Best Vegan Burgers 101 (Ultimate Veggie Burger Guide)

My thoughts

These vegan burgers are awesome! I know this because I have tried them all personally. They were not a one-and-done situation either. It took some time to tweak recipes to make them delicious, and I learned a lot of information on the way. Now I feel i have the experience and the backing to give you guys the ultimate veggie burger guide!

If you haven’t already, go over and check out my seasonal food guide! I have it broken down by the month, and its perfect to find the best quality toppings for your veggie burger!

History of the Vegan Burger

The vegan burger, or veggie burger, has a noticeably short history. This is because until very recently (recently in the grand scheme of recipes) eating meat alternatives was considered weird or “not right”. Well look at us now! Millions of people in the united states alone are on plant-based diets and the number is growing. It is surely a lot easier to eat plant based now than it was 20 years ago.

The history of the vegan burger takes us to London, England in the 1960s. It was there when a teenager, Gregory Sams, opened a small basement restaurant called SEED. SEED was a restaurant that featured natural and organic foods under the macrobiotic diet. This restaurant was a quick success in the “hippie” community” and quickly shed light on an untapped niche in his environment. An organic foods store and even a magazine came from the success of this niche.

The immaculate conception occurred in 1982, when Gregory Sams made the Vegeburger. Unfortunately, no bank nor investor would touch the idea of a meatless Vegan burger. Motivated, Sams still decided to move forward as a solo product. The official “Vegeburger” consisted of four main ingredients wheat gluten, soy, oats, and sesame. Shortly after the recipe picked up additional flavorings like: Tomatoes, onions, and herbs.

Nothing could have gone better for this young entrepreneur. Working out of his spare bedroom, his Vegeburger was an overnight success! Since all the logistical parts of the business were handled elsewhere, Gregory placed all his focus on marketing and advertising. During this time, it was Gregory’s analytics from this product that provided the only statistics on vegetarian numbers and growth.

These patties were only the beginning for the veggie burger. In 1985, Paul Wenner founded Wholesome and Hearty Foods who are responsiblefor the Gardenburger. Then in 1993 Boca Burger was released by Sun Foods. These companies started a landslide of a plant-based frenzy across the world. Big names in the food industry like Publix, Burger King, Green Giant, Subway, and others began selling these vegan products or their own. These generated millions of dollars and illuminated the immensity of the plant-based community, and the numbers continue to grow.

In the world of today, the veggie burger is more prevalent than ever. Companies like Impossible, Beyond, Morningstar Farms dominate the vegan burger market, brandishing investors like Bill Gates and Google Ventures! Now restaurants whose entire concepts are based upon meat, are offering plant-based selections on their menus.

Vegan Burger

What Are Vegan Burgers Made of?

Vegan burgers are made of a wide variety of ingredients such as:  grains, beans, tofu, nuts, seeds, or even mushrooms. The ingredients do not stop there though, you can make vegan burgers out of almost anything! I am going to hit the basics. Once you get the general idea creating specialized burgers will be a thing of ease!

Legumes

Black Beans

Black beans are a common base for the vegan burger for multiple reasons. First off, they are noticeably healthy for you. Their texture provides a “perfect storm” of starchiness you are looking for a meat-less patty and have a low-fat content.

Black Beans

Black beans are no strangers to vital nutrients as well. These legumes contain good amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, antioxidants, and fiber. Not only are these nutrients required in a day-to-day diet, but they also provide back-end health benefits. Long story short, black beans can reduce the risk for certain disease and may also help your body process calories more efficiently.

Lentils

Lentils are a common ingredient in the vegan burger world as well and rightfully so. Like the black beans, lentils fall into the legume family. These tasty little vegetables are packed with protein and fiber and have a low-fat content. Lentils easily take on the flavor of what they are cooked with, so it makes sense they are found in a wide variety of plant-based burgers.

Although lentils are a prime candidate for veggan burgers, there is a catch. You will typically see lentils paired with another bean in a vegan burger recipe. You can make a vegan burger patty with just lentils, but you may find they are lacking a certain sustenance.

Others

Garbanzo beans (chickpeas), peanuts, or soy beans could also be used in the creation of your homemade veggie burgers.

Vegetables

Vegetables are an obvious stapple in the veggie burger. We could go on and on forever about the possibilities. To keep it short and sweet, I will highlight the mains.

Onions/Garlic

Onions and garlic are a staple in almost everything. It is no surprise to see these vegetables in veggie patties as well, right? The reason these are crucial is because veggie burgers are screaming for flavor. They need some extra love to be something special. I think most chefs ever will agree that onions and garlic are a good start to developing flavor.

Peppers

Peppers are a great way to develop a secondary step of flavor in your plant-based burgers. They also provide a range of nutrients and vitamins that your body needs to function. If you are not a fan of spice, then you can always use peppers of the bell variety that do not contain high levels of capsaicin.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are, in my opinion, are the best vegetable to put in vegan burgers. They provide the “umami” flavor that your just do not get in other foods.  Using mushrooms in a black bean burger can be tricky due to their water content. If you want to utilize mushrooms in your burger farce, then you will need to cook them thoroughly.

