I like being vegetarian—My conscience and body both feel good. However, I don’t subscribe to the all-or-nothing approach when it comes to being vegetarian for a couple of reasons:
- That gets boring and restrictive. I happen to love the French fries at a local restaurant that fries them in duck fat. I eat them a few times each year, and it’s delicious. #NoRegrets.
- Sometimes it’s not all that healthy. Say I want to hang out with my friends and they want to go to someplace like Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the game. Sure, mac & cheese or chips and queso are vegetarian, but they aren’t healthy. I’d rather eat a 4 or 6-piece basket of chicken and get some protein mixed in with my fats and carbs! Or, an even better example may be a small diner my brothers like to go to when we visit my grandma… they literally only serve burgers and chicken sandwiches. They have one vegetarian offering: A loaded baked potato. Sure, I could get it without the load of stuff on top, but again… where’s the protein? I’d rather have a grilled chicken sandwich, thank you very much.
So anyway, I decided to become vegetarian a few years ago and did take the all-or-nothing approach… it sucked. I also began to notice that the veggie burgers and other items I was buying were loaded with soy. Now, I don’t want to get into a full-blown discussion about the good and bad of soy, but it seems to me that if you’re going to be VEG-etarian, you should be eating veggies. So, I migrated back to incorporating chicken and turkey in my diet.
But then, I was having a conversation with a fellow vegetarian who suggested making my own veggie burgers. Despite my love of cooking and finding ways to make anything healthy, I had never thought of this—I’m slightly disappointed in myself. But nevertheless, the search began and I found this versatile veggie burger formula. Then, after trying a few variations of my own, I came up with the most amazing Italian veggie burger ever. Get the recipes for both below:
Italian veggie burger (makes 6-8 large):
- 1.5 cups cooked pinto beans
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 1 clove garlic, minsed
- 2 cups chopped bell peppers
- 1 cup chopped spinach
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 3 Tbsp pasta sauce
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1 cup oatmeal
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
What to do:
- Heat 2 tsps oil in a pan over medium heat. Fry the onion, garlic, and 2 cups veggies until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a food processor and pulse with beans, liquid flavor, spice, and salt until combined, but still chunky.
- Add in dry base and texture ingredient and pulse until combined.
- Heat oil or cooking spray over medium-high heat.
- To make small burgers, simply form golf ball size balls and flatten into patties.
- To make full-size burgers, flatten desired amount on parchment paper, foil, or other thin object and use a circular object to cut a burger. Scrape away what’s outside the circle and use your thin transportation device to flip them into a pan.
Add a little spinach to the bottom of the bun, and place the burger on top. Top your burger with sliced or shredded cheese (muenster or mozzarella are good), a little pasta sauce, and a little avocado if you like!
Formula for any veggie burger (makes 6-8 large):
- 1.5 cups cooked bean/s of choice (or 1 lb. can, drained and rinsed)
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 cups diced veggies (try anything and everything! carrots, celery, mushrooms, chopped spinach or kale, corn, chopped artichokes, zucchini, squash, sweet potato…)
- 2 teaspoons oil of choice
- 3 Tbsp “liquid flavor” (mix and match for a great combo: mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, buffalo sauce, balsamic vinegar, salsa, pasta sauce…)
- 4 tsp spice (try combining at least two: paprika, cumin, chili powder, italian seasoning, curry, oregano…)
- 1/2 tsp salt (omit or reduce if liquid flavor or above spices contain salt)
- 1 cup dry base ingredient (my favorite are oatmeal or unflavored protein powder. You could also try buckwheat, cornmeal, or breadcrumbs)
- 1/2 cup texture ingredient (chopped nuts, olives, avocado, cooked rice/quinoa, parsley…)
As you can imagine, there are endless combinations to be tried here! If you get bored of regular burgers, try crumbling it and combining with veggies in a stir-fry type concoction.
Nutrition Information (for one Italian burger): 113 calories, 2.8 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 78.9 mg sodium, 18.3 g carbs, 3.7 g fiber, 2.7 g sugar, 3.7 g protein.