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A fully-loaded burger in a bowl takes everything you love about a classic hamburger, throws out the bun, and layers the rest in a satisfying and mouthwatering salad-style dish. It’s a quick and easy alternative to lettuce-wrapped burgers that you can dress up with all your favorite toppings, including our super simple “special sauce”.

Top-down view of a loaded burger bowl with pickles, onions, ground beef, and special sauce.

🥗 What Makes This Recipe So Good

  • Similar to burrito bowls or taco salads, a burger bowl takes all the amazing parts of a really good burger (minus the bun) and layers them all on top of a bed of chopped romaine lettuce. It’s a great alternative to lettuce-wrapped burgers because you don’t have to deal with all the dripping mess or the uneven topping distribution. You’ll get a little bit of everything in every bite this way.
  • This burger bowl in particular is absolutely loaded with incredible flavors. Savory seasoned ground beef. Salty bacon. Sweet red onions. Briny pickles. Citrusy guacamole. A tangy burger sauce. And it’s all thanks to simple, real-food ingredients.
  • This recipe is naturally paleo-friendly, dairy free, gluten free, and low carb, but with a simple ingredient swap you can also make it Whole30-compatible! You can even take things a step further and make it into a keto burger bowl if you need to. I’ve included everything you’ll want to keep in mind to fit those dietary needs, so be sure to check out the recipe notes down below.

👩🏼‍🍳 Chef’s Tips

  • Should you use ground beef patties or ground beef crumbles in a burger bowl? Well, it’s up to you, but I prefer crumbled ground beef for a couple of reasons. For one, the crumbles stay tender longer than a thick patty you have to cut into multiple times. Also, you’re way more likely to get ground beef in every bite if it’s crumbled up. And, maybe most importantly, it’s much easier to get the perfect doneness on ground beef crumbles than on a burger patty, especially if you’re cooking for multiple people.
  • You don’t have to use ground beef if you don’t like, don’t have it, or just don’t want to use it! Burger bowls work just as well with ground turkey, ground chicken, ground bison, ground pork, etc. You can even use ground seitan for a meatless option.
  • If you’re meal prepping your burger bowls, I recommend packing the ground beef and the special sauce separately from the lettuce and toppings. That way, you can warm up the ground beef without having to eat hot lettuce, and your toppings won’t get soggy from sitting under the sauce for a day or two.
Angled view of a loaded burger bowl with pickles, onions, ground beef, and special sauce.

🥘 More Dinner Recipes You’ll Love

Recipe By: Cheryl Malik
4.99 from 56 votes

Fully Loaded Burger Bowl with “Special Sauce”

Prep 20 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 35 minutes
Loaded burger bowls with pickles, bacon, a quick guacamole, and a "special sauce"! An easy and satisfying alternative to lettuce wrapped burgers.
4 burger bowls


  • 2 medium mixing bowls
  • Large skillet cast-iron preferred
  • Spatula or large wooden spoon
  • whisk
  • small mixing bowl
  • Fork
  • 2 medium bowls or plates
  • Serving bowls


For the Burgers

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 4 teaspoons garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt more or less to taste
  • 1 teaspoon avocado oil or melted refined coconut oil

For the Special Sauce

  • ½ cup mayonnaise see Notes
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup see Notes
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup or 1 tablespoon coconut aminos if on Whole30, see Notes
  • 1 tablespoon dill pickle relish
  • 2 teaspoons dried minced onion
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes more or less to taste
  • 1 pinch salt more or less to taste

For the Quick Guacamole

  • 2 medium avocados pit removed, peeled
  • ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice juice from approximately half of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon salt more or less to taste

For the Bowls (All Optional)

  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 small heads romaine lettuce leaves only, roughly chopped; approximately 8-9 cups total
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes halved; or grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup pickle chips plus more to taste
  • 8-10 slices thick-cut bacon cooked, crumbled


For the Burgers

  • Add 1 pound lean ground beef, 4 teaspoons garlic powder, and ½ teaspoon salt to medium mixing bowl. Use hands or wooden spoon to mix ingredients together until well combined. Set bowl aside.
  • Heat large skillet over medium heat. When pan is warm, add 1 teaspoon avocado oil and swirl or tilt pan to distribute oil across surface. Continue heating pan until oil is hot and shimmery.
  • When oil is ready, add ground beef mixture to skillet. Cook beef, stirring frequently, until browned and crumbled. While ground beef cooks, prepare guacamole and special sauce.

For the Special Sauce

  • Add ½ cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons ketchup, 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup (see Notes), 1 tablespoon dill pickle relish, 2 teaspoons dried minced onion, 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes, and 1 pinch salt to second medium mixing bowl.
  • Whisk ingredients together until fully combined. Taste and adjust quantities as needed. When satisfied with flavor, set sauce aside until ready to serve.

For the Guacamole

  • Add 2 medium avocados, ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon salt to small mixing bowl. Use fork to mash ingredients together until fully combined. When desired consistency is achieved, set bowl aside until ready to serve guacamole.

