Though stores and restaurants are full of vegetable-, soy-, and grain-based burgers, there’s nothing like the rich flavors and reduced fat of homemade vegetable burgers.

Veggie burgers are not new to me. I grew up in India, where vegetable patties are a tradition. They are made with cooked, mashed vegetables usually potatoes and are often stuffed with nuts or chutneys. They are not served on a bun. Rather they are paired with grains, lentils, and vegetable side dishes or served as appetizers. I have also come across burger like creations while traveling in different parts of the globe: kibbe and falafel in the Middle East, rice patties in China and Japan, knishes on die streets of New York City.

These cultures inspired me to develop new, exciting burger recipes, and because of the wide variety of grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and vegetables now available in supermarkets, they are easy to make at home. These vegetarian delights – all lower in fat than hamburgers and most commercial veggie burgers – are rich sources of nutrition. Just don’t expect them to taste like meat; they are delicious in their own right.

When preparing hamburgers, the meat must first be ground. In a similar vein, the ingredients in a vegetarian burger must be precooked and mashed. To do this you’ll need a food processor. Once processed the ingredients acquire a smoother texture and the burgers hold their shape better. A blender is not a substitute for a food processor because it requires extra water for processing, which, in turn, makes the mixture too moist to shape and handle.

Vegetarian burgers can be cooked in several ways: grilling, broiling, or sauteing. For grilling, use a barbecue grid or vegetable grid, which keeps food from falling into the fire. Grids come in a variety of sizes. Look for a grid made of heavy grid, steel and coated with a non-stick surface. Most grids have holes that are one-quarter inch in diameter. Grill the burgers, uncovered, over medium-hot coals until lightly browned on both sides. You can also place the burgers on a broiler pan and cook them about three to six inches from the heating clement. Another alternative is sauteing. This method will increase the amount of fat in the dish, but the resulting burgers will taste extra rich. Heat one to two tablespoons of olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet and cook no more than three or four burgers at a time.

In general, I have kept the amount of oil in my burgers to a minimum. To make them even lighter, replace some of the nuts and seeds with additional bread crumbs.

Many of the burger-making steps can be done ahead of time. You can prepare the ingredients and grind them several hours in advance. Just before dinner, shape the mixture into patties and grill, broil, or saute. Uncooked patties can also be frozen indefinitely. When ready to use them, defrost the frozen patties in the refrigerator for a day. Unlike their meat counterparts, leftover vegetarian burgers are delicious. Place the burgers in a 350-degree oven for ten to twelve minutes or until heated through.

Adding More Flavor

There are a number of things you can do to make vegetarian burgers especially flavorful. Toasting seeds and nuts releases their oils and brings out their full flavor. Place the nuts or seeds on an ungreased griddle or skillet set over low heat. Cook, stirring often to prevent burning, until lightly browned. Then grind them to a coarse powder in a blender or spice grinder.

Commercial bread crumbs will make from high-quality bread are my first choice. Cut fresh or day-old bread into one-inch cubes and then arrange the cubes in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in a 350-degree oven until dry and golden brown, fifteen to twenty minutes. Cool the cubes and grind them to a coarse powder in a blender or food processor. Fresh bread crumbs can be refrigerated for several days of frozen for weeks. About eight regular slices of bread will yield one and one-half cups of crumbs.

To make sure that the vegetarian burgers are as flavorful as possible, taste the mixture before forming the patties and make sure that you have added enough salt and seasonings. After cooking, complement the burgers with exciting toppings and condiments. Salsa chutney, or flavored mustard can take the place of ketchup, grilled tomatoes and onions are alternatives to the fresh variety; and arugula and fresh basil leaves can substitute lettuce. Or accompany bunless burgers with rice, quinoa, or couscous and side vegetables to create a well-rounded meal.

The following recipes utilize a variety of grains, vegetables, legumes, and tofu to make burgers. I have chosen seasonings that I think work especially well, but free to adjust them to your taste. For a main course, plan on two burgers per person. One burger may be enough for lighter meal, especially if paired with a good bun and plenty of condiments.

CHICKPEA BURGERS

Makes 8 burgers

Chickpeas and sunflower seeds make these burgers hearty. Serve the burgers on toasted garlic rolls (or bread of) choice) with shredded cabbage, fresh mint leaves, sweet onion slices, and a spicy natural ketchup for some gentle heat.

