Ditch the drive-thru with this 20-minute Big Mac Salad that lets you enjoy the meat and all the fixings without the bun for a super simple, delicious, healthy, gluten-free, high-protein, low-carb salad!
Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fast-food eater. However, even I have the occasional Big Mac craving. Having recently shared a super hearty, cheesy hamburger casserole, though, I’m now lightening things up with this healthy Big Mac salad recipe.
This cheeseburger salad recipe has all the satisfying flavor notes of a beloved Big Mac, minus the bun, in a fresh, crisp salad to squash your fast-food cravings all summer (and year). That includes crisp lettuce, seasoned ground beef, cheddar cheese, dill pickles, and a homemade Big Mac sauce dupe you’ll love.
It’s crisp, fresh, meaty, and cheesy, with the big mac salad dressing providing creamy, tangy, slightly sweet flavors. Plus, it’ll keep you full for hours! This “Big Mac in a bowl” salad is a must-try even for self-proclaimed salad haters.
Why not also check out my list of 40 easy summer salads, for more inspiration?!
What Goes in Big Mac Salad
Aside from the bun, this cheeseburger salad contains all the regular Big Mac fixings but with a healthier ratio of greens.
The Burger Meat
- Ground beef: I used lean ground beef (5%) to replace the beef patty, but feel free to use a slightly fattier % if preferred (though you will need to drain the excess grease). Ground turkey or chicken will also work but won’t provide the classic Big Mac flavor.
- Seasonings: I used a simple combination of garlic powder (and optionally some onion powder), chili powder (optional for heat), sea salt, and black pepper to perfectly enhance but not overwhelm the beef.
- Olive oil: Or another neutral cooking oil.
For the Salad
- Iceberg lettuce: This crisp and refreshing lettuce is the perfect base for this hamburger salad. However, romaine lettuce, spinach, or other leafy greens will work, too.
- Dill pickles: This is a classic component of a Big Mac. Use homemade or store-bought dill pickles.
- Sweet onion: If you’re unable to find sweet onion, red onion also works, but you may prefer to soak it in ice water for 10 minutes to mellow its flavor.
- Cheddar cheese: I prefer to use a block and shred it, though pre-shredded works, too. You can use regular, mature, or extra-mature cheddar.
- Sesame seeds: Raw or lightly toasted to capture some flavor of the sesame seed bun.
Though not traditionally in a Big Mac, you might enjoy adding chopped in-season tomatoes (like Roma tomatoes) or cherry tomatoes for extra color and juicy flavor.
Big Mac Sauce Salad Dressing
This copycat Big Mac sauce is key to providing this salad with a nostalgic flavor that tastes like a Big Mac from Mcdonald’s.
- Condiments: This burger sauce-inspired dressing uses a combination of ketchup, mayo, and yellow mustard for a sweet, tangy, bright base. Use low-fat and/or keto/sugar-free options if preferred.
- Sweet pickle relish: Or minced dill pickles (though it won’t be as sweet).
- Vinegar: White vinegar is all you need, though apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar would work too.
- Sweet paprika: Provides color and flavor depth. Use smoked paprika for a subtle smokiness.
- Sweet onion: Finely diced for extra texture and bold flavor.
As a “cheat” to this special sauce, you could mix the pickle relish and sweet onion into thousand island dressing or just use that dressing alone.
How to Make Big Mac Salad
Enjoy a hambirger salad in just a few simple steps.
The Dressing Is the Key
First, finely chop the sweet onion (for the dressing and salad). Then combine all the burger sauce dressing ingredients in a small bowl, stir/whisk well, and transfer it to the fridge (covered).
It’s important to prepare the salad dressing first, so it has time for the flavors to meld. If you have time, prepare it 1-2 hours (or even a day) in advance.
Prepare the Meat
First, finely dice the dill pickles and shred the lettuce and cheddar.
If you want to toast the sesame seeds, do so in a large dry skillet before cooking the meat. Toast them over medium heat until fragrant and golden, stirring often.
Add oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the beef and cook it until it’s entirely cooked through (no pink remaining). Use a wooden spoon or spatula to break up the beef into crumbles as it cooks.
If there’s lots of excess fat, drain it at the end so you don’t end up with a greasy salad. It’s a good idea to allow the meat to cool as well, so it doesn’t instantly wilt the lettuce.
Assemble the Salad
Combine all the prepared salad ingredients in a large salad bowl (or several small bowls), drizzle over the dressing, and toss to combine. Finally, sprinkle over the sesame seeds, and enjoy!
More Salad Recipes
If you try this easy Bic Mac salad recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Big Mac Salad Recipe
For the meat
For the salad
- 16.5 oz iceberg lettuce 2 small heads (8 cups shredded); or romaine lettuce
- 1/2 cup sweet onion diced; or red onion (soak in ice water for 10 minutes to mellow the flavor)
- 1.5 cups cheddar cheese shredded; use a sharp cheddar (mature or extra-mature)
- 1.6 oz Dill pickles 1/3 cup finely diced
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds optionally toasted
For the dressing
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise regular or low-fat
- 3 tablespoon ketchup regular or sugar-free
- 1/2 tablespoon mustard yellow
- 2 tablespoon sweet pickle relish or minced Dill pickles
- 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika or smoked paprika for subtle smokiness
- 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar or apple cider vinegar/rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sweet onion finely diced/minced
- Finely chop the sweet onion (for the dressing and salad). Then combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, stir/whisk well, and transfer it to the fridge (covered).Preparing the dressing first is important, so it has time for the flavors to meld. If you have time, prepare it 1-2 hours (or even a day) in advance.
- Finely dice the dill pickles and shred the lettuce and cheddar.
- Optional step: If you want to toast the sesame seeds, do so in the skillet before cooking the meat. Toast them over medium heat until fragrant and golden, stirring often.
- Add oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the beef and seasonings and cook until it's entirely cooked through (no pink remaining). Use a wooden spoon or spatula to break up the beef into crumbles as it cooks.If there's lots of excess fat, drain it at the end so you don't end up with a greasy salad. It's also a good idea to allow the meat to cool, so it doesn't instantly wilt the lettuce.
- Combine all the prepared salad ingredients in a large salad bowl (or several small bowls), drizzle over the dressing, and toss to combine. Finally, sprinkle over the sesame seeds, and enjoy!
- Allow the dressing to rest: This will allow time for all the flavors to meld into a super cohesive and delicious Big Mac sauce flavor.
- Leave the meat to cool: If it’s too hot, it will wilt the lettuce immediately and make a soggy salad. It’s best to leave it to cool slightly (or entirely for a meal-prep version).
- Adjust the sauce texture: You could thin it with a little water or oil.