Vegetarian burgers used to be all black beans and oats.
Then foodie-minded bloggers and chefs started experimenting with different techniques to make them, and a whole new world for meat-free "burgers" opened up.
Plenty of nouveau food companies, including Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, are selling burger patties made with lab-developed meat alternatives that mimic the flavor, scent, fat and texture of beef, but many vegetarians prefer patties made with everyday ingredients that you can find at the grocery store.
If you're one of those cooks — or maybe you're an omnivore who is simply looking for some alternatives to the beefy burgers you like to grill in the summer — here are five fresh ideas for meat-free burgers that you can try at home.
It's a challenge to grill veggie burgers without them falling apart on the grate, so these recipes call for cooking the patties in a pan, serving them on the bun of your choice and with the toppings of your choice. The ramen burger recipe, which calls for a store-bought or homemade vegan patty, is more for the buns than the burger, but it's a fun twist that combines two iconic dishes.
These burger mixes can also be shaped into small balls to make no-meat "meatballs" that you can serve with pasta or on a hoagie with marinara, and you could certainly experiment with baking them instead of frying them in a pan. All of these patties will freeze nicely, and you can cook them directly from frozen; just make sure you freeze them on a baking sheet so they don't stick together.
Black Bean Burger With Cheddar and Caramelized Onion
Swedish cookbook author Martin Nordin works for Ikea by day and, in recent years, has been credited with developing the company's no-meat "meatballs." Last year, he published a cookbook dedicated to vegetarian burgers. "Green Burgers" started as a project on Instagram to make the very best veggie burger, and now he has more than 17,000 followers who keep up with his high-end (and meat-free) cooking escapades.
— Addie Broyles
For the burgers:
2 1/2 cups cooked black beans
Canola or peanut oil for frying
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika powder
3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1/2 cup dry-roasted walnuts
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup cooked black rice
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
For the caramelized onions:
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 ounces cheddar cheese
6 burger buns
Butter for the buns
Butter or romaine lettuce
Rinse the beans in cold water and drain in a colander.
Heat a little oil in a skillet and fry the onions over fairly high heat until they have taken on color and are on the verge of burning.
Reduce the heat, add the chili and paprika powders and stir. Stir in the barbecue sauce and take the frying pan off the heat.
Heat a dry skillet, ideally a cast-iron one. Toast the nuts over medium heat until they start to take on a little color, about 2 minutes. Shake the pan now and then so the nuts do not get too burnt, but don’t worry if they burn slightly — it creates a good flavor.
Chop the walnuts and put them in a bowl together with the beans, coriander, rice, panko breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt. Mix the ingredients together with a potato masher (the beans should be only lightly mashed). Add the onion mixture and stir so that everything is well combined.
Take a handful of the mixture at a time and shape into six round patties, either by hand or using a food ring. Put the patties on a large plate and cover with plastic wrap. Put in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably longer, so that they will hold together better when you fry them.
For the caramelized onions, peel and chop the onions and put them into a cold saucepan. Add the butter and put the saucepan over medium heat, and then put the lid on. The onions will soon start to release liquid, and the flavors will be concentrated as a result of them cooking in their own juices. Stir with a wooden spoon about once every 5 minutes for 30 to 40 minutes, and check that they are not burning. (If you notice they’re starting to get dry you can add the vinegar earlier.)
Remove the lid, pour over the vinegar, raise the heat and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring, until considerably reduced. Set aside.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a few tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the patties for a few minutes on both sides until they have developed a nice color. Transfer them to an ovenproof dish. Put a few slices of cheese on each patty, place in the oven and leave until the cheese has melted.
Butter the buns on the cut surface and fry them quickly in a frying pan or broil them in the oven. Place a patty on the bottom of each bun. Put a lettuce leaf on top and slap on a generous spoonful of the caramelized onions. Makes 6 burgers.
— From "Green Burgers: Creative Vegetarian Recipes for Burgers and Sides" by Martin Nordin (Hardie Grant, $22.99)
The popular London restaurant Farmacy is known for its posh vegetarian fare, but the most popular dish on the menu is its vegan spin on a traditional burger. They use black beans, oats, millet, mushrooms, miso and brown rice flour to build an umami-rich burger with just the right texture.
