Here’s a lengthy but oh-so-worth it vegan burger recipe. To make the time investment worthwhile, I make at least 12 burgers, sometimes even 24, and freeze most of them. Voila! Instant meals for busy nights.

Makes about 12 burgers

6 large red beets (about 1 pound)
1 cup brown rice (not cooked)
2 medium yellow onions, diced small
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
3 (15.5-ounce) cans black beans
1/2 cup prunes, pitted, and chopped into small pieces.
Mushroom or vegetable broth for sautéing
2 tablespoons smoked paprika, to taste
1-1/2 tablespoons brown mustard
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the beets loosely in aluminum foil and roast for 50 to 60 minutes (until they can be easily pierced with a fork). Set aside to cool.

While the beets are roasting, bring a 4-quart pot of water to a boil and add the rice. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the rice until it’s just a bit over-cooked, but still firm, about 35 to 40 minutes. Drain the rice and set aside to cool.

While the rice is cooking, begin sautéing the onions. Heat a tablespoon of mushroom broth in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, stirring every minute or two, and cook until they are getting dark and sticky.

Add the garlic to the onions and cook for about 30 seconds. Pour in the cider vinegar and scrape up the dark sticky crust. Continue to simmer until the cider has evaporated and the pan is nearly dry again. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Process the oats in a food processor until they have reduced to a fine flour. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Drain and rinse one of the cans of beans and transfer the beans to the food processor. Scatter the prunes on top. Pulse in 1-second bursts just until the beans are roughly chopped — not so long that they become mush — 8 to 10 pulses. Transfer this mixture to a large mixing bowl. Continue this process for each can of beans.

Use the edge of a spoon to scrape the skins off the cooled roasted beets; the skins should slip off easily. Grate the peeled beets on the largest holes of a box grater. Transfer the beet gratings to a strainer set over the sink. Press and squeeze the beet gratings to remove as much liquid as possible from the beets. If you enjoy making vegetable juice drinks, the beet juice would make a wonderful addition.

Transfer the squeezed beets, cooked rice, and sautéed onions to the bowl with the beans. Add all the spices and herbs and mix until combined. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper. Finally, add the oatmeal flour and mix until you can no longer see any dry oatmeal.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the burger mix overnight.

When ready to cook the burgers, first shape them into burgers. Scoop up a scant cup of the burger mixture and shape it between your palms into a thick patty the size of the hamburger buns or bread that you’ll be using. You should end up with 12 large patties.

Lightly spray a non-stick skillet with a vegetable oil spray. Heat skillet over high heat until it’s sizzling hot. Transfer the patties to the pan, cooking only a few at a time. Cook the patties for 2 minutes, then carefully turn them over with a spatula. If any pieces break off, just pat them back into place with the spatula. Cook for another 2 minutes, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 4 more minutes, until the patties are warmed through.

Note: Because it is a somewhat lengthy process to make these burgers, I always make extra and freeze some for later use. Burgers can be frozen raw or cooked. Wrap each burger individually in plastic or between sheets of parchment paper, and freeze. Raw burgers are best if thawed in the fridge overnight before cooking. Cooked burgers can be reheated in the oven, a toaster oven, or the microwave, which is my preference.

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