I’ve been experimenting with vegan veggie burgers over the past few months with mixed results. My main obstacle is the mush factor – almost every burger I’ve made failed to stay together in the bun, but instead oozed out the side with every bite. Traditional veggie burgers rely on egg to bind everything together. So how do I make a vegan version that doesn’t use any weird egg substitute?
I think I stumbled upon the answer with this recipe for sweet potato and black bean burgers made with quinoa. I’ve made a few variations of this burger with great success, and I think I may have figured out the secret to non-mushy vegan burgers:
- Potato – Potato makes a great substitute for egg as a burger binder. I’ve only used sweet potato so far, but I look forward to trying these with regular potato. Just bake the potato, scoop out the insides and you’re sorted.
- Bread crumbs (or oatmeal) – On this point I have failed in the past. Adequate bread crumbs or oatmeal are required to soak in the moisture from the potato, beans, veggies, and whatever else goes into your veggie burger. Skimp on the bread crumbs and you’ll be met with mush (I know from experience!). To minimize the use of bread crumbs, avoid using super moist beans and veggies in your burger assembly. Then add enough breadcrumbs until the mix is firm enough to form patties.
- Refrigeration – After you’ve formed your patties, refrigerate (or freeze) them for an hour or two. This will give the breadcrumbs time to absorb some of the moisture in the burger, making them more apt to stay together during cooking.
- Good beer – A good general rule for cooking, particularly when a bbq is involved. But vegans beware: not all beers are vegan friendly (including Foster’s, Murphy’s, and Newcastle). Check out Barnivore, a vegan wine and beer guide, to find out if you’re beer is vegan.
The technique takes practice (what good burger doesn’t?) and I’m sure I still have a lot to learn. So if you’ve got some vegan burger tricks up your sleeve, please share! In the meantime, here’s a recipe for the lentil burgers pictured above. I served these at a recent bbq and they went down well among a crew I consider to be veggie burger aficionados.
Lentil Quinoa Sweet Potato Burgers
2 tablespoons oil
2 onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, grated finely
1 cup kale, finely chopped
2 cups cooked brown lentils
1 baked sweet potato, scooped out of skin
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups oats
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon chili powder (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon curry powder (or more to taste)
1/2 fresh cup cilantro, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and lower heat. Cook until lightly browned, several minutes. Add carrots and kale and cook an additional 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat. Add lentils and mash slightly in pan, until lentils are half crushed.
Place skillet mixture in large bowl with remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. USE YOUR HANDS to encourage everything to mush together. Add enough oats so that it’s easy to form the mix into patties.
Form into ~10 patties. Pan-fry with a little oil for 5-10 minutes on each side. Serve on a bun with all the fixins and enjoy!
Makes about 10 burgers. Per burger: 237 Calories; 10.1g Protein; 5.1g Total Fat; 38.7g Total Carbohydrates; 0mg Cholesterol; 44mg Sodium; 10.1g Fiber.