When I create a veggie burger, I start with a star vegetable and add supporting ingredients. For me, this approach creates an endless variety of veggie burgers. They are not meat analogues; there is no need to imitate the texture or flavor of meat or even think about meat. Rather, they are expressions of vegetables – exciting and colorful vegetables! — and a carrot, eggplant, or beet burger, for example, can all find flavors that match their individual characteristics.
So in this recipe, I started with artichokes (canned or frozen, so you don’t have to make fresh ones), which invited a lemony profile. I paired them with the mild flavor and creamy texture of white beans, along with a herb-infused olive oil for brushing. These ingredients would also make a great salad, which is exactly the idea. Luckily, the beans can crash together and stay consistent. Combined with my favorite binder of instant potato flakes and potato or cornstarch (which keeps burgers vegan and gluten-free), it’s super easy to turn this salad into an equally delicious veggie burger.
Grilling homemade veggie burgers, however, presents some challenges. A burger strong enough not to fall through the grates and to hold its shape when flipped and moved often requires a lot of binder to mask flavors. The best solution here is to pre-cook them. This step firms up the texture so there’s no fear of them crumbling into your embers. It can even be done on the grill.
When it comes to condiments, I like to rethink what might be nice in this salad – things like garlic aioli, salty yogurt, or a thick layer of Dijon mustard are terrific. A mild cheese like provolone or Swiss, or a good pre-sliced vegan cheese, adds extra richness. And tender lettuces like arugula and watercress, or lightly marinated, thinly sliced fennel, keep your veggie burger as shiny and fresh as it authentically is.
Lemon Artichoke and White Bean Burger Recipe
Makes 4 burgers
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
Leaves of 2 or 3 bushy sprigs of oregano or marjoram, coarsely chopped
Large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained, or one 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1 medium or ½ large white or yellow onion, diced
1 tsp salt, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
One 14-ounce can butter beans or other white beans (cannellini, navy, or Great Northern), drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons instant potato flakes, such as Bob’s Red Mill
2 teaspoons potato or cornstarch
Step 1: Zest the lemon, then mix the zest with ¼ cup of olive oil, the oregano leaves and the chili flakes. Reserve the oil to infuse while preparing the burgers.
2nd step: Cut three ¼-inch-thick rounds from the fleshy center part of the zesty lemon, then scoop out and discard the seeds. Small dice, peel and all, and set aside. Using a sharp chef’s knife, quarter and thinly slice the artichoke hearts.
Step 3: Heat a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, toss to coat, then add the diced onion and ½ teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring periodically, until lightly browned and tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, followed by the diced lemon. Cook until the lemon softens, 3 to 4 minutes, then add the artichoke hearts, a few black peppercorns and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, swirling the pan periodically, until the artichoke is lightly browned, collapses a bit, and any excess liquid in the pan is cooked off. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
Step 4: Add the beans to the bowl and use a potato masher (or a large fork or wooden spoon) to mash them together with the vegetables until the mixture begins to bind together, leaving a few beans intact. Stir in potato flakes and cornstarch. Once the mixture is cool enough to handle, shape 4 burgers with lightly moistened hands.
Step 5: Before grilling the burgers, you will need to pre-cook them so they will fit on the grills. Preheat your grill to medium or medium-high heat. Lightly grease a piece of aluminum foil and place it on a high rack. Place the burgers directly on the foil, cover the grill and let them cook until noticeably firm – 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the heat of your grill.
Step 6: Brush the top of each burger with some of the infused oil, then add to the lower rack over indirect heat, oiled side down. Cook until grill marks appear – which will only take 2-3 minutes – basting the burgers as they cook. In quick, confident motions, flip and cook until grill marks appear on the opposite side. Then serve hot, warm or at room temperature, decorated as you wish.
*To pre-cook the burgers in the oven ahead of time: Arrange the shaped burgers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a preheated 400 F oven for 15 minutes. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container. Then bring them to room temperature before grilling, or reheat them on a high rack for a few minutes until heated through, before adding the grill marks.
*Freeze: Once cooled, wrap leftover burgers individually in plastic, then store in a container or zip-top bag. Thawed burgers will have a moister, softer texture, and they’re not solid enough to grill. The best way to cook them is in a lightly oiled skillet.
Lukas Volger is the author of Snacks for dinner, just start, and three other cookbooks. He also co-founded the queer food journal Jarry and created Made by Lukas, a small line of premium veggie burgers.
Dina Avila is a photographer in Portland, Oregon.
Recipe tested by Ivy Manning
Photo assistant: Griffin Koerner