BBQ Burgers & Hawaiian Coleslaw (Paleo, Whole30)

I lived in Austin, Texas for 13 years, and during that time I learned that BBQ is practically religion there. But I’m no purist! My barbecue and slaw recipes are a mash-up of flavors from Texas and Southern barbecue experiences. (True barbecue is never just a meal; it’s a deliciously messy experience.) The spice blend for the burgers is Memphis-influenced, but the sauce is sorta Kansas City style, and the Hawaiian coleslaw is a tribute to the light, crisp slaw served at The Salt Lick BBQ in central Texas. You’re probably going to want to make a batch of Classic Potato Salad with Bacon, too.

And you’re going to need a lot of napkins.

BBQ Burgers & Hawaiian Coleslaw

Serves 4-6 | Total time: 40 minutes | Whole30 compliant

BBQ Sauce:
  • 1 cup water

  • 2/3 cup tomato paste

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce

  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos

  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (omit for Whole30)

  • 1 tablespoon sunflower seed or almond butter

  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon Louisiana-style hot sauce

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • pinch ground allspice

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1/2 pound ground pork

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse (granulated) garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 yellow onion

  • handful dill pickle slices

Hawaiian Coleslaw
  • 1/2 head green cabbage

  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

  • 4 scallions, green only, thinly sliced

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar

  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar (omit for Whole30)

  • 1/2 tablespoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • pinch celery seed

  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

  • 2 tablespoons light-tasting olive oil


Make the sauce. In a blender or food processor, combine the water, tomato paste, applesauce, vinegar, coconut aminos, maple syrup, mustard, nut butter, and hot sauce. Purée until smooth. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, about 2 minutes. Crush the garlic and add it to the pan, along with the chili powder, cayenne, dry mustard, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and allspice. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour the tomato mixture into the saucepan, and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.


Make the coleslaw. Shred the cabbage. Use the slicing blade of a food processor to shred the cabbage; set aside. Toast the sesame seeds. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and stir-fry the sesame seeds until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer them to a plate to cool. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, white vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Continue whisking as you add the sesame oil and the olive oil. Add the cabbage and scallions to the bowl. Toss well to coat, add the sesame seeds, and toss again.



Shape and cook the burgers. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground meats. Mix well to combine, then shape into burger patties and press your thumb to make in indentation in the top of the patty (to prevent it from turning bulbous when it cooks). In a small bowl, combine the paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and black pepper. Sprinkle on both sides of the burgers. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, 3 minutes. Place the patties in the pan and cook undisturbed until they’re browned on one side, 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side, 3–4 minutes. While the burgers cook, slice the onion.


To serve, top the burgers with BBQ sauce, onion slices, and dill pickles. Serve the Hawaiian-style coleslaw on the side.


You Know How You Could Do That?

To save time, you can use your favorite high-quality BBQ sauce in place of homemade—just watch the sugar content and check the label for other non-paleo ingredients.

It’s also worth mentioning that leftovers taste great! The slaw holds up for several days in the fridge, and burgers can be reheated or chopped up and made into an omelet that you drizzle with BBQ sauce… because you’re smart and you love yourself.

Print this recipe
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  • Anne Ryan says:

    This was so good! The bbq sauce is delicious – I won’t buy it again since this recipe allows me to make sauce that is so much better than the grocery store version! As I find with most of your recipes, there is a happy balance of flavors and ingredients that make my stomach happy ! Thank you for sharing your talent, Mel – your recipes are my most favorite!!

    • I’m really glad you liked it! And yes, homemade BBQ sauce is so easy and so much better than commercial brands — you can also freeze it, if you feel like making a big batch on a lazy day. Thank you so much for the lovely compliment!