could buy portobello mushrooms at said greenmarket — although we have plenty of the brown mushrooms we call champignons de Paris, the overgrown version is rarer than a Vélib’ with tight brakes — I have added portobello cheeseburgers into the rotation, and would be hard-pressed to decide which version I like best.

To make my latest batch more exciting, I made tomato burger buns, simply adding tomato purée to the dough.

All of this starts with a good bun naturally: one that’s soft enough to be bitten into without a struggle, but not so soft it breaks down under the combined effect of the seeping juices and the girdle of your thumbs.

My ideal burger bun

Supermarket buns are a total turnoff for me — I incriminate the ingredients’ list as much as the styrofoamy buns themselves — and since the French like to say on n’est jamais aussi bien servi que par soi-même (a Type-A aphorism that means nothing’s ever done as well as when you do it yourself), I just take matters into my own hands.

After a few errant trials over the years, I found my ideal bun in a NYT article last summer, for which baker Hidefumi Kubota had shared the light brioche bun recipe he’d created for L.A. restaurant Comme Ça.

I made it as written and liked it a lot, but soon altered the recipe to incorporate some of my sourdough starter for extra flavor — here’s my conversion method by the way. I do still use some commercial yeast, because enriched doughs need more leavening oomph than the starter alone can provide in a reasonable amount of time. (Trust me: I recently tried a starter-only version that turned out so dense I nearly broke a toe when I dropped one bun on my bare foot.)

Making tomato burger buns

And to make my latest batch more exciting, I made tomato burger buns. The inspiration came from a tweet by my friend Chika about a slice of tomato bread, which she wrote about in more detail a few days later.

Chika explained to me that the lady who had made that tomato loaf had simply substituted tomato purée for the milk in her recipe: a marvelous idea that could be winningly applied to these burger buns, I thought.

I used an organic, no-salt-added, slightly chunky tomato purée from Italy which I buy in jars for next to nothing at the most unglamorous supermarket ever, but if you have garden tomatoes you could certainly make your own. What you need here is simply ripe tomato flesh, mashed or chopped, but otherwise unprocessed and unseasoned.

My tomato burger buns are as light-textured as their plain counterparts, but have a much more arresting look, sunset orange with red highlights.

My tomato burger buns are as light-textured as their plain counterparts, but have a much more arresting look, sunset orange with red highlights. The tomato flavor is faint, especially when it has to measure up with the boldness of the other burger elements, but it does add zing to the bun. And anyway, the point is, that warm color changes everything, right?

So before you turn your back on summer altogether, I suggest a batch of these, so you can treat yourself to a few transitional burgers, indoor or out. And already I am wondering what other breads I shall tomato-ize. Bagels, maybe?

Tomato Burger Buns

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Tomato Burger Buns Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours

Makes 8 buns, about 10 cm (4") in diameter.

Tomato Burger Buns Recipe


  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (I use the SAF brand)
  • 50 ml (3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) water at 35°C (95°F) (when you dip your finger in it, it should feel neutral, neither hot nor cold)
  • 370 grams (13 ounces) bread flour (I used the French T65 + 10 grams wheat gluten)
  • 120 grams (4 1/4 ounces) ripe 100%-hydration starter (see note for substitution if you don't keep a starter)
  • 30 grams (2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) sugar (I use a blond unrefined cane sugar)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
  • 35 grams (1 1/4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 180 grams (3/4 cup) unsalted tomato purée
  • For brushing:
  • 3 tablespoons milk or 1 egg, beaten with a little water


  1. In a small bowl, combine the yeast and water. Let stand for 15 minutes, until foamy.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, place the flour, starter, sugar, salt, egg, butter, and tomato purée. Add the yeast mixture and stir by hand first (so the flour won't fly everywhere when you start the mixer) then knead at low speed for about 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. It will be a soft, brioche-like dough. (You can also knead it by hand on the counter, but you'll need to use a dough scraper to help lift and slap the soft/sticky dough.)
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it proof at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.
  4. Line one large or two small baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  5. Scrape the dough onto a well-floured work surface, and divide it into 8 equal pieces, about 112 grams (4 ounces) each. Shape each piece into a roll as demonstrated in this video. The dough will be fairly sticky, so handle it with quick movements and well-floured hands, but avoid adding too much extra flour or the buns won't be as light in texture. Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheet(s), leaving about 5 cm (2") of space around them.
  6. Cover the buns loosely with a clean (non terry cloth) tea towel and let rise at room temperature for another 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Place a cast-iron pan on the floor of the oven and preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F). Bring about 60 ml (1/4 cup) water to a boil in your tea kettle.
  8. Brush the surface of the buns with milk or beaten egg, working gently to avoid deflating them.
  9. Insert the baking sheet(s) in the middle of the oven, and quickly pour the boiling water into the preheated cast iron pan to create steam. Be very careful not to burn yourself: wear long sleeves and an oven mitt. Shut the oven door quickly so the steam will be trapped in the oven.
  10. Bake the buns for 20 minutes, or until puffy and lightly golden. Halfway through the baking, rotate the baking sheet(s) front to back, and switch the baking sheets if you're using two.
  11. Transfer to a rack to cool completely; the buns freeze perfectly in a well-sealed freezer bag.


