Swensons Galley Boy Copy Cat Recipe

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UPDATE: JULY 2022 – NEW RECIPE – Back and better than before, this recipe has been updated (and simplified!) with a more accurate Swensons Galley Boy copycat recipe! Enjoy!

swensons galley boy copycat recipe

Swenson’s is a burger chain local to Akron, Ohio. It’s a drive-in restaurant where the servers come to your car and serve your meal through your window!

I used to live in Akron and one of the things I miss most about living in our condominium was there was a Swenson’s literally at the end of our driveway. It was a great place to grab a quick burger on a lazy weeknight when I didn’t feel like cooking.

The Swensons Galley Boy is one of the most iconic burgers you can find in Ohio – if not all of Northeast America. No other fast food chain comes close to the unique combination of sauces that they put on the burgers.

What’s On a Galley Boy

There are a few main components to a Galley Boy that set it apart from the rest.

  • beef patties – two patties are stacked on top of each other to make a double-burger
  • potato bun – the buns are softer and more savory than other burger buns (this is an educated guess!)
  • secret sauce #1 – similar to a tartar sauce
  • secret sauce #2 – similar to a barbecue sauce
  • American cheese – to glue the whole thing together
copycat recipe galley boy

Cracking the SECRET Sauces

There are not one but TWO secret sauces on the Galley Boy. One is tangy and sweet and the other is savory and has tons of umami flavor.

Decoding Sauce #1

The first sauce is the white sauce. Similar to a tartar sauce, it uses some sort of mayonnaise as the base. After taking it under the macro lens, I believe this white sauce is very similar to tartar sauce but the key difference is that it is slightly less chunky than tartar sauce and a bit more tangy.

After doing some side-by-side comparisons, I believe that the base to the white sauce is Miracle Whip mixed with a sweet relish – specifically a sweet relish with some bits of roasted red pepper. You can find generic versions of sweet relish with chunks of red pepper at most grocery stores; and Miracle Whip can be subbed for regular mayonnaise in a pinch – but I recommend using a tangy mayo like Duke’s if you are going to make a swap.

Decoding Secret Sauce #2

The second sauce is very similar to a barbecue sauce, however it is not sticky like a barbecue sauce. It is also chunky with a lot of seasoning suspended throughout the sauce. It is not overly sweet, leaning more on the savory notes – which gives it a lot of umami flavoring!

Once I did some taste testing, I figured out that it is likely some sort of steak sauce similar to A1 that is being mixed with a ketchup base. I also suspect that it is also sweet relish in this sauce as well that is making it chunky. It is not too chunky, which implies to me that it is just a mix of sweet relish, ketchup and steak sauce.

easy galley boy recipe

Let’s Talk About The Burgers & Buns

Swensons burgers are very similar to a smash burger in the sense that they are very thin and cooked well-done. They are about 5-6 inches round and about a quarter inch thick. They also have a bit of sweetness underlying the grill flavor – which could be coming from the sauces, but I think there might be a little something in the meat directly. While this is contested, I am going to be using brown sugar in my meat to add just an undertone of sweetness and to enhance the grill flavor with caramelization.

The buns are also different from other fast food chains in that they are plain buns without sesame seeds. I believe that they are potato buns – but you can swap in a regular burger bun if you prefer. My reasoning for using a potato bun is completely unfounded in the speculation that potato buns were popular in 1934 – a fact that I totally and completely made up for this post.

1934 swensons picture
Source: Swensons

Putting it all Together

Assembling the burger is simple enough – start with about a tablespoon of the red sauce on the bottom bun, followed by a patty, a slice of American cheese (to glue it all together), followed by a second patty and finished off with the white sauce on the top bun.

For full effect, wrap the burgers in a parchment lined foil and use a toothpick to secure a stuffed olive on top!

Swensons Galley Boy Copy Cat Recipe

The Starving Chef
Served on a buttered, toasted bun, Swensons Galley Boys are double-pattied burgers smothered in two secret sauces that resemble tartar sauce and barbecue sauce.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Copycat Recipes, Dinner
Cuisine American, Burgers
Servings 2



  • 16 oz burger patties
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2-3 potato hamburger buns toasted (optional)




  • 3-4 slices Velveeta cheese one per sandwich
  • 3-4 stuffed olives + toothpicks, for topping


  • Mix together the ingredients for secret sauce #1 in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour.
  • Mix together the ingredients for secret sauce #2 in separate small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour prior to serving.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef and brown sugar, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Combine until the brown sugar is completely incorporated into the beef.
  • Heat a large skillet or flattop griddle over medium high heat. Divide the beef into 6-8 even parts, round, and flatten each into 1/2 inch thick patties. The patties should be about 6×6 inches round and 1/2 inch thick. You should have enough patties for 3-4 double-patty sandwiches.
  • Sear the patties on each side for 3-4 minutes on each side until cooked well-done (or to your preferred burger doneness – Swensons burgers are served well-done).
  • Assemble as a double patty on potato buns, with the Velveeta cheese slice between the two patties. Spoon about a tablespoon of each sauce onto the top and bottom (one sauce per half). Serve alongside homemade potato teezers. Enjoy!


Keyword bun, copycat, hamburger
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Read the 2015 version of the recipe below:

This week’s challenge is to represent your region!

I had a tough time deciding what I wanted to make, because I had a tough time deciding what region of Ohio I wanted to declare myself from. I grew up in Dayton, went to college in Athens, and currently live in Akron.

