No doubt about about it, this spring is a long time coming. For many of us, one of the rituals associated with spring is firing up the grill for the first charcoal grilled burger of the season. But for those of us that can’t wait, a homemade burger cooked indoors is the next best thing, and if you are cooking indoors, a veggie burger is a nice change of pace; even if you are not vegetarian or vegan, going meatless for a dinner now and then is a delicious and healthy option, and a fabulous meatless burger cooked to perfection indoors, and served on a toasted bun with all your favourite fixin’s will make you forget all about this wet blanket of a season.
There are many veggie burger options available in your frozen food section, with a variety of grains and proteins taking the place of beef or pork or lamb. Many veggie burgers are a combination of tofu, beans, nuts, grains and seeds. With a little imagination, almost anything can be formed into a patty and fried into a tasty burger. You can make a whole bunch of them and freeze a stack (seperated by sheets of parchment or wax paper so they don’t stick together) so you’re all stocked up, then fry them up straight from frozen. Only six minutes on medium per side and your burgers are ready. Easy!
Plus there is the added attraction that a veggie burger, pan fried or baked, is not going to fill your house with lingering odours of cooked animal fat.
A good veggie burger does not necessarily have to taste like meat. In fact, it more than likely will not taste like a sirloin burger. But It can stand on its own merits; savory and succulent with the right amount of healthy oils like olive or flax or nut oils mixed in, maybe some onion or garlic to add extra flavour and seasonings like tamari soy or a touch of cumin. The main thing about it is it should hold its shape, it should have a good crust and it should be delicious and not make you feel like you are missing out on “the real thing.” Many veggie burger recipes call for an egg to bind the ingredients and help the patty hold its shape, but if you wish to avoid eggs, one and a half tablespoons of corn starch mixed with 4 tablespoons of water or reserved liquid from a can of beans works just as well.
Pan frying is great for veggie burgers, better than grilling, actually, so cooking them indoors over medium heat works best. Plus cooking it on a smooth, flat surface is more likely to keep the burger intact. And don’t be shy about frying your veggie burger in a liberal amount of oil; meat burgers ooze with natural fats and juices, grains, not so much. So a little olive oil or peanut oil in the pan is a welcome addition. Nobody wants a dry burger.
Once the patties are fried to golden perfection you can doll them up with your favourite condiments and toppings including avocado, cheese and tomato. Make sure you add something crunchy like crisp iceburg lettuce, sliced red onion and your favourite pickles to the stack, as veggie burgers can be somewhat soft and lacking the resilient chewiness of meat. And don’t cheap out on the mayo, mustard or ketchup. If you are vegan, there are plenty of vegan mayos and cheeses out there to choose from.
A good burger, meaty, veggie or vegan lives and dies by this motto: the messier, the better.
Here are just a few of our favourite veggie burger recipes, each of them relying on a different major player to star in the main role, and each of them offering a delightful change the classic burger. Whether you opt for tofu, nuts and grains or your own favourite combinations, try a veggie burger this spring!
Canellini Bean Burger with Greek Yogurt (pictured above)