A heart-healthy burger

Store-bought veggie burgers are convenient, but they are not as wholesome as the ones you can make at home. Not all packaged veggie burgers are made the same. Some contain a long list of ingredients, many of which are unrecognisable — a sign that the product is highly processed.

Veggie burgers contain no animal protein or fat. The taste and texture cannot match up perfectly to a beef burger, unless they’re packed with fillers and chemicals. The next time you’re in the supermarket, read the ingredients on the label. If you come across a long list of ingredients such as methylcellulose, maltodextrin or vague descriptions like caramel color and hydrolyzed yeast extract, you may want to choose a less processed burger or make your own.

Hearty, satisfying and flavour packed, this homemade veggie burger, whether cooked on the grill or in a frying pan, can hold its shape. Crispy on the outside, soft and textured on the inside, the black beluga lentils give the patty that grainy texture. I also added one tablespoon of miso paste to help bind the ingredients and bring out that meaty umami flavour. However, because miso contains salt, you should not add more salt to the ingredients.

To create texture, I pan fry the raw mushrooms first (or veggies if you use them) with the onion and garlic for six minutes. Particularly with mushrooms, you want to fry them until there is no more water left in the pan. I also partially mash the ingredients (the beans and lentils) with a potato masher as opposed to mixing them in a food processor. I then use my hands (which I always wash with soap and water first) to mix, turn and squeeze the ingredients. At the end of the day, you get a veggie burger that holds and there’s no need to assemble and clean a food processor.

When I come home from work, I rarely make veggie burgers from scratch (to serve later or on the same day for supper). I prefer not to rush into it and make the mixture the day before and store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Also, the ingredients in the mixture need to merge and bind and it’s better to refrigerate the mixture for at least for 30 minutes before frying or grilling.

I like to pan fry the patties in vegetable oil for 5 to 6 minutes on each side until the outer layer is seared and crispy. To grill, brush some oil on both sides and grill over the flame for 3 minutes on each side or until the outside is crisp.

Below is the recipe.

Heart-healthy burger

6 to 8 patties

Ingredients

Oils for frying/grilling: vegetable, canola or grapeseed

Base

  • 1½ cups cooked black beluga lentils
  • ½ cup cooked black beans, strained and rinsed well (one 130 gram can)
  • 1 cooking onion, diced
  • 2 big garlic cloves, pressed or grated
  • 2½ cups fresh brown button mushrooms, diced* (see note)
  • ½ cup brown rice, cooked

* If you don’t like mushrooms, you can substitute with 1 cup of grated vegetables, such as a mix of grated raw zucchini (with peels) and grated raw carrots or 1 cup of grated beetroot is also tasty. Unlike frying vegetables, mushrooms release lots of water and they shrink more after they are fried, so you need to start out with at least 2 1/2 cups of fresh mushrooms to end up with 1 cup of fried mushrooms. You can sauté the zucchini, carrots or beets with the onion and garlic in a bit of oil.

Spices and binding

  • 1 tablespoon brown miso paste
  • 1 large egg (or 2 small). Use egg replacer for vegan
  • 1 teaspoon powdered paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • A few drops of red tabasco sauce
  • Ground pepper (do not add salt when using miso paste)

Crumbs and thickner

  • 1 cup of crumbs (can top up with a bit more later): ½ cup rolled oats + ½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts + 2-4 tablespoons chia seeds, all roasted together * (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch or potato starch

* I normally make my own crumbs ahead of time. I recommend that you make a big batch (double or triple the amount) should you want to top up with more and store the mixture in a sealed glass jar for future use. They keep well. Preheat oven at 200°C / 390°F.  Spread the walnuts, oats and chia seeds on a baking sheet and roast on middle rack for 7-8 minutes. Transfer into a small food processor bowl and process for a few seconds (not too much!) so that you obtain course crumbs. They shouldn’t be powdery. 

Above are the crumbs that I make. Alternatively, you can also use ½ cup of store-bought crumbs (e.g. Panko) and add ½ cup of chopped roasted walnuts and chia seeds. Another option is to process good quality crackers to make ½ cup and add ½ cup roasted chopped walnuts and the chia seeds, that works too (but I still prefer the roasted oats version).

Procedure

On stovetop, cook the black lentils and brown rice according to package. Strain excess water and set aside.

Strain and rinse the canned black beans under running water.

In a medium bowl, add the 1½ cups cooked lentils with the ½ cup black beans and partially mash with potato masher. The black beans will break up and mash more easily than the lentils, and that is what you want. Set aside.

On stovetop on medium heat, fry the diced mushrooms with the onion and garlic in a dry pan (no oil, no butter in pan) until all the water has evaporated. This may take as long as 6 minutes. You will end up with 1 cup of fried garlicky and oniony mushrooms. Add this to the lentils and beans and mix with a fork. Then add the rice and mix again. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together with a fork the ingredients for the spices and binding. Add to the lentil, bean and rice mixture. Mix this in with a fork.

Add the 1 cup of crumbs and mix again. Then with one hand (wash your hands before), turn and squeeze the mixture between your fingers. Do this several times until ingredients are further blended. The mixture should hold well together. It should feel moist, slightly crumbly but not mushy. If you find it dry, add a little olive oil, if you find it too wet, add more crumbs (I rarely need to adjust but with same ingredients result can vary).

Cover and put in fridge for 30 minutes or longer or even overnight. Make your patties approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup in size.  At this point you can freeze the patties in a sealed container or proceed to frying or grilling.

Heat up oil in a cast iron pan. When very hot, reduce heat to medium-low and fry patties for 5 to 6 minutes on each side. The outside layer of the patty should be seared and crisp. You can also grill them for 3 minutes on each side. Serve as is or between buns with veggies / condiments of choice.

My husband snuck in while I wasn’t looking. 
Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

6 thoughts on “A heart-healthy burger

    1. My pleasure Saania! I just spotted a typo in the ingredients. I have now fixed it and changed the mushrooms to 2 1/2 cups (by error I had put in 1 1/2 cups). I hope it will be OK with all my followers (sorry folks, it’s been too much screen time for me!!)

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