My secret shame when I go to barbecues is that even among all the gloriously charred burgers and delicious sausages, I almost always end up craving a veggie burger. And not just any veggie burger, but those super-processed frozen hockey pucks in a green box (it doesn't matter what brand, it's always a green box). Maybe it's because I'm hungry and I know I won't have to wait very long for it to cook, or maybe it's because I instinctively know it's the only food that won't make me feel like a swelled balloon when I combine it with all that beer over there in the cooler. I'm not sure why it happens, but it does.
As it turns out, I'm not the only one who gets cravings for these things. One day I was chatting with my friend Rob and he mentioned that his new favorite lunch was heating up frozen veggie burger patties in the microwave. This surprised me, because if Rob walked into a barbecue filled with the smell of meat smoke, he would definitely not be deciding on the veggie patties. But apparently he had grown fond of a certain brand's Asian Veggie Patties. Now, I'm all for my friends eating whatever they want, and obviously I've admitted to eating these boxed things in the past, but I suddenly really wanted to figure out my own, less-processed recipe for these veggie burgers. And once I went online and read the ingredient list, that want became more of an immediate need.
About that ingredient list. It is loooooong, as in 38 separate ingredients. Even once I removed everything that I was sure were thickeners, stabilizers, and preservatives, I was still left with a pretty lengthy list of vegetables. Even so, I decided to use that list as my starting point, because in my experience with veggie burgers, the more veggies you pack in, the more flavor and moisture you end up with in the final product. And that is a good thing if you are trying to avoid dry, crumbly, tasteless patties.
Once I had a list of ingredients to start from, I went to work refining it. Chickpeas would be good for the base since they don't have a super strong flavor and other ingredients could shine through. Onions? Yes, but I would caramelize them for sweetness. Carrots, a must, since they add great moisture to the burgers. Ditto celery. Also ditto the bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, which I couldn't see adding much in the way of flavor but they couldn't hurt. For a punch of flavor, scallions, ginger, and garlic. Also soy sauce, sesame oil, and a splash of rice vinegar to brighten everything up. And to bind, panko crumbs and an egg. At this point, I had pretty much decided to incorporate all of the veggie ingredients from the original recipe. I was intrigued that the original ingredient list also called for dehydrated pineapple juice. I certainly didn't have any of that on hand, but I did have some dried pineapple in my pantry so I decided to throw a few slices of that in too.
I'm not sure you can really call my final result or their inspiration "Asian" apart from some of the ingredients are used frequently in Asian cooking. Whatever you want to call them, they are gingery, moist yet not mushy, and most importantly, tasty enough to banish any cravings for the processed alternative. Also a bonus? You can get twice as many to stock your freezer with. Pick out your favorite toppings or use my suggestions below and pile it all on a bun, or sans bun on a plate as I did. Either way, these are better than any store-bought patty could ever be.
Asian Veggie Burgers with Red Cabbage Slaw, Avocado-Lime Mayo and Sriracha Roasted Peanuts
Yields 6-8 burgers, depending on how large you shape the patties.
For the burgers:
3 slices dried pineapple (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced small
1 carrot, peeled
1/2 bunch green onions (about 4 or 5)
1 stalk celery, cut into chunks
½ can water chestnuts
½ can bamboo shoots
2 cloves garlic, peeled
½ inch piece ginger, peeled
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame seed oil
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 can chickpeas
1 cup panko bread crumbs (or more, if needed)
For the Slaw:
1/2 head Red Cabbage, sliced into wedges
1/2 head Green cabbage, sliced into wedges
1 1/2 cup Snow Peas
3 green onions, sliced thinly
a good handfull cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup rice vinegar
juice of 1 lime
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
For the Avocado Lime Mayo:
1/8 cup mayonnaise
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime
For the Peanuts:
1 cup salted peanuts
1 tsp neutral oil like grapeseed or canola
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp sriracha
To make the burgers:
- If using, rehydrate dried pineapple: pour boiling water over slices and let them sit for at least 20 minutes or until ready to use.
- In a skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium head and add the onions, cooking for about 20-30 minutes until caramelized.
- While onions are cooking, shred carrot and dice the scallions, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- In a food processor, add celery, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, garlic, and ginger and pulse until fine.
- Add the caramelized onions and pulse a few times, then add vegetable mixture back into the skillet and saute for about a minute until fragrant and some of the liquid has evaporated. Add soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil to the pan and stir to combine.
- Add vegetable mixture to the mixing bowl with your carrot and scallions and let cool. In the meantime, add chickpeas and rehydrated pineapple (if using) to the food processor and pulse until chunky but not pureed. Add chickpeas and pineapple to the mixing bowl.
- Once mixture has cooled a bit, add breadcrumbs and egg to the bowl and stir until everything is combined.
- Let mixture rest in the refrigerator if possible. Patties will be easier to form when mixture is cold.
While the burger mixture is chilling, make your slaw and roast your peanuts:
Make the slaw:
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, lime juice, sesame oil, and salt.
- Wipe out your food processor and fit it with the shredding attachment. In batches as necessary, shred green cabbage, then carrots and snow peas, then red cabbage.
- Combine shredded vegetables in the mixing bowl with your green onions and cilantro and toss together to combine.
Roast the peanuts:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, honey and sriracha and toss with the peanuts. Spread peanuts in an even layer on baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes, until fragrant and toasted. Let cool.
Make the mayo:
- In a small bowl, mash together the avocado, mayonnaise, lime juice and lime zest until combined and smooth.
To cook burgers:
- With wet hands, form into patties (make sure they are the size you want when they are done, since they will not shrink down like meat burgers).
- To pan fry, add a thin layer of oil to the bottom of a non-stick skillet on medium heat. When hot, add the patties and cook about 5 minutes on each side, until firm and nicely browned. To bake, preheat oven to 425. Grease a baking sheet and line with parchment paper, then bake for 15 minutes on each side. Baked burgers will be a little drier inside. You can also broil for 5 minutes per side under the broiler.
- To serve, pile as much slaw as you want on top of a patty, drizzle with avocado mayo and sprinkle with peanuts.
- To make these vegan, omit the egg in the burger patties, swap agave for honey in the peanuts, and use vegan mayo.