The Perfect Veggie Burger Formula

veggie burger green bean fries

Warning: these veggie burgers are killer. Adapted from the recipe used at a restaurant I used to work for, they are NOT your one note burger. They have texture, complex flavors, and just the right amount of moisture. My favorite part is how easily you can swap out ingredients and get the same results—an absolutely delicious burger. I’ve broken the recipe down into a formula of ingredients types. That way, you can tweak the burgers with your favorite flavors for endless combinations of drool worthy meatless Mondays.

The Base

I use grains and beans as the base of these burgers. For the grains, I use two or three types, usually a combination of brown rice, lentils, barley, and quinoa. You could also try farro, couscous, or split peas depending on your preferences. It’s a great way to use up the last ¼ c or so of a bag. For the beans, I prefer black beans, but in the burgers pictured, I used cannellini since that’s what I had on hand. Don’t skip the step where you dry them out in the oven. It takes the mush out of the beans and creates the perfect texture for adding to the burger.

brown rice lentils barley veggie burgers

The Sticky

A great veggie burger holds its shape while cooking and while you’re chowing down. These burgers are sturdy enough that you can slap them on a greased grill next to the meat eaters’ fare. I like to use a part savory part sweet sticky mix in a 4:1 ratio (1 cup to ¼ cup). Two of my favorite combinations are beets/prunes and sweet potato/golden raisin.

The Earthy

Here’s where the fresh flavors come in. Use mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, shredded zucchini or carrots. Then add fresh herbs to brighten up the burgers. I love to use lots of parsley or basil, but you could use cilantro, oregano, tarragon, dill…

mushrooms veggie burger

The Binders

While the sticky ingredients help keep these burgers together, I also use egg and panko breadcrumbs. The egg is added to a still hot grains mixture so it cooks when incorporated. There is no need to “cook” the burgers later, just heat them until warmed through.

The Spice

The last layer of flavor comes from whatever spice blend you choose. I’ve done everything from using Cajun seasonings to adding pesto. When in doubt, a little chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and salt will do the trick every time.

spices cumin paprika chili powder

Bonus: These burgers freeze beautifully. I keep a stack of individually wrapped burgers in the freezer ready for a last minute lunch or dinner.


Veggie Burgers

Makes 8 patties


¾ c grains (I used a mix of brown rice, barley, lentils, and quinoa)

1 ½ c water

1 c canned beans, rinsed and drained

1 c savory sticky, like cooked sweet potato or roasted beets (you can cook them in the oven next to the beans)

¼ c sweet sticky, like chopped golden raisins or prunes

½ c earthy ingredients, like sautéed mushrooms, shredded zucchini (salted and drained in a colander), sun-dried tomato, chopped spinach, kale, etc

2 Tbls chopped fresh herbs, like parsley or basil

About 2 tsp total of dried spices, such as ½ tsp each of chili powder, salt, cumin, and garlic powder

1 egg

½ c panko breadcrumbs

Buns and burger toppings


Step 1

Combine the grains and water in a large pot and simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 20-45 minutes depending on the grains. (A mixture with brown rice will take the longest.) Add more water if the grains start to dry out.

Step 2

Meanwhile, spread the beans (and sliced canned beets or cubed sweet potatoes) on a sheet pan. Cook at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Sauté mushrooms or other veggies if necessary.

beans mushrooms veggie burgers

Step 3

When the grains are tender and the water is absorbed, mash the beans and sticky ingredients into the grains until the mixture becomes tight. To do this, the mixture needs to be HOT. Then, add the rest of the ingredients and stir really well to fully mix.

sweet potato beans mushroom veggie burger

eggs panko veggie burger

Step 4

Divide and form mixture into 8 patties. These burgers come out about 3 ½” in diameter, perfect for a brioche or some other small bun. Individually wrap and freeze any you don’t plan on using within a few days.

Step 5

To cook the burgers, heat a nonstick skillet to medium high. Cook the burger until golden brown on each side. When the burger is browned, I like to spread some kind of sauce like barbeque or teriyaki on the burger and top with cheese. This helps the burger stay moist. Add whatever toppings and condiments you prefer and enjoy! (And don’t feel bad about adding bacon on top–we do it all the time.)

veggie burger green bean fries

This burger was served with tempura green bean “fries.” This is what healthy looks like at our house. At least we skipped the bacon today!



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