When I create a veggie burger, I start with a starring vegetable and add supporting ingredients from there. For me, this approach creates an endless variety of veggie burgers. They’re not meat analogues; there’s no need to mimic meat’s texture or flavor or to even think of meat at all. Rather, they’re expressions of vegetables — exciting, colorful vegetables! — and a carrot, eggplant burger, or beet burger, for example, can all find flavors that suit their individual characteristics.
So in this recipe, I started with artichokes (canned or frozen, to save you the trouble of prepping fresh ones), which invited a lemony profile. I paired them with the mild flavor and creamy texture of white beans, as well as an herb-infused olive oil for basting. Those ingredients would also make a nice salad, which is exactly the idea. Thankfully, beans can mash up and cohere. Combined with my favorite binding agent of instant potato flakes and potato or cornstarch (which keeps the burgers vegan and gluten-free), it’s very easy to turn that salad into a veggie burger that’s equally delicious.
Grilling homemade veggie burgers, though, presents some challenges. A burger that’s sturdy enough to not fall through the grates, and to hold its shape when flipped and moved, often requires a lot of flavor-blanketing binder. The best workaround here is to pre-cook them. This step firms up the texture so that there’s no fear of them crumbling into your coals. It can even be done out on the grill.
As for condiments, I like to think back to what else might be nice in that salad — things like garlicky aioli, salted yogurt, or a thick smear 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 pickled and thinly sliced fennel, keep your veggie burger tasting as bright and fresh as it authentically is.
Lemony Artichoke and White Bean Burger Recipe
Makes 4 burgers
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
Leaves from 2 or 3 bushy oregano or marjoram sprigs, coarsely chopped
Big pinch 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 teaspoon 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 combine the zest with ¼ cup olive oil, the oregano leaves, and pepper flakes. Set aside the oil to infuse while you prepare the burgers.
Step 2: Cut three ¼-inch thick rounds from the fleshy middle part of the zested lemon, and pick out and discard the seeds. Chop into a small dice, peel and all, and set aside. Use a sharp chef’s knife to quarter and then thinly slice the artichoke hearts.
Step 3: Warm a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, swirl to coat, then add the diced onion and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring periodically, until lightly golden and soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, followed by the diced lemon. Allow to cook until the lemon softens, 3 to 4 minutes, then add the artichoke hearts, a few grinds of black pepper, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring the pan periodically, until the artichoke browns lightly, 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 big fork, or wooden spoon) to mash them with the vegetables until the mixture begins to cohere, leaving some beans intact. Fold in the potato flakes and starch. Once the mixture is cool enough to handle, shape into 4 burgers using lightly moistened hands.
Step 5: Before grilling the burgers, you’ll need to pre-cook them so that they hold up over the grates. Preheat your grill to medium or medium-high heat. Lightly grease a piece of aluminum foil and place on an upper rack. Place the burgers directly on the foil, cover the grill, and allow them to cook until noticeably firmed up — 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how hot your grill is.
Step 6: Brush the top side 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 to 3 minutes — basting the burgers as you cook. In swift, confident motions, flip and cook til grill marks appear on the opposite side. Then serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, adorned as you please.
*To pre-cook the burgers in advance in the oven: Arrange the shaped burgers on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400 F oven for 15 minutes. Cool before storing in an airtight container. Then bring them to room temperature before grilling, or re-warm them on an upper rack for a few minutes until heated through, before proceeding with adding the grill marks.
*To freeze: Once cool, wrap leftover burgers individually in plastic, then store in a container or zip-top bag. Thawed burgers will have a wetter, softer texture, and they aren’t quite sturdy enough to grill. The best way to cook them is in a lightly oiled skillet.
Lukas Volger is the author of Snacks for Dinner, Start Simple, and three other cookbooks. He also co-founded the queer food journal Jarry and created Made by Lukas, a small batch, premium line of veggie burgers.
Dina Ávila is a photographer in Portland, Oregon.
Recipe tested by Ivy Manning
Photo assistant: Griffin Koerner