Between outbreaks of sickening beef, the staggering environmental impact of meat production, the link between red meat and cancer, the cruelty inherent in factory farming, and a general love of animals–I’ll be spending another July 4th skipping the hamburgers. I won’t miss a messy, meaty burger–but there is the BBQ ritual and all the fixings that make having some great meatless facsimiles kind of nice.
I have never been a fan of any supermarket veggie burgers out there–they all seem a bit anemic and lacking in personality to me (although if you have a favorite brand, tell us in the comments–I’ve love for someone to change my mind!). Making them at home is a great and surprisingly simple option, and this way you can skip the methylcellulose, disodium inosinate, and other mysterious ingredients that may be lurking in your commercial veggie burgers (see What’s Inside Your Veggie Burger). Here are my five favorites:
Millet Burger with Chive Pesto
Rejuvenate Your Body blogger Delia Quigley posted this recipe last summer–the use of millet makes it a great gluten-free options, and the mashed cauliflower makes it super awesome. You can read the whole post and get the chive pesto recipe here: Millet Burger with Chive Pesto.
1 cup millet, washed and soaked 8-12 hours, drained
3 cups water
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 tbs. butter or sesame butter
1 egg (optional)
1. In a medium saucepan combine the millet, water, salt, and cauliflower. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until all water is absorbed, about 30 minutes.
2. When done add the butter, stirring well.
At this point you can mash the millet with a potato masher and serve as a side dish.
3. Otherwise, allow to cool, then break and egg into the mixture and mix it into the millet thoroughly.
4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
5. Spray a baking pan with oil and place each burger on the pan. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
6. When done remove from oven and divide onto individual serving plates. Top with pesto and serve.
Beans and Greens Burger
I came up with this recipe after feeling disappointed with vegan burger choices; I love the idea of adding a load of chopped greens to a veggie burger, they give it some tooth and earthy flavor that stand up assertively to the grill.
4 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
12 tablespoons water (or vegetable stock)
2 1/2 cups canned garbanzos, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, dill, etc)
1 onion, chopped
1 small orange, grated zest only
1 cup greens, finely chopped (spinach, dandelion, arugula, etc)
1 cup toasted bread crumbs (whole-grain)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Mix the flaxseeds with water or stock until gelatinous. (If you have whole flaxseeds, use this method.)
2. Combine garbanzo beans, flaxseed mix, salt and pepper in a food processor and process until mixture is thick and creamy, but still a little chunky.
3. Pour into a bowl and stir in herbs, onion, zest, and greens. Gently stir in the breadcrumbs and let mix sit for a few minutes. You should have an easy to handle mix that can be formed into 1-inch thick patties–if it feels too dry add a little water, or if too moist add some more bread crumbs.
4. To cook on the stove use a heavy skillet and heat oil over medium heat. Cook patties, covered, for about 7 minutes or until bottoms begin to brown, flip and cook for another 7 minutes.
5. To cook on the grill, rub both sides of patties with olive oil and cook for 4 minutes per side.
Mushroom and Black Bean Burger
This burger adapted from The Vegetarian Grill by Andrea Chesman (Harvard Common Press, 1998) uses goat cheese–for vegans it is just as delicious without.
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 ½ cups cooked black beans (or 1 15-ounce can, drained)
¼ cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled (optional)
4 slices stale or toasted sandwich bread, processed to make bread crumbs
Salt and black pepper, to taste
6 hamburger buns or hard rolls
1. Prepare a medium-hot fire in the grill with a lightly-oiled vegetable grill rack in place.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and cumin and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have released their juices, about 5 minutes.
3. Spoon the mixture into the food processor. Add the beans and cilantro and process briefly until well combined but still chunky. Spoon into a bowl, stir in the goat cheese, if using, and bread crumbs. Season generously with salt and pepper.
4. With wet hands, form the mixture into 6 burgers. Mist both sides with nonstick spray.
5. Grill the burgers until crisp and heated through, about 5 minutes per side.
6. Serve the burgers on the buns, passing salsa at the table.
Lentil Almond Burger
This super scrumptious burger comes from the editors of Eating Well magazine; the addition of lentils is lovely.
6 cups water
1 cup brown lentils or green French lentils (see note)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cup finely chopped carrot
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2 medium)
1/3 cup finely chopped celery (about 1 stalk)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten (or flaxseed substitute)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in lentils, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until very tender and beginning to break down, about 25 minutes for brown lentils or 30 minutes for green lentils. Drain in a fine-mesh sieve.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add carrot, shallots and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add almonds, thyme, salt and pepper; continue cooking until the almonds are lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor; add 1 cup of the cooked lentils. Pulse several times, scraping down the sides once or twice, until the mixture is coarsely ground.
3. Transfer to a large bowl; stir in the remaining lentils. Let cool for 10 minutes. Mix in egg yolk (or flaxseed) and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
4. Form the lentil mixture into 5 patties. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium-high heat. Add the patties and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Turn gently and continue to cook until lightly browned and heated through, 3 to 4 minutes more. Serve immediately, or allow to cool then freeze.
Note: French green lentils are smaller and firmer than brown lentils. They cook more quickly, too, in about 20 minutes. They can be found in natural-foods stores and some larger supermarkets.
Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burger
This recipes is adapted from one in the great vegan cookbook, ExtraVeganZa by Laura Matthias (New Society Publishers, 2006)–hats off to Laura for scheming this one up…black beans, sweet potatoes, almond butter and olives? Smart, smart, smart.
2 cups cooked or canned black beans
1 cup sweet potato, grated
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup Sicilian olives, diced
1/4 cup whole spelt flour or other flour
2 tablespoons tamari
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1. Drain and rinse the black beans, place them in a medium bowl, and mash. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
2. Scoop 1/3 cup of batter at a time to form individual burger patties. Place a cast-iron frying pan on the stove over medium heat. Add a bit of oil to the pan and place a few burger patties in the oil. Fry each burger for 7 to 10 minutes on one side, then flip them over and fry an additional 5 to 7 minutes on the other side, or until the centers of the burgers are cooked through. If they brown too quickly, just turn the heat down a bit to allow them to cook more slowly.
3. Serve hot, on their own or on burger buns with condiments of your choice.
Makes 10 to 12 burgers.