Veggie burgers can be a splitting food: some people love them, some people hate them. Those that do not like them may have had bad experiences with trying veggie burgers. Veggie burgers can sometimes be rubbery, mushy, tasteless or simply unappealing. (Especially the commercially made, frozen, hockey-puck-like burgers…)
Veggie burgers do not have to be any of these things: rubbery, mushy or tasteless. They can be made easily with ingredients that are often in a pantry and offer a flavorful, healthy option for a plant-based burger.
Follow these veggie burger tips and an easy recipe to make a homemade veggie burger everyone will love, carnivores included!
Are Veggie Burgers Healthy?
Veggie burgers are a go-to hearty burger alternative for those following a plant-based diet. Plant-based diets can mean different things, but the common ground of all types of plant-based diets is increasing consumption of whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts/seeds, and whole grains.
Studies have shown following a vegetarian diet is associated with lower body mass and risk for certain chronic diseases. These benefits are from the high intake of plant foods that are naturally higher in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and lower in calories.
When following a vegetarian diet, plant-based foods, like veggie burgers, replace animal-based foods like hamburgers. Veggie burgers are usually higher in fiber and lower in total calories and fat compared to hamburgers. They may also provide other nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
As with any food, determining if veggie burgers are healthy means taking a closer look at the ingredients. Not all veggie burgers are made the same. Healthy veggie burgers are made with legumes, vegetables, and possibly nuts or whole grains. However, some commercially made veggie burgers are made with highly processed food parts and contain questionable ingredients.
Protein content can also vary with veggie burgers. So, keep in mind if using veggie burgers as a protein source, check the ingredients. They should be made mainly from legumes or soy to provide a decent amount of protein.
How to Make Veggie Burgers
What makes a good veggie burger? As with any great recipe, using the right ingredients for taste and texture is key. To get a somewhat meaty consistency and delicious taste, it is important to use a base of beans, spices, and of course veggies. The following tips will help guide how to make the perfect veggie burger.
Tip #1: Do not over mix the beans.
The key to avoiding a mushy veggie burger is to pulse beans and other ingredients in a blender or food processor to mix ingredients and mash the beans slightly. This can also be done with a fork if you do not have a blender. However, they should not be pulverized or over blended. This will result in a mushy veggie burger.
Tip #2: Use the right spice blend.
The best spices for a veggie burger can depend on a person's palate and heat preference. Most recipes will have some amount of cumin, salt, pepper, and a dash of heat with chili powder or hot sauce. Paprika, garlic, or onion powder can also be tasty spice additions for veggie burgers. However, any desired spices can be used.
Tip #3: Add in a binding agent.
While beans are the main focus of homemade veggie burgers, they usually also have some sort of binding agent to keep the burgers together. This could include things like eggs, flax egg replacer, bread crumbs, oats, or flour.
Tip #4: Balance texture.
Texture is important for making veggie burgers palatable. Adding in texture contrast to the beans from ingredients such as sauteed vegetables, nuts or cooked grains can help balance out a veggie burger.
Bonus: These ingredients also make veggie burgers shine nutritionally! Arguably, veggie burgers should contain at least SOME vegetables as well as other whole plant foods like beans, nuts, or whole grains. One pitfall of fake meat burgers is they are really just over-processed food parts instead of whole, unprocessed plant foods.
Tip #5: Use the right cooking method.
Follow the instructions for cooking a veggie burger. This will help ensure they do not fall apart while getting a nice "sear" on the outside like a real burger. Some veggie burgers do best pan-frying while others can be grilled.
Best Veggie Burger Recipe
This colorful veggie burger recipe delivers in flavor and provides the ingredients you would expect from a healthy veggie burger by being bean and vegetable-based.
Some veggie burgers use black beans as a base, but this recipe uses chickpeas. Chickpeas may be more appealing to those who have not loved veggie burgers in the past.
Yield: 8 servings
Nutrition per serving: 272 calories, 7 g (grams) fat, 13 g protein, 41 g carbohydrate, 11 g fiber
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
• 1, 15-oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and dried
• 1 carrot, peeled and grated
• 1/2 red onion, diced
• 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1 large egg**
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp paprika
• 1 Tbsp hot sauce (or to taste)
• 1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs (parsley, basil, dill, etc.)
• Salt & pepper
• 1/2 cup bread crumbs
• Olive or avocado oil for cooking
1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, pour into a large bowl, and gently pat with a paper towel to remove excess water. Either mash chickpeas with a fork in the bowl or transfer to a blender/food processor. Pulse until beans are about 3/4 mashed then add back in the bowl.
2. Heat a pan with 1 tbsp olive oil and saute onion, pepper, garlic, and carrot until soft and onion are translucent. Transfer vegetables and the egg to a blender or food processor and blend until mostly pureed.
3. Combine this with mashed chickpeas, spices, and breadcrumbs. Stir to combine until slightly moldable for burger-like patties. If the mixture is not holding together, add a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs until more solidified.
4. Heat 1 to 2 tbsp of oil in a frying pan and divide the burger mixture into 8 patties. Fry in batches for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until golden, then drain on kitchen paper.
5. Serve with desired toppings with or without buns. Delicious pairing ideas include healthy sweet potato fries, cheesy quinoa, corn and zucchini fritters, and sesame roasted carrots.
**To make vegan, use in place of an egg 1 Tbsp ground flax seed and 3 Tbsp warm water. Let sit until it gels then add to the blender with the cooked vegetables.
Homemade veggie burgers can serve as a flavorful, plant-based, higher fiber, lower-fat alternative to traditional hamburgers. They appeal for various reasons to vegetarians and carnivores alike.
However, not all veggie burgers are created equal. Some commercially made veggie burgers can be highly processed and surprisingly low on whole, unprocessed plant foods. This can translate to veggie burgers that are mushy, rubbery, or tasteless.
Luckily, making veggie burgers is fairly easy to do at home with pantry staples. Homemade veggie burger recipes can vary slightly on ingredients, but there are some common themes to make veggie burgers delicious and appealing.
Beans are the base ingredient and should not be over-mixed. Other ingredients serve as binding agents, add flavor and texture. Finally, veggie burgers should be cooked with light pan-frying, baking, or grilling, depending on the recipe.