Loaded Burger Bowl Salads with “Special Sauce” (Whole30, Paleo)

A burger bowl salad in a large white bowl sits on top of a cutting board, with a small dish of "special sauce" nearby.
Recipe At-A-Glance
Paleo, Whole3020 minutes
Craving a juicy burger but without the bun? This Loaded Burger Bowl Salad has all the flavor of a burger, but is Whole30- and paleo-friendly! Load it up with all your favorite burger toppings for a satisfying dinner recipe.

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One of my husband’s favorite foods on the planet is a really good greasy cheeseburger. Unfortunately, he has some health issues that make him feel terrible whenever he eats one.

We realized a few years back that it was the combination of the meat with the grain-filled bun that caused the issues—so we moved to bunless burgers, using sweet potato planks or lettuce leaves instead of buns. That worked, but it was messy and hard to control all the glorious burger toppings.

A fork holds a bite of salad over a large bowl of a loaded burger bowl salad.

Then, a few months back, I decided to put all the burger fixin’s into a big bowl salad instead. My burger-loving husband took one bite and then looked at me and said, “Can we please have these every week?” And since that day, we have!

My husband gets to eat his “burger” and still feel great—the best of both worlds. So if your body feels better with a gluten-free, grain-free, paleo, or even Whole30 diet, but you’re still missing your burgers—this is the recipe for you!

A fork with a blue handle rests in a large bowl filled with burger salad ingredients.

How do you make loaded burger bowls?

These burger bowls are basically all your favorite burger toppings just layered into a big dinner salad—so whatever toppings you love on burgers, you can add them to the salad! Here are my recommendations:

  1. Sauté up some ground beef with seasonings until brown and crumbly. Some burger bowls use full burger patties or meatballs, and I tried those, but I found that browned ground beef got you great, savory burger flavor in every salad bite.
  2. Mix up your Special Sauce! This is the dressing for the salad, and a Whole30- and paleo-friendly version of the special sauce that gets put on a Big Mac at McDonalds. You blend it all up in the blender!
  3. Assemble your bowls! I do romaine or green leaf lettuce, red onions, cherry tomatoes, crumbled bacon, avocado, the beef, and dill pickles, and then drizzle on the special sauce. My daughter likes to add chunks of sharp cheddar cheese (which makes it not Whole30- or paleo-compliant).

What can you serve with burger bowls?

I believe burger bowls tend to be filling enough to be a meal on their own, but if you’re looking to add a little bit more heft in the form of a filling carbohydrate—this is the perfect meal to serve with Baked Sweet Potato Fries. The fries are super good dipped in the Special Sauce!

A fork with a blue handle rests in a large bowl filled a loaded burger bowl salad.

Okay, so what’s the secret to the Special Sauce?

To make a Whole30- and paleo-friendly dressing for these burger bowl salads, you’ll create a date-sweetened Special Sauce right in your blender! The sweetness of the sauce comes only from pitted Medjool dates—no added sugar—and the savory taste comes from coconut aminos.

I always have coconut aminos in my kitchen because they are a gluten-free, grain-free, soy-free, Whole30-compliant alternative for both soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. You can purchase them online, or many major supermarkets now carry them with either their soy sauce or their salad dressings. If you can’t get your hands on coconut aminos, then Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or tamari will all work—just be warned that those items are usually not Whole30-compliant.

A spoon with a blue handle drizzles "special sauce" over a burger bowl.

Can you meal prep these burger bowls?

You sure can! In fact, these burger bowl salads are perfect candidates for the Salad in a Jar method! Just layer the individual elements in a jar in the following order:

  1. Special Sauce
  2. Seasoned Beef (cooled)
  3. Bacon (cooled)
  4. Onions
  5. Pickles
  6. Avocado (make sure to treat with Fruit Fresh)
  7. Tomatoes
  8. Lettuce

Then seal the jar up tight and keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. When you’re ready to eat, dump it all into a bowl, and enjoy! Our general Salad in a Jar post has more information (and a video) to give you all the tricks and tips to make sure your salads stay fresh and crisp for days.

Ingredients for a burger bowl salad are layered in a wide-mouth mason jar

The recipe below is my favorite combination of burger toppings, but feel free to experiment with whatever toppings sound good to you. I think a burger bowl with blue cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and caramelized onions would be amazing! Enjoy.

 

Whole30 Loaded Burger Bowl with "Special Sauce" Recipe

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Craving a juicy burger but without the bun? This Loaded Burger Bowl Salad has all the flavor of a burger, but is Whole30- and paleo-friendly!

Ingredients

For the “Special Sauce”

For the Seasoned Beef

For the Salad

  • 2 heads romaine or green leaf lettuce, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced, or 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dill pickle slices
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (make sure to check for Whole30 compliance)
  • 2 avocados, sliced

Instructions

  1. In a heat-proof container (like a glass measuring cup), cover the dates in boiling water to soften. Let soak for 5 minutes.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the dates from the soaking liquid (reserve the liquid) and place in the basin of a high-powered blender. Add in the pickle juice, coconut aminos, mayo, tomato paste, hot sauce, and garlic. Blend on high until very smooth, adding some of the soaking water 1 tablespoon at a time to thin out, if desired. Stir in the chopped dill pickle, and place the sauce in the fridge to chill while you make the rest of the burger bowl.
  3. In a medium-size skillet over high heat, combine the ground beef, onion, garlic powder, black pepper, sea salt, and steak seasoning, if using, and sauté until beef is cooked through and onions are tender. If the beef has released a lot of grease, drain all but about a tablespoon.
  4. To assemble the salad, layer lettuce, tomatoes, red onion slices, dill pickle slices, bacon, avocado slices, and seasoned beef in a large bowl. Drizzle on the Special Sauce.

Notes

  • If you don’t need a Whole30- or paleo-compliant recipe, adding chunks of sharp cheddar cheese turns these into Cheeseburger Bowls—my daughter’s favorite!
  • If red onions are a bit too spicy for you raw, take the bite out of them by submerging the cut red onions in a bowl of ice water for 5-10 minutes. Then drain and add to the salad.
  • If you do not have coconut aminos, then Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or tamari will work in place of the aminos, just be aware that those items are not usually Whole30- or paleo-compliant.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1055Total Fat: 71gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 47gCholesterol: 166mgSodium: 1925mgCarbohydrates: 54gFiber: 17gSugar: 21gProtein: 56g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.
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