Can we build it? Yes We Can! And then eat it.
May 25, 2012 6:58 AM   Subscribe

The best veggie burger I've ever had was The Nut Burger at Beaver's Ice House in Houston, Texas. And, while it tasted great, fell apart easily and didn't stand up to the usual burger mode of eating. I thought, hey, I can do this at home. Help me create the best veggie burger recipe ever (constraints and specs inside)

Doesn't need to taste like meat, but needs to have enough umami to make me not miss meat.
Needs to be firm enough to cook on a grill if necessary, have plenty of protein and not too much fat (otherwise the wife will not indulge with me), and, here's the big non-negotiable,
Be made with ingredients from a garden variety grocery store, no health food or specialty ingredients.
Oh yeah, and there's the 100 year rule. No ingredient that wasn't recognized as food 100 years ago.

So what have you got, folks? We have the technology. We should be able to build this thing.
posted by cross_impact to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Serious Eats recipes are often fiddly, but I've never been disappointed with the results. (I haven't actually tried this one, but it's on the radar.)
posted by uncleozzy at 7:04 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

These Parmesan Patties are pretty good. Switch soy for tamari to up the umami...
posted by ZipRibbons at 7:17 AM on May 25, 2012

The best veggie burger I've *ever* had was at North Star Cafe in Columbus, OH - seriously, it tasted like a Whopper. Some info on the recipe is here.

"This burger definitely lived up to expectations. It had a deep, savory umami flavor that contrasted nicely with a slice of provolone (we think) cheese, bitter greens, and the buttery toasted bun. We could see bits of beet, black bean, and brown rice in the mix, but no single ingredient overpowered the other.

They also somehow captured that unique hamburger texture, which is greatly lacking in so very many mushy veggie burgers. The exterior was well-seared to give the burger a beautiful crunchy crust and an extra boost of smoky flavor. Then interior of the patty was soft and tender, but with enough texture that we actually felt like we were biting into something.

The overall effect was, quite simply, a burger."
posted by HopperFan at 7:19 AM on May 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

I don't have a particular recipe for burger substitute--I just tend to mash something together with black beans--but I have found that either marmite or the vegan Worcestershire sauce add a lot of the missing umami to the things I make with TVP in place of ground beef or with veggie stock instead of beef stock.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:19 AM on May 25, 2012

I haven't tried it, but Slate just did Veggie Burgers as a part of their "You're Doing it Wrong" series.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 7:27 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

My friend, a vegetarian, used to blow me away when she served "Nut Loaf" (complete with gravy!) This recipe here looks similar to what I remember. I think you might have to pre-bake the patties so they won't fall apart, then grill to finish. Some nut loaf recipes use cheese (scroll down), which, if you aren't adverse, would help with the binding.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 7:29 AM on May 25, 2012

I make mine with cooked black beans, shredded beet, shredded carrot, onion, garlic, partially cooked rice, a little oatmeal and use an egg for binder. After shaping them, I chill the patties until they are pretty firm - and then my husband smokes them for me in the smoker.
posted by hilaryjade at 7:30 AM on May 25, 2012

I really like the way 101 Cookbooks' Ultimate Veggie Burger flips the script—Heidi decided that she would never get a juicy, unctuous result from any of her veggie burger attempts, so she made a mashed garbanzo bean "bun" and filled it with rich veggie fillings instead.
posted by bcwinters at 7:32 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like the super-simple bean burger recipe from Mark Bittman.

2 cups well-cooked white, black or red beans, or chickpeas or lentils, or 1 14-ounce can, drained
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup rolled oats (preferably not instant)
1 tablespoon chili powder, or the spice mix of your choice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
Bean-cooking liquid, stock or other liquid (wine, cream, milk, water or ketchup) if necessary
Extra virgin olive oil or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn.

1. Combine all ingredients except liquid and oil in food processor and pulse until chunky but not puréed. If necessary, add a little liquid for a mixture that is moist but not wet. Let mixture rest for a few minutes.
2. With wet hands, shape into patties and let rest again for a few minutes. (Burger mixture or shaped burgers can be covered tightly and refrigerated for up to a day. Bring back to room temperature before cooking.) Film bottom of a large nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet with oil and turn heat to medium. When hot, add patties. Cook undisturbed until browned, about 5 minutes; turn carefully with spatula and cook 3 or 4 minutes until firm and browned.
3. Serve on buns with mustard, ketchup, chutney or other toppings.

I usually use bread crumbs, because it's what I have in the house and it comes out totally fine. My favorite way to make this is with black beans and chipotle hot sauce instead of chili powder!
posted by inertia at 7:38 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I came here to link to the same Food Lab article that uncleozzy posted.

I'm not a vegetarian and would not eat these, but if Kenji Alt-Lopez says these are very good veggie burgers, I believe him. You really can't go wrong with his cooking suggestions.
posted by imagineerit at 9:22 AM on May 25, 2012

Response by poster: I saw the article in Slate, but I am disqualifying it because tempeh is not in regular grocery stores in my area.

Can we also talk binders? Is egg the only binder suitable? Or just the best? Are there effective alternatives?
posted by cross_impact at 9:59 AM on May 25, 2012

I tried this veggie burger from Serious Eats a few weeks ago, and it was amazing - definitely the best one I've ever had. And it completely mimics the texture of ground beef, so my husband had not problem grilling it. It didn't fall apart or dry out, and was really tasty by itself (but I layered on traditional fixins.)

It definitely requires more effort than other recipes, but it was very worth it.
posted by rubyshoes at 11:19 AM on May 25, 2012

I haven't tried Cook's Illustrated's "Ultimate Veggie Burger," but it meets your requirements. Here's a copy of the recipe that's not behind a paywall.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:57 AM on May 25, 2012

I have tried the Cook's Illustrated Ultimate Veggie Burgers that jocelmeow linked to and I was coming in here to recommend them. They're absolutely amazing and definitely the best I've had - the Panko kind of disqualifies them from being very healthy and the mayo isn't that great for you either. But who cares, they're certainly delicious.
posted by hazyjane at 12:15 PM on May 25, 2012

This one sounds pretty close to the Beaver Nut Burger (I've never made it). This one made also be more what you're going for (I've also never made that one either) and that has the added bonus of not calling for egg (I think you just need the base ingredients -- and just season as you'd like).

Lentil-based burgers may also work for you.
posted by darksong at 12:21 PM on May 25, 2012

These burgers are excellent (and vegan) so no egg.

Definitely bake before you grill.

These are also great (but use egg white as binder) if you like the taste of hummus. Definitely make a tahini sauce with these.

I also second Bittman's very flexible recipe.
posted by hrj at 1:29 PM on May 25, 2012

Not a veggie burger fan, but will happily eat a Dr Praeger's frozen ditto. Mentioning it here just so you can check out the ingredient list, which may be of interest, especially with regards to the binder issue.
posted by kmennie at 4:39 PM on May 25, 2012

I like a couple of the Bittman recipes and will rotate through them in the summer, but my favorite veggie burger is from a shockingly good vegan+kids cookbook called Peas and Thank You by Sarah Matheny. They taste nothing like a real burger, but they're 110% awesome.
posted by togdon at 8:55 AM on May 29, 2012

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