Homemade Veggie Burgers
Veggie burgers have long showed up as fake meat patties that taste awful or vegetable pancakes that turn to mush upon chewing. Chicken sandwiches and ramen have recently left behind mediocre pasts; why can’t veggie burgers too? I decided I’d find out for First We Feast.
My discovery? Making a batch of veggie burgers is time-consuming, a limiting factor. Whereas your beef burger entails slapping ground beef at a hot pan, making veggie burger mix means coaxing a lot of different ingredients to serve your purposes in a lot of different ways. No one step is hard, but you’ll need to soak one grain while you toast another, roast mushrooms while you caramelize onions, and then ask your food processor to grind like it’s never ground before.
I learned all this from a few bright lights in a world where restaurants make their own ketchup but microwave veggie burgers from a supermarket package – and used their wisdom as my guide.
Those bright lights are several pretty high–level chefs who have suddenly committed to the veggie burger and toyed with techniques until they created something great. They experimented with grains and legumes and “meaty” vegetables like beets and mushrooms to turn out burgers that look appealing, taste better, and might make carnivores forego beef at least sometimes. Interviewing these pioneers to find out what they did to redeem the VB allowed me to head back to the kitchen and figure out how to make a worthy patty at home.
You can read the full article I wrote over on First We Feast, but I wanted to post the actual recipe back here.
One more thing to note: this recipe makes about 8 burgers. I cooked 4 (two for dinners, two for lunches), then froze the rest for the future. Next time, I may be more ambitious and double the recipe. Once you’re doing the work and making a mess, you might as well stockpile, I figure. Which is to say: if you get 8 or 16 good vegetarian meals out of a couple hours of cooking, the long ingredient and instructions list might make more sense.
- ¼ cup lentils
- ¼ cup farro
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon butter
- ¼ cup old-fashioned oats
- Olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced as thinly as possible
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated
- 1 beet
- 2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- ½ to 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon chipotle powder (optional)
- ½ cup roasted almonds
- 1 teaspoon miso
- 1 shallot, coarsely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese
- About 1 ounce grated or sliced cheese
- English muffin
- Mayo or chipotle mayo
- Romaine lettuce
- Sliced tomato
- Sliced white onion
- Place lentils and farro in a bowl and add water to cover. Add the apple cider vinegar. Let soak at least 6 hours, or overnight, until grains are tender.
- In a small frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the oats and cook until they are golden and fragrant, watching carefully so you don't burn them. Remove to a bowl to cool.
- In a medium pan, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions. Cook for about 2 minutes, just to get everything sizzling, then turn the heat as low as it goes and cook for about 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden. Sprinkle with salt.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a bowl, toss chickpeas, beets, and sweet potatoes in olive oil to coat and sprinkle with salt. Arrange in a single layer on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. In the same bowl, toss the mushroom slices with more olive oil, salt, and the red wine vinegar. Arrange in a single layer in a corner of the the same baking sheet if there’s room, or on another one. Roast the vegetables for 25 to 30 minutes, until they’re dried out and slightly browned.
- In a food processor, grind the oats with the dried porcinis and ½ teaspoon salt until powdery. Add the paprika, chipotle powder, and the almonds. Pulse again. Now drain the farro and lentils and rinse, then drain again. Add to the food processor and pulse to break them up. Add the miso, shallot, and garlic, and pulse again. If you have a big enough processor, add most of roasted vegetables and most of the caramelized onions (reserving some to vary the texture of the burgers). If your processor isn’t big enough, transfer the lentil-almond-farro-etc. mix into a bowl and just process the vegetables until they resemble a dough. It’s fine if this is not completely smooth. Mix everything—ground veggies, reserved veggies, ground lentil-almond mix—in a large bowl. Add the cream cheese, egg, and breadcrumbs and mix everything together.
- Form about ½ cup of the mix into a patty; repeat until you have 7 to 8. Turn the oven back to 400°F if you turned it off. Set a skillet over medium-high and let it heat up. Film with olive oil. Cook the patty for 4 minutes, then flip, top with cheese, and transfer to the 400°F oven for another 4 minutes. If the cheese isn’t fully melted, finish under the broiler. Meanwhile, toast your bun or English muffin and prep your condiments. Transfer burger to bun, top with lettuce, tomato, and slices of white onion - or something fancier.