The Key Ingredient That Sets Shake Shack's Burger Sauce Apart

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What makes a good burger? Depending on where you're from and how adventurous your taste buds are, that answer can vary. The meat quality, choice of bun, patty thickness, and array of toppings are all factors that can make or break a burger — some argue in favor of thicker burger patties for more moisture while others find toasted burger buns to be of the utmost importance. One polarizing ingredient that heavily impacts the flavor of most burgers, however, is the sauce.

Burger sauce can be such a coveted addition that many fast food restaurants keep their recipes under wraps. Take In-N-Out's famous secret "spread" — although it's been replicated using mayo, ketchup, sweet pickle relish, white vinegar, and sugar, the exact recipe is still a mystery to the general public (via The Recipe Critic). In a similar vein, homemade versions of McDonald's scrumptious Big Mac sauce feature mayo, sweet pickle relish, and sugar, among other ingredients, although it's essentially just Thousand Island dressing with some added relish (via Top Secret Recipes).

While you'll notice that both of these highly sought-after sauces use sweet pickle relish, there is one fast food chain that has branched out, but still produces a delicious burger. When it comes to their version of spread, Shake Shack isn't afraid to shake things up a bit.

Dill-icious pickle brine

Pickles are a classic burger accompaniment, whether they're sliced and placed on top of the patty or made into a relish and mixed into the sauce. Shake Shack agrees, although they use pickles in a unique way to give their classic cheeseburgers a little extra oomph. As stated in their cookbook, "Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories," ShackSauce is made using kosher dill pickle brine, along with mayo, ketchup, Dijon mustard, and cayenne pepper.

Dill pickle brine will give you that same sour, salty taste that comes from eating a real dill pickle, as it's essentially the juice the pickle was made in. According to Southern Living, pickle brine is the liquid in a jar of canned pickles that preserves the cucumbers inside, although it can also be used to pickle carrots, tomatoes, and more. Dill pickle brine is generally made with a combination of water, salt, dill seeds, garlic, and white vinegar, but some recipes may call for extras like mustard seeds or red pepper flakes (via

While most burger sauces incorporate the sweetness from sweet pickle relish, or just plain sugar, ShackSauce contains neither. Instead, the dill pickle brine brings saltiness and tanginess, while the cayenne pepper kicks up the heat. Could simple ingredients like these explain how Shake Shack's revenue grew by over $200 million in 2022 (via Zippia)? While the jury's still out on that one, there's no doubt that Shake Shack is an innovative force in the burger sauce arena.