I love a good veggie burger. I love a good hamburger too, but veggie burgers are so much fun because you can pack so much flavor into them. Plus, the directions you can go seem endless! Even where to start with the base can be a hard choice -- black bean, lentil, chickpea...you name it! Then what sort of cuisine? Tex-mex, Indian, Moroccan, Mediterranean...again, you name it! I haven't even started on what toppings you can add. Finally, homemade buns make them that much more tasty.
The biggest complaint I hear about veggie burgers is their mushiness. Honestly, that's not on my radar much. Besides, these are saved from that by the carrots which hold their shape. Generally my approach is not to compare veggie burgers to the real deal. Just let them be their own special meal. They're good enough to merit it! The bigger complaint, I'd say, is their falling apart. Even that, while frustrating, is often very forgivable in my eyes due to the flavor punch they deliver.
The funny thing is, whenever I'm asked for a veggie burger recipe by family or friends, I find myself saying: "Well, I used this recipe, but substituted x, y, and z. Oh, and a, b, and c too." Where I love veggie burgers, there are few recipes that I won't tweak, sometimes minimally, other times, quite drastically. I really ought to come up with a basic formula, variable for different bases and spices. A project for the future! For now, I'd like to share my favorite veggie burger so far. It comes from the New York Times and I've made it often enough to get around NYT's minimum guest visit restriction.* These veggie burgers are chock full of flavor and never underwhelm my expectations. They reliably hold their shape. (Except the night I took the photo for this post, ironically. I was tripling the recipe, and thinking it over, I left out an egg. I think that must be the explanation.) Seriously, these veggie burgers are just so dang tasty, they've had me savoring their blend of flavors well after dinner is over.
I'll admit right now, I often do tweak the recipe. But hardly at all compared to other recipes I've made! I'll give the original, as well as the different substitutes I've done.
Thai Veggie Burgers
Makes about 4 servings.
3 tablespoons olive oil (Other oils would work. Coconut would fit in nicely with the Thai flavors.)
1 bunch scallions, including 1 inch of the dark green part, thinly sliced (I've used garlic scapes, leeks, or plain old onions if no scallions were on hand.)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 2inch piece fresh ginger, grated (I love fresh ginger, and there's nothing quite like it, but I've used 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground ginger when there's been none on hand. Just make sure to add it with the other spices.)
1 serrano chili pepper, finely chopped (I've used whatever hot peppers we've had and usually just a small portion of it, as we're not heat lovers. A sweet pepper would work too.)
4 cups grated carrots (about 8 medium)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander (I've been out of this and have used garam marsala or cumin or part cumin & part oregano.)
¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 egg whites (I almost never use just the whites, unless I already have some on hand. A whole egg seems just fine.)
2 tablespoons natural, unsweetened peanut butter
Juice of ½ lime (I've used lemon juice in a pinch.)
¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro (I've used fresh parsley or basil. Thai basil has been my favorite, and it seems fitting! Omitting altogether wouldn't affect the texture, but you loose some flavor.)
½ cup toasted bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 375. In a large skillet with a lid or dutch oven, heat 1 tbs oil over medium heat. When hot, add scallions and cook until soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, fresh ginger, and pepper and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add carrots, salt, coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon and stir to combine. Cover and cook 6-8 minutes, or until the carrots are soft and tender but not mushy.
In a large bowl, mix together egg whites (or egg), peanut butter, and lime juice. Stir in carrots and the cilantro. Add bread crumbs and stir. Let sit for 10 minutes so that the bread crumbs can absorb the excess moisture. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.* Shape into four patties.*
Heat remaining 2 tbs of oil in a skillet. When hot, add patties to the pan and cook 2-3 minutes on each side or until nicely crisp and browned. Transfer to a pan (or use the skillet if it's oven safe) and cook for 10-15 minutes, until burgers are firm and cooked through.
Serve on your favorite homemade buns (like these) with toppings of your choice.* Enjoy!
How to bypass NYT's restriction? If you really love a recipe, press the print icon but then choose to save it as a PDF. You'll have to use one of your allotted visits for that month, but won't have to use another one for that specific recipe ever again. Hurrah!
If you're worried about raw eggs, I'm pretty sure the heat of the carrots will cook them. But, if you're still concerned, just take a small spoonful and fry it up on a skillet.
This makes four thick patties. I often prefer to make thinner patties which tend to keep their shape more. In which case, you can get closer to 6 patties.
Some suggestions: avocado, microgreens, bread & butter pickles, cheese, lightly dressed greens, cabbage tossed with vinegar, spiced/herbed sour cream, or a fried egg.
Adapted from this recipe. (Click if you're okay with loosing one of your allotted NYT visits!)