  • 2 small russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 6 medium scallions, white and green pans cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup spicy natural ketchup
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted and ground to a coarse powder in spice grinder or blender
  • 1 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs Salt
  1. Bring several inches of water to boil in bottom part of steamer. Place potatoes in top part of steamer and cook until tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer potatoes to small bowl and mash with fork. Measure out 1 1/4 cups mashed potatoes and place in workbowl of food processor.
  2. Heat oil in small skillet set over medium heat. Add scallions and cook until limp, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add scallions, chickpeas, ketchup, and ground sunflower seeds to food processor. Pulse on and off several times until ingredients are blended. A few scallion strands may remain.
  4. Transfer contents from food processor to large bowl. Add I cup bread crumbs. Mix by hand or with large spoon until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Season with salt to taste. Mixture will be moist but should hold together well.
  5. Divide and shape mixture into eight patties, each measuring 3 inches across and 1/2 inch thick. Mix in extra bread crumbs if patties don’t hold their shape.
  6. Prepare grill or preheat broiler. If using grill, place patties on vegetable grid. If using broiler, place patties on broiler pan or large cookie sheet lined with lightly oiled piece of aluminum foil. Grill over medium-hot coals or broil 3 to 6 inches from heat until lightly browned, 4 to minutes per side. Check often to prevent burning. Serve immediately

TEMPEH BURGERS

Makes 8 burgers

Carrots add a sweet touch while taming the assertive flavor of the tempeh. Serve the burgers on onion rolls (or bread of choice) with lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, and Plum-Hoisin Sauce (recipe follows.)

  • 3 large carrots (about 1/2 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil cup chopped onion ounces tempeh, cubed
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted,
  • 2 heaping tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and ground to a coarse powder in spice grinder or blender
  • 1 1/4 cups plain bread crumbs
  • Salt
  1. Bring several inches of water to boil in bottom part of steamer. Place carrots in top part of steamer and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to workbowl of food pr.
  2. Heat oil in medium skillet set over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tempeh about 6 minutes.
  3. Add onion-tempeh mixture, rice, and hoisin sauce to food processor. Pulse on and off several times until ingredients are blended. Transfer mixture to large bowl and add ground hazelnuts and I cup bread crumbs. Mix by hand or with large spoon until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Season with salt to taste. Mixture should hold together well.
  4. Divide and shape mixture into eight patties, each measuring 3 inches across and 1/2 inch thick. Mix in extra bread crumbs if patties don’t hold their shape.
  5. Prepare grill or preheat broiler. If using grill, place patties on vegetable grid. If using broiler, place patties on broiler pan or large cookie sheet lined with light oiled piece of aluminum foil. Grill over medium-hot coals or broil to inches from heat until lightly browned, 4 to 7 minutes per side. Check often to prevent burning. Serve immediately

PLUM-HOISIN SAUCE

Makes about 1 cup

This sweet, unctuous sauce is an Asian version of ketchup that goes well with almost any burger.

  • 3/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3-4 tablespoons plum sauce

Place hoisin sauce in medium bowl. Add plum sauce 1 tablespoon at a time until desired taste is achieved (Sauce can be refrigerated several days.)

TOFU-TABBOULEH BURGERS

Makes 8 burgers

Even those who don’t like tofu enjoy these mild-flavored burgers. Slide burgers in a pita long with lettuce, onion, grilled zuechini, and roasted garlic cloves.

  • 1/2 cup packaged tabbouleh
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 medium jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion 1/4 teaspon turmeric
  • 1 10-ounce carton firm silken tofu, drained and cubed
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted and ground to a coarse powder in spice grinder or blender
  • 2 cups plain bread crumbs
  • Salt
  1. Soak tabbouleh in I cup cold water minutes or until softened, Squeeze out and measure out I cup.
  2. Heat oil in medium skillet set over heat. Add garlic and onion and until lightly browned around edges, minutes. Stir in jalapeno and turmeric.
  3. Add tofu, cover, and cook, stirring often, minutes. Put tofu mixture and softened tabbouleh in food processor. Pulse on and off several times until ingredients are blended. Transfer mixture to large bowl and add ground sesame seeds and 1 1/3 cups bread crumbs. Mix together by hand or with large spoon until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Season with salt to taste. Mixture should hold together well.
  4. Divide and shape mixture into eight patties, each measuring 3 inches across and 1/2 inch thick. Mix in extra bread crumbs if patties don’t hold their shape.
  5. Prepare grill or preheat broiler. if using grill, place patties on if using broiler, place patties on broiler pan or large cookie sheet lined math lightly oiled piece of aluminum foil. Grill over medium-hot coals or broil to inches from heat until lightly browned, to i minutes per side. Check often to prevent burning. Serve immediately.

