As we continue on this long stretch of pandemic cooking, many of us are not wanting to go out too often for fresh things and are cooking more from our pantry. This is an easy, healthy veggie burger that can be customized to what you have on hand. I have deconstructed the veggie burger for you so that you can create your very own ultimate veggie burger that is hearty, healthy, flavorful and satisfying — even grill-able — since we are just one day away from 4th of July! I think now, more than ever, we need some of those classic traditions even if we are doing them with very few people or even all by ourselves! Make it special.
I’ve also created a special burger sauce (can be vegan if you use vegan mayo) that sort of puts it over the top. Because, if we are going to be healthy and nicer to the planet by making these veggie burgers, than we need something to make it sing, dontcha think?! Check out this post for the Burger Sauce recipe.
Veggie Burger Blueprint
There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to make a veggie burger recipe and realizing you’re missing some crucial ingredients. With this easy formula, you can create your own awesome veggie burger recipe with whatever you have lying around! Feel free to use fresh or frozen vegetables (thaw and dry first) and leftover grains and/or legumes from a previous dinner, meal prep (or last night’s takeout!) to make these burgers even easier.
I’ve taken the components of a great veggie burger and simplified them into 6 categories with amounts and a wide set of options in each. The first category is of course, the vegetables! Because it isn’t a veggie burger, in my opinion, if it doesn’t have vegetables.
Alliums/Aromatics – 1/4 – 1/2 cup
In my opinion, alliums are important here as the base just as they are in a soup or stew or casserole or stir-fry, etc. They add subtlety of flavor, sweetness and bulk to many dishes. Their wide array of sulfur compounds gives them that characteristic punch, but also many health benefits. However, for those of you on a low FODMAP diet who are avoiding alliums, consider substituting scallion tops and chard stems! Or just don’t use them at all. This is optional. If using alliums, chop and sauté them till they give up a bit of their water content before using.
- Swiss Chard stems, chopped
My go to is usually 2 cloves garlic and ½ of an onion (any color I have around). I have also used leeks and fennel rather than onion. Shallots can certainly be substituted for the onion.
Other Vegetables/Fungus – 2 cups total
I have used many different veggies. Most work as long as they are not too watery. I find a small amount of beet (maybe ½ cup) can give your burger a nice red color that makes it appealing. I either sauté, roast or steam most veggies before using them for burgers. Tossing in some chopped greens is also an option (raw is fine here).
And then there are mushrooms – not technically a vegetable, rather a fungus – but gives a veggie burger some bulk and a more complex, earthy undercurrent which can enhance the heartiness. Best to cook the mushrooms a bit first to get rid of some of the water content.
Personally, I hate mushrooms. If I use them in a recipe like this, I will limit it to a small portion of the veggie mixture and possibly also add in a dried mushroom powder as a flavor enhancer (see below). In this way they are not really detectable as mushrooms, but still offer the earthy flavor complexity. Here are some possibilities off the top of my head, but you can certainly ad lib here! I would just stay away from very watery veg, like zucchini (unless you get rid of excess water) or fresh tomato.
- Carrot, grated or cooked and mashed
- Sweet potato, cooked and mashed
- Winter squash, cooked and mashed
- Beets, grated or cooked and mashed
- Celery root, cooked and mashed
- Celery stalks, chopped fine and cooked
- Parsnip, cooked and mashed
- Asparagus, cooked and chopped fine
- Broccoli, steamed and chopped fine
- Edamame, cooked and slightly mashed
- Corn kernals
- Eggplant, cooked and mashed
- Mushrooms, chopped fine and cooked
- Greens (spinach, kale, chard, mustard, etc.), chopped and used raw
This is the best category for using up what you have sitting in your fridge that needs to be used. Just chop or grate, cook them if appropriate and toss into your food processor with the other ingredients.
