Crossposted to Ultimate Veggie Burgers, my food mission to find the best veggie burgers in the world!
A lot of the veggie burgers you see involve lots of ingredients, grated, chopped, mushed, and reconstituted into a burger-shaped patty. This may be the foundation on which ALL burgers are based, but when it comes to veggie burgers, it almost seems like a shame. You take such glorious ingredients and then mush them together into a homogenous lump that all too often falls apart or goes to mush as soon as you bite into it.
Dr. Weil’s burger gets around all this by using tofu as the burger patty and marinating it in a delicious, Marmite-based mixture. I know what you’re thinking: marinated tofu? Haven’t we been there, done that? I wanted a burger, not a stir fry.
But here’s the magic touch, the surprise, the transformative step that turns this into a meaty, chewy burger: Dr. Weil FREEZES the tofu, then thaws it, then squeezes it dry before adding the marinade.
For those of you who have never frozen tofu before, let me tell you: the process is completely transformative. Freezing tofu changes its texture from gelatinous and almost creamy into a something spongy, almost bread-like. Why? Well, tofu is inherently MOIST, but when you freeze it, the water in the tofu expands and forms ice crystals. Then when you thaw it, the ice melts, you squeeze out the water (gently, by pressing down on the block in a towel), leaving you with a sponge that’s just perfect for soaking up lovely marinades.
This only applies to firm tofu, not the silken stuff – I’ve tried.
(For a great primer on freezing tofu, and a delicious cooking suggestion, check out Just Bento’s Poached Frozen Tofu and Fried Frozen Tofu Cutlets.)
The things that bother me about this burger are totally superficial. First, my review is making me sound like a total Dr. Weil fan girl which I totally am not. I mean, he’s fine and all, actually I don’t know very much about him, so perhaps he’s a quack and I’m doing the world a disservice by extolling his burger. But this is about the food, not the man. Which brings me to my other objection – this burger is not an original Dr. Weil creation, but from Bryanna Clark Grogan’s The ( Almost ) No Fat Cookbook. I am forced to object to any cookbook, diet or food philosophy that seems to imply that eating fat is a bad thing. That’s just not how I roll. (Mind you, I did roll the no-fat way once, but I consider it a low point in my culinary escapades, marked by too many egg white omelets, and not enough avocados and almond butter).
But enough food philosophy – this is about veggie burgers, after all. Let’s see how Dr. Weil’s Tofu Burger stacks up up on my five-tier veggie burger rating system:
- Ingredients – 4/4 – I appreciate Dr. Weil’s use of whole, natural ingredients that are relatively easy to find, and are the types of things most of us have in the cupboard, provided you’re from England, New Zealand, Australia or any other place where Marmite and Vegemite are staple foods. And on that note, I really appreciate the use of Marmite in the marinade. It gives these burgers a deep, earthy flavour that you don’t often get in veggie burgers.
- Preparation – 4/4 – You can’t get much easier than this. The only knife-work required is slicing the tofu into slabs. The marinade is made with dried herbs and various liquids, so there’s no dicing or chopping required. Perhaps the only niggle is that its best to do the prep ahead of time so that the tofu has time to marinade. But really, this is a small niggle.
- Texture – 4/4 – I simply adore the texture of these tofu burgers. Their chewy, just a tad juicy, and with good bite. A total win in my book.
- Structural integrity – 4/4 – Again, since there is no reconstituted mush matter to these burgers, they hold their shape well. That is, provided you were GENTLE when squeezing out the water from the thawed tofu. Excessive pressure can crumble the tofu apart, so be careful in thsi stage.
- Flavor – 4/4 – This is one of the more interesting burgers I’ve ever tasted. I credit the combination of Marmite and tomato ketchup in the marinade. Its tangy, but earthy, lightened a bit by the basil and oregano.
Monica’s notes on toppings:
These burgers would do very well with traditional burger toppings such as lettuce, tomato and raw onion. But if you’re more adventurous, I highly recommend sauteed onion and sauerkraut with avocado and giardiniera. A little sweet pickle doesn’t hurt, either.
Best-Ever Tofu Burgers
Originally from Bryanna Clark Grogan’s The ( Almost ) No Fat Cookbook
Dietary stuff: Vegan, Nut-free
- 2 lbs. medium-firm or firm tofu (NOT silken tofu), frozen at least 48 hours
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce (regular or mushroom)
- 2 tablespoons ketchup (fruit-juice sweetened, cane-sugar sweetened, or organic)
- 2 teaspoons Marmite, Vegemite or other yeast extract (gives a “beefy” flavor) or 4 teaspoons red miso
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic granules (or 1 clove garlic finely minced)
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- Thaw out the tofu. Slice each pound block into three thick slices. Place the slices on a cookie sheet covered with a couple of clean, folded tea towels. Cover the slices with more tea towels and another cookie sheets. Weigh this arrangement down with something heavy for about 15-20 minutes. Now the tofu slices are ready for marinating.
- Mix the marinade ingredients together and pour over the prepared tofu slices in a shallow container in one layer. Cover and let marinate for several hours or days.
- Just before serving, pan-fry on a lightly-oiled heavy skillet or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Or cook on an indoor grill. Serve on buns with all the trimmings.