Ultimate Veggie Burgers

22 Jun

Print the recipe page!   ultimate veggie burgers

My #1 son (the one allergic to peanuts, beans, etc.) is away at scout camp this week so it seemed a perfect time to try out a Cook’s Illustrated recipe for veggie burgers that I normally wouldn’t make for the family with him here.  They turned out great!

For those unfamiliar with Cook’s Illustrated magazine, it’s essentially a “test kitchen” publication with recipes being tested every which way in order to come up with what these “experts” consider the best all around recipe for whatever it is.   I love it!  So (from their July 2005’s issue) for them to name this recipe the “ultimate” veggie burger — caught my attention.  I love a good veggie burger and have been wanting to try out for myself what they’d come up with and so boldly named.

The staple ingredients creating the texture are brown lentils and bulgur wheat while for the “meaty” taste they used mushrooms and cashews.  The result:  the burgers’ texture is fantastic (not gummy like some I’ve tried), they form into a patties just beautifully and the flavor is great.  Overall, this veggie burger is really REALLY good, much better than what’s available store bought and not too much work to make.    Plus, it’s easy to “sub” in storable ingredients, as I’ve done here, making it a possibility for your food storage plan!  If you’re a veggie burger fan I can promise you’re going to love this recipe!

Makes 12 burgers


3/4 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed  (*see notes)

2 1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup bulgur wheat

2 TBS vegetable oil

1 cup freeze dried onion flakes (rehydrated) -or- 2 medium onions, chopped fine

1/2 cup freeze dried celery (rehydrated) -or- 1 large rib celery, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)

(included in the original recipe, I didn’t use it here) 1 small leek, white and light green parts only, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 tsp. garlic powder -or- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced

3 (4 oz., drained) cans chopped portabella mushrooms (*see note)

1 cup raw unsalted cashews

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 cup bread crumbs

ground black pepper

12 burger buns for serving


Bring 3 cups water, lentils and 1 tsp salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat; reduce heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until lentils are just beginning to fall apart, about 25 minutes (*see note).  Drain in fine mesh drainer.  Line baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels and spread drained lentils over, gently patting dry with additional paper towels.  Cool to room temperature.

While lentils are simmering bring 2 cups of water and 1/2 tsp. salt to boil in a small saucepan.  Stir bulgur wheat into boiling water and cover immediately; let stand off heat until water is mostly absorbed, 20 minutes.  Drain in a fine-mesh drainer; use a rubber spatula to press out excess moisture.  Set aside.


Drained lentils cooling…

draining and pressing extra water from cooked bulgur wheat


Heat 1 TBS oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add onions, celery, leek (if using), and garlic;  cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables begin to brown.  Transfer vegetables to a plate to cool.

Add remaining TBS of oil to now-empty skillet and heat again over medium high heat.  Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until carmelized and dry, about 10 minutes.  Transfer mushrooms to a plate to cool.

Chop the cashews using either a hand cranked nut chopper (see picture), a knife or an electric food processor (about 15 one second pulses).  Stir into a medium bowl with bulgur wheat, lentils, cooled vegetables, mushrooms and mayonnaise.  Using either a manual food mill (see picture– used with medium sized grinding attachment) or an electric food processor (pulsed until coarsely chopped, 15-20 one second pulses) process the mixture in manageable portions until all is processed and it’s cohesive but roughly textured.  Stir in bread crumbs, 1 tsp. salt and ground pepper (I added in some extra onion powder) and divide the mixture into 12 portions, about 1/2 cup each, shaping each into a tightly packed patty, 4 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick; set patties onto baking sheet.


Saute the vegetables then saute the mushrooms…

Chop the cashews fine (I ran them through the “fine chop” setting here three times)

Combine the lentils, bulgur, chopped cashews, vegetables, mushrooms and mayonnaise

Process to a roughly textured but cohesive mixture

Add in 1 cup of bread crumbs, 1 tsp. salt and any other seasonings you prefer for taste.

Form into patties…


To cook on the stovetop:

Heat 2 TBS vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook burgers, up to 4 at a time, until well browned, about 4 minutes per side, lowering the heat to medium if browning too quickly.  Repeat with additional oil and burgers.  Serve.  (Cooked burgers can be kept warm in a 250 degree oven for up to 30 minutes.)

