I finally have found a great homemade veggie burger. For me, this means a burger with satisfying texture as well as pleasing flavor. Most of the ones I have prepared, whether their base is beans, grains, or soy, taste good. Texture is the problem: They turn out either as soft as comfort food, with nothing to chew on, dry as a hockey puck, or so chunky that they fall apart in the pan.
This beet, lentil and rice veggie burger does it for me because it comes out crisp and crusty outside, with a slightly smoky flavor that tastes grilled even though they are pan-cooked. The inside stays moist and flavors unroll as you enjoy its nubbly texture.
I discovered the recipe for this burger in The New Persian Kitchen, by Louisa Shafia, a cookbook full of deliciously bold, vegetable-rich dishes. Her recipe is innovative both in preparation and in how you cook this burger.
First, Shafia uses plump, short-grain brown rice. You know the white kind because it is used for sushi. More starchy than long-grain rices like basmati and jasmine, here the stickiness from its starch helps hold these burgers together. Shafia whirls the cooked rice with egg white to make a pulpy purée that brings out the starch even more. The rice combined with the protein in the egg white, plus walnuts in the mixture, give the burgers their chewy “bite.”
In cooking, Shafia uses heat in two ways. She cooks these burgers both covered to get them firm and keep them moist. She also cooks them uncovered, which gives them a good crisp crust.
In my experience, making veggie burgers from scratch is time consuming and messy, but here I truly think it is worthwhile. My version tweaks Shafia’s recipe by omitting raisins and reducing the amount of oil used. Served on a plate, perhaps topped with, or accompanied by, chopped tomato, cucumber, a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of fresh dill, these veggie burgers are extraordinary.
Beet and Walnut Veggie Burger
- 4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup shredded raw red beets
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 tsp. sweet paprika
- 1/4 cup cooked lentils
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ cup cooked short-grain brown rice
- 1 large egg white
In skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until lightly browned, 8 minutes. Add beets, walnuts and garlic and cook, stirring constantly to avoid sticking, for 6 minutes. Mix in paprika. Transfer contents of skillet to food processor and pulse 25-30 times, until finely chopped but still nubbly. Scoop cooked beet mixture into mixing bowl and add lentils. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Without wiping out food processor, add rice and egg white. Whirl until a pulpy purée 45-60 seconds. Add rice mixture to beet mixture. Using wooden spoon, mix to combine well. With moist hands, form mixture into four 1-inch-thick patties.
In clean skillet, heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Add burgers and cook until crusty on bottom, 3-4 minutes, reducing heat to medium, if necessary. Using wide spatula, carefully turn burgers and cook, covered, for 4 minutes. Uncover, and cook until burgers are very crusty on bottom, 3 minutes. Turn burgers and cook until top is re-crisped, 2 minutes. Serve immediately on plate, accompanied, if desired, by reduced-fat Greek yogurt, fresh dill, chopped tomato and cucumber.
Makes 4 burgers.
Per serving: 229 calories, 12 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 26 g carbohydrate, 6 g protein, 4 g dietary fiber, 46 mg sodium.
Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.