If you know anyone from the West Coast, you’ve probably heard them wax poetic about the glory of In-N-Out Burger, all the while one question was lingering in the back of your mind: WTF is “animal style”? People go crazy for In-N-Out, whose claim to fame is that all of their ingredients are shipped fresh to the restaurants every day and never frozen — they even cut the potatoes for your fries right there the day you order. The official menu is limited, but they have an epic “secret” menu (and just added hot chocolate, heck yeah!), and no doubt the most popular item is the animal style burger from the secret menu. But what is it?

Legend has it that the name came from the rowdy surfer and skater kids who would hang out at the original In-N-Out location in Baldwin Park, California in the 1960s. The employees referred to them as animals because of their raucous behavior (In-N-Out employees are notoriously clean-cut), and after they started ordering mustard grilled burgers with grilled onion, spread, and pickles, that sandwich took on their name: the animal style burger. To this day you can still get your burger animal style, and you truly haven’t lived until you’ve had animal style fries (order them well-done).

What Makes a Burger Animal Style?

According to In-N-Out’s website, what separates animal style from a normal cheeseburger (with lettuce and tomato) is the following: The beef patty is grilled with mustard, topped with extra spread (AKA Thousand Island special sauce), pickles, and grilled, caramelized onions. If you’re a vegetarian, you can also order animal style grilled cheese, which comes with all of the above, minus the beef patty.

What Makes Fries Animal Style?

Animal style fries come with melted American cheese and grilled chopped onions, and are smothered with In-N-Out’s special sauce.

How to Make Animal Style at Home

To make animal style food at home, all you need is Thousand Island dressing, pickles, and caramelized onions. American cheese, which you may turn your nose up at initially, melts like a dream, so it’s worth having some of that on hand too! You can add animal style toppings to everything from Tater Tots to hot dogs, veggie burgers to grilled chicken breast. Even if you can’t make it to the West Coast, with these ingredients you can still indulge in all the glory of In-N-Out from the comfort of your own home.

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(Photo via Anna Monette Roberts)