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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. Hi, I am planning to make this recipe, can you confirm the approximate calories is 900 per serving? If this is true that seems strange to plan a meal with 900kcal per serving.

    1. The nutrition information shown here reflects one serving of special sauce being one quarter of the full amount of prepared sauce, so that may be more than you’ll actually use on your burger bowl. The type of ground beef you use will also affect the calorie count, as well as the specific brands of mayo, ketchup, relish, pickles, and bacon. To get the most accurate calorie count for your specific bowls, you’ll need to calculate the information of the specific brands you use.

  2. This was a great new recipe to add to our rotation. Used ground turkey in place of the beef. I would suggest cutting your pickles up so you get some in every bite! Thank you for sharing this!5 stars

      1. Hi! Like we mention in the disclaimers, actual nutrition information varies depending on the specific ingredients you use. A leaner ground beef will reduce the amount of fat in the dish overall. The same is true for the other ingredients – mayo, bacon, ketchup, relish, mustard. The specific brands you use will change the numbers for your specific meal. Also, the nutrition information shown here factors in more of the sauce than you’ll likely actually use.

  3. Not doing whole-30 or even looking for healthy recipes, but I tried this anyway and i’m so glad I did! The bowls were delicious, and there was a lot of room in the flavor for me to add anything extra that I wanted. Definitely recommend this recipe to anyone looking for a pretty easy dinner.5 stars

  4. This has been a regular in our household for a couple of years now. The flavors are so perfectly balanced and I prefer this over a regular hamburger any day!5 stars

    1. I totally agree- it’s so much better than a regular hamburger! Thanks for sharing, Mandy! 🙂

  5. This was a win with the family. The sauce with coconut aminos was a bigger hit than expected, make extra!5 stars

  6. What a yummy recipe! Thank you for sharing…but are you sure it’s 4 teaspoons of garlic powder??? That seems like a lot. I only used 1 tsp just in case, and it was very tasty.4 stars

  7. Could you substitute greek yogurt in place of the mayo and ground chicken or turkey in place of the beef? And still give the desired taste? If so, how do you think this would effect the nutritional value/cal. count? Significant change or no?

    1. Hey, Krystin! We haven’t tried those swaps so we can’t say for sure how it would affect the taste. As for nutritional counts, you’ll want to calculate those yourself – apps like LoseIt!, MyFitnessPal, and Cronometer are all great tools for that! That way you can input the data for the specific ingredients you’re using, which will give you the most accurate nutritional values.

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