Most Plant-Based Burgers Suck, but This One Is Amazing


It was either so dry and crumbly that no amount of condiment could save it (or save you), or so wet and mushy that the patty started to squeeze out of the bun when you ate it (yum?).

As the food and dining editor of The Washington Post, and a longtime vegetarian, Ive tasted hundreds of veggie burgers in restaurants. I can count on one hand the number of truly great ones.

This includes those high-tech, modern patties by Impossible or Beyond that are meant to remind you so much of meat as to be indistinguishable. They even bleed, for Gods sake.

You are trying to eat less meat, so I get it. Why not choose an Impossible Whopper over the original the next time youre at Burger King? Im all for reducing the amount of beef in production, and for helping carnivores take baby steps toward a plant-based diet. So it makes perfect sense.

But there are some nagging problems with tech meat.

Uncooked Meat Free Plant Based Burgers

Uncooked Meat Free Plant Based Burgers

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First, on a molecular level it might come from plants, but there is no recognizable produce associated with it.

Second, and perhaps more important, have you looked at that ingredient and nutrition label lately ? If part of the reason you want to eat less meat is for your own health, you should probably treat an Impossible Burger as the same sort of indulgence you did a Big Mac or Whopper.

All of this brings us back to the idea of a veggie burger that actually featuresand tastes likevegetables, but eats like a burger: crispy edges, tender interior.

Vegan sandwich with chickpea patty, avocado, cucumber and greens in rye bread in children's hands.

Vegan sandwich with chickpea patty, avocado, cucumber and greens in rye bread in children’s hands.

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You can go someplace like Lekka Burger in New York City, or Shouk in Washington, D.C.both places where the chef is putting so much thought, time, and ingredients into the plant-based burger that you leave happy and satisfied.

Or you can take matters into your own hands. Ive worked for years trying to perfect the plant-based burger in my home kitchen. And here are some things Ive learned:

Put away the food processor .

Woman holding two raw uncooked red vegan meat burger patties by salad bowls in packaging

Woman holding two raw uncooked red vegan meat burger patties by salad bowls in packaging

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My favorite plant-based patty starts with canned (or home-cooked, if I have the time) kidney beans and uses mushrooms and walnuts for texture. But I chop and blend the ingredients by hand. Using a food processor very quickly turns the whole shebang into a puree, which is the road to Mushville.

Bind the burger.

You need something starchy like flour to help hold everything together. (Beyond the mush, few things are as disappointing as a plant-based patty that falls apart in the skillet.) I use chickpea flour to keep things gluten-free.

Bake, then pan-fry.

Heres something I learned years ago from Mark Bucher, proprietor of BGR in Washington: A little oven time helps a plant-based patty set up. You can refrigerate or freeze the baked patties, and then pan-fry them whenever youre ready. Works like a charm.

Use soft buns, and dont toast them much (if at all).

Close-up of burger on table

Close-up of burger on table

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Youve worked to give your plant-based patties those crispy edges and perfect texture, so dont blow it by sandwiching them between hard and/or over-toasted rolls. If you do, you risk that squeezing-out-like-a-dip problem, and nobody wants that.

Plant-based burgers can taste as good as your favorite vegetables (and legumes), with the nutrition to match. And theyre anything but impossible.

Mushroom Kidney-Bean Burgers

This Plant-Based Burger Is Amazing

This Plant-Based Burger Is Amazing

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What You’ll Need: 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped 3 garlic cloves, chopped 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile 2 teaspoons ground cumin 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste 12 ounces cremini mushrooms, cut into 1/2-inch dice 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps cut into 1/2-inch dice 1 1/2 cups cooked or canned no-salt-added red kidney beans (from one 15-ounce can), drained, rinsed, and lightly mashed with a fork 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped 1 tablespoon liquid aminos, coconut aminos, or tamari 3/4 cup chickpea flour 1/4 cup nutritional yeast 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for oiling the measuring cup 6 hamburger buns, lightly toasted Condiments and accompaniments of your choice

How to Make It:

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and garlic. Saut until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the chipotle, cumin, and salt and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cremini and shiitake mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms exude their liquid and it evaporates and they start to brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool slightly.

2. Add the kidney beans, walnuts, aminos, chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, and lime juice and stir to thoroughly combine. Taste and add more salt if needed.

3. Lightly oil a 1/2-cup measuring cup. Use it to scoop out six portions and use your wet hands to form them into large patties, about 5 inches across and 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Place the patties on the lined baking sheet.

4. Bake the patties until firm and dry on the outside, about 30 minutes, flipping them over about halfway through. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool. (At this point, you can wrap the patties in plastic wrap, seal them in zip-top bags, and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw them thoroughly before proceeding.)

5. Pour the vegetable oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add as many patties as will fit without overcrowding. Fry until browned and crisp on the bottom, about 5 minutes, then carefully flip them over and fry until browned and crisp on the other side, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Serve on buns with your preferred condiments and accompaniments. Makes 6 burgers.

Reprinted with permission from Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World’s Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes by Joe Yonan, copyright 2020. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.


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