Before developing a copycat Shake Shack sauce recipe, I knew I needed to do some personal investigating on my own, so I took a trip over to Shake Shack to have one of their famous ShackBurgers, which yes, we did rate as the best fast food cheeseburger after a thorough taste test.
As I took a bite into a ShackBurger, I took some notes of the different tastes that I experienced. There were the typical ones—potato bun, burger, classic American cheese, lettuce, and tomato. But I also experienced a taste that wasn't expecting from this burger: Pickles.
And yet, there aren't any pickles on Shake Shack's ShackBurger.
The secret ingredient in the Shake Shack sauce recipe is pickle brine
Yes, pickle brine! When I started to mess around with different Shake Shack sauce recipes, I found that adding pickle brine gave it that familiar Shake Shack sauce taste that I experienced when taste-testing the real thing.
Besides the pickle brine in the sauce, the Shake Shack sauce reminded me of a mixture of Sriracha mayo and fry sauce (a mix of mayonnaise and ketchup.) As a base, I made a fry sauce with a touch of mustard and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper to give it a slight kick. Add in a tablespoon of pickle brine from your jar of pickles, and it creates one of the most delectables mayo-based sauces you'll ever have.
How to cook the perfect burger patty
After making many burgers at home (yes, many, I love them), I have developed a trick to get your burger patty perfectly pressed—just like what you would get at a place like Shake Shack. The trick is to form the patty into a large, thin disk. The ground beef will shrink when cooking, so you want to make the disk as big as possible—while still keeping a patty form with the ground beef. The hamburger patty should look similar to a pancake.
When flipping the patty after the first 5 minutes of cooking, you'll want to press it down with a metal spatula. That way the burger will get that "smashed" quality that we love so dearly about fast food burgers.
Once you've cooked up your burger, all you have to do is whip up this copycat Shake Shack sauce recipe! Here's what you'll need.
Makes 4 servings
Shake Shack Sauce
1/2 cup mayo
1 tbsp ketchup
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 tbsp dill pickle brine
Shake Shack Burger
1 lb ground beef
8 lettuce leaves
8 tomato slices
4 hamburger potato buns
4 slices American cheese
1 tablespoon butter
Salt & pepper
How to Make It
- To make the sauce, whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl.
- For the burger, split the ground beef evenly into 4 oz. portions (this should make 4 patties).
- Form them into a burger patty with your hands. Press down on them so the patties are thin—they will shrink when cooking.
- Season each side of the patty with salt and pepper.
- Heat up a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once hot, melt the butter in the skillet.
- Throw the patties on the skillet. Cook on each side for 5 minutes.
- When you flip the patties to the other side, press them down with a metal spatula, then add the slice of cheese.
- While the patties are cooking, slice up the veggies. Spread some sauce on both sides of the bun.
- For the proper copycat Shake Shack burger, add the patty with cheese to the bottom of the bun. Place 2 tomato slices and 2 lettuce leaves.
- Serve with crinkle-cut fries (which I love to make in my air fryer!)
Eat This! Tip
Grill the burger instead! Skip the butter and the cast-iron skillet, and throw those patties on the grill. If you want to give the burger that "Shake Shack" look for your guests, wrap it in a small burger wrapper using parchment paper.