Last summer, I aimed to perfect a vege burger recipe. Like uninspired iceberg lettuce salads, non-meat burgers often pop up as the only vegan options on menus or at cookouts. These limp pieces of cardboard taste just like the freezers in which they were stored for so long. If you’ve ever begrudgingly chewed such travesties, then I implore you to throw down your bun and take up some tongs in action!
I meant to post this for Memorial Day, but my! did that come and go. Hopefully you’ll still find the time to try out this recipe for the summer.
In order to reach a goal, one needs clearly defined criteria. My criteria for the perfect vege burger are that it shall:
- Be able to be grilled without falling apart
- Have some bite to it, and won’t be perfectly consistent on the inside like kofta or falafel
- Not squish out the back of the bun when eating; retain its patty form
- Taste awesome (obviously); have some spice to it, and make no mistake that there are plenty of vegetables in it
Note that I’m not trying to make something that fools omnis into thinking that they’re devouring a carcass (although if I were, then it would have beets in it). In order for a veggie burger to have the same basic function as its cruel and unsustainable cousin, however, it does have to take a hint here and there.
Normally, vegan substitutions are pretty easy to make. The thing that makes it so hard for veggie burgers to emulate real burgers is is the fact that veggie burgers don’t undergo denaturation.
Denaturation is a chemical process that causes a structural change in proteins, firming them up. It’s why egg whites turn from clear to white and harden when heated, and it’s why cooked meat turns from pink to brown and hardens when heated, too. It’s also why the acid in ceviche turns fish firm.
Given that veggie burgers also contain protein, it’s likely that there’s some denaturation going on there, but it’s not quite like cooked meat. I suspect that this is why so many vegetarian vege burgers call for an egg.
After some thought, I came up with these basic ideas for vege burgers, in order of preference:
- Garbanzo bean or flour
- Black or pinto bean
- Mushroom and oat
- Beet and something-or-other
I thought that I could make something like kofta with garbanzo flour, but then I realised that the consistency, bite, and chew would be off. I still think that a pinto bean version may work well. Mushroom and oat would be too squishy and have weird flat oats in them, and I wanted to make one with beets really just to have pinkish-red juice squish out for giggles.
Seitan, however, seemed promising. I then turned to the Internet for inspiration.
I found none.
A Vegetarian Times recipe for Barbecued Seitan Burgers from 2000 seemed like it might be a good place to start (actually, it seemed like the only place to start), since I already wanted to make barbecue sauce. The recipe called for cornmeal, though, which I thought would be too floury. I briefly entertained using masa harina until I remembered all of the experience that I have with the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally and decided to play around with my own flours.
So here it is: my best vegan burger recipe.
I’m really pleased with the result. It has a great consistency and chew; it doesn’t squish out the back; and it’s evident that there are vegetables in it.
It’s best slathered in homemade barbecue sauce before going on the grill. I love mine on a bun with mustard, avocado, tomato, onion, and any greens that are left around.
And of course, enjoy it with a wheat beer, summer ale, or white ale. An orange wine would hold up, too.
Finally, don’t be afraid to make a mess. It happens. Take it with grace.
Vegan Veggie Burger Recipe
By June 12, 2012Published:
- Yield: 4 Burgers (4 Servings)
- Prep: 15 mins
- Cook: 15 mins
- Ready In: 30 mins
Grillable, toothsome, and tastes like vegetables are in it!
- 1 small onion
- 1 cloves garlic
- 1 small zucchini
- 1 T cumin seeds
- 1 t paprika
- 1/2 t thyme
- 1/2 t rubbed sage
- few pinches mustard powder
- pinch cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper
- 2 T olive oil
- 40 g whole wheat flour (~1/4 c)
- 30 g oat flour (~1/4 c)
- 25 g garbanzo flour (~1/4 c)
- 1 T flax seed meal
- 8 oz seitan well drained
- Make a vege paste. Slice the onion, garlic, and zucchini and grind in a food processor until they form a smooth paste. Humour me on this one.
- Line a colander with a clean kitchen towel and turn the paste into the towel. Wrap and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. A little moisture is fine, but the mix should be somewhat crumbly.
- Start the burger mix. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add some olive oil, the paste, and the spices. (I used the spices listed above, but feel free to use whatever you like. Have a favourite steak rub? Stick it in! People seem to forget that you can still use your favourite rubs and marinades on vegan foods, too.)
- Stir over heat until the spice are mixed in, then remove to a medium-sized bowl and add the oil. Stir to combine.
- Add the flours and flax seed meal to the bowl and stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning, remembering that it should still be a little over-seasoned, since you still have to add the seitan.
- In a food processor, briefly pulse the seitan until it's chunky. Don't worry if the chunks are a little big—it's likely that they'll break up as you stir the burger mixture.
- Add the seitan pieces to the bowl and fold to combine, so as to keep the seitan chunky so that your burgers will have a good bite and texture to them.
- Remove any jewellery, roll up your sleeves, and scoop 1/4 of the burger mixture into your hands. Shape into a patty and place on parchment paper or some other surface. Repeat for the other three.
- Use immediately, or refrigerate or freeze these patties for later use.
- On the grill, cook until well-browned on the outside, about 5-7 minutes each side, depending on your grill method/temperature.