Veggie burgers are kings of the vegan world, the reign of which is threatened perhaps only by the mighty burrito, which deserves, and will receive, an upcoming post of its own. An extremely versatile food, veggie burgers can be fried, baked, or grilled. I’ve seen the power of veggie burgers to bring people together, all huddled along the buffet, working individually, yet connected in their mission to create an incredibly satisfying sandwich. It is a thing of beauty.
I have been on a quest to find a nutritious, delicious, easy, and homemade vegetarian burger. This is an important distinction, homemade, because as any vegetarian knows, there are myriad veggie burger options in the frozen foods section. If you’re proudly snoshing on a Boca Burger right now, put it down and listen. Most of the frozen veggie burgers on the market are full of protein, yes, but also full of sodium, mysterious soy products (isolates, concentrates), “succinic acid” and other bizarre ingredients, and, perhaps most misleading of all, “natural flavors,” a catch-all phrase which equates to any plant or animal-based substance added for flavor, not nutritional value. I still enjoy an occasional Griller –the best-tasting frozen veggie burger, in my opinion–but as a general rule I try to avoid processed vegetarian meats. Just because something is “vegan” or “vegetarian” or has “8 grams of soy protein” slapped on the package does not mean it is good for you. Oreos are vegan. Enough said.
So I’m challenging you to make your own veggie burgers. From scratch. As Mark Bittman so eloquently states in Cooking Solves Everything, “real cooking is. .. varied and challenging and rewarding” and “will pay you back in spades every single time you do it.” I am increasingly aware that when I do not take the time to cook my own food, I don’t really know what I’m eating, and I’m much more liable to fall back on (and serve my captive family) convenient, highly processed items.
Back to our dream-come-true veggie burger. All of the best burgers I’ve tasted have been variations on a combination of beans, rice, vegetables, nuts, fresh herbs, and spices. If there is a flavor you really dislike (for me, cilantro) in a recipe, switch it out for an herb you like, or just leave it out altogether. I’m going to share two variations on veggie burgers I’ve made recently and really enjoyed.
Black Bean-Chipotle Burgers (adapted from the Candle 79 cookbook)
2 cans black beans
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 tsp. chipotle chile powder
3 bay leaves
1 tsp salt, pinch pepper
1-2 tsp tamari/soy sauce (optional)
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
3 cups brown rice, cooked
1 T. olive oil, more as needed
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 T smoked paprika
1) Saute onions in 1-2 tsp. olive oil about 5 minutes; add chipotle chile powder, bay leaves, 1 tsp salt, pepper, and beans. Heat for several more minutes. Remove from heat.
2) Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds, smoked paprika (I LOVE this stuff!), and pinch of pepper. Stir seeds, cooking until they are lightly toasted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
3) Combine rice, bean mixture (remove bay leaves first), and pumpkin seeds in a bowl, mixing everything together, adding tamari or a bit more salt. Place about 2/3 of the mix in a food processor and blend until smooth, adding vegetable broth or water so the mixture sticks together. Return to the bowl and mix well.
4) Heat olive oil in a pan; form beautiful patties with your bare hands and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side. You can also bake them at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes on a lightly oiled cookie sheet, turning once.
5) Serve up your black bean beauties and swoon! Here’s how I like them – add grilled onions, avocado, fresh tomato, mustard, pickles, lettuce, vegan mayo (sometimes with pesto or fresh basil mixed in), and maybe, just maybe, some chipotle hot sauce. Yummy.
Black bean-Beet Burgers (adapted from Post Punk Kitchen and The Kitchn)
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 medium beets, peeled and chopped (depending on how beety you like things)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. vegetable broth (or combination of tamari, water, etc.)
2 T. apple cider (or red wine) vinegar
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 T. olive oil
2 T. parsley, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 fenugreek or coriander (optional)
2 T. flour
salt and pepper, to taste
1) Saute onions in 1-2 tsp olive oil for 4-5 minutes; add garlic, cook for another minute, then add beets and 2-3 tablespoons of liquid and cook for about 20 minutes, until beets are tender. Add the vinegar, set aside.
2) Place black beans in bowl, smash with fork. Add lemon, olive oil, parsley, rice, seasonings, and beet mixture. Add flour until the mixture is a good consistency for making patties.
2) Form burgers, cook about 4-5 minutes on each side over medium heat (or bake!), until browned and delicious looking. Serve on a bun with your favorite fixin’s, or in a tortilla as a wrap, or on a bed of wild rice or quinoa, or on a salad, or by itself. . . you get the idea.
(Variation: If you want to go all smokey, you can add cumin, chile powder, cayenne pepper, and liquid smoke to these and replace the coriander and thyme.)
Long live the veggie burger!