Get your burger fix minus the extra carbs
The fella follows a primarily low-carb Keto diet
when I don't accidentally sway him off if it most of the time. He's also always in the mood for a good burger, and thankfully, so am I (but really, who isn't?).
While there are plenty of delicious lettuce-wrapped burger options, one of our favorite ways to enjoy low-carb burgers without the saucy, dripping mess is to make them into a loaded Burger Salad with Cheese-Stuffed Meatballs and Special Sauce. It takes all of the best parts of a properly loaded cheeseburger and skips the excess carbs, the excess mess, and the need for pro-lettuce-wrapping skills.
What's better than ground beef? Meatballs. What's better than meatballs? Cheese-Stuffed Meatballs. Yes, you can simply brown and season ground beef and still make a delicious Burger Salad, but I assure you that making these Cheese-Stuffed Meatballs is super simple and well worth the extra couple on minutes of assembly. Plus, the bonus is that once they're popped in the oven they're hands-off, so you can avoid standing over your stovetop browning meat while simultaneously prepping the rest of dinner. Skip double-duty dinner tonight and make things extra cheesy in the process.
Do you need more incentive to keep reading further? Ok, here you go - Bacon, Special Sauce, more cheese.
My favorite low-carb binder
These Cheese-Stuffed Meatballs use a combination of egg + ground pork rinds to bind the meat together so that it stays in a secure ball form.
Though traditionally popular as a gas station snack, I find that pork rinds are most useful as a grain-free, low-carb alternative to Panko bread crumbs. I originally started buying them as a low-carb dipping vessel for Keto dips and spreads, but once I realized their texture worked well as a Panko swap, my low-carb meatballs, meatloaf, and “breadings” have all been getting a serious upgrade. I personally like these Epic Oven Baked Pork Rinds with Pink Himalayan + Sea Salt that I’ve found on Amazon and at Whole Foods.
I prepare pork rinds by blitzing them in my food processor for a few seconds then storing the granules in an airtight container, just like you would traditional bread crumbs.
My Favorite Toppings for a Burger Salad Bar
My favorite way to serve these Burger Salads is in bar form, where everyone can dress their salads with their own preferred toppings. Start with a base of chopped romaine and Cheese-Stuffed Meatballs, then add:
- Bacon - Would it really be a great cheeseburger without bacon? I usually serve this crumbled on the side for a bit of extra salty crunch, but sometimes I mix it right in with the burger meat.
- Avocado - Avocado is a universal favorite and I just don't know if there's a salad that wouldn't be 2 x tastier without some.
- Tomatoes - I like sliced cherry tomatoes because my garden is packed full of them right now, but dicing the traditional hothouse tomatoes you'd find on a classic burger is also a fun option.
- Cheese - As if filling the meatballs with cheddar wasn't enough, I also like to top this salad with a second cheesy option - Bleu cheese is my favorite choice.
- Olives - Though I rarely see a classic burger with olives as a topping option, I just can't imagine a salad without olives. Black olives are my favorite choice for this salad.
- Crunchies - Shredded or sliced carrots are my favorite neutral topping to add some extra crunch, but you can also add in other fun extras like sunflower seeds or fried onions if you prefer.
- Onions - The fella goes for thinly sliced red onions and I prefer Low-FODMAP-friendly chopped green onions. Have it your way! (...You knew that would crop up eventually.)
- Pickles - We prefer sliced hamburger dills for this salad, but cornichons are also a fun swap if you have them! If you aren't into pickles, sliced cucumber makes a nice crunchy addition.
Let's talk about the Special Sauce
I think a good sauce should be able to be thrown together in less than 5 minutes and taste better than anything you can find premade in a bottle. My Special Sauce is comprised of simple ingredients you will likely already have stocked in your fridge and pantry and I feel confident that you'll wonder why you haven't been slathering your burgers (and salads) all this time. Grab the recipe for this delicious sauce here.
Does this Burger Salad with Cheese-Stuffed Meatballs and Special Sauce pack well for leftovers and meal prep?
Yes. When packaging this salad for meal prep, simply store the Cheese-Stuffed Meatballs and Special Sauce in their own separate containers from the rest of the salad fixings. I will also generally skip slicing the tomatoes so they don’t weep into the salad greens when storing. When in doubt, stack heavier, moisture-filled things (like pickles) on the bottom and place things that are more likely to wilt, (like salad greens) on the very top.
These are my favorite glass storage containers for salads. To see more of my must-have kitchen tools and other Whip & Wander favorites, check out my shop page here.