ALMOND-RICE BURGERS

Makes 8 burgers

Ground almonds, basmati rice, and green peas all enrich these burgers. Serve on toasted rolls with thin rounds of jalapeno, a cilantro sprig, lettuce, and cucumber slices.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh gingerroot
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 cup cooked basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup barbecue or grilling sauce, and ground to a coarse powder
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted and ground to a coarse powder in spice grinder or blender
  • 1 1/4 cup Italian or plain bread crumbs Salt
  1. Heat oil in medium skillet set over medium heat. Add onion and ginger and cook until onion starts to brown around edges, about 5 minutes. Add peas and cook, uncovered, for a minute or so, stirring often.
  2. Place pea mixture, rice, and barbecue sauce in workbowl of food processor Pulse on and off several times until ingredients are blended. Transfer mixture to large bowl and add ground almonds and 1 cup bread crumbs. Mix by hand or math large spoon until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Season with salt to taste. Mixture should hold together well.
  3. Divide and shape mixture into eight patties, each measuring 3 inches across and 1/2 inch thick. Mix in extra bread crumbs if patties don’t hold their shape.
  4. Prepare grill or preheat broiler. If using grill, place parties on vegetable grid. If using broiler, place patties on broiler pan or large cookie sheet lined with lightly oiled piece of aluminum foil. Grill over medium-hot coals or broil 3 to 6 inches from heat until lightly browned, to 6 minutes per side. Check often to prevent burning. Serve immediately

KALE-PECAN BURGERS

Makes 8 burgers

These delicious burgers work well as an appetizer or main course. Serve them on toasted rolls math Peanut Sauce (recipe follows), arugula, fresh basil leaves, and cucumber slices.

  • 1/2 cup couscous
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 pound kale leaves, shredded (about 4 firmly packed cups)
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup pecans, toasted and ground to a coarse powder in spice grinder or blender
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian or plain bread crumbs
  • Salt
  1. Place couscous in medium saucepan math 1 cup water. Bring to boil, turn off the heat, and cook, covered, until all water is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 5 minutes. Measure out 1 cup cooked couscous.
  2. Heat oil in large skillet set over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook until garlic is golden and onion starts to brown around edges, about 5 minutes. Add kale and 2 tablespoons water. Cover and cook until kale is tender, 7 to 8 minutes, sprinkling a little extra water if mixture sticks. Don’t overcook as this will destroy color of kale.
  3. Place couscous and kale mixture in workbowl of food processor. Pulse on and off several times until ingredients are blended. Transfer mixture to large bowl and add hoisin sauce, ground pecans, and 1 1/4 cups bread crumbs. Mix by hand or with large spoon until ingredients are thoroughly combined. Season with salt to taste. Mixture should hold together well.
  4. Divide and shape mixture into eight patties, each measuring 3 inches across and 1/2 inch thick. Mix in extra bread crumbs if patties don’t hold their shape.
  5. Prepare grill or preheat broiler. If using grill, place patties on vegetable grid. If using broiler, place patties on broiler pan or large cookie sheet lined with lightly oiled piece of aluminum foil. Grill over medium-hot coals or broil 3 to 6 inches from heat until lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Check often to prevent burning. Serve immediately

PEANUT SAUCE

Makes about 3/4 cup

Unsweetened natural peanut butter should be used in this recipe. Toss leftover sauce with cold noodles and julienned cucumbers for a quick pasta salad.

  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons granulated cane juice
  • 2 teaspoons tamari
  • Salt

Place peanut butter in medium bowl. Gradually stir in 1/2 cup cold water until mixture becomes smooth. Add cane juice and tamari as well as salt to taste. Adjust seasonings. (Sauce can be refrigerated for several days.)

WALNUT-MUSHROOM BURGERS

Makes 12 burgers

If available, use fresh shiitake mushrooms for their deep flavor. These burgers are very rich, smoky, and earthy-tasting. For trimmings, choose lettuce, grilled red bell peppers, and grilled tomatoes.

