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.

 

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Veggie Burgers don’t like Buns

So far in the veggie burger quest, every single burger has been better without a bun.  And when I look at veggie burger recipes, it is clear that this is no coincidence.

Veggie burgers don’t like buns.

Observe a typical hamburger:

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The bun is clearly important here.  You need something to catch all the juice and fat, and the dense bread gives a contrast to all the juicy meat.

 

Now observe a veggie burger I found in clip art:

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It looks great, doesn’t it? Especially with all the lettuce and radishes. That’s clearly a very sturdy patty.  But it is difficult to make a veggie burger as juicy and tender as a hamburger – it will fall apart every time.  To stay together, it has to be much drier than the hamburger, and much denser.  If you take a bite with the bun, it will just be a mouthful of two dense, dry carbohydrate filled foods.  Your veggie burger will taste much better if you hand that bun to your carnivorous buddy and use some of the lettuce as a wrap.  Or just eat it on its own, with veggies and condiments piled on top.

Another great option is a pita pocket.  Then you can shove in all the toppings you want, and have something you can hold while looking for a place to sit at the cookout.  The pita is thin enough to not overwhelm most veggie burgers.  Here’s one I had last night:

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I got overexcited and smashed my burger up a bit while loading in the lettuce, but you get the idea.  And that’s another nice thing about pita – it will keep your veggie burger all together, even if it is a bit fragile.  That means you can load in more delicious flavor when creating your burger recipe, instead of focusing so much on it holding together.

By the way, I made these whole wheat pita myself.  It was a lot of fun trying to get them to puff up.  Some did, some didn’t, but they all tasted great.  There are tons of good recipes out there, and if you are a novice bread maker, these simple flat breads are a good place to start.

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