Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Build a Better Veggie Burger and the World Will Beat a Path to Your Door

We have a WINNER for our first Mystery Lovers Kitchen contest! Carol Noreen, from Wisconsin, has won the $25 gift certificate to Williams-Sonoma. Congratulations, Carol! To all our fans, we hope you'll continue to be fans, read the blog, and send us your comments. Sign up for this week's contest. There's always another chance to WIN!


One of my daughters has gone vegetarian, and in fact, has been meatless for over two years now. Her level of vegetarianism allows for dairy products, and she enjoys cheese, eggs, and an assortment of veggies, so I don’t worry overmuch about her protein intake. There’s a White House Chef mystery recipe for Brussels Sprouts that she absolutely loves. I’ll share that one here another week. But today, let’s talk about Veggie Burgers.

You’ve seen them in the store: Frozen, boxed, and fairly expensive. We’ve tried several brands and lots of varieties. My daughter’s favorite, thus far, is Morningstar Farms, and we often pick up a box of “mushroom,” or “Grillers” for her. But a couple of weeks ago, when the Sunday Chicago Tribune offered a recipe for homemade veggie burgers and promised they would not only be less expensive, but tastier, I knew we had to try it.

The Tribune recipe called for a few ingredients my daughter doesn’t care for: mustard, ketchup, chili powder, and (optional) sautéed sweet potatoes. We decided to improvise. The Trib recipe suggested a base of any of the following: kidney, pinto or black beans. Having never attempted this before, we decided to make a batch of each and do a taste test. So, a shout-out to Zak Stambor of the Trib for inspiring us. Here’s our version of the homemade veggie burger and a step-by-step account of our failures and successes:

1/3 stick butter
1 T chopped onion
1 t minced garlic (someone in the family had bagged my fresh garlic and stuck it in the fridge. It was nasty when I pulled it out. Fortunately, I keep a jar of minced garlic around all the time.)
Salt and pepper to taste
One can “bean of choice”
2 T (give or take) shredded carrots
½ t salt
¼ t pepper
¼ cup Oatmeal
1 t Worcestershire sauce (Some are vegetarian, some are not. Read your ingredients.)

Optional: cooked brown rice as additional filler (see below for our attempts with this)

Melt the butter in a small frying pan, and add the onion. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent, then add garlic and little salt and pepper to taste. When this is cool, you will add it in, but do not wash the pan. You’ll need it again shortly.

We tried mashing beans in a bowl as directed, but that didn’t work at all. Improvising (which I love to do), we transferred the beans into three separate zip-top plastic bags. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer and our fists, we smashed the beans until they turned into a nice smoosh. At that point we added the carrots, salt, pepper, oatmeal, Worcestershire sauce, and cooled onion/garlic mixture and smashed it around a bit more until well combined. It was at this point my daughter asked how we were going to get the mixtures out of the bag and into patties. Hmm… good point. This stuff is pretty sticky.

Squeezing the zip-tops, as one might a pastry bag, we placed a mound of each on clear plastic wrap, then folded up the edges and roughly formed a patty. Now… time to fry these up as originally directed in the frying pan with the remaining butter/onion/garlic.

Uh…were these supposed to be burgers? Or Sloppy Joes? The kidney beans held the patty shape—sort of. The other two bean varieties did not. Fortunately, we only made one of each. That left lots of mixture remaining for experimentation. We then added cooked brown rice (about a ½ cup) to each of the remaining mixtures and tried again. The patties held up a little better this time, again with kidney beans being our front-runner in keeping its shape.

But how did they taste?

Surprisingly, very good.

My daughter preferred the kidney and pinto bean varieties, and she liked them slightly better with the addition of rice. She said that the black bean version was not her favorite, but still good. I tasted all three, and agree. Were we to do it again, I’d stick with kidney. Easiest to work with, and excellent flavor. The best part? My daughter thinks this experiment was fun, which is high praise from a seventeen-year-old.

***Reminder: Don't forget to enter to win our weekly Mystery Lovers' Kitchen contest. The prize is a $25 gift certificate to the Williams-Sonoma kitchenware and gourmet food store. Just sign in to this blog and leave a comment or send an "Enter me!" e-mail with your first name and state to MysteryLoversKitchen@gmail.com We announce the winners right here every week.

Best of luck to all, and congrats to this week's winner Carol Noreen!


Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef Mystery series features State of the Onion, Hail to the Chef, and Eggsecutive Orders (coming in January). All from Berkley Prime Crime. Sign up for Julie’s newsletter on her website at http://www.juliehyzy.com/


  1. LOVE the veggie burger recipes--excellent. They remind me of the one that Gillian McKeith uses in her YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT cookbook. Mary Kennedy, (The Talk Radio Mysteries, January 2010)

  2. This sounds great! I don't eat very much ground beef, so I'll check out this recipe. Thanks!


  3. These sound great! I wonder if adding a little eggplant would increase the meatiness factor. Might have to give it a try - thanks for sharing the recipe!

  4. Ooh, eggplant. Great idea! We'll try that on our next attempt. This batch made so much that we still have six frozen patties. I wonder how they'll be when we cook them...

    Thanks Elizabeth and Mary! I've always been quite the carnivore, but am slowly embracing a more veggie-based diet. These are good.


  5. Thank you Julie,

    I admit I am a carnivore. I know I should decrease the amount of meat I eat. I plan to give these a try, especially adding eggplant to the mixture. I love eggplant.

  6. Very interesting post. I'm glad you were detailed in the prep. It's very helpful. My football playing nephew leans toward vegetarianism - not strict but tries to cut out meat in favor of grains, eggs, and other proteins. He likes to cook, too, so I'm passing this one on to him for sure. Always happy to see a vegetarian recipe. (A reader of mine JUST asked if someone would be posting vegetarian recipes on our blog. I'm e-mailing him right now to check this out...)

    ~Cleo Coyle

  7. What?! No ENTER ME's! I love the recipe but I'd also love to be entered into the contest =)

    Honestly though, I'm a vegetarian and I have yet to make a veggie burger that resembles the look of a real burger without using veggie meat crumbles so I will surely test your out.

  8. cool blog with good info, first time here will come back Rebecca

  9. Welcome to the foodie blog roll. I have been enjoying reading your blog this evening :)

  10. Hi Librarystitcher, I was raised a happy carnivore. These veggie changes are different, but I'm finding I like a lot of them. Let me know what you think when you try these.

    Cleo - glad to hear people are looking for veggie options. I *always* am.

    Hi sTtyliSH... no worries. By leaving a comment, you're entered for this week! Good luck ;-)

    Glad you stopped by Rebecca! Nice to "meet" you!

    Thank you, Shelly for welcoming us to the foodie blog roll! Very exciting for us!!

  11. thank you for the recipe!! Two of my three sons are vegeterian too. :) You rock! ~maryC