Of those places, only one food screamed out to me as unique to its region – and that was Akron’s famous Galley Boy from Swensons.

You’d be hard pressed to find an Akronite that hasn’t at least tried the incredible Galley Boy with not one, but TWO secret sauces. In fact, the Galley Boy was actually the very first thing I tried when we first moved to Akron a few years ago.

And the fact that our new home literally has a Swensons at the end of our driveway does nothing but fuel my obsession for this place.

Seriously, I walked to the end of my complex’s driveway and this is what I see. Every day. Let’s not even talk about how good it smells when they fire up that grill in the morning.

And every day that parking lot is full, despite the McDonald’s located across the street, which is clearly selling the subpar burgers on this corner.

I had to pick up a Galley Boy earlier this week, for, uh, science. And all of this thinking about Galley Boys made me crave the real deal. It comes wrapped like a foil present topped with an olive. Plus, I barely have to leave my house to get one, so why not. This is all very scientific stuff people. I’m eating fast food – for science.

True fans of Swensons know that the potato teezers are also a superior side over fries, so I had to make some of those too! On the nights we don’t get teasers as a side, we usually try out the fried mushrooms (delicious) and the onion rings (oh so crispy!).

Galley Boys have a lot going on for them – served on a buttered, toasted bun, this double-pattied burger is smothered in two secret sauces that resemble tartar sauce and barbecue sauce, which sounds like a weird combination until you try it.

Then you’ll wonder why you never thought of it before. I decided to do some investigative blogging and deduce what the secret sauces actually are by sneakily asking politely for an extra side of sauces when I ordered.

They didn’t question it at all.

The one on the left is definitely a take on tartar sauce, the major difference being it has more of a tangy from using dill pickles rather than sweet relish. Appears to use a mayo base and onions too.

The one on the right has a smokey barbecue flavor and a hint of sweetness, followed with just a hint (a whisper) of heat.

My best guesses led me to try to recreate the original recipe from scratch. I think next time I will use Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise and a squirt of mustard instead of dry mustard though.

Either way, once I made these sauces, I tasted them against the extra sauces and was given the seal of “Close Enough” by my boyfriend.

One important thing about recreating Swensons burgers, in general, are pretty sweet in flavor, so mix in the brown sugar as throughly as you can.

I’ve been told in the years since I first made this recipe that Swenson’s swears up and down they don’t use brown sugar in their burgers. But there is SOMETHING adding a hint of sweetness. Whether that’s brown sugar, honey or some other kind of sugar additive, there’s definitely something proprietary about these burgers that makes them so sweet and tasty. My best guess is brown sugar, but feel free to do some experimenting on your own and report back to me what you think they use in the burgers to get that signature sweet taste!

The sauces took some testing and playing with flavors too, but in the end, I think I got pretty close. I think next time, I’ll let them set for a few hours for a better consistency, or possibly add a pinch of cornstarch. But I was in a rush, and I was starving.

But lets be honest, If you don’t want to go through all of the work to recreate the sauces from scratch, you can simple substitute a sweet tartar sauce and tangy barbecue sauce and end up with something pretty similar – not exact, but similar – and sometimes that’s all you need.

Mix together the ingredients for the tartar sauce. Tasting the sauces side-by-side, Swensons’ has more of a Miracle Whip hint to it than mine did, than made with just the regular mayonnaise.

Using ketchup, with a squirt of mustard, as a base for the barbecue style sauce is key to the consistency in this sauce as well. You’ll also want to get the patties nice and thin before tossing them onto a hot skillet to fry for about 3-4 minutes per side. You want them to be nice and round so they fit on the buns.

Swensons prides themselves on a well-cooked burger, so make sure that the patties are THIN so that there’s no pink in the middle but they’ll still be juicy. I think the thin-ness is also the secret to their fast food success. These burgers cook up quickly!

While your burgers cook, butter the bottoms of each bun and toast for a few seconds under the broiler. Serve the burger as a double patty, with Velveeta American cheese slices, both secret sauces, and a stuffed olive on top.

I also made some potato teezers that were deemed “better than the original” in a poll of one person, my boyfriend. But hey, that’s something.

While there are definitely some discernible differences between my recipe and the real deal – this recipe is certainly just as good when you’re in the need for a quick fix.

I’ll be tucking this recipe away for when we move from Akron and feel reminiscent of our time here, that’s for sure.

Ingredients FOR THE 2015 RECIPE (scroll up for the UPDATED & SIMPLIFIED recipe!)

  • 16 oz lean ground beef
  •  ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  •  ½ tsp pepper
  • 4 sweet roll burger buns, buttered and toasted, for serving
  •  ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp dill pickle relish
  • 1 tsp dill pickle juice
  • 2 tbsp sweet onion, finely chopped
  •  ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp golden molasses
  • 1 tbsp taco sauce
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • pinch pepper

Instructions FOR THE 2015 RECIPE (scroll up for the UPDATED & SIMPLIFIED recipe!):

  1. Mix together the ingredients for secret sauce #1 in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour.
  2. Mix together the ingredients for secret sauce #2 in separate small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour prior to serving.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef and brown sugar, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Combine until the brown sugar is completely incorporated into the beef.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Divide the beef into 4 even parts, round, and flatten each into 1/4 inch thick patties.
  5. Sear on each side for 3-4 minutes until cooked to desired doneness (I prefer medium rare, while Swensons leans more towards well done).
  6. Serve as a double patty on toasted sweet buns alongside homemade potato teezers. Enjoy!