Here's What We Learned From You in Burgerville
Plus, a free collection of veggie burger recipes
We sourced the crowd, and the crowd has spoken. Back in May, as you may recall, when The Bittman Project announced our summertime group recipe brainstorm — where we called for your ideas on building an easy meatless burger for summertime grilling — we had some preconceived notions, based on the crazy popularity of plant-based meat alternatives.
The community shattered a lot of them. So first and foremost, thank you for your participation, enthusiasm, and candor. What follows are the answers to your burning questions — and a mini-cookbook of vegan and vegetarian burger recipes. On the audio above, we also have Mark and Kerri talking about the origins of Burgerville and some surprising findings. Read on for more.
You vegans have great ideas.
We're thrilled to see so many members in our community avoid animal products completely and we appreciate your support for the burger quest and all our vegan recipe options. You've provided awesome suggestions (we will overcome our reluctance for textured vegetable protein and give it another try soon) and valuable insight. Thank you, too, for being respectful of the meat-eaters by commenting assertively but politely.
The flexivores did not hold back.
Quite a few flexitarians, part-time vegans, and omnivores wrote in to say, “When I want a burger, I enjoy a real meat burger.” For the record, we eat everything: beef, pork, chicken, fish, and hybrid meat-and-vegetable burgers sometimes, too — though committed vegans obviously do not. That said, Burgerville is for the times we flexivores (love that word!) might want a plant-based option — and all those other people.
People are still figuring out Impossible, Beyond, and other plant-based products.
You asked what’s wrong with them, and we've answered: quite a bit, starting with the fact that they are super-processed with long lists of ingredients created in a lab. Just because they're conveniently available in supermarkets and restaurants everywhere doesn't make them any better for you or the planet than their animal-based counterparts. We feel strongly about eating real food — and many of you apparently do, too. Of course, eat what you like. But if you're open to our argument, see our post, How to Replace Meat.
Folks with allergies are looking for beans/mushrooms/gluten/nuts/soy swaps.
I've posted lots of ideas for substitutions in the threads and collected most here. And for specific solutions, check out the mini-cookbook of meatless burger recipes and the links at the end of this post.
There’s no shortage of suggestions and recipes for alt-burgers.
Some of the recipes and products you shared were familiar from my research, and others — like J. Kenji López Alt's burgers with the same bean-roasting technique I came to in my experiments (yes there is a collective consciousness!) — were new to me. Consider the list at the bottom of the post curated by The Bittman Project community. But we also encourage you to give our two baseline recipes a try. The new grillable vegan burger is unbelievably simple and good, while Mark's longtime black bean burger has tons of fans.
Why a burger at all? Why not toss a portobello or some other vegetables on the grill and stick it in a bun?
Count Melissa and me in this camp (though being professionals, we embraced the mission wholeheartedly). Like many of you who commented along these lines, we're happy with all kinds of vegetables: grilled; in salads or sandwiches; or roasted in olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and put on a plate. Mark does too of course, but says, "I mean, it's fine not to care, but to put a crust on anything — a ‘burger’ made from fish, traditional beef, pork, or yes, vegetables — to me is really fun. I don't care about the bun, since they usually suck, but that's easy enough to work around." If you haven't already, check out our conversation on the audio link above.
Here's a full range of vegan and vegetarian patties brought to you compliments of The Bittman Project and Mark’s cookbooks. Be sure to check out the main recipes and variations for swaps that help get you to your perfect meatless burger. And if you’re not already a member, consider joining our community here.
This printable, saveable package of recipes and links is a “thank you” to all who participated in The Bittman Project’s first crowdsourced recipe adventure. Consider this a free preview of what our membership community can accomplish when we put our heads — and forks — together!
The Bittman Burger — Baseline Recipe
Makes: 6 servings
Time: 45 minutes
1 can (about 14-ounces) unsweetened coconut cream
2 small cans (14-ounce) or 1 large can (28-ounce) pinto beans, rinsed and well-drained (or about 3 cups drained homemade beans)
1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1/3 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup red miso
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Good-quality vegetable oil, for brushing
1. Put the can of coconut cream in the freezer while you prepare the burgers. Heat the oven to 425°F. Spread the beans into a large rimmed baking sheet and roast, shaking once or twice until the skins of the beans dry, crack, and darken slightly, 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Working over a large bowl with a palm-full of oats at a time, rub them between your hands to crumble them a little; repeat with the remaining oats. (It’s okay if they don’t know all break apart.) Add the chia, miso, smoked paprika, mustard, and pepper and stir, mashing with a fork to combine. Remove 1/4 cup of the thick fat from the top of the coconut cream and refrigerate the rest of the fat and liquid for another use. Stir the fat into the bowl until a thick paste forms; let sit until the beans are ready.
