Cheeseburger Pizza: McSecret revealed.

Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun.

Make that on a light/tender/crunchy sesame seed pizza crust.

Eschew the drive-through? Here’s how.

I’ve always liked McDonald’s. THERE – I SAID IT. Hey, if Julia Child thought Mickey D’s french fries were to die for, who am I to disagree?

When I was young, there wasn’t a McDonald’s in every town. Or even every other town. I remember us kids piling into the car, and Mom and Dad driving quite a way to the only McD’s within non-whining distance: i.e., the amount of time we could all sit in the back seat together without fighting over both seat- and air-space. (What, you never accused your sister of breathing your air? I did.)

Once there, we had no trouble deciding what to order. Not because we’d already identified favorites; there just wasn’t much choice.

Hamburger or cheeseburger? Fries, or no fries? Chocolate shake, or strawberry? Done, done, and done.

But oh, what bliss to unwrap the warm burgers from their paper. To lick fingers salty from fries, and noisily suck the last drops of thick milkshake through a straw.

As the years went by and I discovered bread-baking, I began to feel faintly disappointed with McD’s burger buns; and nowhere was their insufficiency as evident as in the Big Mac.

Despite their attempt at gourmet with the addition of sesame seeds, there just wasn’t much to these buns – flavor, or texture. They were kind of an afterthought, a definite second fiddle to the virtuoso contents they held: the warm burger; mild, milky American cheese; the almost-soft onions and barely warm lettuce – and oh, that “special sauce”!

[Note to my dear readers who never liked Big Macs – you can stop reading right now. This post isn’t for you.]

I pondered making my own Big Mac on a homemade bun. But the triple-decker thing seemed like an architectural disaster in the making.

Then I thought, flatter, more secure… let’s layer those toppings on something that’ll hold them without the need for toothpicks or other buttressing agents.

Eureka! Pizza, of course. I chose one of my favorite softer, more bun-like crusts (the one from New Year’s Eve Pizza), then simply mimicked Big Mac’s fillings, layering them on the parbaked crust in stages, so each ingredient would be the perfect degree of cooked-and-warm when the whole shebang was done.

And you know what? I think I succeeded.

Take a bite of this pizza, and be transported back to 1967, when the Big Mac made its debut (at 49¢) – and quickly became, for many, the sine qua non of fast-food burgers.

Ah, one of my favorite pizza ingredients: Pizza Dough Flavor, a garlic/cheese combo that somehow manages to make any dough taste like pizza from the neighborhood takeout joint – in a GOOD way. Give it a try; you’ll find it quickly becomes a pizza must-have.

Click anywhere on this block of pictures to enlarge them to full size – this will work for any of the photos you see in this blog post.

To make the crust: Combine the following ingredients in a mixing bowl, or the bucket of your bread machine set on the dough cycle –

3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
4 teaspoons Pizza Dough Flavor, optional but delicious
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons to 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (7 to 9 ounces) lukewarm water*

*Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.

Mix until the dough is cohesive; then knead to make a smooth, soft dough.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large 8-cup measure (or leave it in the bread machine), and let it rise until it’s very puffy, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

While the dough is rising, ready your toppings. Let’s start with the special sauce.

The ingredients (though not their specific amounts) to this sauce were revealed last summer by Chef Dan Coudreaut, executive chef of McDonald’s Canada. Coudreaut posted a YouTube video on how to build a Big Mac, and it’s garnered nearly 2.5 million views; check it out.

After fiddling around with amounts, here’s what I came up with for the sauce:

1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup green pickle relish
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika; substitute smoked or hot paprika, if desired, your choice

Whisk everything together; refrigerate until ready to top the pizza.

BTW, any leftover makes yummy salad dressing.

The remaining toppings are as follows:

1 pound ground beef seasoned with 1 teaspoon salt, cooked and drained
1 medium-large onion, peeled and diced
hamburger dill pickle slices
12 slices yellow American cheese
shredded lettuce

You can ready any or all of these ahead of time.

As far as the pickles and lettuce, the amount of both is up to you; I didn’t bother to measure exactly how much I used.

OK, back to the pizza dough.