Cooked Grains and/or Legumes – 2-3 cups total
These will give your burgers some good bulk and also improve protein content, fiber and texture. You can cook your own or use canned or frozen or vacuum-packed to make it easier. Just make sure they are dried a bit before using so as not to add too much moisture. You can successfully use whatever grains or legumes you have in your pantry. I tend to use either one type or a combination of beans and lentils or beans and grains. I’ve been successful with the following combinations; chickpeas and mixed beans, lentils and pinto beans or quinoa and black beans. Here are some suggestions:
- Wheat Berries
- Lentils (brown, green or red)
- Black beans
- Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)
- White beans
- Pinto beans
- Kidney beans
- Black-eyed peas
There are so many different options for flavor enhancers for vegan food! Be careful here. Even though I say ½ cup total it doesn’t mean you want to put ½ cup of tomato paste or even BBQ sauce (and especially not liquid smoke!) alone. You are going to add a teaspoon or tablespoon here and there, depending on the ingredient. Tasting as you go can help if you are unsure. You can always add more, you can’t take away! I would keep it to 2 or 3 items. Nuts and seeds can make up the bulk here if using them. Here are some I feel will work well with veggie burgers depending on the flavor profile you are going for:
- Tomato paste
- Mushroom powder
- Liquid smoke (no more than ½ tsp)
- Sun-dried tomatoes (maybe pureed with garlic and herbs?)
- BBQ sauce
- Miso paste
- Nutritional yeast
- Chilies (or hot sauce)
- Soy sauce
- Maple syrup
- Worcestershire sauce
- Peanut butter (or any nut butter)
- Fresh herbs, chopped
- Tahini (sesame seed paste)
- Harissa paste
- Hoisin sauce
- Nuts and/or seeds, chopped or blitzed in food processor
Here, I only have 2 choices; either a chicken egg or a flax egg (1T flax meal + 3T water – set aside 5-10 mins). You may opt to add 2 eggs if you like, but you may then need to add slightly more dry base/binder. This is totally OPTIONAL. I just find it helps a bit for the burgers to be grillable, meaning they stay together better. I have done veggie burgers without any egg and they have been fine, so it is up to you. I find nut butters and sweet potatoes can be helpful for binding as well.
Dry Base and Binders – ½ – ¾ cup total
This is important to help hold the burgers together and give them the proper consistency so they don’t fall apart or crumble as readily. They also add bulk and nutritional value. The reason for the range in amount here is dependent upon how much liquid your mixture has. If you are using BBQ sauce or soy sauce for flavor and also just beans and lentils (no grains), you may need more of the dry base to get the consistency right. If you are using mostly drier flavor enhancers along with cooked grains, you may not need as much. Start adding a little at a time and go from there. Here are some options:
Breadcrumbs (gluten-free if needed)
Panko (gluten-free if needed)
Parmesan, grated fine
Wheat flour (if not gluten-free)
Dried Herbs and Spices! – About 3 teaspoons max
Ahhh herbs and spices! I certainly love my spices. You can be as bold or as mild as you like here. Or you can keep it simple and add ½ teaspoon salt only! Use just the spices you love, or go for a flavor profile. I am offering ideas here, but this is totally up to you. And once again, the amount is a guideline. You would certainly NOT want to use 3 teaspoons of salt! But you may want to do 1 teaspoon of each of 3 different herbs and spices. Have fun with it!
- Salt and pepper (any type)
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Celery seed
- Chili powder
- Lemon zest
- Ras el hanout
- Any spice blend you love
Flavor profile ideas – Here are some combinations to get you started:
Southwestern – Onion, garlic, sweet potato, corn, chiles, black beans or pinto beans, quinoa, pepitas or pecans, liquid smoke, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, oregano, cilantro
Indian – Onion, garlic, carrot, cauliflower, chickpeas, brown rice, nutritional yeast, chickpea flour, cilantro, curry powder, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, cumin
Mediterranean – Leeks, garlic, eggplant, beets, white beans, farro, pine nuts, sun-dried tomato and/or tomato paste, basil, oregano, garlic powder, Italian seasoning mix, fennel, citrus zest
Asian – Garlic, ginger, scallions, edamame, mushrooms, brown rice, mungbeans, soy sauce, cilantro, cinnamon, star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, fennel seeds
French – Shallots, garlic, parsnip, chard, white beans, lentils, maple syrup, tarragon, chervil, parsley, shallot, marjoram, thyme, herbes de Provence, lemon zest
American BBQ Burger – Onion, garlic, beets, mushrooms, spinach, black-eyed peas, wheat berries, liquid smoke, BBQ sauce, walnuts, breadcrumbs, celery seed, black pepper
So, there you have it. Select from the 6 categories in the right amounts and you will have perfect veggie burgers every time!
There are just a few things you should consider in the process:
1. The ingredients may seem like a lot, but a lot of the flavor enhancers are optional and it all comes together in the food processor very quickly.
