Veggie burgers have come a long way in the restaurant world, where haute versions like Superiority Burger’s now draw long lines of foodie enthusiasts.
As for the home version, however, unless you’re super gifted in the kitchen and can make your own, you still basically have one grocery store option (with slight variations by brand): A hard, frozen puck that is neither reminiscent of a vegetable nor a burger.
Brooklyn-based Lukas Volger wants to change that, with his new line of ready-to-shape veggie burger mixes, called Made by Lukas, which allow veggie-loving home cooks to create burgers in a more traditional way—and with more flavor. They’re now sold at Whole Foods locations in New York and New Jersey and at specialty New York City markets like Forager’s.
“I wanted it to just be totally full of fresh vegetables,” says Volger, who’s the chef-author of Vegetarian Entrees that Won’t Leave You Hungry and Veggie Burgers Every Which Way, the research for which inspired this new product. “A lot of the frozen are grain- or soy- or bean-based. For me, what’s exciting is that it be an expression of the vegetable.”
To achieve that, the burgers are about 80 percent vegetables, most sourced from local farms in the Hudson Valley. The remaining ingredients are just quinoa, nuts, and spices, and all of the mixes are vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free.
And they really do taste like their main ingredients. The Beet (my favorite) most closely mimics the heartiness of a meaty burger, while still tasting like sweet, fresh beets. The Carrot Parsnip is tangy and has more of a raw-food feel, while the Kale is like having your side salad wrapped up in a bun.
All of them work well as burgers if you tweak the toppings to match the flavors, but since they’re mixes, you can also use them in any of the ways you might use ground turkey or beef. “I make little silver-dollar–size burgers and take them as a snack or put them on a salad,” Volger says. “I also use it as filling for a wonton or dumpling, crumble it into a hash in a frying ban, make a “meat”loaf with cooked grain. It has a lot of versatility.”
I made no-meat meatballs with the Beet mix and while they were slightly crumbly without an additional grain worked in (I could have added quinoa, for instance), they were delicious and worked much better than other from-scratch recipes I’ve tried.
And while you may not be starting from square one chopping the beets, it really does feel more like real cooking, in a way that taking a patty out of its plastic wrap never could. There’s something about the process of getting the mix all over your hands while shaping them into burgers, and the finished product looks like a homemade burger, too. “This is one I’d actually want to serve to my friends,” Volger says. They’d undoubtedly end up impressed—and full. —Lisa Elaine Held
For more information, visit www.madebylukas.com