A trio of grill-worthy veggie burgers

veggie burger

Let's face it: soy burgers and tofu hot dogs might be tasty if prepared just right, but they're not exactly perfect for grilling. Unlike their meaty counterparts, the vegetarian options don't boast that juicy-inside-grilled-exterior combination that makes everyone swoon. Plus, the aroma? Meh. 


During my long stretch of vegetarian living, I often forgot this, and thought that maybe this time the Boca burger would magically transform into a succulent dinner worth all the charcoal-heat-up time. Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. He was also a vegetarian for a time, so maybe that insight stemmed from his own grilling experiences.


But it doesn't have to be that way. Skip the frozen food aisle and whip up your own veggie burgers instead, and there'll be plenty of flavor and yes, even a bewitchingly grill-happy scent. Check out this trio of choices from V-lish, a recipe site created by Farm Sanctuary, which works to protect farm animals and create a more compassionate food system.


Now, even during summer grilling season, you'll be ready.


Big Ben Lentil Burger

(Photo above) From GoVegan! with Sarah Kramer (here's a video on how to make them). 


3⁄4 cup wheat germ

2 cups cooked or canned lentils

1 cup breadcrumbs

1/4 cup onions, chopped

3 T olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper


On a small plate, set aside 2 T of wheat germ for coating.


In a medium bowl mix together the wheat germ, lentils, bread crumbs, onions, oil, salt and pepper and mash together ingredients with a potato masher or your hands.


Divide and shape into 4 patties like you’re making a snowball. Really pack the patties tightly together. Lay down each patty in reserved wheat germ, coating each side.


Cook in a lightly oiled frying pan or on a grill on medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes, flipping occasionally.


Southwest Black Bean and Corn Mini Burgers

From Spork Foods, a Los Angeles-based gourmet vegan food company owned and operated by sisters Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg. They offer live cooking classes in Los Angeles at Spork Foods and online vegan cooking classes at 


1 T neutral tasting high-heat oil, plus 2 tablespoons

1/2 large onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

1/2 cup corn, fresh or frozen

1/2 large red or orange bell pepper, finely chopped

Dash sea salt, plus 1/2 tsp

1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed

1/4 T chipotle powder

1 T vegan Worcestershire sauce

1 T fresh lemon juice

2 tsp agave nectar

3/4 cup rolled oats

1 cup bread crumbs or 2 slices spelt bread


Preheat large (6-quart) pot over medium heat and add 1 T oil. Add onion and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Add corn, bell pepper, dash of sea salt and black pepper. Cook until mixture is slightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes, and set aside.

In a food processor, combine black beans, chipotle powder, 1⁄2 tsp sea salt, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and agave. Pulse together 5 to 8 times. Add oats and bread crumbs or spelt bread. Pulse until uniform, scraping down sides to further incorporate into food processor. Transfer to a large bowl.


Add cooked onion and pepper mixture to bowl and fold into veggie burger mixture.


Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add remaining oil. With damp hands, form burgers into patties and place in heated pan. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Serve on a toasted mini bun with cashew cheese, if using (below) and desired toppings.


Cashew Cheese 

3/4 cup cashews

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 tsp agave nectar

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

2 T neutral tasting oil

1/4 cup unsweetened almond or soymilk

1 to 2 T fresh lemon juice

3 sprigs fresh thyme, stemmed and finely chopped


In a large food processor or high-powered blender, pulse cashews, garlic powder, sea salt, agave, paprika, oil, almond or soymilk and lemon juice. Blend until smooth and uniform, scraping down sides of machine as needed. Fold in thyme once mixture is creamy.


Mushroom-Nut Burgers

From Laura Theodore, the Jazzy Vegetarian, and host of the PBS television series of the same name, as well as the podcast.


1 1/2 cups lightly packed, fresh, soft whole-grain breadcrumbs (from about 3 to 4 large slices) (see notes)

1 tsp Italian seasoning or all-purpose seasoning

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 cups chopped mushrooms

1/3 cup diced onion

1 tsp reduced-sodium tamari or 1/4 tsp sea salt


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a medium baking pan with unbleached parchment paper.


Put the breadcrumbs, Italian or all-purpose seasoning, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt in a large bowl. Put the walnuts in a blender and process in pulses until they resemble coarsely ground flour. Add the walnuts to the breadcrumbs and stir gently to incorporate. Put the mushrooms, onion, and tamari in a blender and process to a chunky purée. Add the mushroom mixture to the walnut–breadcrumb mixture and stir to incorporate.


Place a 3-inch cookie cutter ring on the parchment. Pack one-quarter of the mushroom–breadcrumb mixture into the ring and press it firmly and evenly into the ring to form a “burger.” Gently remove the ring. Repeat with the remaining mushroom–breadcrumb mixture. Flatten each burger slightly with the back of a flat spatula. Bake for 18 minutes. Flip each burger and bake for an additional 15 to 25 minutes, or until the burgers are slightly crisp and golden.


Serve on toasted whole-grain buns, topped with lettuce, tomato, sweet onion, mustard, and catsup.


Chef’s Notes:

Gluten-free option: To make gluten-free breadcrumbs, use your favorite gluten-free bread in place of the wholegrain bread.


Freshly made bread crumbs must be used in this recipe, as dry breadcrumbs will not hold the burgers together. To make fresh breadcrumbs, tear 3 to 4 slices of fresh, soft whole-grain bread into chunks. Put the bread chunks in a blender and process into coarse crumbs.


Alternately form the burgers into four patties, with your hands.