Daniel and I have tried dozens of varieties of veggie burgers in the past 15 years or so, since they started appearing in stores and restaurants. We gave up meat for Lent in 2002, and since then we’ve never gone back to eating as much meat as we used to eat. In particular, we really don’t eat hamburgers anymore, after learning that grinding meat causes any bacteria on the surface to be distributed throughout the meat and that ground beef and chicken are the meats with the highest risk of food poisoning. But we do like to eat a tasty chunk of protein on a bun with ketchup and pickles! We buy frozen veggie burgers sometimes, but they tend to cost around a dollar per patty, and they’re packed in plastic, and they’ve been shipped across the continent in a freezer truck, and many of them feature large amounts of genetically modified, isolated soy protein.
Here are our 3 favorite recipes for homemade veggie burgers, and then some tips on how to cook and freeze them. All these recipes work well for making “meatballs” or nuggets instead of full-size burgers, if you prefer.
Grildebeen Burgers are truly “veggie” burgers in that they’re not just vegetarian but contain a significant amount of vegetable (carrots), as well as beans. They are vegan and gluten-free, high in fiber and protein, low in fat. The recipe includes ketchup and mustard mixed into the burgers, so they have that burger flavor even before you add toppings. These are delicious with avocado, if you have it, or can take quite a bit of lettuce or spinach.
Nutshroom Burgers (recipe from My Sister’s Pantry) have flavor and texture very similar to what we liked about hamburgers, without the disgusting grease or the health risks! They are vegan and can easily be made gluten-free. (We have no gluten problems, so we usually use bulgur wheat as the “cooked grain”. It’s cheap in the bulk section of our co-op, and it cooks quickly.) If you think you don’t like mushrooms, try these anyway–the mushrooms are combined with so many other foods that they don’t taste or feel the way you might expect. This recipe works fine with pecans instead of walnuts, or ground-up sunflower seeds instead of flax meal. These burgers are great with dill pickles.
Cheesy Walnut Burgers (recipe from Taste of Home) are rich and luscious and probably have almost as much fat as beef burgers! Not vegan, they contain both cheese and egg. We have made them gluten-free using cooked white rice in place of the breadcrumbs. Again, pecans are just as good as walnuts. Dried thyme tastes as good as fresh. You can use frozen grated cheese if you thaw it first. If you don’t have “lemon-pepper seasoning” (we never do) just use a heavy sprinkle of lemon juice and a heavy sprinkle of black pepper. These are an excellent choice if you’re serving both vegetarians and typical burger fans. They’re great with tomatoes.
How to Cook Veggie Burgers
- Easiest method: Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Form burgers and place them on the paper. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes. Flip them over. Bake another 5-10 minutes or until browned.
- Richer flavor: Fry them in oil in a skillet until browned.
- Most energy-efficient and heats up the kitchen least: Cook them on a George Foreman grill. It’s harder to get them really thoroughly cooked this way (and with the tiny grill we have, which does one burger at a time, it’s very tedious) so you might want to let the mixed ingredients stand for a while before cooking to mix the flavors and/or brown the onions before adding to the other ingredients for a mellower flavor.
- Cook on an outdoor grill? We don’t have one, so we can’t offer advice.
Consider Making Mini-Burgers
If you’re not set on eating the burgers in buns, smaller-size burgers are easier to make because they don’t fall apart so much. There are several ways to use them:
- Serve as a main dish, like chicken nuggets–plain or with sauce for dipping.
- Serve in a wrap or on top of a salad.
- Use like meatballs in a sauce or soup. Add them just before serving; they will fall apart as they get wet.
- Serve as finger food for a party or coffee hour.
- Serve to a toddler while the bigger people are eating burgers. Our 13-month-old Lydia gets upset if we serve her plain nuggets while we all have our burgers on buns–but a slice of buttered toast cut into strips, served alongside her nuggets, makes her quite happy!
Storing and Reheating Veggie Burgers
Leftover burgers can be stored in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for a few months. If you used parchment paper to bake them, fold it between them so they don’t stick together. If you didn’t use parchment paper, you can just stack them in a bowl for the fridge, but for freezing use a cut-open cereal box liner bag (free!) or parchment paper, or freeze them spread out on a flat surface and then put them in a bag.
Nuggets are best frozen in a small group (the number you’ll want to defrost at once) in a bag with the air squeezed out.
Reheat using any of the methods above, or in a microwave. Thawed burgers reheat more appetizingly than frozen ones.
Do you have a favorite veggie burger recipe we should try? Please share or link it in the comments. I’d love to be able to make something that tastes like the Morningstar Farms Asian Veggie Patty….