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Burger Bowls With Special Sauce (Paleo & Whole30)

Burger Bowls with Special Sauce – Load all your favorite hamburger toppings onto a bed of greens and drizzle with our favorite special sauce to build an amazing burger salad. (Gluten-Free, Paleo & Whole30-Friendly)

Overhead view of a Burger bowl with special sauce

For the first few years after our family went gluten-free & dairy-free, the options in our local stores were nothing like they are today. There were ZERO good gluten-free buns for things like hamburgers or sloppy joes, and most of the bread options available to us then were dry and flavorless.

During that time, we got used to deconstructing meals we typically served with bread or buns, turning sandwiches into salads, having lunch fixings as more of a charcuterie board/snack board, or tucking things into lettuce wraps.

Burger salads or burger bowls became a favorite during those years. Basically, take everything you love about a hamburger and turn it into a giant bowl or salad (sans bun). It’s DELICIOUS.

Thankfully, the gluten-free breads have gotten WAY BETTER in recent years and are only going to get better, but when the weather turns warm, we still love getting our hamburger fix in with a fully-loaded burger bowl.

And if you want to serve it with some fries or sweet potato fries on the side? All the better!

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own burger bowls…

Overhead view of a Burger bowl with special sauce

HERE’S WHAT GOES INTO OUR BURGER BOWLS:

  • GROUND BEEF. Based on your dietary needs, you can choose to use beef that’s on the extra lean side (labeled as “97/3”), something mid-range (“90/10”), or something with a bit more fat (“85/15”). Generally speaking, the more fat in the beef, the more flavor you’ll taste, but you can choose whatever works best for your dietary needs.
  • SIMPLE SEASONINGS. A blend of simple seasonings gives your beef LOTS of flavor and keeps your burger bowl from tasting the least bit flat. A blend of garlic powder, onion, powder, salt, and pepper season the beef to perfection, while a little shot of gluten-free tamari (or coconut aminos or soy sauce) adds a subtle layer of umami that makes it taste amazing.
  • A BED OF GREENS. For me, lettuce is an absolute must for a yummy burger bowl. Vibrant, crisp greens turn this into a sort of burger salad and makes a lower calorie veggie-licious alternative to a traditional bun. I like romaine or green leaf lettuce best for burger bowls, but feel free to use your favorite!
  • OUR SPECIAL SAUCE. Special sauce is one of my favorite parts of a good burger bowl. Everyone has their own version of special sauce, and I really love mine. It’s a mix of tangy and savory that’s perfect smothered on a burger or drizzled over a burger bowl.
  • BURGER TOPPINGS. Just like when you’re ordering out at a restaurant, it’s easy for everyone to build their burger (or, in this case burger bowl) just the way they like it. You can mix and match from all kinds of toppings that work for your taste and dietary needs, like…
Overhead view of toppings for burger bowls--red onion, tomatoes, and pickles
Front view of a Burger bowl with special sauce

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TOPPINGS! HERE ARE SOME OF OUR FAVORITE BURGER BOWL TOPPINGS :

BASIC BURGER BOWL TOPPINGS:

  • Tomato. I often order extra tomatoes on my hamburgers, so I love adding them to burger bowls. You can dice up full-size tomatoes, or halve or quarter cherry or grape tomatoes. I love using multicolor tomatoes!
  • Onion. Red onion or white onion are both pretty common burger toppings, so you can slice, dice, or mince a little to go on top of your bowl. (Or, try some grilled onions for even better flavor!)
  • Pickles. Basically all of my favorite hamburgers have pickles (often extra pickles!), so you’ll always find them on my burger bowls. Use store-bought pickles, our refrigerator dill pickles, or even something fun like zucchini pickles!

WHEN YOU’RE FEELING A BIT EXTRA:

  • Bacon. Crispy, crumbled bacon is one of the quickest ways to elevate your burger bowl from basic to fully-loaded. Add as much or as little as you like!
  • Avocado. My next favorite is sliced or diced avocado. (AVOCADOS forever!)
  • Cheese. If you tolerate it, feel free to add some cheese to turn it into a cheeseburger bowl. A good sharp cheddar, pepper jack, Swiss, or Gouda can be fun!
  • Mushrooms. A bit more on the fancy side, some sautéed mushrooms can be amazing on top of a burger bowl.
  • Caramelized Onions. I ate an amazing hamburger once with mushrooms and caramelized onions. The sweet, delicious flavors are perfect with earthy, savory mushrooms.
  • Fried Egg. I’ve never made my burger bowls this way, but if you really want to GO FOR IT, feel free to top it with something a bit extra, like a fried egg!
  • Croutons. If you’re not eating paleo/Whole30, you can mimic the taste of the bun by adding croutons onto your burger bowl. (Try these!)
Overhead view of a bowl with ingredients for burger bowl special sauce
Overhead view of a jar of special sauce with a spoon tucked into it

Let’s Talk About Special Sauce!

