Burger Season is Here!
One of the favorite pleasures of summer is enjoying burgers fresh off the grill. Sandwiched between a hearty bun with a couple of slices of fresh tomato, a crisp lettuce leaf, and maybe a wedge of avocado or smear or caramelized onions, the burger is as American as it gets.
When trying to adopt a plant-based diet, though, the veggie burger category can be disappointing. Perhaps you've encountered issues of veggie burgers crumbling apart, lack of flavor, or mushy texture.
I'm here to address your veggie burger struggles as well as some new, inspired recipes to get you started.
Why Does My Veggie Burger Fall Apart?
Two issues create a veggie burger that falls through the cracks:
1) It's not Pureed Enough
2) It's Too Wet
Problem: It's not pureed enough
Chef's Tip: To combat this, puree your beans, veggie, and "flavor" mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth. If you want a little bit of texture, add no more than 1/4 cup of "bits" like peas, corn, or chopped olives to your pureed mixture.
Problem: It's too wet
- Avoid using raw vegetables. They simply have too much moisture.
- Cook ALL of the moisture out of your raw veggies. If you start with 4 cups of raw vegetables, you'll end up with only about 1 1/2 cups of cooked veggies.
- Use a Binder: A binder, like brown rice flour, will help absorb moisture and bind the mixture together. You can always add more of this binder to get dryer burgers that will hold together better.
- Chill out! Let the burgers rest for at least 15 minutes in your fridge before cooking them. Not only will this help the flavors meld together, it will also help prevent crumbling burgers
Why Brown Rice Flour?
Chef's Flour Tip: I prefer Brown Rice Flour because it has neutral flavor and absorbs moisture well. Plus, it's really affordable.
Flours with gluten (like wheat flour or whole wheat flour) can easily become gluey and chewy if over-mixed. Almond and coconut flour have too much fat, which means they'll end up adding more moisture to your mix -- not a good thing. Other whole grain flours that work well are oat, corn, and buckwheat.
Why Doesn't My Veggie Burger Have Any Flavor?
This is simple: ADD MORE FLAVOR!
Use a heavier hand when seasoning your veggie burger mixture with dried spices, herbs, or other flavoring ingredients like chili paste, soy sauce, ginger, and mustard. Because you're not relying on the fat in traditional meat burgers, you'll need more healthy, fat-free spices to compensate.
4 Tips for Creating More Flavorful Veggie Burgers:
- Cook dried spices with your veggies will help bring out more flavor.
- Use tons of fresh herbs for something like a "garden" burger
- An extra "kick" can come from spice (like chili paste or cayenne), acid (like lime or lemon juice), or umami (like mushroom powder, miso, or soy sauce)
- Let the burgers "sit" for at least 10 minutes before cooking.
- This is a trick even with beef burgers. When the burgers are allowed to rest for a few minutes, the flavors come together more. With veggie burgers, you can even refrigerate them 2-3 days ahead of time...or freeze them for up to 6 months.
- Chill them while they rest so that they hold together better. Cold burgers will sear faster on a hot grill, preventing them from falling apart.
How Can I Create the "Ultimate" Burgers?
Toppings, Buns, and Garnish!
This is where the buns, toppings, and garnishes come in. When you give as much attention to the toppings, you are sure to impress your friends.
Make Some Delicious Toppings -- Healthy, Flavorful Ideas:
Get Creative on the Bread -- Vegan Burger Bun Ideas:
Sesame Seeds, English Muffins, Pretzel Buns, Sprouted Bread
Healthy Vegetarian Burger Recipes to Get You Started
From the Southwest to Korea, there is no limit the interesting flavor combinations you make. Use the Veggie Burger Builder Chart to get you started, then mix and match with different beans, veggies, and flavorings to travel all over the world.
About the Author:
Chef Katie Simmons
Katie is a Personal Chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, and vegan. Outside of the kitchen, she is a Fitness Instructor for Equinox, with over 16 years’ experience in the fitness industry. For fun, she loves to travel, with her most recent travel involving 10 days of yoga and exploring in beautiful Guatemala.