Crispy, craggy smash burgers with copycat Shake Shack sauce, lettuce, and pickles.
After reducing my meat intake significantly over the last couple of years, I will find myself craving a burger here and there. And recently, I watched a video where Carla Lalli Music demonstrated a recipe for smashed pork burgers; I was truly hooked. They were so crispy and craggy on the outside and juicy on the inside. I kid you not when I tell you that for the next week, I obsessively thought about making smash burgers.
Carla actually worked at the first Shake Shack, so she has a ton of insider knowledge. With inspiration and tips from her Youtube video, I developed this vegetarian recipe to satisfy my craving – and it totally delivers.
Why You'll Love This
Let's talk about what makes this recipe special:
- Using impossible meat ensures a similar flavor and texture to ground beef.
- Smashing the patties with a heavy cast-iron grill press or metal spatula creates a thin, crispy, and caramelized exterior just like a classic smashburger (a wonderful tip from Carla's video)!
- A smattering of toppings layered inside the burger, like crispy lettuce, smashburger sauce, and pickles balances out the richness of the patty and avoids a dry burger.
Best of all? It's super easy, so it's perfect for a hangry craving or a quick dinner. Looking for more satisfying vegetarian meals? Try my saucy, cheesy eggplant involtini!
- Impossible Beef: Impossible meat is my go-to alternative beef product. I find that it has a really great meaty texture without any unpleasant aftertaste. Make sure to buy the bulk meat product, as opposed to the already formed patties, as they'll smash much more easily.
- Hamburger Buns: Use your favorite hamburger buns! I like a classic seeded bun or a potato bun.
- Smash Burger Sauce: I love making my own copycat smash burger sauce. It's super quick, easy, and uses ingredients you likely already have at home. I have a great recipe here.
- Thinly Sliced Onions: I love charring up some super thinly sliced onions with the patties -- I think it adds so much flavor!
- Dill Pickles: Use your favorite dill pickle brand here -- just make sure to slice them into thin coins so they'll easily stay on the burger.
- Lettuce: Look for a lettuce with a nice crunch. I'm a fan of baby romaine, which you can typically find in the packaged lettuce section of your grocery store (Organic Girl is my go-to).
- American Cheese: In my opinion, a smashburger is perfect with a slice of American cheese. If you're vegan, feel free to use a vegan cheese option.
How to Make Impossible Smash Burgers
These smash burgers are so easy and super satisfying! Let's talk through how to make them.
1. Loosely form the Impossible meat into thick, puck-shaped patties. Top each patty with some of the onions.
2. Preheat your cast-iron skillet and get it super hot! The oil should be shimmering and just barely smoking.
3. Add the patties to the skillet and immediately smash down each patty with a cast-iron grill press or a metal spatula until very thin. Cook for a few minutes, then use the metal spatula to scrape the bottom of the patty off the pan, and flip. Top with american cheese, and cook the other side until nicely browned.
4. Assemble your burgers with toasted buns, smash burger sauce, lettuce, pickles, and the browned onions.
How to Make Smash Burgers Video
Tips and Tricks
- Avoid overhandling or tightly packing the patties: When forming the patties, pack them loosely, as this will make it much easier to smash them into thin, crispy burger patties. Dense, overhandled patties will resist your smashing.
- The patty may stick to the pan as you're trying to flip it, so use firm pressure with the metal spatula to scrape the bottom of the patty and loosen it.
- Serve hot! Get all of your ingredients prepped in advance, and make sure to toast the buns while the meat cooks. This ensures you're ready to eat just as the last patties come out of the skillet.
Storage and Make-Ahead Instructions
Unfortunately, I do not recommend making these ahead of time, as it's a pretty annoying and complicated process to reheat them properly. That said, they come together in less than 30 minutes, so it's well worth the effort to make them fresh!
Absolutely! I haven't done this myself, but it's a classic technique employed for getting those crispy, craggy edges. That said, I developed this recipe using a cast-iron skillet so don't be surprised if cooking times differ with the griddle.
I bet this burger would be great with pepper jack cheese, cheddar cheese (make sure it's very thinly sliced, as cheddar is a bit less "meltable"), or smoked gouda.