Special sauce is one of my favorite parts of a good burger bowl. Everyone has their own version of special sauce, and I really love mine. It’s a mix of tangy and savory that’s perfect smothered on a burger or drizzled over a burger bowl.

Mine is made from a simple blend of equal parts mayonnaise, ketchup, and pickle relish, plus a few simple seasonings, like salt, pepper, and dill, and a little pickle juice or water to help it blend. I love the tangy, punchy flavor that works so well with the burger bowl toppings.

Plus, it’s totally paleo & whole30-friendly, so long as you use compliant ingredients! (More about that in the FAQ below!)

Overhead view of a Burger bowl with special sauce

FAQ + TIPS AND TRICKS FOR THE BEST BURGER BOWLS:

PALEO & WHOLE30 NOTES. Our burger bowls are paleo & whole30 friendly, so long as you’re using compliant ingredients, like coconut aminos, paleo mayonnaise and ketchup, and compliant pickles (try Bubbie’s!). Win!

A GREAT SOURCE FOR SUSTAINABLE MEAT. I’ve been ordering boxes from Thrive Market for the last few years, and LOVE their sustainably sourced meat & seafood options, as well as their gluten-free, paleo, and Whole30 pantry staples, and natural home care products. Get $25 off your first order with this link!

MAKE IT LIGHTER. To lighten this up a bit, you can use extra lean ground beef (97/3). If you want, you can try experimenting with ground turkey, too! (I’m just not a fan of the taste of ground turkey.)

TRY SWITCHING THE SAUCE! For even more ways to play with the flavor of your burger bowls, try swapping out our special sauce for one of our other yummy options, like Chipotle Ranch, Avocado Ranch, or BBQ Ranch instead!

Overhead view of a Burger bowl with special sauce

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Overhead view of a Burger bowl with special sauce

Burger Bowls With Special Sauce (Paleo & Whole30-Friendly)


  • Author: One Lovely Life
  • Total Time: About 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 Servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Burger Bowls with Special Sauce – Load all your favorite hamburger toppings onto a bed of greens and drizzle with our favorite special sauce to build an amazing burger salad. (Gluten-Free, Paleo & Whole30-Friendly)


Ingredients

Scale

FOR THE HAMBURGER:

  • 1 lb. ground beef (I like 97/3 or 90/10 ground beef)
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut aminos, gluten-free tamari, or soy sauce (can sub worcestershire)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

FOR THE SPECIAL SAUCE:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup pickle relish (or 1/4 cup minced pickles + 2 tsp. pickle juice)
  • 12 Tbsp. pickle juice or water, to thin out the sauce
  • 1/8. tsp. salt
  • 1/8. tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried dill (or about 1 tsp. fresh)

TO BUILD YOUR BURGER BOWL:

  • 8 cups romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
  • 1 cup halved baby tomatoes (or diced tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup pickle slices
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced (or minced)

Optional extras:

  • 1 avocado, sliced or diced, 4-8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled, grated or cubed cheese, etc.

Instructions

MAKE THE BEEF:

  1. Heat a medium or large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef, tamari/coconut aminos, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.
  2. Cook the beef until browned and fully cooked through, stirring regularly to break the meat up a bit, about 8-10 minutes.

MAKE YOUR SPECIAL SAUCE:

  1. While your beef is cooking, mix up your special sauce. In a jar or small bowl, combine mayonnaise, ketchup, pickle relish, 1 Tbsp. pickle juice, salt, pepper, and dill. Whisk until fully combined. Taste and add more mayonnaise, pickle, salt, or pepper, if needed, or thin out the sauce with more pickle juice or water. 

BUILD YOUR BURGER BOWLS. 

  1. Once your beef is cooked and the special sauce is prepared, you’re ready to build your burger bowls! For each burger bowl, combine 2 cups lettuce, 1/4 of the ground beef, diced tomatoes, pickles, onion, bacon, and avocado, as desired.
  2. Drizzle burger bowl with 2-3 Tbsp. special sauce and enjoy!
  • Prep Time: 20 mintues
  • Cook Time: 8-10 minutes
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: burger bowl, hamburger bowl, burger salad, hamburger salad,

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