You watch them sizzle on the barbeque, and your eyes become transfixed. You’ve seen the op-eds circulating through your social media feeds. You’ve heard the incredulous chatter during dinner parties. Yet, as you look over the grill on this sweltering summer afternoon, you can finally see these Franken-patties face to face. Your mouth waters. You reach for the spatula. But first, you double take. Did one of them just … bleed? Make no mistake: hyper-realistic veggie burgers are real, and they’re here to stay.
A new wave of veggie burgers is taking North American restaurants and grocery stores by storm. Brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are partnering with various fast food restaurants and grocery stores to elevate the veggie option to the next level. Food scientists engineer these burgers to look, taste, and sometimes even bleed like real meat.
And while these puck-shaped experiments may seem like something ripped from a Margaret Atwood novel, reducing meat consumption is one of the most effective ways an individual can control their environmental impact. If we can make veggie burgers look and taste like real meat, we are allegedly helping combat our climate crisis.
Veggie burgers have come a long way from tasteless blocks of tofu sandwiched between white bread. They are finally tasty, and they are eco-friendlier than beef or turkey.
Here are some meat-free alternatives that are bound to brighten up your next summer barbecue.
1. The Impossible Burger/Beyond Meat Burger
Where to start but with the Franken-burgers? Both the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Meat Burger have similar tastes. Impossible has a grittier texture — akin to grinding your teeth on charred beef — but Beyond is juicier. Impossible uses heme, a protein found in both meat and fermented soy, to replicate that bloody texture. Beyond uses beet juice to give their patties redness.
Unsuspecting consumers are meant to mistake both burgers for meat, so they are best served with typical burger works. Personally, I recommend red onions, pickles, ketchup and mustard on a sesame seed bun. An American classic, reimagined.
Online Recipes: Both brands have detailed recipe lists on their websites. I know I’m curious to try out the Kimchi Beyond Burger in the near future.
2. Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burgers
Listen, we get it. These new-wave burgers are highly processed, and that can be off-putting to some. You want simpler ingredients. Well, veggie burgers don’t get much simpler than grilled portobello mushrooms. Just make sure to scoop out the tough stems on the bottom of the caps to make for easy chewing.
Portobello mushrooms are chewier than most meat alternatives, even when cooked well. A good game plan would be to place the patty on a tougher bun, so the texture stays consistent. Perhaps a coarse, multigrain bun or ciabatta rolls would serve a hungry guest best. The best portobello mushroom burgers are paired with cheese and pesto.
Where to Find Them: You can find portobello mushrooms in most grocery stores. The closer to patty-size, the better.
3. Deep-Fried, Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Burgers
Now, of course, just because you are going meat-free doesn’t mean you have to be a granola-chucking health nut. Many would prefer wolfing down a greasy, deep-fried treat every now and then instead of simple veggies. In that case, stuffing your portobello mushroom burger with cheese and then deep-frying it is your fastest ticket to fried-food heaven.
This kind of burger is best described as indulgent. If done correctly, you should bite into your crusted mushroom patty and watch the melted cheese slowly ooze out. And isn’t that the world’s greatest dream? To watch gooey Swiss cheese slowly cascade down the side of your bun? Your meat intake will be reduced, but your sodium intake is ascending new heights.
Online Recipes: Honestly? This recipe from Tasty rocks.
Where to Find Them: You can find most ingredients at any major grocery store. Shake Shack also does this veggie burger style excellently.
4. Black Bean-Based Burgers
Black bean-based veggie burgers have a different kick to them. They’re tougher, drier and denser. In a way, a black bean-based burger can feel more like a soft-shell taco than anything you’d order at a Drive-Thru. Still, if one chows down with an open mind, these veggie burgers can be heavenly.
These patties often use bread crumbs to keep the beans together. They’re bound to already be grainy, so they pair best with softer, juicier toppings. Sliced avocado is a godsend, as are freshly sliced tomatoes. Add some pickled jalapeño peppers on top of the patty for a nice kick. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, substitute your standard ketchup and mustard combo for sour cream and salsa verde.
Online Recipes: This recipe from The Food Network looks scrumptious.
Where to Find Them: Again, you can find most ingredients for most black bean-based recipes at the grocery store. If seeking out each and every individual ingredient seems like too much of a headache, Morningstar Farms makes them excellently.
5. Chickpea-Based Burgers
Chickpea-based veggie burgers are basically cylinder-shaped falafels. Although, to be fair, there is nothing wrong with cylinder-shaped falafels. Chickpea-based burger recipes often also use lentils; both legumes are excellent sources of protein and will keep even the hungriest satiated for hours.
Like their black bean cousins, chickpea-based veggie burgers are also quite dense. They pair best with moist toppings such as pickled vegetables and tomatoes. Or, channel your inner millennial and douse some tahini on top of that patty. The rich, wet texture of the tahini complements the chickpeas’ dryness. Just make sure to keep a glass of iced water on hand; this burger will leave you thirsty.
Online Recipes: This recipe from the CBC provides a Mediterranean take on chickpea-based veggie burgers that will leave you salivating.
Where to Find Them: Morningstar Farms makes an excellent chickpea-based patty that also incorporates lentils. These are likely to be found alongside tofu and other meat alternatives in the vegetarian option section of the grocery store.
6. Quinoa-and-Beet-Based Burger
Quinoa is one of those words that is hard to say without sounding totally pretentious. Also, what exactly is it? The explanation of “it’s an Aztec grain” just leaves people scratching their heads. The beets balance out the quinoa’s dryness and add some color to the patty. This drippy redness will imbue vegetarian converts with nostalgia for their meat-eating days while still keeping them completely satisfied.
These burgers pair best with crunchy lettuce — think romaine, iceberg — and some sort of mayonnaise-based dip. The richness of the mayonnaise balances out the dryness of the quinoa, and its creaminess complements the beets’ mushy texture.
Online Recipes: This recipe from SimplyQuinoa.com will convert even the most stubborn quinoa skeptics.
Where to Find Them: You can find most ingredients in the grocery store.
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These veggie burgers will leave your stomach full and keep your conscience clean. Whether vegetarian, flexitarian or just veggie-curious, these recipes prove that there is a vast selection of high-quality, meat-free options to choose from.
Next up, carrot hot dogs? Okay, perhaps it’s best if we take this one step at a time.