Switch up your barbecue repertoire this summer with these vibrant vegetarian burger recipes, and convert even the most committed of your meat-eating friends
Blame it on the good weather, or the chance to impress guests at a socially-distanced gathering, but BBQ season somehow inspires us to roll up our sleeves and craft our own burgers. For as much as we love sitting down to a restaurant burger, the homemade kind that’s charred in your own back garden or on your balcony will always taste better.
While there’s always a place for traditional beef burgers, finding vegetarian varieties can be a tricky task. If you follow a plant-based diet, then you’ll know all too well the disappointment of surveying the frozen aisle in the supermarket and resigning yourself to a soy burger that tastes similar to the cardboard box it came out of.
But given that burgers lend themselves brilliantly to all kinds of creative combinations, there’s no reason why you should limit yourself to the same old recipes. So, whether you’re planning a BBQ or looking to switch up your midweek meals, we have five vibrant veggie options to raise your burger game this summer.
Looking to learn the art of assembling a veggie burger from scratch? The mushroom, spinach and soy tomato burger from Christian Stevenson (aka DJ BBQ) is a simple recipe that can be made in 30 minutes, while the buffalo cauliflower burger turns an underrated vegetable into a tasty summer dish.
If you’re expecting company and you’ve a little more time to get adventurous in the kitchen, Genevieve Taylor’s vegan, Korean-inspired tofu, mushroom and sesame burgers with kimchi are packed with spice, while Martin Nordin’s black bean and king oyster mushroom burgers are a great way to transform store cupboard essentials into a culinary feast.
Bettina Campolucci-Bordi’s burgers, meanwhile, might hold the grand title of ‘The Best Burger You Will Ever Eat’, but we reckon it’s seriously justified. As for the ingredients? You’ll have to scroll ahead to find out exactly why it’s a show-stopper.
Get the hot sauce on standby, and prepare to convert even the most staunch carnivores…
Christian Stevenson’s mushroom, spinach and soy tomato burger recipe
Christian says: “My friend Ed has a theory: that mushrooms and spores came to earth via an asteroid. And since pigs and humans are the only species that eat mushrooms, then we must have come from space too. Anyway! This recipe was inspired by our friend and one of the best chefs on the planet, Manuel Scully. Scully loves to ferment and marinate his ingredients for super-duper triply long lengths of time. Which is amazing but we don’t have the time – 30 minutes will do. But, if you can, get those tomatoes marinating overnight, and you’ll take this recipe to the side of the stage for a Guns N’ Roses show during the Appetite for Destruction world tour”.
Makes 4 burgers
Outdoors: half & half technique, with frying pan
Indoors: oven, plus frying pan on the hob
- 2 tomatoes, sliced
- 50ml (scant ¼ cup) rice vinegar
- 100ml (scant ½ cup) light soy sauce
- 40g brown sugar
- 1 spring onion, sliced
- ½ red chilli, sliced
- thumb ginger, peeled and sliced
- pinch of oregano, rosemary, and thyme, chopped
- 100g butter, softened, or 100ml (½ cup) olive oil
- 4 portobello or field mushrooms (as big as your buns), stalks removed
- butter or oil, for frying
- 1 or 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 chilli, sliced (deseeded if you like)
- 200g spinach
- 4 brioche burger buns
- sea salt and black pepper
Marinate the sliced tomatoes in a bowl with the rice vinegar and soy sauce, sugar, onion, chilli and ginger for at least 30 minutes. Mix the herbs with the butter or oil and spread over the top of the mushrooms. If you’re cooking indoors, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4). Place the mushrooms on a baking sheet and roast for 10–15 minutes. If you’re outdoors, cook them on your plancha or on the bars of the grill over the direct heat.
Meanwhile, stick a frying pan on a low heat on the hob (or over a less hot part of the grill) and a little butter or oil and lightly fry the garlic and chilli, until the garlic goes golden – a minute or so.
Now toss the spinach into the pan with a tablespoon of water. Put a lid or baking sheet on top of the pan and sweat the spinach down.
Stir a couple times. It won’t take more than 2 or 3 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper.
When the mushrooms are cooked, get ready to assemble your veggie army of deliciousness. First, toast your buns. Place the mushroom onto the base of the bun. Top with the wilted spinach, a couple of slices of the soy tomato and the top of the bun.
