The Rise of the Veggie Burger
There is a plant-based revolution taking place in the culinary world and the latest dish to get a vegan makeover is the classic hamburger. In fact, veggie burgers are now all the rage and for good reason! Cutting animal products out of your diet has scientifically-proven benefits for your health. It is also better for the planet! Therefore, transforming this culinary icon into a healthier version makes a lot of sense. Today, many restaurants, from fine dining to casual eateries, and fast food chains everywhere, are offering veggie burgers to a growing number of consumers.
So, what’s in them? Are they healthy? Are they safe? Are they all made from the same ingredients? These are some questions that immediately come to mind. One can make them at home purely from real whole foods, which is the healthiest option (we will share some of our favorite recipes later). The other option is buying them as prepared patties ready to be cooked, which can be found in supermarkets. Regarding the latter option, quite a few brands already exist, and the number of suppliers is likely to grow as the demand for meatless burgers is steadily on the rise.
Currently, the two biggest players that supply supermarkets across the USA (and are expanding to international markets) are Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger. Heard of them? So, these companies are supplying supermarkets restaurants and now major fast food chains in the Middle East too, with their meatless or veggie burgers. Their burgers have actually been specifically developed by food scientists to create the flavor and texture similar to meat. In a minute we’ll tell you what is exactly inside these burgers (so that you can be the judge), but let’s start with the general composition of a veggie burger.
Veggie Burger Components
The veggie burger is supposed to be 100% meat free, so what is replacing the animal protein? Well, as the name suggests it can be made of just vegetables, but you can definitely make it richer and add a number of other ingredients. Let’s breakdown the various types of ingredients that can be used.
Veggie burgers will use ingredients like mushrooms, onions, carrots and corn. Potato, peppers and broccoli are also popular add-ons. Vegetables give the burgers a pleasant texture and taste, plus it provides moisture to the burger when heated.
If you decide to have yours from protein packed legumes there are lots of great choices. Popular ones are black beans, lentils, chickpeas (of course, our very own tasty Falafel is the original chickpea pita burger!), white beans and or even kidney beans. There are also those that like to have soybeans or tofu, as the base. You can stick to one type or combine two or more beans for added flavor.
3. Dry ingredients
So, a veggie burger will often have grains to act as the meat substitute. The more popular grains are wheat, quinoa, rice or wild rice. Other ‘dry’ ingredients can be oats, flours, nuts (such as walnuts and almonds) or breadcrumbs. These ingredients help to absorb moisture and helps the patty to stick together more tightly.
Whatever the ingredients are in your veggie patties, make sure you add lots of seasoning (your favorite spices and herbs) which can really bring out the flavors.
Always Choose a Lean and Healthy Veggie Burger Meal
Now, if you switch to the veggie burger don’t just assume it’s healthier because it is meatless. The way the burger is prepared and what it comes with may still introduce unhealthy factors (having it with a side order of large fries or a sugary fizzy drink isn’t going to be such a good idea). Here are some points to remember when making it at home or ordering it at a restaurant:
- Avoid the white bun and go for whole wheat, whole grain, or even the gluten free burger bun.
- Try to avoid the store-bought (bottled) condiments, like mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup (or else go for homemade or organic). You can instead apply veggie-based spreads, such as salsa, guacamole and hummus.
- Load your burger with more raw veggies (lettuce, tomatoes, onions, avocado) and fruits (pineapple, mango, pomegranate).
- If you like cheese on your burger, choose low-fat instead of full fat cheese on top.
- For the side order, abstain from the fries and make it a side salad or some chopped fruits. If you need that potato taste, try baking potato or sweet potato wedges at home and flavor it with spices, such as garlic or cayenne powder, instead of salt.
- Speaking of salt, the sodium content may vary from restaurant to restaurant (whether they are making it from scratch or using a prepared patty from a food supplier). If you are at a restaurant try asking for a burger with ‘no salt added.’ If you are at a supermarket look for a veggie burger with less than 500 mg sodium per patty (the lower the better). You can also use Himalayan salt at home, as it is more natural and contains less additives than regular table salt.
Okay, so as I mentioned earlier, let me get back to those two giants in the meatless burger market and see what their burgers are made of. Over at Impossible Burger the ingredients found in their patties were listed on their website. Here they are below:
“Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12”
While over at Beyond Burger, we found that it was not listed on their website. However, we managed to see their ingredients courtesy of Business Insider:
“Water, Pea Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Contains 2% or less of the following: Cellulose from Bamboo, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Natural Flavor, Maltodextrin, Yeast Extract, Salt, Sunflower Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, Dried Yeast, Gum Arabic, Citrus Extract (to protect quality), Ascorbic Acid (to maintain color), Beet Juice Extract (for color), Acetic Acid, Succinic Acid, Modified Food Starch, Annatto (for color).”
So, having read both sets of ingredients, what do you think? Well, obviously if you were making it at home with real whole foods, most of these ingredients would not be used (Impossible Burger has 21 and Beyond Burger has 22 ingredients in total). Furthermore, you could be using real peas (or other types of fresh beans) instead of pea protein isolate. Similarly, you could be using raw soybeans instead of soybean concentrate (which is heavily processed). You will also notice that both burgers are made with coconut oil – a source of saturated fat. The Impossible Burger has also been fortified with more vitamins and minerals (likely to make up for lost nutrients during processing).
There are many arguments out there when it comes to these burgers: Are they more nutritious than meat? Which brand is healthier? Are they heavily processed? And so forth. Clearly, they are ‘replacing’ meat, but again what they are putting in its place is what you should be aware of as consumers (always read the packaging and do your research), so you can make an informed choice. As a rule of thumb, anything you can’t read or spell is best not to eat! It is always best to eat produce which is free of GMOs, herbicides, pesticides, additives, antibiotics, enhancers and any other harmful additives. Select unprocessed organic foods when possible and don’t be shy to ask where your food is coming from and how it is being grown or prepared.
Remember, if you are eating out and craving a burger, the veggie option is still a good choice compared to meat. Of course nothing beats home-made, but these burgers are still better for the planet and for animals!
Okay, so now let’s shift gears and look at some real whole food veggie burgers (the best kind!). Here are some of our favorite recipes that are both easy to make and packed with healthy ingredients. And if you have a great veggie burger recipe, please share it with us!
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Veggie Burger
This burger recipe is ideal for those who enjoy sweet and spicy! The sweet potatoes and black beans are a perfect match and the smoked spices give this burger a grill feel. This tasty burger is vegan (no eggs) and gluten free too. Check it out and give it a go:
This burger is packed with flavors and very easy to make at home. Made with lots of mushrooms and seasoned with thyme, this veggie burger is exceptionally tender and moist – two qualities that make a great burger!
Lentil-Chickpea Burger with Avocado Green Harissa
This is another recipe courtesy of Cookie and Kate that we simply love. Lentils, chickpeas carrots and oats, which are the main ingredients, make it a great consistency for the patty to hold together nicely. The green harissa sauce is also a delightful creamy and flavorsome topping!
Indian Spiced Beet Burgers
Our fourth and final recipe is ideal if you like Indian spices. This burger is also made with brown rice and beetroot, which gives it a lovely dark red color. It has a tinge of sweetness along with a light spicy flavor. Definitely not a dull veggie burger!
First Picture: https://www.consumerreports.org/healthy-eating/build-a-healthy-burger/