Mushrooms

Grains

Grains such as quinoa, brown rice, or wild rice are popular in vegan  burgers. These ingredients are used as additions to the vegan burgers most of the time, but sometimes are used as replacements for the legumes above.  If you ask me, brown rice offers the best nutritional value for the sustenance package when it comes to plant-based patties.

Tofu

Not a super common ingredient but you will see tofu from time to time. Typically, tofu is used as a binder in these recipes. This helps with holding the vegan burger together during the cooking process without having to use the chicken egg.

Nuts

If you are not a huge fan of beans, then you can always incorporate nuts. Nuts have a solid protein and healthy fat content. Both of which promote healthy digestion and metabolism wellness. You will also receive some decent flavor and texture with the addition of nuts.

How to Make Vegan Burger Patties?

Making vegan burgers are a relatively easy process. Which is good for people that are on the go or tying to enjoy themselves at a party or gathering. With I am going to give you the generalized method of production.

First thing first, you will need to gather all your ingredients you will be using in your vegan burgers. Once everything is in its place, then it is time to cook your components of the burger. Everything is typically cooked in a vegan burger before being processed into patties. This will eliminate excess moisture that could ruin your patties.

Vegan Burger Patties

The second pat is the easiest one! Once you have your cooked ingredients measured out for your recipe’s specifications, you just need to process them together. You can either use a food processor of you can chop the ingredients by hand. I recommend using a food processor because chopping by hand will be extremely time consuming.

After the processing stage, we are left with a vegan “force meat” of sorts. If the recipe calls for it or you are wanting to try something new; now would be a good time you add some textural elements.

Vegan Burger Patties

The final step of the process is shaping the vegan burger patties to your liking. It all depends on how you are going to use them! Let us say you had a 4-inch bun, you would want to make your veggie burgers slightly larger than that. By doing so, you allow for a little bit of shrinkage during the cooking process and its also just how burger should be.

Vegan Burger Patty Formula

Vegan Burger Patties

All vegan burger recipes are different when it comes to the ingredients they contain and other minor differences throughout. For the most part all veggie burgers are unique since you will never have the exact measurements every time or your vegetables with always have conflicting levels of moisture content. With that being said, here is a sure-fire formula to make sure your vegan burger patties are off to a successful start!

½ Cup Base Flavor

-The base flavor I am referring to are ingredients in the allium family. These are essentially the basis of all flavor in the grand scheme of things. Thesealliums can include: Onions, Garlic, Scallions, Spring Onions, Shallot, Leek etc. Every vegan/veggie burger should have at least one of these ingredients.

2 Cups Vegetables

The vegetables are what make your vegan burgers unique! You can pretty much use any vegetable you want. When picking out the vegetables you want to incorporate into your veggie burger recipe there are few things to consider. You will want to consider the moisture content, what you are using the burger for (will those veggies go well with your result?), and how will you prepare said vegetables. For example, if you want to use carrots in your veggie burger, how will you cut them? Cook them? To make the best product possible, you will need to think it through.

1 Cup Binding Agent

Do not be afraid of the term “binding agent” This is simply a fancy term for the stuff that holds the patty together. We have plenty of options when assessing what works best for us. Common choices are cooked grains such as quinoa or brown rice. They have the capacity to hold the patty while being cooked and offer a lot of health benefits. Other options include ingredients such as: Rolled oats, breadcrumbs, or even gluten free alternatives (corn meal, almond flour, chickpea flour).

Looking for some more advanced flavors in your vegan burger? Try using white miso, avocado, or even ground potato chips!

1 ½ Cup Legumes, Cooked

Legumes are a staple in the vegan burger formula for their health benefits, starchiness, cost effectiveness, and ease of acquiring. Black beans are probably the most common choice of the legume family. Pinto beans, garbanzo beans, and kidney beans all work particularly well also. When choosing your bean, you need to take into consideration the method of preparation. Are the beans canned or are you cooking your own? Canned beans tend to be over cooked or undercooked, keep this in mind when making your veggie burger patties.

¼ Cups Sauce

Choose any sauce you want to add some flavor to your vegan burger recipe!I’ve used ketchup, teriyaki, salsa, and even buffalo sauce before and I loved each one. The possibilities are endless, and you can choose multiple sauces. You don’t have to stick with just one!

3 TBSP Spice

Spice is so important when it comes to veggie burgers. Most, if not all, ingredients in a vegan burger require a good bit of salt and spice to taste good regularly. So, combining them together makes the need for spice imperative. Choose spices like: cumin, coriander, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, etc. You can even get a little crazy and pick from the novelty spices i.e., lemon pepper, Cajun, or even voodoo spice.

½ Cup Textural Element

This is completely optional. If you want to add a bit of crunch or just any texture at all that is totally normal. Common textural elements range from chopped walnuts to pumpkin seeds. Its all about what you like.