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, stems trimmed and sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered vegetable bouillon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted and ground to a coarse powder in spice grinder or blender
  • 2 cups Italian or plain bread crumbs
  • Salt
  1. Bring quinoa and 1 1/2 cups cold water to boil in medium saucepan. Cover and simmer until all water is absorbed and quinoa is light and fluffy, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool quinoa. Measure out 1 cup and place in workbowl of food processor.
  2. Heat oil in large skillet set over medium heat. Add onion and cook until edges start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and bouillon. Saute, stirring often, until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Use slotted spoon to transfer onion-mushroom mixture to food processor. Simmer any liquid that remains in pan until it thickens. Pour reduced liquid into food processor. Add thyme.
  3. Pulse on and off several times until ingredients are blended. Transfer mixture to large bowl and add ground walnuts and 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs. Mix together by hand or with large spoon until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Season with salt to taste. Mixture should hold together well.
  4. Divide and shape mixture into twelve patties, each measuring 3 inches across and 1/2 inch thick. Mix in extra bread crumbs if patties don’t hold their shape.
  5. Prepare grill or preheat broiler. If using grill, place patties on vegetable grid. If using broiler, place patties on broiler pan or large cookie sheet lined with lightly oiled piece of aluminum foil. Grill over medium-hot coals or broil 3 to 6 inches from heat until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Check often to prevent burning. Serve immediately

HAZELNUT AND YAM BURGERS

Makes 8 burgers

These burgers work well with moist accompaniments like blanched bean sprouts, a few sprigs of cilantro, and basil leaves.

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 large yam (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh gingerroot
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoons Thai green curry paste
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and ground to a coarse powder in spice grinder or blender
  • 1 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs
  • Salt
  1. Bring quinoa and 1 1/2 cups cold water boil in medium saucepan. Cover and simmer until all water is absorbed and quinoa is light and fluffy, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool quinoa. Measure out 1 cup and place it in workbowl of food processor.
  2. Bring several inches of water to boil in bottom part of steamer. Place yam in top portion of steamer and cook until tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Mash yam thoroughly Measure out 1 cup.
  3. Heat oil in large skillet set over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and cook until brown around edges, about 5 minutes. Stir in mashed yam and 1 teaspoon curry paste. Cook a few minutes, stirring to blend flavors. Taste and adjust amount of curry paste. Cool slightly.
  4. Place yam mixture in food processor. Pulse on and off several times until ingredients are blended. Transfer mixture to large bowl and add in ground hazelnuts and 1 cup bread crumbs. Mix together by hand or with large spoon until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Season with salt to taste. Mixture should hold together well.
  5. Divide and shape mixture into eight patties, each measuring 3 inches across and 1/2 inch thick. Mix in extra bread crumbs if patties don’t hold their shape.
  6. Prepare grill or preheat broiler. If using grill, place patties on vegetable grid. If using broiler, place patties on broiler pan or large cookie sheet lined with lightly oiled piece of aluminum foil. Grill over medium-hot coals or broil 3 to 6 inches from heat until lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Check often to prevent burning. Serve immediately.

CORN AND BLACK BEAN BURGERS

Makes 10 burgers

Corn, black beans, and brown rice make these protein-rich burgers a in meal-in-one. Try these burgers in a pita pocket with lettuce, sweet onion slices, and salsa.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons spicy barbecue or grilling sauce
  • 1/2 cup cooked Texmati or brown basmati rice
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans or 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed well
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted and ground to a coarse powder in spice grinder or blender
  • 1 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs Salt
  1. Heat oil in medium skillet set over medium heat. Add onion and cook until edges start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add corn and barbecue sauce. Cook, stirring for a few minutes to blend flavors. Remove pan from heat.
  2. Place corn mixture, rice, and black beans in workbowl of food processor. Pulse on and off several titles until ingredients are blended. Transfer mixture to large bowl and add ground walnuts and 1 cup bread crumbs. Mix by hand or with large spoon until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Season with salt to taste. Mixture should hold together well.
  3. Divide and shape mixture to ten patties, each measuring 3 inches across and 1/2 inch thick. Mix in extra bread crumbs if patties don’t hold their shape.
  4. Prepare grill or preheat broiler. If, using grill, place patties on vegetables grid. If using broiler, place patties all broiler pan or large cookie sheet lined with lightly oiled piece of aluminum foil. Grill over medium-hot coals or broil 3 to 6 inches from heat until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Check often to prevent burning. Serve immediately.