To cook on the grill:

Build medium-hot charcoal fire or preheat gas grill on high.  Using tongs, wipe grate with wad of paper towels dipped lightly in vegetable oil.  Grill burgers, without moving them, until well browned, about 5 minutes; flip burgers and continue cooking until well browned on second side, about 5 minutes.  Serve.

Here’s to summer!



  • Freezing directions (from the recipe):  With freezing and defrosting, the patties increase in moisture content; to counter this it’s  necessary to add more bread crumbs before freezing.  For every burger to be frozen add 1/2 tsp. bread crumbs to the mixture before shaping.  Thaw frozen patties overnight in the refrigerator on a triple layer of paper towels covered loosely with plastic wrap.  Before cooking, pat the patties dry with paper towels and reshape to make sure they’re tightly packed and cohesive.
  •  About the mushrooms:  the original recipe calls for 1 lb. cremini mushrooms (or white) , cleaned and sliced about 1/4 in. thick (about 6 1/2 cups).  Just a fun fact about mushrooms (in case you didn’t know)… the difference in mushrooms isn’t their variety, it’s in the amount of time they’ve matured.  White mushrooms, cremini and portobello mushrooms all come from the same variety (agaricus bisporus) but white button mushrooms are harvested the youngest while the portobello are the very same mushroom but have been allowed to mature much longer.  Somewhere in between these two are the cremini and baby bellas.  So basically the longer they mature, the more flavor they have but they’re the same mushroom.  I opted for the portobello here since it was being used mostly for flavor (and I wanted more flavor).  As an aside, 3 cans worked fine but I probably could have added a 4th can (and will the next time I make it- just to try it) to get the full pound of mushrooms.
  • In cooking the lentils I had to cook them much longer than the recipe’s suggested 25 minutes.   I think it was closer to an hour in order to get them to a soft state.  Next time I’ll definitely put my wonder oven to good use and do it that way.
  • The manual food mill I use here (as my “non-electric” back up food processor) is OXO’s brand.  It comes with three different sized grinding discs and the one I used in this recipe was the medium sized grind disc.  You can find it to buy at most kitchen stores or online.  Here’s a link to it on Amazon.
  • You’ll most likely have a tough time finding brown lentils at your local grocery store.  Look for them instead at an Indian or international market.  Another suggestion would be canned lentils, although Cook’s Illustrated notes the canned lentils will mean some flavor will be sacrificed.  Use a  15 oz can, drain the lentils in a mesh strainer and thoroughly rinse under cold running water before spreading them out on paper towels and drying them. Pictured below, these are the lentils I found (thanks to my local Indian market) — sometimes it’s helpful to see what you’re shopping for ahead of time.

7 Responses to “Ultimate Veggie Burgers”

  1. eatfordotdotdot June 22, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

    This looks amazing-thx for sharing!

  2. Julene June 25, 2012 at 1:57 am #

    I am a vegetarian and I haven’t found a veggie burger that I have loved yet. Yours look so yummy and healthy too!! I can’t wait to try them. Can you tell me where you found portobello mushrooms in a can, that would be great to have on hand. Thanks!!

    • myfoodstoragecookbook June 25, 2012 at 2:35 am #

      I’d love to hear back what you think after making them! On the mushrooms, I haven’t had a problem finding them where I live, here’s their website though:


      If I were you I’d try calling them and asking where they distribute in your area. If they’re not in your area maybe they would sell directly to you (?)

  3. PlicketyCat July 4, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    I’ve found Giorgio and Native Forest canned portabellos on Amazon if you can’t find them in your local stores. I like the Giorgio ones just a little better than the Native Forest ones, but they both worked well.

    You might also have more luck finding dehydrated portabellos if you have an ethnic/international grocer in your area. If not, there is a large selection on Amazon. Dried mushrooms rehydrate very well, and are an excellent substitution for fresh or canned.

    And now that Megan has done a lentil version veggie burger, I’m going to have to rewrite my alternative burger article using a different bean. Good thing I have plenty to choose from and fairly adept at making quick substitutions and plan adjustments 😉


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    […] Ultimate Veggie BurgersThese can be made with all food storage ingredients and are another great healthy option instead of traditional barbecue choices. […]

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