A note for special diets
Burger Salad with Cheese-Stuffed Meatballs and Special Sauce is gluten-free, grain-free, low-carb, refined sugar-free, and friendly for Keto diets.
This salad can also be very friendly for Low-FODMAP diets with a few intentional choices. Swapping the sliced red onions for chopped green onions (green tops only) and ensuring that the cheese choice you select is a natural, aged cheese so that it's low-lactose. Cheddar and bleu cheese are both generally considered Low-FODMAP options.Print
Burger Salad with Cheese-Stuffed Meatballs and Special Sauce
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 20
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 4 portions 1x
- Category: Salads & Dressings, Mains
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Gluten Free
This Burger Salad with Cheese-Stuffed Meatballs and Special Sauce takes all of the best parts of a properly loaded cheeseburger and skips the excess carbs, the excess mess, and the need for pro-lettuce-wrapping skills.
For the meatballs:
- 1 lb ground beef
- 3 tbsp pork rinds (I like Epic Oven Baked Pink Himalayan + Sea Salt), crushed or blended until fine and granular
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp Worcestershire
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- ½ tsp cracked black pepper
- 4 oz cheddar cheese, cubed into 12 equal portions
For the salad:
- 2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped
- ½ lb bacon, cooked and crumbled (sometimes I will add this directly to the meatball mixture instead)
- ¾ cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
- ½ cup shredded carrots
- ½ cup black olives
- ½ cup dill pickle slices
- ⅓ cup bleu cheese crumbles
- ¼ cup red onions (sub for green onions if Low-FODMAP)
- 1 large avocado, sliced
For the special sauce, see this recipe.
For the meatballs:
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 C). If using a cast iron pan to bake these, go ahead and add the pan to the oven now so it begins to preheat as well.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine ground beef, granulated pork rinds, egg, Dijon, Worcestershire, parsley, and pepper.
- Roll the seasoned beef into 12 equal meatballs. Press cubes of cheddar into the center of each meatball and cover the cheese, rolling each back into a meatball.
- Remove the cast iron pan from the oven and carefully place each meatball onto the hot pan.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they reach in internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Some cheese may seep out from the meatballs.
For the salad:
- Assemble romaine, bacon, tomatoes, carrots, olives, pickles, bleu cheese, onions, and avocado. Add meatballs to the top, then drizzle with Special Sauce.
Nutritional information on Whip & Wander is provided as a courtesy and is approximate only. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional information given for any recipe on this site.
- Serving Size: ¼th recipe + 2 tablespoon Special Sauce
- Calories: 783
- Sugar: 4
- Sodium: 1849
- Fat: 60
- Saturated Fat: 20
- Carbohydrates: 13
- Fiber: 6
- Protein: 49
- Cholesterol: 203
Keywords: salad, burger, meatballs, cheddar, special sauce
Salad with meatballs? That sounds fabulous. The salad looks spectacular and definitely in my to do list.
Oh my, doesn't this just have the best options for a make it yourself bar. Definitely going to do this for book group when I host next month. Everyone will find things they like...and that bowl is beautiful too.
Holy cannoli, this is genius. I'm ALL about turning crave-worthy carb-y meals into huge meal-worthy salads. But I've *never* thought to do it with the concept of a burger! And I'm always craving a burger. Ever since I got pregnant, that was one of my constant cravings, and it never went away after having the baby. Lol 😉
I can't wait to devour this!
Oh my gosh pork rinds??! You're a genius! The flavor alone those impart is reason enough for me to try them. Honestly I'm not a huge salad person, but this is a salad I actually want to eat, it has everything I like, pickles, olives, a great, sauce, flavorful protein, it's brilliant!
Marisa F. Stewart says
I simply love this idea. I do like bread but sometimes the bun either falls off of the burger or it overwhelms it. This way I can get my delicious cheeseburger plus my salad at the same time. It's a win-win!!
[email protected] says
First of all, the recipe looks amazing. But the pork rind bread crumb sub? WHAT?! That's so cool! I've never heard of that, and I can picture all kinds of handy-dandy ways you could use that in recipes. I'll be the first to admit that I adore carbs (perhaps a bit too much at times), but I can easily see how these amazing meatballs would satisfy a burger craving without the need for bread. Awesome stuff.
Gorgeous AND delicious. And that special sauce? Oh my gosh I'm putting it on everything. Seriously, everything! Love love this salad!
Cathleen @ A Taste of Madness says
Special sauce? I like the sound of that! The presentation of this meal is truly beautiful <3
your Salads are always so refreshing and delicious. I am so gonna make this with some falafels. That dressing !!