Monday, June 16, 2014

Veggie (vegan!) burgers even a confirmed carnivore will like!

Veggie burger topped with cheese and a slice of tomato

I'm a confirmed carnivore and love a good hamburger - always have, always will.  So does my wife, but since she's gone back to being a vegetarian, the pickin's for a good veggie burger are slim to none (unless we go to Plan B Burger - she says theirs are awesome).

That's why I decided to try to make my own veggie burgers - after all, if I can make some of the other things I do on a regular basis, why not give it a shot?  I found a recipe to use as a base, but then started tweaking - partially because that's just what I do but partially because there are a lot of flavors I thought would be good in a burger that I felt needed to be added.

Now, I'm NOT going to tell you that this "tastes just like a hamburger".  That's simply not true.  I WILL tell you that I liked it - a lot.  It's not going to replace a hamburger for me when that's what I really want, but I liked it enough that I would most definitely have one now and then and thoroughly enjoy it. What's more important is that my wife the vegetarian loved it - on top of that, it's vegan as well (though if you're having issues with it holding together, you can add an egg which will make it vegetarian but not vegan).

I made a double batch and formed them into patties and froze them - this way, if my son and I are having hamburgers, I can just take one out of the freezer for my wife any time I'd like. They are a bit involved to make, but once you've made them, that convenience coupled with the flavor and the fact that you KNOW what's in them makes them well worth the effort that goes into them (and they are NOT hard to make, just a little bit tedious).


  • 3 large red beets (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice (uncooked)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats or oat flour*
  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans black beans**
  • 1/4 cup prunes, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp brown mustard
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger (finely grated)
  • 1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce***
  • 1 large egg (optional for non-vegan burgers)****
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*The directions are for whole oats that you run through a food processor since some may have difficulty finding oat flour.  Either will work fine.

**If you prefer to make the beans yourself, I think you get a better flavor.  Two cans of black beans is about 1/2 pound of dry beans, after being soaked and cooked.
If you have the time, my preference is to make the
beans myself. These were cooked with onion, garlic
and bay leaf.  Canned beans will also work just fine.

***I will only use Mac Brothers BBQ sauces, which are vegan (with one exception that uses honey).  If you want to keep the recipe vegan, simply check whatever sauce you choose for the proper ingredients.

****The purpose of the egg is to help the burgers hold together better. To date, I've had no issue with them holding together (and I haven't used an egg) but if you are, feel free to add one if you're not worried about keeping them vegan.

To serve:

  • Thin slices of provolone or swiss cheese (optional for non-vegan burgers)
  • Hamburger buns


  1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Wrap the beets loosely in aluminum foil and roast until easily pierced with a fork, 50 to 60 minutes. 
  2. Set aside to cool.
  3. Bring a 2-quart pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously and add the rice. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the rice - you want it a little over-cooked, but still firm (not completely mushy). This should take about 35 to 40 minutes. 
  4. Drain the rice and set it aside to cool.
  5. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir the onions every minute or two, and cook until they are golden and getting charred around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. You don't want them to burn, but browning is fine.  You want a dark, sticky crust to start to form.
  6. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
  7. Pour in the cider vinegar and scrape up the dark sticky crust. Continue to simmer until the cider has evaporated and the pan is nearly dry again. 
  8. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  9. IF USING OAT FLOUR, SKIP THIS STEP! Process the oats in a food processor until they have reduced to a fine flour. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  10. Drain and rinse one of the cans of beans and transfer the beans to the food processor. If instead, you have made your own beans, add half to the food processor (half should be about two cups)
  11. Scatter the prunes on top of the beans. 
  12. Pulse in 1-second bursts just until the beans are roughly chopped — not so long that they become mush — 8 to 10 pulses. 
  13. Transfer this mixture to a large mixing bowl. 
  14. Drain and rinse the second can of beans and add these whole beans to the mixing bowl as well (if you've made your own beans, add the rest of them instead - again, it should be about two cups).
  15. The beets should be cool for this step! Use the edge of a spoon or a paper towel to scrape the skins off the cooled roasted beets; the skins should slip off easily (I actually use food prep gloves and the back of a butter knife - it keeps my hands from getting stained from the beet juice!). 
  16. Grate the peeled beets on the largest holes of a box grater and then squeeze as much juice as you can out of them. 
    Grate the beets on a box grater, using the largest holes.
  17. Put the beets (they should have very little juice in them at this point), cooked rice, and sautéed onions, garlic and ginger in the bowl with the beans. 
  18. Sprinkle the olive oil, brown mustard, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, celery seed, and thyme over the top of the mixture. 
  19. Add the liquid smoke and BBQ sauce and then mix all the ingredients until combined (I find this easiest to do by using food prep gloves and my hands - I can get everything mixed much better - and faster - this way). 
    All the ingredients before being mixed together.
  20. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper as needed.  You can also add (or delete!) anything else you'd like at this point.  Like curry?  Add a bit in.  How about an Italian flavor? Add some oregano!  Make it yours!
  21. Add the oat flour and egg (if using), and mix until you no longer see any dry oatmeal or egg.
  22. Cover the bowl and refrigerate. You want to let it sit for a minimum of two hours or preferably overnight. You can also keep it refrigerated for up to three days before cooking.
    This is the mixture before going into the refrigerator overnight.
  23. When you're ready to start cooking, first shape them into burgers by taking about a cup and shaping it into a patty with your hands (the same way you would with actual hamburger). If you can, make it about the same size as your hamburger buns.  I was able to make about eight patties, but you may have more or less depending on the size.
    The patties ready to be cooked.
  24. Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat and add a bit of vegetable (or corn) oil to completely coat the bottom of the pan. 
  25. When the pan is good and hot, place the burgers in the pan without crowding.
  26. Cook the patties for 3 minutes, then flip them over (they will develop a nice crust - my wife's favorite part!).
    A cast iron skillet helps develop a good crust on the burgers.
  27. Cook for another 3 minutes, then put the cheese (IF using) on top of the burgers and cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. 
  28. Cook for an additional four minutes.
  29. While the burgers are cooking, spread a little olive oil on the cut side of the buns and place cut side down in a heated pan (it should take about two minutes to toast - I add a sprinkle of garlic powder on the olive oil before toasting for additional flavor).
  30. Place the burgers in the toasted buns, top with condiments and whatever veggies you like and enjoy!


  1. This recipe is by far the best veggie burger I have ever made and ate. It's a wee bit labor intensive, but is so worth it. I froze half the burgers in their raw state with freezer paper in between the burgers. Even after a month in the freezer they were still very tasty when I cooked them up. Give this recipe a try - it's great!

  2. My first visit to your blog (led here from your wife's). I'm looking forward to trying these burgers. (I agree about PlanB--my daughter used to work at one, and it was about the only thing her veg. mom would consider.) My boyfriend is big on juicing, and I wonder if the pulp -from after beets are juiced-- would work in this recipe.