You’re probably wondering how a “Healthy Burger Salad” recipe landed here at That Salad Lady. When most people think about a burger, greasy fast food is generally the first thing that comes to mind. And, for many, a burger isn’t complete without layers upon layers of cheese, ketchup, mayo and other stereotypically “unhealthy” toppings. With all these fun fixings and, of course, the must-have fries on the side, could there even be such a thing as a healthy burger?
The answer is absolutely yes!
At That Salad Lady, as with most foods, we believe burgers are what you make of them. While these widely popular sandwiches undeniably have a reputation as an “unhealthy” food, believe it or not, when built with purpose, burgers can actually be very nutritious and quite healthy. Layered with quality protein, good fat and loads of fresh ingredients, our healthy burger salad includes all the fixings burger fans know, love and crave – and its man and kid approved.
THE BALANCING ACT
So, what makes a burger unhealthy anyway? Is it the meat? Is it the cheese? Perhaps it’s the condiments? Honestly, none of these layers are inherently unhealthy. It really depends on how you choose and use them. It’s about putting quality first and being mindful of your portions. Truth is, many burgers sold in fast food chains are made with subpar ingredients that are high in sodium and preservatives. This is the stuff that lowers their overall nutritional value.
Here at That Salad Lady, we believe every bowl is an opportunity to build layers and layers of whole food nutrition for whole life wellness – so is every burger.
While grabbing an occasional burger on the go won’t hurt, the healthiest is one that’s prepared at home. Enjoying it in the form of a salad is one of the best ways to control everything that goes in and with it. From the meat and cheese to the veggies and condiments, our burger salad recipe includes specific suggestions for choosing the highest quality layers to get you the most nutritional bang for your bowl. If you’re a fan of burgers, this’ll definitely be your go-to bowl.
Now, let’s talk about all the layers in our healthy burger salad bowl recipe and why we chose to include them.
Lean and Flavorful Burger Meat
A good layer of lean meat is what a good burger is made of. As opposed to the commonly used ground beef, we chose ground turkey for our recipe. However, our choice of turkey over beef isn’t necessarily about nutrition – it’s more about taste. Contrary to popular belief, given the same lean-to-fat ratio, neither turkey nor beef are distinctly healthier than the other as both offer a good supply of high-quality protein, fat and micronutrients.
For this recipe, we specifically suggest 93% lean (7% fat) ground turkey, which essentially means the meat has a lean-to-fat-ratio of 93/7. The higher the leanness, the lower the saturated fat content. While saturated fat isn’t inherently harmful, we do recommend limiting it in cases where it doesn’t compromise the flavor and texture of your recipes (click here to learn about the nutritional differences between “good” and “bad” fats).
Although ground beef and turkey are nutritionally similar, their flavor profiles are a bit different. The flavor of beef tends to be stronger than that of turkey – many would say that turkey is pretty “bland.” But it’s that relative bland flavor of ground turkey that makes it the perfect choice for our healthy burger salad.
Since the taste of turkey isn’t overpowering, you’ll experience all the different flavors of the other ingredients. Ground chicken breast offers a similar taste profile to that of ground turkey so you can swap out the turkey for chicken if you wish. Now, if you’d rather have a “mooey” burger salad, just choose leaner cuts of beef like top sirloin or even ground chuck (92-95% lean), as you’ll get the best lean-to-fat ratio.
That “Special” Burger Sauce
Our recipe calls for That Salad Lady’s Thousand Island dressing. Often referred to as a “special sauce” in American restaurants and food chains, Thousand Island is indeed a one-of-a-kind burger topping. Made with high-quality mayo, ketchup, relish and other ingredients, our recipe delivers the classic creamy taste and texture this dressing is known for. All you’ll need is a blender or food processor and it’s on your salad in five minutes!
A Classic Cocktail of Fresh Layers
As we’ve already mentioned, our recipe is packed with loads of fresh layers including classic burger staples like lettuce, tomato and onion along with cucumber and mushrooms. Though lettuce is generally just a burger topping, here we use it as a salad base. We also go with romaine lettuce, as opposed to the more commonly used iceberg. When it comes to leafy green veggies like these, the darker the leaves, the more nutrient-rich the greens.
While not as dark as kale or spinach, compared to iceberg, romaine lettuce contains nearly double the carotenoids and four times the amount of Vitamin K, an important fat-soluble vitamin that’s beneficial for heart health. The juicy, sweet flavors of grape tomatoes pair perfectly with romaine and all the other layers but you can use whatever tomatoes you have – they’re all equally nutritious and rich in disease-fighting lycopene.
Then there are onion and cucumber, which give the blend plenty of crispy, crunchy texture. For sweet flavor, good bite and a hefty dose of antioxidants, our recipe specifically calls for red onion. However, we also suggest using a lighter colored onion (white or yellow) along with freshly minced garlic as protein seasonings (see recipe card and study up in our Nutrition Glossary to learn about the benefits of these allium vegetables).
