Makes 4 big burgers
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes || Active time: 30 minutes
You know the song, two all-beet patties, special sauce, lettuce, “cheeze”…har har.
Well, everyone loves burgers and this is a fine, upstanding, burger-citizen made with some of my favorite ingredients. Brown rice, lentils and beets! They all combine to form the perfect storm of vegan burgerness.
It’s not that they taste exactly like hamburgers or anything, but they do taste exactly like awesome veggie burgers. Rice provides awesome texture, to give you a substantial bite. Lentils are my go-to ground meat so they were a natural addition. And beets are the veggie burger hotness right now! I’ve tried beet burgers at many a restaurant, and I’ve been itching to come up with my own recipe. They give the burger an intense (vaguely disturbing) meat-like appearance, but they also add a lot of flavor, earthy and slightly sweet. Just something that takes your VB to the next level.
I like to make these burgers BIG. Ya’ know, dinner sized. In reading the Wikipedia about the history of the Quarter Pounder (or Royale With Cheese, for you Pulp Fiction fans), the inventor of the burger says he “felt there was a void in our menu vis-à-vis the adult who wanted a higher ratio of beet to bun.” OK, he said meat not beet, but whatever. And I have to agree. There’s a certain satisfaction to eating your way around the burger before digging in to a full-on bun bite.
To make these more fast-foody, top with shredded lettuce, sliced dill pickles, finely diced onion and ketchup. I would add a layer of avocado instead of a vegan cheese, but that’s just me. They really don’t even need it.
One very important part of this recipe is the cooking method. You want to get the burger charred. Not burnt, but charred, which really just means, uh, burnt only in some places. The best way to achieve this is with a very hot cast iron pan. Other pans may react different to high heat, and may not give you that perfect char. So if you’re not using a cast iron pan, the next best thing would be to transfer them to a baking pan after cooking, brush with oil and stick them under the broiler for a few minutes.
Recipe notes: If you’d like to make these gluten-free, just use gluten-free breadcrumbs – ground up gluten-free pretzels would be ideal. And if you’d like to bake them instead, do so at 375 F, 8 to 10 minutes each side, then stick under the broiler to brown them. If you’d like to use a different nut butter, I would recommend cashew or sunbutter. I think PB will be too strong, but who knows? I use a food processor to make these happen quickly, so you’ll have to do some finagling if you don’t have one. And one last tip: I keep a package of frozen brown rice handy at all times. It’s perfect for occasions like this when you just need a little bit for an ingredient.
And don’t forget the fries! Garlic Curry Fries are perfect with these. OK, it’s burgertime!
1 1/4 cups cooked, cooled brown rice (see recipe notes above)
1 cup cooked brown or green lentils, cooled, drained well
1 cup shredded beets
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme, rubbed between your fingers
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel (or finely crushed fennel seed)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons very finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons smooth almond butter
1/2 cup very fine breadcrumbs
Olive oil for the pan
Peel beets and shred with the shredder attachment of your food processor, then set aside. Change the attachment to a metal blade. Pulse the brown rice, shredded beets and lentils about 15 to 20 times, until the mixture comes together, but still has texture. It should look a lot like ground meat:
Now transfer to a mixing bowl and add all the remaining ingredients. Use your hands to mix very well. Everything should be well incorporated, so get in there and take your time, it could take a minute or two.
Place the mixture in the fridge for a half hour to chill.
Preheat a cast iron pan over medium-high. Now form the patties. Each patty will be a heaping 1/2 cup of mixture. To get perfectly shaped patties, use a 3 1/2 inch cookie cutter or ring mold (I have pics of how to do it here.) Otherwise, just shape them into burgers with your hands.
Pour a very thin layer of oil into the pan and cook patties for about 12 minutes, flipping occasionally. Do two at a time if you’re pan isn’t big enough. Drizzle in a little more oil or use a bottle of organic cooking spray as needed. Burgers should be charred at the edges and heated through.
Serve immediately. But they taste pretty great heated up as well, so if you want to cook them in advance, refrigerate, then gently heat in the pan later on, then that is cool, too.