An appealing spicy-sweetness is the hallmark of these nutrient-rich veggie burgers, which are both vegan and gluten-free and can be made in advance. (They freeze well, too!)
After posting a prep shot of these burgers on Instagram last week, I received countless requests for the recipe. So by popular demand, here is it!
As bonus it comes with an inspiring story–as well as a less-inspiring but somewhat funny side note!
I first stumbled upon these meatless burgers via Kate Taylor and her vegetarian blog, Cookie + Kate. The combination of wholesome ingredients and prep-ahead convenience spoke to me, yet it was the story surrounding these burgers that gave me pause.
Several years ago, Kate donated her stem cells to Bill, who was 21 at the time and very sick with leukemia. Kate didn’t know this young man, but she was a match. On a scale of 10, her antigens matched his as a perfect 10.
Thanks to her stem cells, Kate’s immune system took over for Bill’s, and the selfless act enabled him to recover. And then a funny thing happened.
Bill, who never liked spicy foods, began to crave them. Curiously, Kate had always liked things “extra spicy.” (Interestingly enough, Bill also developed Kate’s seasonal allergies.)
Bill later introduced Kate to the Cafe Flora Cookbook, the offshoot of a popular vegetarian restaurant in Seattle, near Bill’s hometown. The following veggie burgers are adapted from an entry in that cookbook and appealed to me for so many reasons.
These burgers are protein packed, egg-free and vegan (because a good veggie burger really should accommodate vegans!). Additionally, they allow for advance prep, freeze well, and are full of nutrient-dense whole foods rather than questionable meat substitutes.
The first time I made these for my family, however, I had backup leftovers at the ready for my younger son. Sweet potatoes are the one food to which he has a visceral reaction. After years of requiring “one bite,” I eventually decided that we had tried long enough. He really didn’t like sweet potatoes!
Upon serving these burgers, I simply called them veggie burgers, not mentioning that sweet potatoes were, in fact, a primary ingredient. When he asked what was in them, I mentioned black beans, oats, lots of spices, etc. There was no need to doom things from the start!
My older son had seen me making them and knew the deal, so he was watching rather intently as his brother took his first bite.
Perhaps it was the bun and all of his favorite toppings (avocado, lettuce, pickled onions and sriracha mayo), but after he swallowed his first bite, he issued a solid vote of approval.
I was grateful, but since he didn’t ask questions, I didn’t divulge details－and haven’t since!
During that initial dinner, I also shared the inspiring story of Bill and Kate that first drew me to these burgers. For anyone who would like to read more, Kate has written about the process both before and after. Information about joining the registry can be found here.
A customer favorite at Seattle’s Cafe Flora, the reviews on these nutrient-rich burgers have been glowing. I simplified the recipe somewhat and added some helpful details. I’ve cooked them on the stovetop and in the oven, and probably prefer the oven method by a tad, simply because it’s hands-off and all the burgers can be cooked at the same time. I often freeze half the batch for dinner another night.
Even meat lovers enjoy this plant-based meal!
- 1½ pounds sweet potatoes (about 2¼ cups mashed)
- ⅓ cup (60g) uncooked quinoa (or 1 packed cup cooked; may substitute millet)
- 1 cup old fashioned oats (use certified gluten-free oats if needed)
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup minced red onion
- ½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (may use parsley if preferred)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼-½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Olive or vegetable oil of choice for cooking burgers
- 8 hamburger buns (optional)
- Optional for serving: avocado or guacamole; sriracha mayo*; pickled onions or pickles; sliced tomato, ketchup or salsa; mustard; lettuce; and/or cheese
- Roast the sweet potatoes: Preheat the oven to 400℉. Slice the sweet potatoes down the center lengthwise. (The cut doesn’t need to be deep, but this will allow steam to escape and make removing the skins easier once cooked.) Place the sweet potatoes cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until they are very tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. (This may take 30 to 40 minutes for smaller potatoes or an hour or more for very large ones.) When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and discard or compost (they should peel off easily) and roughly chop the insides. Set aside to cool completely.
- Cook the quinoa: Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh colander, then combine with ⅔ cup water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to boil, then cover and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until tender, checking after 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the quinoa steam, covered, for 5 minutes. Drain off any excess water (there likely won’t be much, if any) and set aside to cool. If using millet: In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to boil. Stir in the millet, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender (about 15 minutes). Drain off any remaining liquid and set aside to cool.
- Grind the oats: Use a food processor or blender to grind the oats until the flakes are broken up, but not as fine as flour. (I pulse about 10 times.)
- Mix the burgers: First add about half of the beans to a large mixing bowl and gently mash with a potato masher or fork. Add the rest of the beans along with the sweet potatoes, cooked quinoa (or millet), onion, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, and salt. Use a potato masher or large spoon to mix well. (It’s ok if more of the beans mash in this process.)
- Mix in the oats: Sprinkle the ground oats over the mixture and stir to incorporate. The mixture should hold together when you shape a portion into a patty, although it will feel soft. Helpful hint: If possible, for best results, cover and refrigerate the mixture－the patties will be easier to shape and will hold together better when cooked if chilled first.
- Shape the burgers: Use a measuring cup to scoop ½ cup of the mixture. Helpful hint: you can also weigh the mixture, divide by 8, and scoop that much for each burger. Gently shape the portion into a patty about 3½ inches in diameter. (A flatter, wider burger is better with these than a thick one.) Use your hands to gently flatten the burgers and smooth out any jagged edges. Repeat the process 8 times. If you would like to toast your hamburger buns, preheat the oven to 350℉ now.
- Cook the burgers (see notes for oven option): Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat. When hot, place several burgers in the pan, leaving enough room to flip them. Cook each patty until nicely browned and heated through, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet for each pan of burgers you cook. (I can just fit 4 patties in my 12-inch skillet.)
- Toast the buns (optional): Place the buns on a baking sheet, cut sides up, and bake until lightly toasted, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Assemble the burgers with toppings of choice and enjoy!
*For an easy condiment that everyone here enjoys, I often serve the burgers with sriracha mayo: simply start with a ¼ to ⅓ cup of mayonnaise and then stir in 1-2 teaspoons of the sriracha (or to taste－we’ve worked our way up to a tablespoon or so). I’ve made this with Frank’s RedHot sauce, too, but sriracha is our favorite.
IF YOU’D RATHER BAKE THE BURGERS: This is a great method that allows you to cook all the burgers at once and still tastes great. Preheat the oven to 400℉ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush the patties liberally with olive oil, then place them on the baking sheet and bake until the patties are golden on the outside, about 35 minutes, flipping halfway.
FREEZER STORAGE: The cooked burgers freeze well in a sealed freezer bag. To defrost, thaw in the microwave for about 1 minute or in a 400℉ oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until just warmed through.