For the cucumber, you can use either an English or slicing (regular) cucumber. Finally, there are the mushrooms, which make for an even heartier, tastier burger salad. While our recipe calls for white button mushrooms, you can use portobello mushrooms too. Mushrooms themselves are a great source of fiber and antioxidants and have a craveable “meat-like” consistency that even lends them well to a vegetarian “meatless” burger salad if you choose to go that route.
The Deluxe Trio of Add-Ins
You can transform our burger salad recipe into a “deluxe” version by adding one or more “optional” layers. This tasty trio of layers includes shredded cheddar cheese, bacon bits and croutons.
Good Cheddar for the Better
As for cheese, our healthy burger salad recipe includes sprinkles of freshly shredded cheddar. Full-fat or reduced-fat? The choice is yours! Depending on your eating style, fat could be a friend or foe. Aside from different fat compositions, there’s really not much of a different in their nutritional profiles. Both are great sources of protein, calcium and other nutrients.
Reduced-fat cheddars generally have a hard, somewhat rubbery texture and typically don’t have that classic “aged” flavor. Again, it’s up to you! We want you to be confident in your eating decisions. Now, if you follow a dairy-free diet, you can certainly leave the cheese out. We promise you’ll still have an enjoyable eating experience.
Homemade Turkey Bacon Bits
Then there is bacon which, in spite of its bad reputation, can actually be a nutritious add-in when used sparingly and paired with vegetables and other whole foods as in this recipe. In and of itself, bacon is a good source of quality protein and other essential nutrients (check out our Nutrition Glossary to learn more). We chose turkey bacon for our recipe, but you can experiment with other types and see what you like.
Whether pork, turkey or meatless, the texture, sheer saltiness and savory flavor of bacon makes it the perfect burger add-in. You can also leave out the bacon altogether – it’s an optional layer.
Crispy, Crunchy Croutons
For our burger salad, there’s no need for a bun. Top off the bowl with the rich, savory flavor and delightfully crispy texture of croutons. While there’s a whole slew of bagged options out there, nothing beats the flavor of homemade croutons – and you don’t have to be a masterful baker to make them. We include That Salad Lady’s “No-Hassle Homemade Croutons” as an option. For a keto or gluten-free bowl, make them with your favorite gluten-free or keto bread.
You’ve probably already guessed that our burger salad recipe requires some cooking – specifically for the: (1) ground turkey, (2) bacon bits and (3) croutons, the latter two of which are optional ingredients. The cooking process is pretty simple and straightforward.
The recipe calls for first browning the ground turkey in a hot, lightly greased skillet or pan. As the meat browns, you can chop up a white or yellow onion and minced a few cloves of garlic for the seasoning (see recipe card). Once the meat has browned, stir in the onion and garlic along with salt and pepper. You can also add a sodium free all-purpose seasoning like Dan-O’s Original Seasoning for even more savory flavor without added sugars or artificial ingredients.
If you’re building your bowl with bacon bits, we’ve included instructions on the recipe card below. They’ll take about 12-15 minutes to prepare and fully cook. Our crouton recipe is also included, which involves only three simple steps: cutting, seasoning and baking bread. That’s it! All you’ll need is a loaf of bread plus five ingredients and they’re ready in about 25 minutes.
GET YOUR CHOP ON
The recipe calls for chopping all the fresh ingredients including the romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, cucumber and mushrooms. You can use pre-cut, pre-packaged romaine to save some time on prep. If using grape tomatoes (as per the recipe) just slice those in half. You can then dice the red onion, cucumber and mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. Once all the layers are chopped up, set them aside separately until you’re ready to build your burger salad.
That Salad Lady’s Thousand Island dressing is included as part of the recipe (see recipe card). All you’ll need to do is add all the ingredients to your blender or food processor. With variable speed units, start with a low speed and then gradually increase it to a higher speed until the mixture is perfectly smooth. You can also use a good quality bottled Thousand Island blend but full-fat varieties are best (study up in our Nutrition Glossary to learn why).
BUILD YOUR SALAD BOWL
When you’re ready to build your bowl, lay out the romaine lettuce, drizzle on your dressing and give it a good mix. For maximum nutritional value, we suggest adding just enough dressing to season and not saturate your salad. From there, you can add layers of burger meat, shredded cheddar (if using), mushrooms, onion, cucumber and tomato. Stir in more dressing if you wish and then top off the mixture with bacon bits and/or croutons, if using.
All put together, this healthy burger salad is large enough for four generous servings, but you can always adjust your portion sizes based on your eating style. For instance, if you’re watching your sodium intake, you might up your portions of the fresh layers and add less meat, cheese and/or bacon. It’s all about building a bowl that works best for YOU.
Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. We suggest storing all the ingredients separately. When stored together, the salad bowl will surely get soggy and even spoil faster. Any remaining dressing will last in the fridge for up to a week so long as it’s kept in an airtight container.
SHOW US YOUR BOWL
That Salad Lady wants to see your bowl! If you like it, which we are sure you will, drop a comment below and tag pics on Instagram with @thatsaladlady, #thatsaladlady and #buildyourbowl. If you love it, pin it on Pinterest and share it on Facebook and Twitter using #thatsaladlady.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.