Diner-Style Cheeseburger Sliders

In spite of what the good people down at the local T.G.I. Cantinagan’s might be trying to sell you (hint: it’s deep-fried Jack Daniels mayonnaise balls and bottomless blue cheese margaritas), a “slider” isn’t a miniature hamburger on a tiny hamburger bun (read Adam Kuban’s excellent essay on the subject here). And for goodness’ sake, the word “slider” shouldn’t be used to describe miniaturized versions of Maryland crab cake sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches, Buffalo chicken sandwiches, or any other tiny bar snacks. No, a real slider is something different, and something very specific.

By definition, diameter has nothing to do with a real slider. A real slider, as served in the diners of New Jersey, is made from a scant two ounces of beef, pressed thin, cooked on a griddle on a bed of onions, with the buns steamed on top of the meat so that the vapor from the cooking onions passes from the grill, through the beef, and steams into both sides of the warming buns. It’s the steam action of the cooking onions, not the size of the burger, that defines a slider. Optionally served with a slice of cheese and a slice of pickle, they’re simple burger perfection; steamy pillows of onion vapor, griddled beef, and soft bun, that you can eat by the half dozen.

Depending on where you live geographically, you probably picture the offerings from either slider inventors White Castle, or Krystal, when you think of sliders. If you’re from New Jersey, however, you can’t beat the slider served at the famous White Manna Hamburgers in Hackensack. For nearly 70 years, the tiny diner has been serving hungry customers classic, real-deal sliders, with sides of pickles piled high on top of paper plates and dipped a bite at a time into ketchup. Cook up a few late at night with a cup of coffee, and you can enjoy the best of diner culture, served in sandwich form.

Diner-Style Cheeseburger Sliders
Makes 6 cheeseburgers


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 3 slices processed pasteurized American cheese
  • 6 small white hamburger buns
  • 6 slices pickle
  • Ketchup, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Diner Style Cheeseburger Sliders

Divide ground beef into six balls (you are shooting for around 1.5 ounces per meatball; precision is not important here), and cut each slice of cheese in half.

Diner Style Cheeseburger Sliders

In a large skillet over low heat, combine oil and onion. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until onions sweeten and caramelize. This should take about 20 minutes.

Diner Style Cheeseburger Sliders

When onions are ready, add meatballs to pan, on top of onions, and press with a spatula to flatten each into a hamburger patty. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and cook approximately 1-2 minutes.

Diner Style Cheeseburger Sliders

Using a spatula, flip burger patties (with onions underneath) so that the onions are on top. Add a half-slice of cheese to each hamburger patty, followed by the top half of the bun, followed by the bottom half of the bun.

Diner Style Cheeseburger Sliders

Cover pan with a kitchen towel, being careful not to let towel catch fire. Let cook 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is melted and buns are steamed through.

To serve, remove kitchen towel. Arrange bottom sections of bun on a platter, and add ketchup and pickle slices to each. Using a spatula, remove each hamburger/onion/cheese/bun stack from pan, and place on each bottom bun. Serve immediately.

Diner Style Cheeseburger Sliders


Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road." He currently owns and operates the Ancho Honey restaurant in Maine.


    1. Don’t use mini buns. You want regular sized hamburger buns. It’s the cooking method that defines a slider, not the diameter. 🙂

  1. But White Castle has been around for 91 years. Actually, I thought I read started in Wichita in like 1916 as a hamburger stand.

    Okay, now I am hungry. I am going to make these at home. Thank you!

  2. Yeah, I will be trying these. I had no idea about ‘sliders’ and am guilty of finding their pint size buns to be adorable from time to time.

  3. These are my hubs new favorite home cooked meal!!! I used Hawaiian sweet rolls and squirt a little mustard on his, a small pickle on mine. I need a bigger pan so I can make more at a time!
    P.S. The hubs told me tonight (third or fourth time ive made them) that he might not ever eat Krystal’s again.

  4. I remember White Castles from way back in the day. My husband & I would buy sacks of them late at night & there was nothing better. But they changed over the years (or maybe my taste buds changed) and just weren’t enjoyable any longer. Until now. These little gems are awesome. And so easy to prepare. If you want a trip down memory lane make this recipe! You won’t be disappointed.

  5. I’ve never had a “White Castle” restaurant (or slider) wherever lived, but these look to be very tasty, and something which my family would definately enjoy. After adding the meat, do you stil continue to cook it on LOW heat, or would you increase the heat to MEDIUM? Also, can you just put a lid on the frying pan and leave it ‘tipped’? I’d like to avoid a kitchen fire! What {3d9e2dd3ff4a6ad7c579f6992fba32c39af0ae46cb1a0bfdb9adec03cc9df88f} of beef would you use?….can I use 94/6, or would 80/20? work better?

  6. These so called recipes for White Castle hamburgers are kind of off the mark from the original ones. I grew up in Chicago, Ill. three blocks from a White Castle restaurant. Their hamburgers were pre made and frozen. They had small holes in each patty. Water was used on the grill, not grease. What you got was a patty on a bun with a slice of pickle. When I first started eating them they were ten cents each, I believe they were five cents when they first opened. And where did the nickname sliders come from?

    1. This is definitely a recipe. But to you other points, yes, White Castle uses perforated beef patties so that they will cook faster. The steam cooking action from the onions steams through the buns, which is delightful.

  7. This is a bit off subject but, I saw New England recipes somewhere. I am looking for a restaurant – typically they were selling out of a container/connex (silver colored/rounded) and they did the Hamburgers/French Fries (SPICY); can’t remember the name of it. The SPICE mix went onto the Fries and into the burger mix…….. So miss that! I would love the spicy mix recipe! 🙂 Thanks……Good article. I too will try these burgers…… yum.

  8. We had these tonight and Holy Crap they were good. This is definitely a keeper. Easy to make, even on a weeknight. Thanks for the great recipe.

  9. I made these as ‘loose meat’ sliders from the original back in Iowa recipe. Pre-dates White Castle by about 25 years. Believe it or not, these little beauties were made of bull meat not cow meat back in the day. Great recipe Malcom, thanks for reminding me.

  10. Great recipe, easy and delicious. Love the homemade sliders. Gotta ask though, I am really curious about the Jack Daniels mayo balls and blue cheese margaritas.

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