If you don't maintain a starter, make the recipe with 2 teaspoons instant yeast, 110 ml (1/2 cup minus 2 teaspoons) water and 430 grams (15 ounces) flour.

Tomato Burger Buns

This post was first published in September 2010 and updated in January 2016.

  • Gorgeous color! I thought for a moment that these might be made with yam. But tomato it is, and how appropriate for end of summer. I’m determined to eat heirlooms till they disappear!

  • Phil in France

    Ooh, Batignolles greenmarket – will they know what I mean when I ask for short ribs (cotes courtes, maybe)? Will they have brisket that doesn’t cost 30 euros a kilogram (I suspect my local butcher is ripping me off)?

    • I’m not sure as I don’t think I’ve ever gotten (or looked for) short ribs or brisket, but you’re welcome to come and check for yourself — it’s a nice market.

  • Clio

    Portobello mushrooms! I had been meaning to ask where you had managed to find them ever since your twitter post, I have spent years hunting for them in Paris without any success. And low and behold, I spotted some this evening at my local Monoprix just before reading your post – now I’m all set up for burgers!

    • Maybe it’s a budding trend and the portobello is here to stay? I hope so!

  • The color of these is a absolutely wondrous. Love it :)

    You might find it funny, for I do live in the U.S., but my favorite burgers are homemade ones as well :) I prefer grass-fed very lean burgers, and for those, home is the best place to make them.

  • looks divine! I love this colour!

    have a nice time!

  • oooh your tomato buns look great, clotilde! and i would love a burger with one of these and some comte… (and a fat slice or two of good tomatoes!), and i’m not even a big burger eater!

    the tomato flavor in my tomato bread (okay, not mine, but..) was quite pronounced, but her tomato puree was probably really concentrated. maybe i should have asked her to show me how she does it.. haha

    • Maybe I’ll try using more of the tomato purée but reducing it to concentrate it, though I like the idea of the fresh tomato flavor, which I’d lose in the reduction. In any case, thanks again for the inspiration! ^_^

  • Oh, these sound amazing! Might have to experiment for an end-of-the-summer barbeque. One thought – maybe roasting the tomatoes would add a little more flavor to the bun?

    • Roasting is a good suggestion, thanks! I could even try roasting the store-bought tomato purée.

  • So interesting. Can’t wait to try! And yes, a tomato bagel please. Toasted with cream cheese…yum.

  • Glorious

    Tomatoes are one of the best things on the planet and creating a bun out of it for tapenade sandwiches or grilled burgers sounds good enough to commit mortal sin over.

  • tony

    Hi Clotilde! The bread looks splendid! Lovely colour. I will give it a go.

    In case you would like to try, here is the recipe I now use for the actual meat part of the burger.

    Here is what gave me the idea, a blog about adding fish sauce to the burger.

    Not stopping with just fish sauce, I made the recipe from here.

    It looks odd, but the combination of dark miso paste, vegemite, anchovies and truffle oil just disappears into a background savouriness.

    best hamburger I’ve ever had!

    • Thanks for sharing. I do doctor up the ground beef with spices and seasoning, but I would never have thought to use these ingredients. I need to try it for sure!

  • The color is perfectly. Not only do you have a pretty hue but a few extra vitamins perhaps.

  • Ursula

    Clotilde – is there any way you could help us non-starter philistines out with the original quantity of yeast (and flour?) to replace the starter? I’m having a hard time trying to back out your conversion recipe…. but I’d love to try the buns. My children love gardenburgers (veggie burgers), and I agree to storebought buns are generally awful.

    • The note at the bottom of the recipe will tell you how to make it without a starter. Happy baking!

  • What a fantastic idea – buns with tomatoes in them – love it! They really look beautiful and I’m sure they taste even better!

  • Very nice color! And I love tomatoes!

  • I love the taste of tomato in bread. Thanks for posting the recipe using grams because I weigh all dry ingredients.

  • I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and can’t recall ever commenting but this bun is such a good idea! Thanks for all your hard work experimenting and then sharing with us! Love your stuff…

  • Great job on the buns! I have a recipe that I use all the time, but like the idea of getting some sourdough starter in the mix. ANd the tomato is definitely a plus.

