Veggie Burger #5: Sweet potato, lentil, & sunflower burgers

After making four different veggie burgers and reading a lot of recipes, I decided that I had learned enough to attempt my own veggie burger recipe. I identified four components that make a successful veggie burger.

The Five Habits of Highly Successful Veggie Burgers

  1.  Structural integrity.  It has to hold together when cooked.  Otherwise you are making hash, not burgers.
  2. Not too sticky, not too smooth:  If the burger mix is super sticky it is hard to work with, and the burgers stick to both your fingers and the pan. And they need a little texture when you bite into them.
  3. Moistness:  A good burger must be juicy.   It can’t be dry or too dense.  This is a common problem with store bought veggie burgers.
  4. Flavor:  the most successful burgers are filled with flavor, with savory deliciousness brightened by lighter notes.
  5. It has to have a crispy outer crust when cooked, with a soft interior.

 

 

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An example of a Highly Successful Veggie Burger

Then I put it all together:

For structural integrity, I relied mainly on mashed sweet potato.  That stuff really holds together, and it has a good rich flavor.

To control stickiness, I used dried whole wheat bread crumbs, because I happened to have some on hand.They worked great. Just adjust the amount as needed.

For depth of flavor I went with ground sunflower seeds, mushrooms, and pureed lentils (they also help hold things together).

For moistness, flavor, and texture, I added a lot of minced vegetables and some red wine vinegar.  The fresh herbs, jalapeno, and greens worked especially well.

For the crispy crust, I pan fried them in olive oil on medium high heat in my trusty cast iron skillet.

We served them in pita pockets, with lettuce and tomato.  They were good with ketchup, but even better with a little plain yogurt.

 

Veggie Burger Verdict:  These got rave reviews for taste, and the patties were sturdy yet moist.  The best veggie burger so far, and a pita was perfect as the bread to go with it.

One big problem:  these were a lot of work to make, because they had so many components, and almost all the components had to be cooked before assembly.  I’ll be looking to see if I can simplify it.  But they’re definitely worth making, especially if you have some leftover cooked lentils or mashed potato in your refrigerator.

Want to make your own?  Here’s the recipe.

 

Veggie Burger #3: Lentil-Walnut Burgers

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Lentil Walnut Burger with a side of green beans.

So far, my entries in the Veggie Burger Quest have been gussied up pancakes.  This time I decided to go with something that actually had “burger” in its name.  I found this vegan recipe in my elderly copy of Moosewood Cookbook, copyright 1977. It stars lentil, walnuts, and mushrooms, and makes a rich and savory burger.

Mollie Katzen had her priorities right when she created her classic Moosewood Cookbook.  Sometimes the recipes don’t work perfectly, and sometimes they aren’t the healthiest, but they always taste delicious.  I hear that the recent editions have cut back on the cheese, so are better for you.  I’m sticking with the old edition, cheese and all.  I learned to cook using this book – every time I open it I feel nostalgic.

So I got to work on Lentil Walnut Burgers.  I’ve made this before, but it was long ago, and my memories were fuzzy.  As I started on a massive chopping job, it all came back to me.  Finely minced onion, minced mushrooms, finely minced walnuts, minced celery.

As I minced and then minced some more, I had two regrets:  one, that I had committed to making a double batch, and two, that I still haven’t sprung for a food processor.  Still, my knife skills improved, and I got some endurance training, so it all worked out.

I also had to cook and mash a bunch of lentils, and that’s where I ran into trouble.  I don’t like mushy lentils, and followed my usual practice of cooking them until soft but still intact.  I soon discovered that it is not pleasant trying to mash piping hot beans.  I once again bewailed my lack of a food processor and pulled out a mortar and pestle.  I got them pretty well mashed, but left a lot semi-intact. I figured it would make the texture more interesting.  Plus, my arms were tired after all the mincing.

Once I had all of the ingredients together and semi-chilled, I formed the patties.  They were loose but held together  — until I tried to cook them.  Once they hit the skillet they instantly starting falling apart, and I was soon cooking up hash, not burgers.

I scooped them back into the bowl and added an egg to act as a binder.  Sorry, vegans.  It was that or cheese.  The burgers held together a lot better then, although they were still on the fragile side.

We ate them in buns with traditional burger toppings, and they were delicious – moist and savory, the mushrooms and walnuts making them rich and filled with umami.  I froze the extra uncooked burgers, and Grant cooked up some late that night.  He reports that they froze well, but he didn’t bother with burgers.  He just microwaved them and spread them on toast – and that they were even better that way.

Veggie Burger Verdict:  Absolutely delicious, moist and savory in a proper burgery way, and they have the density I want as well.   They work well on buns and would be a good choice for vegetarians at a cookout.  Their lack of structural integrity is a big problem though – they didn’t hold up in my cast iron frying pan; they’d never survive a grill.  I suspect that if I had cooked the lentils a little longer and mashed them completely into paste, the burgers would have been sturdier.  Another good reason to get a food processor!