3. Add the warm beans to the oat mixture and mash with a fork, a potato masher, or your hands until the beans are broken up but still in uneven pieces. The mixture should hold together when you squeeze some in your palm. To shape the burgers, divide the mixture into 6 balls, and working one at a time, press them into patties onto a large rimmed baking sheet until they’re about 1/2 inch thick. If the edges crack or they become uneven, simply press them back into a circle.
4. Cover loosely with parchment and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or cover tightly and refrigerate for up to a day. Or wrap the burgers individually and freeze for up to several months.) Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for medium direct-heat cooking. (Or if you're going to cook the burgers on the stove, heat the oven to 200°F and get a baking sheet handy.)
5. To grill the burgers, brush the tops with some of the oil. Put them all on the grates directly over the prepared fire, oiled side down, brush the tops with more oil, and cover the grill.
To cook on the stove, put a thin film of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add three of the burgers to the pan.
6. Either way, cook until the burgers are firm, a crust forms, and they release easily 5 to 10 minutes. Turn and cook the other side the same way, another 5 or so minutes. If cooking in a pan, transfer the finished patties to a baking sheet in the oven and repeat with the remaining three burgers. Serve right away on buns or rolls if you’d like with all the trimmings.
— Baseline recipe developed by Kerri Conan
Mark's Best Black Bean Burgers
Makes: About 8 small burgers or 4 regular-sized burgers
Time: About 40 minutes with canned (or homemade cooked) beans
1/4 cup dried, stemless porcini mushrooms
2 cups cooked or drained canned black beans
1 teaspoon roughly chopped garlic
3/4 cup rolled oats, or more if needed
2 teaspoons smoked paprika or chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and black pepper
Bean-cooking liquid, porcini soaking liquid, or water
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Soak the mushrooms in hot water until pliable, 5 to 10 minutes. Lift them from the soaking water and chop; reserve the soaking liquid for the burgers or another use (like a soup, sauce, or stir-fry).
2. Put the mushrooms, beans, garlic, oats, spices, and soy sauce in a food processor with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pulse until the mixture is combined, not puréed, about 30 seconds. (Or use a potato masher.) When you pinch some in your fingers, the mixture should hold together without sticking to your hands. Add more oats to thicken it or a few drops of liquid to thin it, as needed. Stir in the cilantro with a fork, and let sit for 5 minutes.
3. Shape into 4 large or 8 small patties; let them sit for 5 minutes. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook until crisp on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the burgers are crisp on the other side, another 5 minutes or so. Serve with the usual fixings.
— Recipe adapted from The New York Times Cooking
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes
1 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)
2 (or more) garlic cloves
1 pound mushrooms (like cremini or button), trimmed and halved
1/2 cup pecans (or any other nut you like)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons good-quality vegetable oil, plus more as needed
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Lettuce, tomato, and onions for serving
1. Put the oats in a food processor and let the machine run until they’re ground to a coarse meal, about 1 minute. Transfer them to a large bowl.
2. Pulse the garlic in the food processor (no need to wash it first) until the cloves are broken up a bit, then add the mushrooms. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped but not pureed. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the bowl with the oats. Put the nuts in the food processor (again, no need to wash it) and let the machine run until they’re ground to a thick paste, adding water a teaspoon at a time if necessary just to let the machine do its job; be careful not to make the mixture too wet. Scrape the nut butter into the bowl with a rubber spatula.
3. Add the chili powder, salt, and pepper and stir with the spatula, pressing and folding as you work until the ingredients are distributed evenly. Refrigerate the mixture for 10 minutes, then make four patties.
4. Put the oil in a large skillet (preferably nonstick or cast-iron) over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the burgers and cook, undisturbed, until they’re browned on the bottom and release evenly from the pan, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the burgers, adding more oil if the pan looks dry. Lower the heat a bit, and cook on the other side until firm and browned, 3 to 5 minutes more.
5. Remove the burgers and return the pan to heat with the lemon juice and 1/2 cup water. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid thickens a bit. Serve the burgers on a bed of lettuce, drizzled with the pan sauce, and topped with tomatoes and onions.