  • Chris Wilson

    This sounds really interesting! I’m always up for ways to spice up my grilling habits. Not sure if I would put tomatoes on my burger anymore if I have a tomato bun….

  • Pooja

    I have a problem I have been trying to deal with for a while now…how do you cook for two everyday? Say, even here 8 burgers are a lot for two people. And how much can one freeze…some ingredients are just not good for that. Also some recipes are not scalable. Any pointers?

    • In answer to your question “how much can one freeze?”, in this instance, I froze all 8 buns to begin with, then thawed them two by two over the course of a few weeks.

      In general, though, I cook simple dishes for two (things like pasta for instance, because my pasta dishes are pretty simple, or salads that won’t keep) and everything else (vegetable tarts, gratins, stews, grain/legume dishes) for about four, and then we eat the leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.

      I don’t freeze that much stuff, really — just bread (half of the weekly loaf I make), soup if I’ve made too big a batch for us to get through it within 2-3 days, gnocchi because my recipe makes enough for 4, chicken stock, and fruits or vegetables if we’ve had a glut of them at a certain point in time.

  • I’ve recently moved to Paris, and I too have noticed the lack of portobello mushrooms…I do love them roasted with a chunk of tarragon butter tucked inside…yum just thinking about it makes me hungry!

    Re buns – I too detest the supermarket offerings. After reading about the english muffins sold at Raspail Organic Marche, together with other blogs pointing out that english muffins work well as a bun, I gave it a try (check out my, very new, blog where I posted some pics) I have to say that they worked pretty damned well!
    BTW – I love your blog…particularly, your French idioms (I so hope that my French progresses to that level to be able to a) understand them, and b) say them!) Merci beaucoup!

  • Just got hooked on your blog through reading the blog, Orangette. So glad I did. I made your grandmother’s apple cake recipe from 2003 and it was great. It’s very difficult to not eat the whole thing by myself! I made it with peaches from my garden. I am going to try it with one of my favorite combinations, fresh figs and raspberies (it’s still raspberry season around here–central MA). I think lots of fruits would work. After translating the measurements from metric to US Customary Units (which is greatly facilitated using the conversion guide you included in the recipe), the recipe is sooo easy! Thank you!

    • I’m delighted to hear it, Rosie, thanks!

  • You’ve got to try Les Garçons Bouchers’s hamburger ! No tomatoe bun there, but great charolais meat.

    Still hoping to see you in Lyon some day ;-)

  • Ed? You got your tomato paste at Ed? The one time I went in, I quickly left but maybe I should take a little more time and look around.

    • They have a few things that I buy on a regular basis because they’re good-quality and cheaper than elsewhere: this organic tomato purée, the organic T65 flour, the little chavroux-style goat cheese, and also trash bags and sponges.

  • Those buns look fantastic!!! Actually, that sounds a little bad, but you get the point! =)

  • I just read about a risotto with tomato water as its base and a tomato brulee with a caramelized pear … and now it seems I have to add your buns to my tomato to-do list. I’d better get started … the tomatoes won’t be around much longer!

  • Mmmm… I might add chopped or pureed roasted garlic to this.

  • Great idea! Store bought hamburger buns in France tend to scare me a little as well–too round and no taste! I usually buy individual gâches from the bakery, which I find has a nice, soft texture similar to potato bread.

    • That’s a good tip, Lucie, thanks! Which bakery is that?

  • Those look real nice! i made my own hamburger buns using the atkins bun and something mix… but it was kinda blan

  • These look amazing. Now that the weather is a bit cooler here in Rome, the oven is coming back on and the list of things to bake is getting longer!! We are gourmet burger people and I’m lucky to have an amazing butcher. Thanks!

  • I’ve not once thought of adding tomato paste to a bread. Sun dried tomatoes? Of course! But never tomato paste. This looks like a wonderful recipe definitely one I’m excited to try!

  • Nice creation!

  • It’s so difficult to get a good burger bun. This may be the answer

  • My two favorite things: Tomatoes and Bread ! Brilliant idea!

  • This looks delicious. You’re right, supermarket buns are a complete turn-off. I think the buns would taste fantastic with some basil, and maybe some garlic as well.

  • Oh wow. This is wonderful and would suit my palate so well. You see, I have a problem. I don’t necessarily like pairing wet ingredients like mayonnaise or ketchup with thicker types of bread. Especially the kind of bread that soaks up a lot of sauce. For that reason, I curse ketchup on burgers. This recipe has comforted me. I don’t know why I never thought of putting tomato puree in the buns. An amazingly small but sexy idea! Thank you for putting a goofy smile on my face. :)

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