This Sweet And Spicy Bacon Smash Burger is inspired by the classic Whataburger version. It includes a juicy smash burger with a crispy exterior, topped with caramelized onions, thick juicy bacon, and melty cheese on a toasted Brioche bun. This burger will be your new favorite!
I LOOOVE a good burger, especially during the summer months. Big fat juicy cheeseburgers, crispy smash burgers, sliders, bbq burgers, southwest burgers - you name it, they’re all a-ok in my book. And this sweet and spicy bacon smash burger is now at the top of the list, friends. It goes great with these Louisiana Voodoo Fries, simple Yukon Chips, or even these delicious Air Fryer Twice Baked Potatoes.
Why This Recipe Works:
- Whataburger greatness. Inspired by the delicious Whataburger Sweet & Spicy Bacon Burger, this recipe delivers on all fronts - delicious, easy, and totally indulgent.
- Smash burger! In a slight departure from Whataburger, I made this sweet and spicy bacon burger as a “smash burger”, giving it a deeply crispy, scraggly, caramelized exterior while leaving the patties super juicy on the inside.
- Can be made quickly. No forming patties, no waiting around for the burger to come to the right temperature. These cook up FAST, and are great for when you need dinner fast, or want to feed a crowd.
- The sweet and spicy sauce! I played around with some different combinations and I think I came up with the perfect sweet and spicy sauce for this burger. Using a combo of barbecue sauce and hot pepper jelly/spicy pepper relish, it creates a deliciously sweet and zesty sauce with a slight kick that goes perfectly with these spicy bacon burgers. It’s going to become your new favorite and I foresee putting it on top of all sorts of dishes in the future.
Tips for making a smash burger
Ok. So this is not your regular burger my friends. Smash burgers are made a bit thinner than your normal thick and juicy burger you’d make on the grill. Think diner style burgers that have a crispy exterior, and juicy interior. To make them, you literally roll your cold ground beef patties into a ball, then smash them onto a very hot cast iron skillet with a sturdy spatula or a burger press.
The burger patty will cook super quickly ( you only need a few minutes). Add a sliced round of onion to the top of the burger, flip it over, and top the burger with cheese. Cook for a couple more minutes and then remove it from the pan and prepare the rest of your burger. A few tips for making burgers in this style:
- Keep your burger meat COLD. These will cook up much better if you keep the burger meat in the fridge until you’re ready to cook it. Keeping the patties cold helps them to stay together and keeps them nice and juicy.
- Don’t forget about the seasonings. You don’t need much, but a little salt and pepper go a long way in making these burgers stand out.
- Don’t overmix the meat. You’re going to create some simple smallish balls of ground beef here (no flattening into patties or using the thumb indent trick). Use an icecream scoop if you can to prevent the meat from warming in your hands.
- Use a cast iron skillet. You’ll need this hot and flat surface in order to smash the burgers to perfection.
- Get your pan HOT! The idea is to sear the patties quickly and get a nice caramelization on the outside of the burger so to do that you need a nice and hot pan. Heat it on high, and test to make sure it’s hot by placing a couple of drops of water in the pan. If they sizzle, you’ll know it’s ready.
- Use parchment paper! A common problem when making smash burgers is that the spatula sticks to the burger. You can easily prevent this by using a piece of parchment paper and placing it between the patty and the spatula when smashing the burger.
- Smash once, then leave it alone. Once you smash the burger down, don’t move it or touch it until the bottom is finished cooking. You want a nice crispy crust to form on the bottom and you don’t want to smash the burger more as that will dry it out. Just leave it alone for a couple of minutes and let it do its thing. You can flip it once you see some of the juices starting to form on the top of the burger, which should only take a few minutes.
- There will be smoke. Get your vent ready and open your windows - this method of making burgers does create a lot of smoke so just be ready. You’ll also likely want to grab an apron as things can get a little splattery. (Who said making delicious burgers wasn’t messy?) If you’d like to make these outside, on the grill, just bring a cast iron pan out to your grill, or use a griddle attachment if you have one.
Tools you’ll need.
To make this delicious sweet and spicy bacon burger smash style, you’ll need just a couple of tools:
- A cast iron skillet.
- A sturdy spatula, or burger press. (This is key - you want something you can easily press the burger down with.)
- Ground beef. You’ll want to choose high-quality ground beef here. A mix of 80/20 is ideal since it’s the perfect blend of fat and lean meat to help you create a nice and juicy burger.
- Sweet onion. Really any onion will do since it will be sort of carmelized, but sweet onion pairs really great with the sweet and spicy sauce and the bacon.
- Cheeses. I used a couple of varieties of cheese for flavor (good cheddar cheese and some Monterey jack cheese). A good deli cheese is the best option here since it melts so nicely.
- Bacon. Is there anything that bacon doesn’t make better? (Apart from my waistline?) I like using nice thick bacon pieces here to add even more crunch to the burger. If you don’t want to cook the bacon though, you could also chop up the raw bacon and mix it with the burger meat.
- Sweet and spicy pepper sauce. This sauce is magic, you guys. The perfect blend of sweet and spicy, and very close to the Whataburger version (although maybe slightly better?).
- Brioche buns. Ok, I’m a little picky about this, but I think Brioche buns are the perfect bun for these burgers. A bit sweet, nice and soft, and the perfect pairing for the sweet and spicy burger. You’re going to want to butter the insides of these and toast them for ultimate deliciousness.