— Addie Broyles
For the burger:
10 ounces portobello mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 tablespoons chopped red onion
2 tablespoons brown rice miso
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon brown rice flour
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups cooked black beans
3/4 cup cooked millet
1/4 cup chopped parsley
8 sourdough burger buns
Ketchup and aioli
1 small Boston or bibb lettuce
1 avocado, mashed
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the mushrooms on a baking pan and cook in the oven for 10 minutes. Take them out, drain the juice into a small pitcher and set both aside to cool.
Put the bell pepper and onion on another baking pan and cook for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Place the cooled vegetables in a food processor and blend. Add the remaining burger ingredients except the millet and parsley and blend again, being careful not to overprocess the mixture or it can turn into a paste. Finally, add the millet and parsley and stir through.
Cool the mixture in the refrigerator, then take out and shape into eight individual burgers. Heat a griddle or skillet over high heat until hot. Cook the burgers until a little crust forms underneath, about 5 minutes, turning once.
Cut the buns in half and toast them if you like. Spoon a tablespoon of ketchup onto the surface of the bottom slice of each bun and add a layer of lettuce leaves, followed by a burger. Add a layer of aioli, then a slice of tomato and a couple of slices of pickle. Finally, spread mashed avocado on the underside of each bun top and place on top. Makes 8 burgers.
— From "Farmacy Kitchen Cookbook: Plant-Based Recipes for a Conscious Way of Life" by Camilla Fayed (Aster, $29.99)
Quinoa and Chickpea Burgers
This quinoa and chickpea burger from "VBQ," a vegan barbecue book from Nadine Horn and Jörg Mayer, uses chia seeds and oats to bind the patty, as well as a trio of salty-sweet liquids — soy sauce, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup — to enhance the flavor. Serve on a bun or on a salad.
— Addie Broyles
For the patties:
1/2 cup quinoa
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 red onion
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cremini mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the burger sauce:
3 tablespoons finely chopped bread-and-butter pickles
1/4 cup vegan yogurt
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons agave nectar
1 pinch salt
4 sweet potato buns
4 handfuls salad greens
3/4 cup finely chopped red cabbage
Prepare the quinoa according to the instructions on the package. Then let cool. Grind the chia seeds, mix with 1/4 cup water and set aside.
Thinly slice the onion. Put 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a hot frying pan and fry the onion over medium heat for 7 minutes. Dice the mushrooms and gently stir into the onion. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook for another 5 minutes on low heat.
Coarsely chop the chickpeas in a food processor with the soy sauce, vinegar and maple syrup.
Finely grind the oats in a blender and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic, quinoa, chia seed mixture, fried onions, chickpea paste and spices and knead well by hand. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Rest for 10 minutes, knead again and shape the mixture into four patties.
For the sauce, finely chop the shallot and mix with the other ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
Brush the patties with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and cook over direct heat for 4 to 5 minutes each side. Cut the burger buns open and warm them on their cut side over direct heat for 1 minute. Cover the bottom half with salad greens, one patty and some cabbage. Top with sauce and cover with the other half of the bun. Makes 4 burgers.
— From "VBQ: The Ultimate Vegan Barbecue Cookbook" by Nadine Horn and Jörg Mayer (The Experiment, $19.95)
The Ramen Burger
Ramen burgers have been around for at least five years, and their novelty hasn't worn off, especially if you've never had one. Lightly frying a "bun" made out of cooked ramen noodles creates a unique flavor and texture experience that is fun, no matter what kind of ingredients you put in your patty. Hot for Food blogger Lauren Toyota simply calls for using the vegan burger of your choice in this recipe, but she explains how to prepare the ramen buns using metal ring molds, cooking spray and a hot pan.
— Addie Broyles
1 tablespoon oil
4 vegan burger patties, or 8 patties for a double-decker
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
4 vegan cheddar cheese slices
2 vegan onion or other bouillon cubes dissolved in 3 cups water, or 3 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
4 (3-ounce) packs instant ramen noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, for frying
Thousand Island dressing or spicy Sriracha aioli
Thick slices of tomato
To make the sandwiches, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the burger patties for about 3 minutes on each side or until lightly charred. Then coat one cooked side with the barbecue sauce, flip, coat the other side and cook for another 3 minutes. Flip, place a cheddar slice on top and cook for 3 more minutes. Lower the heat or turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the patties warm and continue melting the cheese.
