Vegan Foods

Vegan Cuisine: Sure you can buy them, but have you made any veggie burgers yourself?


One of my favorite comfort foods is a good old-fashioned veggie burger. A burger where I can see and taste real vegetables, grains, nuts or beans. Over the years, I have eaten countless veggie burgers and learned a few tips on how to make a tasty one. When I mentioned my favorite recipe (but didn’t share it) in a recent column, I heard a number of you wanting more details. I am happy to oblige.

My favorite veggie burgers are homemade. However, since Maine is blessed with many veggie burger companies, I cook and eat quite a bit of frozen veggie burgers. Frozen burgers are especially handy to take to barbecues or fry for a quick weekday dinner.

Still, there is nothing more satisfying than a homemade veggie burger. When I first started making veggie burgers decades ago, they tended to be crumbly. I could mash them together into a patty, but as soon as I tried to turn them over they collapsed. For many years this was the state of my veggie burger life. To compensate, I often let my homemade veggie burgers fall apart, then wrap the pan-seared pieces in a tortilla. Delicious.

But over the years, I’ve had the chance to speak with chefs about how they make veggie burgers, and I’ve learned from those conversations. The biggest takeaway from the pros is that veggie burgers need a binder to make them firm enough to flip without crumbling. The best binders in vegan veggie burgers include oats, textured vegetable protein, vital wheat gluten, and panko breadcrumbs. The chefs made me experiment with panko.

My veggie burger recipe was given to me by my vegetarian roommate in the early 90s. At the time, the recipe called for mashed chickpeas, cooked rice, chopped onions, tomato paste and seasonings. Tasty, but crumbly. In recent years I have started adding panko breadcrumbs and the burger has become flippable. Now I hand knead the panko breadcrumbs into a dough with the other ingredients. It creates a firm but still tender veggie burger that develops a nice crisp on the outside when pan-fried.

You can use the same mixture to make a vegetarian dog. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

By adding the breadcrumbs, I can make patties up to 5 inches in diameter and flip them without a problem. I also created other shapes including sliders and vegetarian dogs. I get the firmest patties if I refrigerate the veggie burger mix overnight. However, I am not always so organized and know from experience that the mixture works well when formed into patties and cooked immediately. Vegetarian burgers will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, and they can also be formed, stacked with parchment paper between patties, covered and frozen for later use.

However you like them, these veggie burgers make for a hearty and comforting meal.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in downtown Portland. She can be reached at [email protected] and
Twitter: Avery Yale Kamila

Vegetarian burgers with tomatoes and chickpeas

Recipe by Avery Yale Kamila. When choosing your rice, keep in mind that shorter grains are stickier. You can also make these burgers with fresh herbs.

Makes 8 burgers

1½ cup (or a 14-ounce can) cooked and drained chickpeas
2 cups cooked brown rice, long grain or short grain
2 cups of panko breadcrumbs
1 cup diced onions
8 ounces of tomato sauce
1½ teaspoons of salt
3 teaspoons of dried basil
2 teaspoons of garlic powder
1½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of dried and finely ground rosemary
Vegetable oil, for frying

Mash the chickpeas with a potato masher or fork in a mixing bowl, leaving a few pieces. Add all other ingredients except the oil and knead with your hands until the mixture is fully incorporated, slightly firm, and not too wet or sticky. For best results, let the mixture harden more in the fridge overnight, but you can also use it right away.

Heat a pan over medium heat and add vegetable oil to the pan to heat. Meanwhile, shape the mixture into 8 patties. Fry patties until crispy and golden on both sides and heated through, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Serve immediately on buns with traditional hamburger toppings, or on baked grains with salad or roasted vegetables.


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