Whole30 In-N-Out Burger (Protein Style & Animal Style!)

This post is dedicated to Mark, who loves a good In-n-Out burger. ❤

I was never so obsessed with the food itself, but I can’t deny that there was always something fun about chowing down on that Insta-famous burger when I lived in LA. It might have been that when you see the classic red palm tree pattern you’re just thoroughly reminded of L.A, which in turn conjures up all these other appealing, idealistic images of that town: bougie eateries, glamorous Hollywoodites, the beach, etc. Or it could be that ordering a “double double animal style protein style” is just simply more fun than ordering “a quarter pounder with cheese”.

Regardless when I saw this recipe for a Whole30 In-N-Out Burger, I knew I had to try it. Whole30 fast food dupes are probably the most fun recipes to make and figure out. And Mark will undoubtedly ask for this once he moves away from L.A, so better to perfect it now so that he gets as close to the real deal as possible. He deserves that!


So for anyone who isn’t familiar with the In-N-Out lingo, it’s like this: a “double double” is two burger patties. “Animal style” refers to this special animal sauce & heavily caramelized onions that they add to the burgers & fries. “Protein style” means to wrap the burger in a bunch of lettuce, as opposed to using a traditional hamburger bun. So, it’s not uncommon to order a “double double cheeseburger, animal style and protein style”. That’s what this recipe is for, minus the cheese.

My order would always be a double double cheeseburger protein style & a chocolate shake. Mark would get the double double cheeseburger animal style, animal style fries, and a vanilla shake. So you can see this is truly RIGHT UP HIS ALLEY!


The real star of this recipe is the animal sauce. You can tell in our orders above that while I never really cared for it (I like my burgers no-nonsense), Mark is all about the animal sauce. With that being said, in this case it’s what takes a good burger and turns it into an In-N-Out burger. And this stuff is GOOD. Sweet and tangy, but not overpowering.

The other thing to remember about animal style burgers is the caramelized onions. These are crucial. You caramelize them for seriously 30 minutes. Again, I typically prefer onions lightly sautéed or even raw. But I can’t deny that it makes the whole burger taste totally authentic.

Pro tip: Make these items the night before. Especially the ketchup and mayo that are needed for the sauce. The onions can be reheated and the sauce can be stored in a mason jar in the fridge, which makes the whole project seem just a tad more manageable (although it’s fairly easy anyway so whatever). 



Whole30 In-N-Out Burgers (Protein Style & Animal Style!)


1 egg, room temperature

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

8 oz tomato sauce

6 oz tomato paste

6 oz water

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

6 tbsp & 2 tsp coconut aminos

1/2 tsp garlic powder

salt & pepper

2 tbsp dill pickles chips, chopped into small bits + more chips for garnish

1/2 tsp white vinegar

2 white onions, finely chopped

1 medium head of iceberg lettuce

1/2 lb ground beef

1/4 cup yellow mustard

1 tomato, sliced


First, make whole30 compliant ketchup and whole30 compliant mayonnaise. To make the mayonnaise, place 1/2 cup of olive oil and the egg in a wide-mouthed mason jar. Use an immersion blender and move from the bottom of the jar towards the top to emulsify and form the mayo. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, apple cider vinegar, 5 tbsp of coconut aminos, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt. Combine these ingredients well and simmer until ketchup is slightly reduced. Transfer the ketchup to a mason jar and let cool completely in the fridge.

To make the animal sauce, combine 1/2 cup of the mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons of the ketchup, 2 tbsp of chopped dill pickles, the white vinegar, and 1 tbsp + 2 tsp of coconut aminos in a bowl. Mix until well combined.

In a nonstick skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil on medium high heat. Once the skillet is hot, add the onions and a couple pinches of salt and immediately bring heat down to medium low. Stir the onions occasionally and allow them to caramelize and brown. This takes 15-20 minutes. Eventually, when the onions are browning and they start to look a little dry, add a tablespoon of water. Continue to cook until they look a little dry again. Add another tablespoon of water. Cook until really, really caramelized. Finally, transfer them to a bowl and allow to cool.

Take the ground beef and season with some salt and pepper. With some of the beef, form a little meatball. It should be about 1- 1.5 inches in diameter. Flatten this into a patty. Make it REALLY, really thin. Like so thin that you think “this won’t work”. The patty will shrink and thicken as it cooks. Trust me!

In a fresh grill pan, heat last bit of olive oil over medium high heat. Once pan is really hot, add the patties. Immediately squirt some mustard onto the top facing sides of the cooking patties, and spread the mustard around a bit. Cook for 3 minutes on one side, then flip so that the mustard side is down. Cook again for 1 more minute. Remove patties from heat.

To prepare your lettuce buns, hold the iceberg head so that the stem faces up. Twirl the iceberg head so that the lettuce leaves appear to fan out to the left and right of the stem. Get as close to the stem as possible, position knife so that handle is facing you and blade is facing directly out from you, and cut to the immediate left and right of the stem. You should have one flat piece that includes the stem but no round leaves, and then two half-spherical shapes of mostly lettuce leaves. Discard the flat stem piece. With the two half-spherical parts, gently separate 2-3 concave lettuce leaves out at a time. It’s best to make sure each “bun” is actually 2-3 pieces of lettuce so that you have more support for your burger.

Finally, assemble the burger! Take one lettuce bun and add a tablespoon of animal sauce. Then add a couple of dill pickle chips. Next add a tomato slice, followed by the first beef patty. Add some caramelized onions. Top with another beef patty, some more caramelized onions, and a little more sauce. Cover with the other lettuce bun. Wrap the whole thing up in some parchment paper (another classic west coast fast food move) and eat immediately.


Day 19 of January Whole30 and I’m a little bit in disbelief that we’re 2/3rds finished! I’ve loved getting creative in the kitchen again and getting some control over my sweet tooth. But I won’t lie, I’m so looking forward to eating a tuna melt and enjoying some chocolate again. 😉


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