For the Red Onions

  • When ground beef is fully cooked and crumbled, transfer beef to medium bowl or plate and set aside. Return skillet to medium heat.
  • Add 1 cup thinly sliced red onion to skillet in single layer. Work in batches as needed to avoid layering onions or overcrowding pan. Cook onion slices until lightly charred on underside, then flip onions over and cook until charred on other side.
  • Transfer sautéed red onions to second medium bowl or plate and set aside. Repeat with any remaining onions until all onions have been sautéed.

For the Burger Bowls

  • Divide 2 small heads romaine lettuce evenly between serving bowls.
  • Divide ground beef mixture into 4 equal portions. Place one portion in center of each serving bowl, on top of lettuce layer.
  • Arrange equal portions of 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, ½ cup pickle chips, 8-10 slices thick-cut bacon, sautéed red onions, prepared guacamole, and other preferred toppings around ground beef in each bowl.
  • Drizzle plenty of special sauce over top of burger bowls and serve immediately with additional sauce if desired.
  • Maple Syrup: If you’re on a Whole30 round, do NOT use maple syrup! Replace the maple syrup with 1 tablespoon coconut aminos. If you’re not on a Whole30 round, use maple syrup as instructed, and don’t use coconut aminos.
  • Coconut Aminos: If you’re not following a Whole30 diet, use maple syrup instead of coconut aminos. If you are on a Whole30 round, replace the maple syrup with 1 tablespoon coconut aminos.
  • Lemon Juice: Replace the lemon juice in the guac with lime juice for more of a Tex-Mex flavor.
  • Make it Whole30: Use a Whole30-compatible mayo (store-bought or make your own), a Whole30-compatible ketchup (store-bought or make your own), and do NOT use maple syrup in the sauce! Instead, replace the maple syrup with 1 tablespoon coconut aminos. Make sure your bacon is Whole30-compatible, too.
  • Make it Keto: Replace the maple syrup with a maple-flavored keto sweetener, like Lakanto’s Sugar-Free Maple Syrup. Use a keto ketchup (store-bought or make your own). Use a sugar-free bacon. Omit the guacamole, tomatoes, and red onions to lower the carb count even more.

Approximate Information for One Serving

Serving Size: 1burger bowlCalories: 875calProtein: 36gFat: 71gSaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 133mgSodium: 1596mgPotassium: 1330mgTotal Carbs: 25gFiber: 8gSugar: 10gNet Carbs: 17gVitamin A: 8674IUVitamin C: 28mgCalcium: 97mgIron: 5mg
Nutrition Disclaimers
Number of total servings shown is approximate. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes.
Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using the ingredients listed, not including any optional ingredients. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used.
To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by the desired number of servings. Result will be the weight of one serving.

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  1. Avatar Bridget Salem Batchelor says:

    Loved this! So filling yet not heavy! We’re on Keto and will make it part of our meal rotation for sure. Added some shredded cheese too.5 stars

    1. Anna Claire | 40 Aprons Team Anna Claire | 40 Aprons Team says:

      Thrilled to hear it! Glad it was a hit. 🙂5 stars

  2. 5 stars all around! Family loved these bowls!5 stars

  3. it looks very tasty, I loved the way of preparing the special sauce, thanks for sharing.

  4. I cannot stand any type of pickles, but I’m hesitant to try to make this sauce without that key ingredient. Should I go for it anyway? Thanks!

  5. This did take me longer to make than I thought, but it was well worth it. The sauce is good and the simplicity of the bowl is really nice. I added some sesame seeds, because I wanted to somehow represent the bun, lol. Thanks for the recipe!5 stars

  6. LOVED this! A huge hit with my boyfriend who is new to Whole 30 and clean eating. I made a couple of modifications. I cooked my ground beef in the pan after my bacon and used the little bit of grease instead of adding avocado oil. I also just sliced the avocado rather than making it guacamole. So fast and so good!

  7. I have been paleo for a few months now and this is a weekly staple in our household. It is our favorite recipe thus far, thank you so much!5 stars

    1. You’re welcome! Pleased to hear this is a staple meal for your household 🙂

  8. Avatar Alanna Hart says:

    Hi! What is your recommendation for making the special sauce keto? :-). Thanks!

    1. Avatar Savannah | 40 Aprons Team says:

      Hi! Just be sure to use a keto friendly ketchup in addition to making sure the dill pickle relish doesn’t have any added sugar in it. You also will want to substitute the maple syrup for monk fruit sweetener. 🙂5 stars

  9. Hello,

    I really want to try this, but was wondering if you had another sub for the maple syrup?
    I’m on the Trim Healthy Mama plans don’t sugar is out… I did make an on plan brown sugar (granular) mixing a stevia blend and molasses together… You think that would work or can I leave it out altogether?-

    1. Avatar Savannah | 40 Aprons Team says:

      Hi 🙂 You could try date paste!5 stars

  10. Love the recipe but 4 t. Garlic powder seems like way, way, way too much…..? I used 1 t. And was still too much.5 stars

    1. Seemed like a lot to me at first too, but we loved it!5 stars

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