2 TBSP Olive Oil

You will need olive oil to cook your veggies before processing them. You will also need olive oil to sauté or grill the veggie patties.

Vegan Burgers Tricks and Tips

Ingredients

Utilize ingredients that would other wise not be used. You can also utilize leftovers for your vegan burger patties, that way you can reduce waste. Since you are processing the veggie burgers, you will not need the best ingredients to shine through. A lot of the flavor comes from the spice and sauce elements.

Beans

There are a few things about the beans that will help you greatly in making vegan burgers. More importantly, the success of your vegan burgers.

First, are you going to be using canned or fresh beans?For several reasons, I like to cook my own beans. I try to avoid unnecessary sodium and processed foods. Just because I LIKE to cook my own beans, that does not mean I do every time though.  If you want to use canned beans, there is nothing wrong with that.

Second, removing any excess liquid from the beans is imperative. Too much moisture will turn your veggie burger to ground veggies quickly under heat. Be sure to rinse your beans well and dry thoroughly. You can use a paper towel or cloth, but the best way is to dry them off in an oven at 300 – 350 F.

Wet Hands

Mushrooms

If using mushrooms in your veggie burger, which I highly recommend, try roasting them in the oven! Get a nice hard roast on your mushrooms so add some real depth of flavor. This will also allow the mushrooms to release their liquid prior to being incorporated into the veggie burgers.

Processing

Using a food processor is the best way to efficiently make an even and well combined farce. Its important you use the right setting and blend in stages though to get your texture right.

Primarily, you want to use the pulse function of your food processor. This will help with not over blending any of the ingredients in any of the stages.

Start by blending all the ingredients except your beans and textural elements. Once you have a paste like mixture then add your beans to the mix. We do it like this because of the control you have over the texture of the beans. By adding them last, you will be able to keep them chunky or blend them smooth if you wish.

Use wet hand when forming the patties! This will make handling the vegan burgers a lot easier and less messy.

Patties

Forming the patties is an extremely easy process, but a lot of people tend to make it hard without trying to. Start of by portioning the veggie burgers so they will all be the same size. I recommend using an ice cream scoop to evenly portion each veggie burger.

Next, be careful not to work the patties to much. This is called overworking. This can occur when you are forming the patties and keep compressing the shape too much. This especially happens when the farce or Vegan “forcemeat” contains gluten.

Once you have formed the patties to your liking, there is one last trick to ensure an even cooking process. With three fingers, press down slightly on the top of the patty forming an indention in the top. This will stop any bubbling from occurring during the cooking process.

Smoke

Smoke really helps your vegan burger become a “meaty” burger. You can obtain a bit of smoke a bunch of different ways now days. You can use spices like smoked paprika or ancho chile powder. You can also use chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Liquid smoke is always an option as well but be careful not to overpower your patties.

Cooking

If you are looking to grill,you are your veggie patties then that is totally fine! You just need to take a couple precautions first. Most of the time, vegan burgers are lacking in fat. Knowing this, it is especially important you brush your veggie patties with cooking oil before grilling. It is also wise to clean your grill grates of any excess debris that will grab a hold of your veggie burgers and break them.

If you do not want to light up the grill, you can always bake them off.Baking your veggie burger is a low-fat alternative that requires the least amount of agitation. This will reduce your chances of getting a crumbly veggie burger.

Equipment Needed

1 food processor or fork

2 mixing bowls

1 sheet tray

1 large ice cream scoop (optional)

Parchment paper

Ultimate Veggie Burger Guide FAQs

  1. How do you store veggie burgers?

Storing vegan burgers can differ from recipe to recipe depending on consistency. If the vegan burgers are not cooked, then you need to patty them out and layer them in between parchment paper so they do not stick.  They will last in the fridge for 3-4 days.

If the burgers are cooked, then store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

  1. Can you freeze veggie burgers?

Absolutely, freezing veggie burgers is actually a great way to get longevity out of them.  Simply store them layered between parchment paper in an airtight container or plastic bag.

  1. Are veggie burgers healthy?

For the most part I am going to say, yes, they are. I cannot speak for all veggie burgers because I simply do not know all of them. I can say the veggie burgers I will be posting about will be!

  1. What is the best way to cook a veggie burger?

I like to grill veggie burgers especially black bean based vegan burgers. It depends on how much you like char,I guess. I will say that I do not really care for pan searing vegan burgers. I find that you must use too much fat and they still can become crumbly.

  1. Why are there beets in some veggie burger?

You see beets in veggie burgers from time to time for a couple different reasons.  They add an earthy depth of flavor like meat that you do not find in other foods. There is also a visual aesthetic to consider. The bright red color from the beats mimic the color of beef, for some people that’s important, I guess.

Sources

Sams, Gregory. “Gregory’s Story.” Gregorys Story – Full and Fun, 2009, www.gregorysams.com/gregs-story.html.

Stearns, Alia. “VegeBurger To Impossible: A Quick History Of Plants Imitating Beef.” UPROXX, UPROXX, 19 Mar. 2019, uproxx.com/life/evolution-of-veggie-burger/.

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