My favorite non-recipe

Cooking is one of the best ways to make something wonderful from a bunch of different things. Inspired by the ever-rising price of frozen veggie burgers, a couple years ago I set out to come up with an inexpensive recipe to make at home. I read several recipes, combined ideas from each and created what’s basically a non-recipe for veggie burgers.

Why is it non-recipe? Because you can pretty much toss in whatever you want to “burgerize” as long as you aim for a consistency similar to ground meat. Only two ingredients are guaranteed to be used each time I make veggie burgers: one egg and a 15-ounce can of drained beans. Of course, those might be kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans – basically whatever is handy – and I could always use an egg substitute.

Here are the ingredients for today’s batch:

The main ingredients

Start out by roughly processing whatever vegetables you want to use. This time I have a tablespoon or two each of red pepper, tomato, and onion; one small carrot cut into chunks (minus a chunk or two I tossed to Doggie Lily), and approximately the same amount of raw cauliflower. Zucchini and turnip are great additions, but I didn’t have either on hand. Sometimes I add a pinch of jalapeños or even a handful of walnuts. One of these days I might throw in a few water chestnuts just to see what happens.

Add the rinsed and drained beans along with the egg and your grains.

Add beans, grains, egg and seasonings to your processed veggies

Again, use whatever you like. This time I used slightly less than a cup of leftover brown rice (cooked with garlic, red pepper flakes, and fresh ginger – the ginger slices were removed after the rice was cooked), maybe three-quarters of a cup of uncooked old-fashioned rolled oats, and a bit of cornmeal. I’d love to try leftover quinoa sometime. BTW – had the rice not already been flavored, I would have added a little garlic and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Season it with a bit of salt and pepper and whatever flavorings you like. My secret ingredient – Liquid Smoke – probably isn’t very healthy, but lends a subtle grilled-over-an-open-fire flavor.

Process everything a minute or two until it starts to resemble ground meat. Finding the right consistency can be tricky the first couple times you make veggie burgers. If it’s too wet, your burgers will be a bit squishy. More often than not, the mixture will be slightly wet, but no worries. If you have some instant “mashed potato” flakes, mix in a tablespoon or two of dry potato flakes and let it sit a couple minutes so the flakes can absorb any excess liquid. If you don’t have potato flakes try adding a pinch more oatmeal, cornmeal or even breadcrumbs.

(It doesn’t happen often, but if you think your mixture is too dry, add a few drops of olive oil.)

Looks kind of like ground meat, huh?

At this point I like to put everything in a mixing bowl so I can see if there are any large chunks of veggies I might want to remove. Cover and refrigerate about 30 minutes.

Next, it’s time to shape the burgers. Running your hands under cold water for a second before touching the mixture will help keep it from sticking to your hands. Make the burgers as large or small as you like, just remember that unlike actual meat, they won’t shrink during cooking. I usually get 6-8 burgers per batch, but it depends on how many grains and veggies I throw in. Refrigerate the burgers for another 20 minutes or so.

This time I got seven generous patties from one batch

Now it’s time to cook. The easiest way is on a griddle pan or large frying pan. (Sometime I’d love to try making these on my sister-in-law’s ginormous cast-iron skillet!) Pre-heat the griddle/skillet over medium-high heat for one minute, then lightly brush the pan with cooking oil. Heat one more minute before adding the burgers. Cook five minutes – don’t even touch them unless you think they might be burning – then flip.

Unlike real burgers - no greasy mess!

Cook another five minutes and serve with whatever condiments you prefer.

Top as desired ...

...and enjoy!

Leftovers freeze really well. Wrap individually and pop them into a zip-bag. I try to have some on hand at all times since they’re the closest thing I ever have to frozen foods.

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About Paula Hendrickson

I'm a full-time freelance writer with an addiction to yarn, cooking and all kinds of crafty things. I come from a long line of creative and entrepreneurial types on both sides of the family, making creativity almost like competitive pursuit.

Posted on February 27, 2012, in cooking, food, recipes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Not only a great non-recipe, but wonderful photography too. Very impressed. I’ll be over in 1.5 hrs. Oh, wait, i have an event at 4 today. DRAT!

    Anyway I waited it I made my non-recipe semi-salad, of slightly wilted but not cooked kale (nuke for about a minute), artichoke hearts (drained of their water), mild peppercini rings with a bit of their juice, fresh tomato, feta, fresh dill, fresh lemon juice, a dash of dijon mustard, and a few remaining shrimp. It was good.

    Great post!

    • Paula Hendrickson

      After reading your comment I think even people who don’t know we’re sisters would have guessed we are! We just hate measuring!

      Next time you’re here, if you’re really nice, maybe I’ll let you raid my stash of frozen veggie burgers.

  2. Sounds delish! The cast iron pan is always at the ready. I also have a cast iron griddle pan that covers two burners and make a mean grilled cheese.

  3. bookwormbethie

    a google search on how to avoid squishy veggie burgers, landed me here! thanks for all the tips! esp about adding the dried potato flakes. i made veggie burgers last night from a recipe in one of my cookbooks, they were tasty, but very squishy.

    • Paula Hendrickson

      Glad to be of service. I think freezing the cooked veggie burgers helps, too. Not sure if it’s the freezing or re-heating (I use the old George Forman tabletop “grill”), but the frozen & reheated burgers always seems slightly firmer.

      Let us know how they turned out!

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