Ask a Chef: How to Make the Perfect Veggie Burger

Mj 618_348_ask a chef how to make the perfect veggie burger
Courtesy Bareburger

Nobody gets that excited about veggie burgers. When the grill is fired up most people start craving meat, and even the non-meat eaters have a hard time getting excited about the frozen, pressed patties masquerading as good bun filling. At most restaurants, the feeling is no different, according to Chef Andrew Sarda of Bareburger. "At most burger restaurants, the veggie burger is a menu afterthought rather than an amazing vegetable-highlighting experience," he says. "It's something that's there so the meat eaters don't have to feel guilty for forcing their vegetarian companions to eat at a burger place." Even though Bareburger is pretty meat-heavy, with everything from elk to ostrich patties, they also have three different veggie burgers on the menu. We promise, they can really be good.

Veggie burger

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Sarda says one of the most common mistakes home cooks make (besides just buying frozen veggie burgers) is using too much flour in their veggie burger mix in an attempt to add a meaty texture. "This usually ends up just making it cake-y and dry." Instead, focus on using a few main ingredients so they all get a chance to stand out. Carrots and onions are always popular, and a whole grain base will help to hold it together. Lentils, faro or millet are all good options. Sarda also likes to make sure the burgers have a good crisp to them. "After mixing in the ingredients, I roll it into balls, coat it with falafel and fry it. When it’s nicely browned and crispy, I put the ball on a bun, smash it down, and add my toppings."

Instead of the grill, Sarda recommends simple pan frying for veggie burgers, especially since the fat from the oil will keep them from getting dried out. If you want to use the grill, use it for veggie burger toppings like grilled tomatoes, which can further add a meaty flavor to the patty. If you’re not ready to give up meat entirely, you can still lighten up your burgers by adding vegetables to them. Sarda suggests cooking down some wild mushrooms and mixing them up with ground beef, which’ll have the added benefit of stretching your meat supply.

Mj 390_294_alternative burgers for the nonconformist griller

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No, your veggie burger will never taste like beef, but that can be a good thing. Beef tastes like beef. It will never taste like anything else. Veggie burgers are where you can get really creative–they can taste like whatever you want, whether it's a black bean burger with chipotle or sweet potatoes with scallions. If experimentation is not your thing, Sarda provided us with a basic recipe using bulgur wheat, garlic and edamame. With flavors like that, you may not actually miss the meat.

  • 1/4 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pound frozen edamame, thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups panko
  • White soy sauce [shiro]
  • 2 egg whites, beaten
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Prepare the bulgur wheat according to instructions. Fluff with a fork and place in a large bowl. Add the carrot, onion, and garlic to the wheat and combine.
  2. Bring a generously salted pot of water to a boil, add the edamame and boil for about 5 minutes until soft. Drain the edamame and add to the wheat mixture. Stir and set aside to cool.
  3. When cool, add a few dashes of white soy and quickly blend in a food processor until the edamame is chopped. Return the mixture to the bowl, and stir in the panko and egg whites. Form this mixture into patties and refrigerate until cooled and set.
  4. Pan fry the patties in a small amount of oil until browned, about 3 minutes. Flip and brown the other side about 3 minutes. These patties should also be sturdy enough to grill, but make sure not to flame grill them.
  5. Place the cooked patty on a bun, add grilled tomatoes and your favorite toppings.

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