How To Make These Sweet And Spicy Bacon Burgers
Ok. So these are actually pretty easy to whip up.
- Start by getting the brioche buns ready. Butter the inside of them and place them onto your cast iron skillet or griddle on medium heat for just a few minutes to get them nice and toasty. Remove the buns and set aside.
- Prepare the sauce. As your buns are toasting, prepare your sweet and spicy sauce by mixing equal parts barbecue sauce and red pepper jelly. Stir well to combine, then set aside.
- Next, prepare the burger balls as directed above. Place them into a hot hot pan, smash them down with a spatula, and then let them cook for a few minutes undisturbed (don’t you dare touch or move them!) until you start to see juices on the top of the burger.
- Add onions, flip, then add cheese. Place a ring of sweet onions on the top of the burger (press them in slightly with your spatula), flip the patty over, and then press down again slightly. Add your cheese immediately to the top of the burger. (Note - doing the onions this way is helpful in two ways: by grilling the second side of the burger patty directly on the onions, you can prevent some sticking to the pan. It also allows you to caramelize the onions while you’re cooking the burger which saves a bit of time.)
- Allow burgers to rest. After a couple of minutes, remove the burgers from the pan and set aside to rest for a few minutes.
- Put it all together! Assemble your sweet and spicy bacon burger by placing the burger directly on top of the bottom of the bun. Add the onions, the bacon, and a good healthy drizzle of the sweet and spicy sauce, then add the top of the bun.
The classic Whataburger version is very similar to this copycat spicy burger recipe. It contains 2 100% beef patties, bacon, grilled onions, Monterey Jack and American cheese, mustard, and Whataburger’s famous sweet and spicy pepper sauce, all on a toasted bun. This version has fewer calories than the fast food version since I only use one patty, and it’s slightly smaller since I made it “smash style”.
I love using a Brioche bun in this recipe since it’s a slightly sweeter bun and really compliments the sweet and spicy flavor of the sauce. I also love the texture for a burger - sturdy, yet slightly soft making them perfect fo smushing everything together for the perfect bite.
When making smash burgers, keeping the burger patty from sticking to the spatula is sometimes an issue. You can easily prevent this by cutting a small piece of parchment paper and placing it between the burger and the spatula before you smash it.
Yes! These are easy to make and because they cook so quickly they’re great when hosting a barbecue or serving a larger group!
You could, but as with most burgers, these are really best enjoyed immediately.
Store leftover patties in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
What can I serve with sweet and spicy bacon burgers?
So many things!! Of course, all your classic barbecue sides will work, but here are a few other delicious options.
- Louisiana Voodoo Fries
- Zucchini Salad
- Potato Salad
- Carrot and Parsnip Baked Fries
- Kale Crunch Salad
- Strawberry Spinach Salad
If you make these Sweet & Spicy Bacon Smash Burgers let me know what you think! And don’t forget to tag me with a pic @frontrangefed on Instagram so I can see your masterpiece!
Sweet And Spicy Bacon Smash Burger (Whataburger Copycat)
- 4 Brioche buns
- 1 pound 100% ground beef (80/20 mix is best)
- 1 large sweet onion, sliced
- 4 slices Monterey Jack cheese
- 4 slices cheddar cheese
- 8 slices thick, cooked bacon
For The Sweet And Spicy Pepper Sauce
- ½ cup barbecue sauce
- ½ cup red pepper jelly or pepper relish
- Slice the onion and set aside.
- Prepare the Brioche buns by buttering the inside of them and toasting them on the skillet until golden. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, make the sweet and spicy pepper sauce by combining the barbecue sauce and the red pepper jelly in a small bowl. Mix well to combine and set aside.
- Form the burger balls by dividing the ground beef evenly into 4 pieces and shaping them into balls. (If not cooking immediately, cover and place them in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook them.)
- When you're ready to cook the burgers, heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high heat. Make sure the skillet is HOT before adding the burgers. Add the burger balls to the skillet (you may only be able to do 1-2 at a time depending on the size of your skillet) and smash it firmly with a spatula to even and thin it out. Allow it to cook, undisturbed until the bottom is crispy and browned and juices start to form on the top of the burger.
- Add the sliced onion to the top of the burger and press it lightly into the patty with your spatula, then flip the burger. Immediately add the cheese and cook for 2 minutes more before transferring the burger to a plate. (You may want to continue cooking the onions just a bit to allow them more time to caramelize.)
- Assemble the burger by placing the patty on the bottom half of the bun. Top each burger with the onions, 2 slices of bacon, the sweet and spicy pepper sauce, and the top half of the bun. Serve immediately.
- Form the burger meat into balls, not patties before cooking, and make sure it is COLD! If you're not cooking the burgers immediately, place the burger balls into the refrigerator until you're ready to make them.
- Use a cast iron skillet or griddle and make sure it is hot before adding the burgers. You can check this by adding a couple of drops of water to the skillet. If it sizzles, then it's ready.
- Use a small piece of parchment paper between the burger ball and the spatula to prevent the spatula from sticking to the burger.
- Don't disturb the burger while it's cooking! You want the meat to caramelize and develop a beautiful crispy exterior so leave it be until it's had a chance to do that.