The Really Hungry Burger

    I had a little fight with myself over this recipe. Does a veggie burger have a place in modern vegetarian food? Something about veggie burgers feels a bit ‘nut-roast-at-brightly-painted-café-wearing-hemp- trousers’. However, my love of eating these strode forth so here they are. Please be assured that this is not the breaded sweetcorn and mushroom mush excuse that usually shows up between two white buns. This is a hearty health-packed wonder that makes no apology to anyone.

    I’ve played around with a lot of recipes before settling on this one, some full of bright herb freshness and grated veg, some packed with protein-rich tofu, and all were good, but what I look for in a burger is a deep moreish flavour, savoury and complex, so this is the one.

    I use brown rice here, but any cooked grain you have will do – quinoa, pearl barley and farro all work well.

    I like to make a quick pickled cucumber to top these with. Thinly slice a quarter of a cucumber and pop it into a bowl with a pinch of salt, a squeeze of honey and a good tablespoon of white wine vinegar, then scrunch together and leave to sit while you make your burgers. A homemade quick pickle that beats a gherkin any day.


    olive oil
    6 big portobello mushrooms, roughly chopped into little bits
    a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1 × 400g tin of white beans, haricot or cannellini, well drained
    4 fat medjool dates, pitted
    2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
    a small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
    2 tablespoons tahini
    2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
    200g cooked and cooled brown rice (100g raw weight)
    50g breadcrumbs or oats
    grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

    1–2 avocados, peeled and sliced tomato relish or ketchup
    pickled cucumber (see above)
    a few handfuls of spinach leaves

    8 seeded burger buns (I use wholemeal ones)

    Get a large pan on a medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Once the pan is good and hot, add the mushrooms and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Fry on a good heat until the mushrooms have dried out and are slightly browned, then set to one side and leave to cool.

    Next, drain the white beans and put them into a food processor with the dates, garlic, parsley, tahini and soy sauce. Pulse until you have a smoothish mixture, then transfer to a bowl and add the rice, breadcrumbs, lemon
zest and the cooled mushrooms. Mix well, then put into the fridge for 10 minutes or so to firm up.

    Once cooled, divide the mixture into 8 portions and shape into 8 patties. Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and pop into the fridge until needed. (This can be done the day before – and the burgers freeze well at this point.)

    Preheat your oven to 230°C/fan 210°C/gas 8 and bake the burgers for
15 minutes, until nicely brown. If you like cheese on your burger, pop a slice on top a couple of minutes before they come out of the oven.

    While your burgers are cooking, get your toppings ready. I go with avocado, tomato relish and the quick cucumber pickle above, plus a few spinach leaves. Hummus, grated carrot and sprouts is another favourite, but feel free to improvise and try it your own way.

    Once the burgers are golden, toast your buns and layer up your burgers.

    Image: John Dale

    Posted: 05.11.14 20 Comments


    Posted by Avril Eastwood at 6:53 on the 28.01.15

    These burgers look absolutely fabulous. I’m going to make them. One of our family members doesn’t like mushrooms. Could you suggest anything I could replace the mushrooms with for their burgers 🙂

    Posted by Nidhi at 9:11 on the 23.03.15

    Hands down. The most beautiful amazing satisfying burgers I (or my guests) have ever had. Literally. To date my fav have been a great burger in a cafe in San francisco. Turns out I didn’t need to travel that far! I woke up the next day craving them. Sign of an extraordinary meal.

    Posted by Julie Alcorn at 7:27 on the 31.03.15

    Wow, this looks scrumptious! Must try and share 🙂

    Posted by Neal Johnson at 7:36 on the 09.04.15

    Made these last night. They were delicious although a little on the sweet side due to the dates. I might try one less date next time. I did have a problem that they did not firm up as much as I had expected based on your description, so biting on a hamburger bun made them squish out the sides. Next time I will serve them open faced or bun-less. I also think these would make excellent appetizer size “meatballs”.

    Posted by Anna at 1:37 on the 14.04.15

    Thanks for your comment Neal. It’s important in this recipe to drain the beans really well and also cook the mushrooms for long enough to dry them out. If you’re still not getting a texture you’re happy with, I’d throw in a few more breadcrumbs. Hope this helps. AJ

    Posted by Lisa at 1:23 on the 03.05.15

    These look delicious. Have you tried freezing them? I tend to make big batches of veg burgers to have on hand for easy meals.

    Posted by Saoirsé at 7:53 on the 23.05.15

    Like Lisa I would like to know if these freeze as even 8 is quite a lot for me to deal with. Will your book have an Indication as whether a recipe can be frozen? I don’t freeze much but something like this would be handy – as well as other recipes that serve more than one or two – we don’t all have families. One other question, what age /audience/market are you intending to aim your book at? Love your work and the changing face of vegetarian cooking – may it inspire non vegetarians to have a go. If anyones recipes can I believe yours can! Good luck with the book.

    Posted by Anna at 12:42 on the 27.05.15

    Thanks for your question Saoirsé. I like to make a batch of these are they do require a bit of time. They are fine to freeze raw, and best defrosted gradually at room temperature.

    Posted by Linda at 5:17 on the 14.06.15

    My daughter is allergic to sesame so would they still taste OK without the tahini or could you recommend an alternative ingredient? Thank you

    Posted by Anna at 1:21 on the 29.06.15

    Hello Linda they should work with other nut butters. Enjoy them!

    Posted by Karin at 4:51 on the 10.07.15

    I live in the Netherlands and want to make these tasty looking burgers next week! I’d like to know if the 400g white beans is the weight before or after draining them. Hope you can answer me!

    Posted by David Smith at 6:31 on the 11.07.15

    Delicious. Hugely appreciated in our house. Came out really well, and I’m rubbish at cooking! Thanks!!

    Posted by Anna at 8:42 on the 13.07.15

    So glad you are enjoying David! x

    Posted by Anna at 8:58 on the 13.07.15

    Hi Karin, thanks for your message. The tin should be 400g before it’s drained. Enjoy! x

    Posted by Neil at 1:45 on the 26.07.15

    Going to try these tomorrow. Do you recommend breadcrumbs or oats? (And if I use oats, do I need to run them through the food processor first/do I need to increase the amount?) Thank you!

    Posted by Anna at 8:46 on the 27.07.15

    Hi Neil. Both work well but I recommend GF oats for people who don’t get on that well with gluten, and yes, a quick blitz first would be a good idea. Hope you enjoy. AJ x

    Posted by Tom at 11:26 on the 08.01.16

    These are fantastic burgers – got your book for Christmas and these are one of the first things I tried. I’ve changed a couple of the ingredients around – the last time I substituted Portobello mushrooms for dried, reconstituted Porcini, and replaced the brown rice with sosmix (an old veggie staple, Mildreds use in their burgers). Yum!

    Posted by Marissa at 8:09 on the 29.02.16

    Thanks for the recipe! I just made these for dinner and they were absolutely yummy! So moorish and exactly what you want in a veggie burger 🙂

    Posted by Chris Mingay at 7:42 on the 11.06.16

    Hi Anna, firstly, thanks for a great recipe, my first AJ creation. My family loved it, but the burgers did suffer a little from the squidge-factor. I’d already added extra breadcrumbs, and made extra sure the mushrooms were super-dry. Baked to golden-brown, they still readily gave way! Can you shallow-fry them, or would they disintegrate? How about on the BBQ? Any suggestions very gratefully received.

    Posted by Anna at 2:57 on the 07.07.16

    Hello Chris, glad you enjoyed the burgers. I’d emphasise that the beans need to drained very well, as well as making sure the mushrooms are dry. Hope this helps. AJ

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