Cooking out on the grill is an American summer past time, and as we approach sunnier days and warmer temperatures, grilling becomes part of the diet. Part of the reason for its popularity is surely due to the large amounts of meat consumed! For those of us who are following a plant-based diet or are simply minimizing their intake of animal proteins, how can we feel included in the cooking out without feeling singled out by munching on veggie kebabs?
By making our own veggie-burgers, of course!
Sure, we can go to the store and purchase fake meat patties, but those tend to be highly processed (another thing we try to avoid!). Vegetarian and vegan cooking can feel like flying by the seat of our pants when we first try it, especially when it comes to making veggie burgers or even veggie ”meat” loaf. In reality, the prep and construction of a delicious veggie pattie is not all that different than making homemade beef burgers.
What, then, are the key components to always having the perfect veggie burger?
Texture. Mouth-feel is very important to creating a veggie loaf that leaves no crumb left behind. Texture is an integral part of making a veggie burger that leaves a conventional one in the back of our minds. Try adding crushed nuts, oats, quinoa, and even cereals like crisped rice or corn flakes! The nuts and oats make a great combination; add a generous amount to the mix to create the right amount of light crunch in the finished product – just like Mom used to make!
Binding agent. Applesauce tends to be a beginner’s failsafe...except that it’s better for baking. A more nutritious alternative would be the “flax egg.” Adding one tablespoon finely ground flaxseed meal to three tablespoons water, allowing the mixture to set for at least five minutes, results in a fabulously gelatinous mixture that works superbly as a nutrient-rich binding agent for just about anything, from loaves and burgers to pancakes. Of course, a flax egg is not the only option: just about any boxed egg replacer works as well – simply be sure to follow the directions precisely to get the right consistency. Another option is shredded vegan cheese or vegan parmesan, and a bit of flour; a gluten-free pie crust flour works very well!
Flavor. Beans, lentils and quinoa are great protein sources, but in reality, they need a little help in the flavor department. Cooking them down in low-sodium vegetable or mushroom broth instead of water is an excellent way to provide a solid foundation of flavor in any loaf or burger. There’s also more to seasoning than salt and pepper: cumin, turmeric, chili powder, garlic powder and onion powder are also some classic loaf and burger spices. However, the secret ingredient for capturing the flavor of a classic burger is smoked paprika. Adding generous amounts makes for an unbelievably sumptuous taste that lingers and always has folks reaching for more. A bit of maple syrup adds sweetness and even more depth, and – if you’re feeling particularly adventurous – balsamic vinegar really will have everyone getting a kick out of your creation.
In beginner vegan cooking, vegetable burgers make for some great fun with experimentation. There’s little guesswork when you keep in mind these three essentials; what is used as a foundation (beans or lentils) and spices is entirely up to you! Loaves and burgers also are perfect for involving the whole family, from letting the big kids cut veggies or work the food processor, to allowing little ones mash the ingredients in a bowl and/or rolling the mix into balls for burger patties. Everyone can get together, and get grilling!