Do you remember your first restaurant burger?
Was it thick and juicy? A grainy grey disc? Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun? (Remember that TV ad?).
My first was a grainy grey disc at Gino’s, a chain founded in 1957 by three Baltimore Colts (rant alert: I will never forgive the Colts for moving to Indianapolis, nor do I consider the Ravens my home team). Though I could not have been more than four or five years old, I felt strongly that a Gino’s burger was far superior to McDonald’s.
I still crave burgers — but not the meat. Which makes me oh so grateful to be living in the Golden Age of Veggie Burgers. (It is also the Golden Age of Fake Meat Burgers, which I’m glad exist, but won’t eat).
Shake Shack, Burger King, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s offer non-meat burgers. At lunchtime, hipsters across the world (!) line up at plant-based chains like Slutty Vegan, Hart House, Hip City Veg, PLNT Burger, and Vegan Junk Food.
This is all good. But not good enough. Because I can make better, healthier burgers at home. And so can you. To quote one of my favorite, non-vegan chefs, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, “Good vegan burgers don’t have to suck.” Here are a few, non-sucky, yummy burger recipes to get you started:
ATOP A SALAD, OR BETWEEN A BUN
Each of these burgers is good enough to stand alone, atop a salad (my favorite lunch), or as a crowd-pleasing, between-a-bun-special sauce-lettuce-tomato-onion-avocado-sweet pickle-fries-on-the-side treat.
Bonus Tip. If you tire of leftover veggie burgers, put them in touch with their Latin roots: Crumble the burgers, pan fry, scoop the mixture into a warm tortilla, top with salsa, lettuce, avocado, etc. Voila! Turn on a sun lamp, and you’ll swear you’re lunching in Tulum.
Black Bean burger: Quick and simple. Ketchup as an ingredient was a revelation to me. It adds a tinge of sweetness, and its moistness keeps the burger from falling apart.
Smoky Black Bean & Tempeh Burger: Look for tempeh next to the tofu in the supermarket. It’s a soy product, even less processed than tofu, high-protein, and when crumbled resembles ground meat. This recipe calls for a bit of almond flour, but any flour will do. Small amounts of maple syrup, liquid smoke, and peanut/almond butter make this burger sing. Next time you’re invited to a BBQ, tell the host, “I’ll bring the burgers.” The guests will thank you.
Mushroom Burger: Brown rice, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. Enough said.
Chickpea Cauliflower Old Bay Burgers: Stock up on a vitamin-rich cruciferous vegetable and enjoy the smoky, summertime taste of Old Bay seasoning, all in one burger. (Once you have Old Bay in your pantry, these crab cakes become a must). This recipe also includes a special sauce.
Falafel Burger: Simple. Simple. Simple. Chickpeas, beets, couscous, spices, and you’re transported to the Middle East – without springing for a pricey airplane ticket.
Quarter-pounder Burger: Leave it to food genius Isa Moskowitz to figure out how to make a plant-based burger that looks like a Quarter-Pounder, is chock-full of veggies, and tastes better than meat. Really.
Sweet Potato Chipotle Burger: Do you love sweet potatoes but never know what to do with them beyond baking? Mush them up, add quinoa, black beans, chipotle peppers, a few spices, and turn them into your new favorite veggie burger.
Extra Credit Superiority Burger: As one of the first vegan burger joints in NYC, Superiority Burger earned a cult-like following. I’ve never been to the restaurant, but I did make the burgers. They take commitment, but you’ll be mightily rewarded for hanging in there. A good rainy Sunday afternoon project.
Do you live in the Boston area and want to try a fabulous veggie burger without the hassle of making your own? You’re in luck. A new to-go veggie burger store just opened in Newton. Check it out.