Meanwhile, prepare the ramen patties. Bring the stock to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 3 minutes. You could also use the instant ramen flavor packet instead of bouillon or stock. Drain the ramen but do not rinse.
Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add a coating of vegetable oil. Lightly coat 1 or 2 ring molds, each 2 1/2 inches in diameter, with vegetable oil or cooking spray. Place the ring molds in the pan. Fill each ring with ramen noodles to just below the top edge. Oil a spatula or spoon and use it to press and pack the noodles firmly in the rings while you cook them for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the ring and again press the ramen patties down to cook the other side for approximately 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low as the pan gets hotter. Remove the cooked ramen patties to a wire rack and gently remove the rings. You might need to trim any stuck noodles, but don’t pull them or the patty will unravel. Continue this process until you have 8 ramen patties. As long as the rings and the pan are oiled, there shouldn’t be much unraveling.
To assemble the sandwiches, coat one side of each ramen patty with dressing or aioli. Place a handful of lettuce on top, then add a burger patty with melted cheese, tomato and another drizzle of barbecue sauce and top with a ramen patty. Serves 4.
— From "Hot for Food Vegan Comfort Classics: 101 Recipes to Feed Your Face" by Lauren Toyota (Ten Speed Press, $22)
You might not have heard of Brooks Headley's bands — Born Against and Universal Order of Armageddon among them — but you've probably heard of Del Posto, the four-star restaurant in New York City where he was once the pastry chef. Headley departed several years ago to start Superiority Burger, a tiny but influential veggie burger shop in the East Village whose signature dish draws a crowd daily. Many people order these burgers to go, but last year, Headley published a cookbook that includes the recipes for just about everything they serve at the restaurant, including the namesake burger. To make it at home, you'll need potato starch, which is sold in many grocery stores alongside other alternative flours, and fennel seeds, which might require a trip to Central Market or Whole Foods if your local store doesn't carry them. To toast the fennel seeds, heat them in a dry skillet over medium-low heat for several minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid scorching. Cool completely before using. (Same goes for the walnuts, which you will toast separately.) I use a mortar and pestle to grind spices like this, but you can use a spice grinder if you have one.
— Addie Broyles
1 cup dried red quinoa
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more as needed
2 medium carrots, scrubbed well and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed for frying
1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon fennel seed, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked or no-salt-added canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 cup coarse dried breadcrumbs, such as panko
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and crushed
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon Sriracha or other hot chile sauce
2 tablespoons potato starch
8 soft buns, toasted, for serving
Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Combine the quinoa, 1 1/2 cups of the water and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until fluffy, 35 to 45 minutes. Uncover, transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
While the quinoa is cooking, spread the diced carrots on a quarter baking sheet; roast on the middle rack of the oven until dark around the edges and soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it is translucent and lightly browned at the edges, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the fennel seed, chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; cook until the spices are very fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the chickpeas and cook, stirring frequently, until they are very tender. Pour in the vinegar; use a spatula to dislodge any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Use a potato masher or large fork to coarsely mash the onion-chickpea mixture.
Scrape the onion-chickpea mixture into the bowl with the quinoa. Add the roasted carrots, breadcrumbs, walnuts, lemon juice, parsley, Sriracha or other hot chile sauce, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and mix well. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.
Whisk together the potato starch and the remaining 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl to form a thick, smooth slurry. Fold that into the burger mixture. Use a 1/2-cup measure to scoop 8 equal portions. Shape each one into a 3/4-inch-thick disk.
Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil into a large saute pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add as many patties as will fit without overcrowding. Working in batches, pan-fry the patties until browned, about 3 minutes on each side. To serve, place each patty on a toasted bun. Top with desired toppings and serve. Makes 8 to 10 patties.
— From "Superiority Burger Cookbook: The Vegetarian Hamburger Is Now Delicious" by Brooks Headley (W.W. Norton, $29.95)