Miso-Mushroom Burgers. Instead of the pecans, grind together 1/4 cup chopped walnuts and ¼ cup any miso. Use several fresh ginger slices instead of the garlic and add 1 or more tablespoons soy sauce to the pan sauce with the lemon juice in Step 5.
Tahini -Mushroom Burgers. Use tahini instead of the nuts and add it to the mixture in Step 3. Substitute cumin for the chili powder.
— Recipe from The VB6 Cookbook: More Than 350 Recipes for Healthy Vegan Meals All Day and Delicious Flexitarian Dinners at Night
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes
2 cups grated parmesan cheese
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup breadcrumbs (preferably fresh)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1. Mix together the cheese, parsley, and breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Add the eggs and use a fork to gently beat the eggs and blend everything into a semisolid mixture. The “dough” should be about the consistency of dumpling or biscuit dough. Carefully shape into 4 patties and set them on a plate or wax paper.
2. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the patties (it’s fine to cook them in one batch). Cook undisturbed until they start to look crisp around the edges, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip and cook the other side for 3 to 5 minutes, until golden brown. Drain briefly on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt and heavily with pepper and serve.
Brown Rice and Cheese “Burgers.” A terrific gluten-free option. Instead of the breadcrumbs, use 1 cup cooked brown rice; mash it with a fork with a few drops of water before adding the other ingredients in Step 1.
Pesto Cheese “Burgers.” More substantial and nuttier: Use chopped fresh basil instead of parsley and increase to 3 eggs. In Step 1, add 1/2 cup chopped pine nuts or walnuts and 1 clove garlic, minced, to the cheese mixture. Proceed with the recipe.
Baked Cheese “Burgers.” Multiply the recipe and they’re perfect for a crowd: Instead of cooking the burgers in a skillet, heat the oven to 375°F at the beginning of Step 1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease it well with olive oil. Set the shaped patties on the sheet. Bake until crisp and golden, about 15 minutes.
— Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Completely Revised Tenth Anniversary Edition
Grain-and-Beet Burgers with Ginger
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 45 minutes, plus chilling time
The trick here is to make sure the grains are fully cooked so that the kernels have opened. "Al dente" won't be sticky and starchy enough to bind the burgers. If you don't have any already prepared, start them first while you get the other ingredients together. You can also substitute more cooked grains for the nuts.
1 pound beets, trimmed, peeled, and grated
1/2 cup packed pitted dates or dried plums (prunes)
1/2 cup almonds
1-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, cut into coins
1 1/4 cups cooked bulgur, quinoa, steel-cut oats, or short-grain brown rice
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon or other mustard
Cayenne or red chile flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the beets, dates, almonds, and ginger in a food processor and pulse several times until everything is well chopped but not quite a paste. Transfer it to a fine-mesh sieve and press with the back of a large spoon to squeeze out any excess liquid.
2. Put the mixture in a large bowl with the grains and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Add the mustard, and a pinch or more cayenne if you’re using it and cover the Stir and taste and adjust the seasoning. Use wet hands to shape it into 4 large or 8 small patties put them on the baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
3. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the patties. Cook, undisturbed, until brown on one side, 3 to 8 minutes. Add more oil if the pan looks dry, then turn them over carefully with a spatula and cook until the burgers feel firm and are browned on the other side, another 3 to 5 minutes. Serve hot or warm.
— Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Completely Revised Tenth Anniversary Edition
Simplest Grilled Portobello Burger
Makes: 4 servings
Time: Less than 10 minutes after heating the grill
The simplest of the simple to slap in a bun and dress like a traditional burger — or not.
4 portobello mushrooms, stems removed and caps wiped clean
6 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 hamburger buns or other sandwich rolls, split
Burger condiments and trimmings as you like
1. Start the coals or heat a gas grill for medium-high direct cooking. Make sure the grates are clean.
2. Brush the mushrooms with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Put the mushrooms on the grill directly over the fire. Close the lid and cook, turning once, until well browned and tender, 3 to 5 minutes per side.
3. Toast the split buns or rolls, cut side down, for a minute or 2 while the mushrooms finish. Serve as sandwiches, dressed as you like.
— Recipe adapted from How to Grill Everything
Burger Recipes and Products From Elsewhere
Even though none of these click off all the boxes in The Bittman Project's original checklist — for a delicious, not mushy, vegan, easy, and grillable patty based on real food — they're going to hit many of yours. So here they are handy in one place: