Burgers and Americans go hand in hand. Call it tradition, call it childhood or teenage nostalgia, call it what you will. But to me, the classic American meal of a burger, fries and a milkshake is pure comfort food. Well, that is until you realize what you are in fact consuming in this “classic” meal. And you certainly won’t feel so comforted.
But guess what, a burger (and even fries and a “milk”shake) can come in a much healthier, happier, cruelty-free, vegan form: the glorious, wonderful, redeeming, cozy, comfort-food recipe. The Veggie Burger.
A good veggie burger is not a sacrifice. It’s not a let down and it’s not second rate to the “real” thing. A good veggie burger is something to swoon over, crave and wholeheartedly enjoy. And be proud of.
My Proof. I always go back to a memory I have from childhood. Even before I was vegan or even vegetarian, I always ordered “the veggie burger” from one of my hometown’s best burger joints. It was a luscious, rich soy burger – so moist and silky that I craved it. I craved it more than any “classic” meat burger I had ever eaten.
But I know well that a “good” veggie burger is not an easy product to achieve! That’s why I’m sharing my Veggie Burger Test Kitchen with you all today!..
Shake with that burger??..
Be sure to check out my Veggie Burger 7 Recipe Slideshow after you read my Test Kitchen Tips!
The first time I made a vegan Veggie burger I had no clue what I was doing. How in the world would I successfully combine some random ingredients to form a sticky, complete, won’t-fall-apart, tastes delicious veggie burger? My first veggie burger fell apart like a crumbly cookie. But it did taste good. I had hope.
Since then, I’m always experimenting with new veggie burger recipes and techniques. And in the end, I’m proud that I’ve come up with a few go-to recipes. It takes practice though. As Bobby Flay says (veggie burgers are hard!)..
“..But a veggie burger, I think it’s something I have not found that I can do well, so I’m not going to do it. I don’t want to serve something that’s sub par.” -BFlay ..ps, Bobby, I’m still waiting on your BBP Veggie Burger! 🙂
Well today I’m serving up a super delicious veggie burger recipe as well as some basic veggie burger tips so you can create your very own flavors and textures!..
Veggie Burger Test Kitchen: Tips, Ingredients and Techniques
The Base. For the base ingredients of the veggie burger you have a few options. Some folks use tempeh, seitan or even tofu. But my favorite option is to use legumes, aka mostly beans. Lentils too. Beans are the perfect veggie burger base because they are sticky, versatile, rich in nutrients like protein and fiber – and they are easy to get creative with. A wide variety of beans means you can create a wide variety of veggie burger flavors and textures.
Just a few bean options: cannellini, garbanzo, fava, butter, navy, lentils, pinto, black and more. I will often add a variety of bean flavors to one burger patty. For example, in the recipe below, I use cannellini and garbanzo. Garbanzo adds a hearty nuttiness to the burger – while the cannellini beans mash easily and provide a super sticky texture to help stabilize the patty.
..I also just fell in love with TVP! Perfect base for veggie burgers. See my sloppy nellys here – and more about TVP for veggie recipes and burgers. Posting a TVP burger recipe soon!
The Filler. I like to call this next part of the veggie burger, the filler – aka “the glue” that binds the ingredients together. Yes, the beans will be doing the majority of the binding work – but there are a few more ingredient options which can assist. These ingredients absorb water well – and thus soak up liquid “gluing” the ingredients together.
Options include: flour (any variety), fine bread crumbs, nutritional yeast, dehydrated potato flakes, mashed sweet potatoes, fine seeds like hemp seeds, rice, various fine grains like quinoa, crushed crackers (like rice crackers) and even fine powder spices like garlic powder. These items not only aide in binding, but they add flavor and texture as well. Another filler is vegan cheese. It can add a subtle stickiness – especially as the burger cools and firms up.
Moist Makers. ..Have you ever seen the Thanksgiving episode of Friends (the TV show)? Monica explains her famous “moist maker” gravy-soaked slice of bread she adds to her leftover TDay sandwiches – to keep them moist..
Well, I love that term “moist maker” so for my veggie burgers – I try to add something that keeps things moist. Trust me, the worst thing you can do to a veggie burger is bake it too long, of not add enough moist ingredients to the patty. The edges may crisp up and as the patty cools you’ll be faced with a dry, brittle mess. Moisture enhances the flavor of the patty. So keep it as moist as you can without letting it fall apart.
Moisture ingredients include items like: chopped frozen spinach, hemp seeds which absorb the excess moisture, moist rice or grains like barely, vegan cheese, liquids like lemon juice which can absorb into ingredients like nuts and seeds and basically any ‘moist’ veggie you want to throw in there: marinated mushrooms, mashed potatoes or baked winter squash, fresh chopped herbs, roasted veggies, shredded carrots, shredded zucchini, eggplant – the list can go on and on.
Just remember that your binding ingredients will absorb liquid as your burgers bake – so be sure to be thoughtful about including a moist maker ingredient. In the recipe below, my moist maker ingredients were the hemp seeds and frozen spinach. The excess lemon juice also added to the moisture level and bright flavor.
To Grill or To Bake? My first veggie burger recipe was intended for the grill. But alas, it fell apart. I wanted to make a recipe that would stay together the same way a meat patty does on the grill. But in the end, the veggie burger I enjoy most is simply baked in my oven!
However, if you want to “grill” your veggie burgers the simple trick is this: bake them first. Store them until ready to be served, aka grilled. Then toss them on the grill – over a flame or on a hot grill rack for a few seconds until they are warm to hot. Just don’t overcook and dry them out. The burgers will stay together because they are already baked. Yet they will still achieve that’grilled’ flavor and look.
Flavors and Spices! My favorite part of crafting a veggie burger is choosing the flavors. Do I want a spicy red harissa burger? A bright lemon garlic burger? A bold black pepper, mushroom and caramelized onion burger? A sweet white bean and roasted garlic burger? Or maybe an ultra-savory, cheezy, nutritional yeast-infused veggie burger? The sky is the limit!
You can match your veggie burgers to just about any cuisine. Beans and grains are incredibly easy to manipulate when it comes to flavors – they absorb flavors well. Italian, Mexican, Greek, American or Middle Eastern. Just change up the flavor accents to change up your burgers.
Some of my fave “flavors” include: garlic powder, lemon seasoning, tahini, white miso, nutritional yeast, liquid smoke, jalapeno, harissa, chopped garlic, roasted veggies, cumin, cayenne, pepper, citrus, cilantro, mixed herb seasoning, various vinegars and oils – so many options.
Cook Time Tip! I usually bake my “palm-sized” veggie burgers at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. I used to bake them longer – say 30 minutes. But then realized the burgers always dried out very quickly once they cooled. So I shortened the cooking time and problem solved…
Veggie burgers will firm up significantly as they cool – or “rest” as they say in the culinary world. When you turn off the oven heat, make sure your burgers look and feel a bit “wet” to the point of where they would fall apart to grab them immediately. In about 20 minutes ‘rest time’ they will stabilize into stay-together patties.
Think of them as fresh-baked cookies. You certainly wouldn’t pull cookies off the baking sheet and serve them right as the oven timer goes off. They need a few minutes to cool, settle, firm and bind.
So those are just my tips on veggie burger making. Below is a new fave veggie burger recipe that I’ve been playing with all week…
Lemon Herb Veggie Burger Sliders
makes 6-7 large patties or 12-14 sliders
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 can cannellini beans, drained
2-3 Tbsp hemp seeds
2 Tbsp raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dried parsley
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
2 Tbsp salt-free 21-spice blend (like Mrs Dash)
1 Tbsp garlic granules
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp flour
fold in: 1/2 – 1 cup chopped frozen spinach (moist maker!)
optional: a drizzle of agave syrup. Sometimes it’s fun to add in a splash of “sweet” to accent with the savory flavors.
salt note: if your beans are salted you probably won’t need added salt – but do a taste test and salt to taste. Any ‘salty’ flavor will slightly intensify as burgers bake and dry out.
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Grease a baking sheet.
3. Drain your canned beans. Add beans to a large mixing bowl.
4. Add in all other ingredients – except the spinach.
5. Mashing process: I mash all the beans by hand with a large fork. This process takes about 5 minutes. You want to make sure that you split open most of the beans so that they bind well. once you have a nice sticky mixture, you can fold in the spinach. I like the spinach to be cold – still frozen so that it actually helps chill the burger mixture. This makes the mixture easier to place into patties on the baking sheet.
6. Arrange your patties – they do not have to be perfect rounds at all.
7. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes. Sliders: if you are making sliders, make your patties half sized and bake for only about 12 minutes.
8. Allow the patties to cool for at least 10-20 minutes before handling.
9. My sliders included vegenaise, sliced heirloom tomato, kale and Dijon mustard – all on a mini multi-grain bun.
The best tip I can give you is to play around with your veggie burger recipes. Try various ingredients, techniques and flavors. It may take a few tries to see what you love most in a veggie burger – and the process it takes you to get there!