Make a patty melt with secret sauce next time you're craving some seriously indulgent comfort food! A thin ground beef patty is layered with caramelized onions, two types of melty cheese, and a tangy secret sauce.
A variation of the classic cheeseburger, the patty melt is a diner menu staple. Served on buttered rye bread instead of a bun, the patty melt is pan fried until golden brown and melty. It's hearty, comforting, and delicious!
This patty melt starts with thin, oblong, ground beef patties. The thinner the better - you'll want to leave room for plenty of caramelized onions, two types of cheese, and a tangy sauce on top. Rye bread is the classic bread choice, slathered to the edges with plenty of butter.
And the "secret sauce"? Not so secret anymore - I've included the recipe below! You'll be adding this tangy, thousand island-esque sauce to everything.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Ground beef - I suggest using 85/15 or 90/10 ground beef. Higher fat ground beef makes this sandwich extra greasy and your patties will shrink significantly. Readers have also used ground turkey for a lighter variation.
- Rye bread - This is the classic bread of choice for a patty melt, but Texas toast or white sandwich bread make good alternatives.
- Cheeses - I used a combination of swiss cheese and cheddar cheese. You're welcome to use all swiss or all cheddar if you prefer.
- Worcestershire sauce - Can be substituted with soy sauce or steak sauce if needed for allergy reasons.
- Onions - You'll need two large onions for this recipe. If that seems like a lot - don't worry. They cook down significantly during the caramelizing process.
- Oil - I used olive oil, but any cooking oil you have on hand will work in this recipe.
- Salt & pepper - Add flavor to your sandwiches.
Secret sauce ingredients
- Mayonnaise - Necessary as the base of the sauce. Feel free to use your favorite brand - I prefer Duke's mayonnaise.
- Ketchup - Necessary as the base of the sauce. Feel free to use your favorite brand.
- Dijon mustard - Can be substituted with yellow mustard.
- Pickle juice - Any type of pickle juice works in this recipe. I usually use dill pickle juice, but a bread and butter pickle juice also works. It can also be substituted with apple cider vinegar or white vinegar.
- Seasoning - Garlic powder and paprika are added for flavor.
Tips and tricks
Caramelizing your onions - If you've never caramelized onions before, it takes more than just a few minutes of browning onions in a pan. It's best done low and slow on the stove top. For this recipe, it will take about 30 minutes or more to caramelize your onions. This is the longest part of the recipe but is well worth the effort.
Frequently asked questions
Many fast food and sit down restaurants serve burgers, fries, and patty melts with a "secret sauce". Secret sauce is usually a variation of thousand island dressing. The base is made with mayonnaise and ketchup, with other flavors added like mustard, paprika and garlic.
The main difference is that thousand island dressing usually contains pickle relish, whereas burger sauce does not. I like to use a dash of pickle juice in my secret sauce to get the same flavor, but without the chunky texture.
Ground beef patties shrink because the fat melts, or renders, out of the beef as it cooks. If you're using a high fat ground beef, like 75/25, your patties will shrink significantly because 25% of those patties are fat. I recommend using a lower fat beef, like 85/15 or 90/10, to ensure your patties shrink less. Keep a close eye on your beef and don't overcook it, because lower fat beef can dry out more quickly than a higher fat beef.
This recipe makes enough for spreading and dipping four patty melts. You may have some leftover - it's great for dipping fries too! Secret sauce will keep for about 2 weeks in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Patty Melt with Secret Sauce
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon pickle juice
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large onions, thin sliced
- 12 ounces 85/15 ground beef
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
- 8 slices rye bread
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 swiss cheese slices
- 4 cheddar cheese slices
- In a bowl, add mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, pickle juice, paprika, and garlic powder. Mix until smooth. Set aside.
- In a skillet over medium-low heat, add olive oil. When warm, add onions to pan and cook until softened and deep golden brown, about 30 minutes or more. (If onions begin to dry out or look like they're going to burn, add a splash of water to the pan and reduce the heat slightly.) Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a bowl, add ground beef, salt, pepper, and worcestershire sauce. Mix to combine and form into four thin, oblong patties (shape patties to match the shape of your bread). In a skillet over medium heat, add patties and cook until browned on both sides. Remove from heat and set aside. Wipe excess grease from the pan.
- Butter one side of each piece of bread. In a skillet over medium heat, layer your sandwiches as so: one slice of bread (buttered side down), one slice of swiss cheese, beef patty, caramelized onions, secret sauce, slice of cheddar cheese, and one slice of bread (buttered side up). Cook until golden brown on the bottom, flip, and cook until golden brown on the opposite side (this should take 1-2 minutes per side).
- Secret sauce recipe will make more than enough to top four sandwiches, with leftover for dipping or enjoying again later. Store any leftover sauce in the refrigerator in a sealed container.