I'm always down for a classic burger and fry meal. I actually love the Alexia frozen fries (not sponsored, just love them) with rosemary - they bake in the time it takes you to make the burgers! I also have a homemade french fries recipe if you're looking to tackle a fun weekend project.
Alternatively, if you're looking for a brighter, more refreshing side dish, I'd recommend this kale caesar salad.
Absolutely! The cook time will be much faster since you won't need to cook two batches of patties, but otherwise the recipe should be the same.
Here are some of my favorite suggestions:
- Instead of frying the onion with the patty, you can separately make caramelized onions.
- Saute up some mushrooms to go inside the burger.
- Add some pickled jalapenos.
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma
Impossible Smash Burgers
- 1 Large Cast Iron Skillet
- 1 Cast-Iron Grill Press, or a large metal spatula and a wooden spoon
- 1 Large, metal spatula
- 12 ounces Impossible Beef burger meat, avoid using pre-formed patties (they will be more difficult to smash properly); thawed if frozen
- Salt and black pepper
- ½ small white or yellow onion
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil such as canola oil or peanut oil; divided
- 4 slices american cheese
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 4 hamburger buns
- Smashburger sauce, or your sauce of choice (ketchup, mustard, etc.)
- Dill pickles, thinly sliced into coins
- 4 pieces crisp, crunchy lettuce
Prep the burgers
- Prep the meat: Divide the Impossible meat into 4 equal-sized portions. Loosely form into thick, puck-shaped patties (at least ¾-inch thick).Generously sprinkle salt and black pepper on both sides of each patty.Note: Avoid overworking the meat or packing the meat too densely, as it will make it more difficult to smash the burger into a thin, craggy patty.12 ounces Impossible Beef burger meat, Salt and black pepper
- Slice the onion: Peel and very thinly slice ½ of a small onion into half moons. You should have about 7 to 8 pieces of onion per patty.Top each patty with the onion slices.½ small white or yellow onion
Cook the smash burgers
- Set aside two large, identical plates. Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is shimmering and beginning to smoke, carefully transfer two of the patties to the skillet, onion side up.Immediately smash down each patty with a cast-iron grill press or a metal spatula until very thin, about the width of the burger buns. Season the top with a pinch more salt.How to use a metal spatula: With the metal spatula in your left hand, press down on the patty with the flat part of the spatula. With your right hand, use the handle of the wooden spoon to firmly put pressure on the metal spatula.2 tablespoons neutral oil such as canola oil or peanut oil; divided
- Cook, undisturbed, for 2 - 3 minutes, or until the bottom of the patty is evenly browned. Use the metal spatula to scrape the bottom of the patty off the pan, and flip. Season the top (now the browned side) with a pinch more salt.Place a slice of American cheese on each patty, and cook for an additional 1 - 2 minutes, until the patty is browned on both sides, the cheese is melted, and the onions are nicely browned. While the patties cook, toast the buns.Reduce the heat to low, then remove the patties from the pan and transfer to a plate. Cover with another other plate to keep warm.Note: The caramelization of the patty will cause it to stick somewhat to the pan; use the metal spatula to firmly scrape and flip the patty!4 slices american cheese
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and increase the heat back to medium-high. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the remaining two patties. Repeat the steps of smashing and cooking them until browned and crispy. Transfer to the plate, then get ready to assemble your burgers.
Toast the buns
- While the burgers cook, toast the buns. Set another large cast-iron pan, skillet, or flat-top griddle over medium heat and melt the butter.Once melted, coat the buns in the butter and arrange evenly in the pan, cut-side down. Toast the buns for anywhere from 1-3 minutes, or until they're nice and golden-brown but still soft. You could also cook the buns in the burger pan once they are done.1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 4 hamburger buns
Assemble the burgers
- Remove the buns from the pan and assemble the burgers. Spread the smashburger sauce (or sauce of your choice) on the top burger bun. Top with dill pickles. Top the bottom burger bun with the lettuce and the burger patty with the onions.Stack the burger together and serve warm.Smashburger sauce, Dill pickles, 4 pieces crisp, crunchy lettuce