But is it a burger at all?
You could argue that Heidi Swanson’s “Ultimate Veggie Burger”, featured on her blog, 101 Cookbooks, and in her book, Super Natural Cooking, is not a veggie burger at all, but a different kind of sandwich altogether.
The basic premise: veggie burgers are often way too “dry and bready”, so turn the burger patty into the bun and fill that with all your toppings.
To me this recipe violates veggie burgers are all about: the overwhelming satisfaction of taking a soft delicious bun, filling it with a substantial patty and delicious toppings, then eating it with your hands. However, in my research of ultimate veggie burgers, time and time again I came across posts recommending Heidi’s burger, so I felt I had to give it a try.
How did it stack up? Surprisingly well on all accounts but the most important of all: flavor. I found it rather bland, and quite unsatisfying. Her recipe makes 12 “mini burgers”, which means you can have a few and try different toppings (fillings?) in each. But in the end I felt like I’d eaten a bunch of little appetizers, and not a meal.
- Ingredients – 2/4 – While the short list of ingredients is certainly inviting, two of these ingredients make me feel like this recipe was created by someone who does all of their shopping at Whole Foods. “Sprouted garbanzo beans” and “micro sprouts” are not exactly easy to find. Yes, you can use canned chickpeas instead, and yes, the “micro sprouts” are optional. But beyond this, there isn’t much else going on: a little cilantro, lemon zest, bread crumbs, onion, eggs and salt. On the positive side, the chickpeas outweigh the breadcrumbs: this is not a bread burger.
- Preparation – 3/4 – I must give this recipe props for preparation – it’s so wonderfully easy. Just throw it all in the food processor and bla-zam. Burger mix. Of course, if you don’t have a food processor, the story changes – minus one point for special equipment.
- Texture – 3/4 – Not perfect, but definitely above average. My hippy organic tinned chickpeas still had some bite to them, 4 eggs added moisture, and I love a burger that uses raw onion in the mix.
- Structural integrity – 4/4 – I must hand it to Heidi, her burgers held together, despite being sliced in half and used as the bun. They didn’t crumble, or mush, but held their own as a supportive wall around my myriad of toppings.
- Flavor – 2/4 – Boring. More salt may have helped, but there wasn’t much going on in these burgers to begin with. A burger should be bold, flavorful, enough to be noticed over the toppings and the bun. Even without the bun, these burgers didn’t seem to stand out as having much flavor at all. The lemon and cilantro were far too subtle. This would work in a salad, but it fails in a burger.
Overall rating: 2.8 out of 4
Heidi recommends “topping” these burgers with avocado slices, “Cipollini” onions, sliced roma tomatoes, a sprinkling of smoked paprika, and/or grilled vegetables. I tried all but the grilled veggies, but found them all a bit too “light”. This burger has a very mild flavor, and I found that it needed something more robust like pickles or spicy mustard. But maybe that’s just me. Or maybe it was the weather. Perhaps on a hot summer’s day, a light filling of your favorite salad ingredients make the most sense. But here in England, I need something a little more punchy to get me through the night. Pass the Coleman’s please!
- Eat them as nature intended, bun and all: Check out RecipeGirl.com‘s adaptation, which also includes delicious peas and beautiful pictures!
- Add more veggies: RhodeyGirlTests did this with great success by adding spinach. Lovely color!
- Go vegan: Talesofaspoon accomplished this with cornstarch and flaxseed.
Ultimate “Veggie Burger”
Recipe adapted from 101cookbooks.com. Although the recipe calls for using the patty as the bun, there’s no reason why you couldn’t eat these as regular burgers on a bun.
- 2 1/2 cups sprouted garbanzo beans (chickpeas) OR canned garbanzos, drained and rinsed
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 onion, chopped
- Grated zest of one large lemon
- 1 cup micro sprouts, chopped (try brocolli, onion, or alfalfa sprouts – optional)
- 1 cup toasted (whole-grain) bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (or clarified butter)
- If you are using sprouted garbanzos, steam them until just tender, about 10 minutes. Most of you will be using canned beans, so jump right in and combine the garbanzos, eggs, and salt in a food processor. Puree until the mixture is the consistency of a very thick, slightly chunky hummus. Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in the cilantro, onion, zest, and sprouts. Add the breadcrumbs, stir, and let sit for a couple of minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. At this point, you should have a moist mixture that you can easily form into twelve 1 1/2-inch-thick patties. I err on the moist side here, because it makes for a nicely textured burger. You can always add more bread crumbs a bit at a time to firm up the dough if need be. Conversely, a bit of water or more egg can be used to moisten the batter.
- Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium low, add 4 patties, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms begin to brown. Turn up the heat if there is no browning after 10 minutes. Flip the patties and cook the second side for 7 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties. Carefully cut each patty in half, insert your favorite fillings, and enjoy immediately.
Also seen on ultimateveggieburgers.com.