I few weeks ago, I tweeted that I’d just eaten a veggie burger and, as usual, had somehow expected it to taste better. I got a ton of responses from foodies and health nuts alike saying that they, too, found veggie patties to be bland and unsatisfying.
Not two days later, I received an email from Lukas Volger, a Brooklyn-based cook and author of the new book Veggie Burgers Every Which Way. Veggie burgers can be delicious, he argued–if you know how to make them.
Intrigued, I asked Lukas (who, for the record, isn’t a vegetarian) to explain and to share a better burger recipe. Here are the mouth-watering results:
What sparked your interest in veggie burgers?
I ate a lot of them in college: the frozen ones from the supermarket and the late-night, alcohol-induced snack at 24-hour diners, where it came with melted slices of cheddar cheese on each half of the bun. But as my food horizons broadened and I became a better cook, I came up with a couple go-to veggie burger recipes that I’ve kept on rotation.
One night I was having dinner with Matthew Lore, who is the publisher at The Experiment and a good friend of mine, and he floated his idea of a cookbook devoted to veggie burgers; I leapt at the opportunity.
If you’re not a vegetarian, why choose a veggie burger over a regular burger?
When I was working on the book, I often found myself struggling with this existential crisis: veggie burgers and meat burgers are nothing alike—why are these veggie things even called “burgers”?! Sure, both are shaped into patties and both are in theory served on buns. But you can do so much more with veggie burgers that it seems like they should be considered more of a cuisine unto themselves. Just think of all the vegetables you can start with and the different flavor profile directions you can go in. For example, I developed recipes for Armenian Lentil Burgers, and Thai Carrot Burgers, and Curried Eggplant Burgers.
Are there health advantages to veggie burgers?
[In general], a veggie burger is a lot healthier than a meat burger. I find myself feeling happy and satiated after I eat one. The last time I ate a meat burger, I did not. Though I do understand the draw of the meat version; there’s a reason hamburgers sit high on the totem pole of quintessentially American food.
With that in mind, here’s a recipe for a tasty, protein-packed vegetable burger:
Baked Falafel Burgers
Makes six four-inch burgers
1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed thoroughly
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chickpea or all-purpose flour, if needed
1. Cover the chickpeas by 4 to 5 inches of water in a bowl and let sit for 24 hours. Drain thoroughly.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
3. Combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, lemon zest and juice, cumin, baking soda, salt, black pepper, and cayenne in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely combined. If the mixture is struggling to come together, add a bit of water, but no more than 2 tablespoons. (The mixture will fall apart when cooking if there’s too much liquid.) If water is added, stir in the chickpea flour. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 6 patties (it will be a fairly wet dough).
4. Place the patties on an oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping them once halfway through, until golden and firm.