2. The order you do things in the food processor can be helpful.
a. If using rolled oats as a dry binder, blitz them briefly in food processor first, and set aside in a bowl.
b. Then add nuts and seeds (if using), and cooked grains and pulse a few times.
c. Add about ¾ of the beans and lentils (if using), and also the flavor builders, egg, and herbs and spices and pulse until combined.
d. Finally, start adding the dry base/binders (those oats you blitzed??) slowly and pulse and check for consistency. You want the mixture to be moist enough to hold together, but not so moist that it doesn’t form a patty.
3. You can form the burger freehand (which I mostly do) or you can form them in a round mold or cookie cutter, if you are a perfectionist! I have found the sweet spot for size is around 1/3 cup of mixture, but you can make them into meatballs or sliders or jumbo burgers (although I have found if they are too large, they don’t cook evenly).
4. After you have formed the burgers, place them on a baking sheet and rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes (or up to 12 hours). This is important to help the flavors meld and to keep them from crumbling. Cook them cold.
5. There are 3 ways you can cook them.
a. Fry in a skillet in some oil. Medium-low heat works best so that they cook through. You may even want to cover the pan for part of the time. About 3-4 minutes per side.
b. Bake on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet, sprayed or brushed with oil. Bake at around 375°F (191°C) for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.
c. Grill them! I find it is best to cook them slightly with some oil in a skillet first then put them on the grill. They are less likely to break apart that way.
6. Freezing Instructions: Cooked veggie burgers freeze wonderfully for up to 4 months. Stack between parchment paper in a freezer container or zipped-top bag. Thaw in the refrigerator and reheat to your liking. If desired, you can skip thawing and reheat/cook from frozen for an extra couple minutes.
If you make some veggie burgers from this blueprint, let me know how it turns out! I’d love to hear about any flavor combinations that work for you.
Easy Pantry Veggie Burgers with Beans and Lentils
- Food processor
- 1.5 cup cooked brown lentils
- 1.5 cups cooked beans can use white beans, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, etc.
- 1 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil or whatever cooking oil you have plus more for frying/baking if using
- 1/2 large onion chopped
- 1 cup carrots, shredded about 2 medium
- 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped about 3-4
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 hot chile, seeded if desired I used habanero, optional
- 1/2 cup rolled oats gluten-free, if needed
- 2 Tablespoons hemp seeds
- 3/4 cup nuts I used pecans
- 1/2 cup greens and/or herbs packed tight. I used fresh oregano, basil and marjoram from my garden. Spinach or kale would work great as well.
- 1 large egg or 1 flax egg (see Notes below)
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke optional
- 2 tablespoons mushroom powder optional
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast optional
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup optional
- 1 tablespoon Tamari or soy sauce
- 1/2 cup corn kernels
- If using dried lentils and beans, cook them in water (It will take about 3/4 c dried lentils and 1/2 c dried beans). Either way, rinse drain well in a colander. Pat dry with towel.
- Add oil, onion, carrot, mushrooms, garlic and chile (if using) to a saute pan and cook over medium high heat until a lot of the water from veggies has evaporated and veggies are tender. Alternatively, you can roast them in a 350°F (180°C) oven for about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.
- While veggies are cooking and cooling, add oats, hemp and nuts to food processor and pulse several times to get to small pieces (not a paste or powder). Add about 3/4 of each of the lentils and beans, all the greens/herbs, cooked veggies and egg (real or flax) along with any flavor enhancers (tomato paste, liquid smoke, mushroom powder, nutritional yeast, Tamari (soy sauce), maple syrup and spices). Process until combined well but still a bit chunky. Add the remaining 1/4 of the lentils and beans and all the corn kernels and mix in by hand.
- At this point you can either place in a storage container and refrigerate until you are ready to make the burgers, or you can make the burgers, placing them on a sheet pan and refrigerate for about 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours, covered). Refrigeration helps flavors to meld and burgers to stay together better when cooking. Form burgers into patties about 1-inch thick (25mm). You should have 8 burgers.
- After you've chilled them for at least 30 minutes, you can either pan fry the burgers in your favorite cooking oil for about 3-4 minutes a side, or you can rub or spray with cooking oil and bake at 375° F (191°C) for about 20 minutes flipping halfway through.