A well-made hamburger is a thing of beauty, but even we confirmed carnivores can get a little tired of the same old ground beef patty. But why limit yourself to meat? There are a number of veggie burger recipes out there that may be meat-free but satisfy all the same. Next time you're in the mood for a burger, but not the meat, check out one of these healthy, meat-free alternatives.
Nuts are a good source of protein and impart substance to a veggie burger, whether used in combination with one another or on their own. One of my favorite veggie burger recipes -- Eating Well magazine's curried cashew burger -- uses both cashews and red lentils to create a dense, pungent patty that can stand up to condiments like ketchup, mustard or chutney. Looking for something a little complex? Canadian Living magazine offers a similar recipe that adds diced mushrooms and coriander to the mix.
Walnuts are earthier and meatier than cashews, and they also make a great main ingredient in veggie burgers. One of the more unusual walnut burger recipes I like can be found on eco-living website The Daily Green. Their Mediterranean burger isn't just vegetarian, it's also "cooked" with a food dehydrator instead of on the stove or on a grill (this makes it suitable for people who adhere to a raw foods diet). The Mediterranean burger is filled with chewy, crunchy chunks of walnut and sunflower seeds, as well as purple cabbage, celery and carrot. It can also be topped with the accompanying pesto sauce recipe or the topping of your choice
The problem with some veggie burgers is that they're mushy. Not Whole Foods' lentil walnut burger. Loaded with walnuts, lentils, brown rice and carrots, this patty will please your palate with its nutty texture. And because it calls for brown rice, rather than bread crumbs as many recipes do, this burger is suitable for persons who are on a gluten-free diet.
Keen on beans
Beans may lack the firm smoothness of nuts, but they'll impart your veggie burger with a creamy richness that some people love. And when it comes to bean-based patties, black beans reign supreme. There are a number of black-bean burger recipes to be found online; one of my favorites can be found at the Washington Post's Mighty Appetite food blog. Flavored with cilantro, scallions, garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes, this spicy burger is definitely one you can sink your teeth into.
You don't have to use black beans in your burger, of course. Editors at Epicurious.com suggest a veggie burger devised by Gourmet magazine that uses pinto beans, fortified with walnuts, bulgur wheat, cumin and cayenne, for a hearty patty. Nearly 90 readers chime in with their feedback -- nearly all of them very positive -- to offer suggestions for modifying the recipe; their comments are worth a read before you start cooking.
Chickpeas, sometimes called garbanzo beans, aren't beans at all; they're legumes. But like beans, chickpeas are a mild, malleable base ingredient in many veggie burger recipes, and they can either be mixed with other ingredients like rice or left on their own.
Vegetarian cookbook author Lukas Volger's recipe, reposted at The Splendid Table's website, is one of those simpler recipes, augmenting the chickpeas with some fresh spinach and cumin. A more complex recipe from the Washington Post, adds brown basmati rice, red bell pepper, and exotic spices like ginger, turmeric, paprika and others for a Middle Eastern veggie burger.
One of the more unusual -- certainly one of the chunkier -- recipes I've sampled is the brown rice and lentil burger recipe found at Oprah.com. This creation combines lentils and mushrooms with brown rice, flax seeds, oat bran, seasoned with soy sauce and scallions. It's not for everyone, but if you're craving texture and savory flavor, this is worth trying.
Unlike the meat version, veggie burgers don't always fare well on a grill. Instead, sear them on the stove in a heavy skillet that's either nonstick or has been coated with some olive oil.
You can also cook your patties in the oven at 350 degrees or higher. Just remember that a baked burger won't have the golden-brown crust that searing produces.
If you must grill your burgers, be sure to use a cooking spray that's specially formulated for grilling or high heat.
Many people say they don't like veggie burgers because they're too crumbly -- but this doesn't have to be the case. Just be sure that the beans you're using have been thoroughly dried before adding them.
Want more tips? Vegetarian cookbook author Joni Marie Newman share veggie burger cooking hints and other ideas at Epicurious.com.