Spray a large rimmed baking sheet (a 13″ x 18″ half sheet pan is perfect) with non-stick vegetable oil spray.

Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons sesame seeds into the pan, if desired; they’re there to mimic the burger’s sesame seed bun.

Gently deflate the risen dough, and stretch it into an oval in your hands. Plop the oval onto the baking sheet, and press it towards the edges. When it starts to fight back, walk away for 15 minutes. When you return, you should be able to press it to the edges and nearly into the corners. If you can’t, give it another short rest, and try again. You want the dough to cover as much of the pan’s bottom as possible (without making yourself too crazy about it). Cover the dough, and let it rise until puffy, about 90 minutes.

While the dough is rising, prepare the toppings. Fry the ground beef until brown; drain off the fat. Dice the onions, and shred the lettuce.

Towards the end of the dough’s rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Bake the crust on a lower oven rack for 10 minutes, or until it’s a light golden brown.

Make sure your toppings are ready to go…

Top the crust with the diced onion, then the ground beef.

Return the pizza to the oven, and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the pizza from the oven, and top with the pickle slices, then the sliced cheese. Return it to the oven, and bake for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the edges of the crust are brown.

Remove the pizza from the oven, and spread with the sauce. Finally, sprinkle with the shredded lettuce.

Serve immediately.

Once more, with feeling: “Two all-beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun…”

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Cheeseburger Pizza.

Print just the recipe.

Oh, and since the economy has been on everyone’s mind lately, here’s a point of interest from McDonald’s Big Mac fact sheet:

The Economist magazine uses McDonald’s Big Mac prices across the globe as a light-hearted guide to whether currencies around the world are at their ‘correct’ level. According to the publication, The Economist‘s Big Mac index is arguably the world’s most accurate financial indicator to be based on a fast-food item.”

Ah, for the days of nickel chocolate bars and 49¢ Big Macs…

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. cartvl219

    That ‘special sauce’ is a remoulade. I have run across it several times over the last year or so and each recipe is a little different (or a lot!) so there doesn’t seem to be one hard and fairly fast rule for it.

  2. KAF_MaryJane

    I can’t wait to make this! Did you know you can get Mac sauce on any burger? Just ask them to add it. It usually costs a quarter, but totally worth it for me.

    I’ll have to find some Hi-C orange drink to go with this. McD’s drink of choice for me. 🙂

    Sounds like a match made in fast-food heaven!-Jon

  3. marcin

    I can’t wait to try this. I love the story. And I too love McDonald’s. It always cured the winter blahs when my children were little. This is going to be a great pizza. Thank you so much. Lots of fun.

  4. Sue

    Big Mac attack! YUMMM the relish sweet or dill relish? Thanks,Sue

    Sweet relish is used in the sauce – but use your favorite for your personal taste preference! Happy Baking – Irene @ KAF

  5. joltster

    This looks very tempting, But when do you put the sesame seeds in the pizza crust?
    I believe the sesame seeds are scattered on the pan before the dough is spread out so the seeds bake to the bottom. Are you still tempted? Elisabeth

  6. dmhouse

    Whomever wrote this blog must have been reading my mind. Growing up in Denver in the late 60’s and early 70’s, I remember my first Big Mac Experience and it is still my goto burger when we make it to McDonalds. As I have aged I still appreciate a Big Mac however, I do not visit McDonalds as often. I cannot wait to try this recipe on Friday, which of course is Pizza night for my partner and myself. Now let’s hope he likes it as much as I know I will.
    Happy Friday Pizza Night! Elisabeth

  7. carolmccaslin

    P.J. You have come to the rescue again. I was trying to figure out what to make my grandchildren for supper when I babysit this weekend. This will fill the bill. I will tweak for their particular likes. You are so funny. I love your comment about breathing your sister’s air. Takes me back.
    PJ has a way with words, doesn’t she? Thanks for commenting! Elisabeth

  8. mrbreaze

    The trick to getting the dough into the corners is to pinch it and stretch it out of the corner. When it settles, push it in from the sides and repeat the elastic stretch out past the corners again. Deep dish trick I learned years ago…
    Thanks for the tip! Elisabeth


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