Christian Stevenson’s buffalo cauliflower burger with hot sauce recipe
Christian says: “Cauliflower is so hot right now… and even hotter when you cover it in DJ BBQ Hot Sauce. I love buffalo wings and I love cauliflower, so it makes sense to put them together into one veggie recipe. And the results are as magical as Harry Potter! By the way, my friend, Tim, ripped the last page of the last Potter book and ate it in front of me so I couldn’t finish it. It was a first edition as well.”
Makes 2 burgers
Outdoors: not recommended
Indoors: saucepan on the hob, plus deep-fat fryer or deep saucepan
- vegetable oil, for deep-fat frying (at least 2 litres/3½ pints)
- 100g butter
- 150ml (2⁄3 cup) water
- 1 small cauliflower, cut into 2 steaks
- 150ml (2⁄3 cup) DJ BBQ Hot Sauce (see below for recipe)
- 200g (12⁄3 cups) self-raising (self-rising) flour
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp fine sea salt
- 150ml (2⁄3 cup) mayonnaise
- 50ml (scant ¼ cup) full-fat (whole) milk
- 50ml (scant ¼ cup) cider vinegar
- 25g blue cheese, crumbled
- 2 large soft buns
- lettuce, shredded
- pickles, sliced
For the DJ BBQ hot sauce
Outdoors: half & half technique, with a frying pan
Indoors: frying pan on the hob
- 6 tbsp Mix of Rad (see below)
- 4 tbsp cola
- 2 tbsp apple juice
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp chilli powder
For the Mix of Rad
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 heaped tbsp flaked sea salt
- 1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp onion granules
- 1 tbsp garlic granules
- ½ tsp mustard powder
- ½ tsp chilli powder
- ½ tsp chilli flakes (crushed chilli pepper)
To make the hot sauce, make the Mix of Rad spice mix by putting all the ingredients in a bowl and stirring until thoroughly combined. (Keep what you don’t use in this recipe for any other meat you need to put on your grill.)
Place all the ingredients for the hot sauce in a cast-iron frying pan, stir everything together and set over a medium heat (either on the grill or on the hob). Let it bubble away until thick and hot. At this point, you can add 100g butter to the pan to turn this into a buffalo sauce.
To make the burger, put the butter and water into a medium saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Add the cauliflower and simmer the steaks, turning every now and then, until the water has evaporated and the cauliflower is almost cooked through. Season with salt and leave to drain onto a paper towel.
Add the DJ BBQ Hot Sauce to the remaining butter in the pan and whisk together until smooth – this is your buffalo sauce.
Mix the flour, cumin, paprika and the 1 tablespoon of salt in a large bowl. In another large bowl, whisk the mayo, milk and cider vinegar until smooth.
Place half the mayo mix into another bowl for the blue cheese dressing. Add in the blue cheese and whisk until smooth, then set aside.
Pour the oil into a large saucepan (or you can use a deep-fat fryer), set it over a high heat and get that oil hot. Once the temperature reaches 180°C (350°F), you are good to fry. Dip each cauliflower steak into the mayo mix (the one without the cheese), then dip into the flour mix, making sure they are fully covered. When the oil is hot, carefully drop the steaks into the oil and cook for 2–3 minutes until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel.
Layer up your buns with the cauliflower steak, then lettuce, buffalo sauce, and then add some blue cheese dressing to bring even more awesomeness – this will appease both your veggie and meat-eating friends!
Extracted from The Burger Book by Christian Stevenson aka DJ BBQ (£12.99, Quadrille), out now
Genevieve Taylor’s tofu, mushroom and sesame burgers with kimchi recipe
Genevieve says: “In these vegan Korean-inspired burgers, flaxseed replaces egg as a binding ingredient. It is readily available in supermarkets – find it near the nuts and seeds”.
Makes 4 burgers
- 396g block of firm tofu (beancurd)
- 400g mushrooms, roughly torn or chopped
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh root ginger, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
- 100g (½ cup) cooked brown rice
- 25g (¼ cup) ground flaxseed (linseed)
- 60g (½ cup) sesame seeds, to coat
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying
- a handful of crisp lettuce leaves
- ½ cucumber, sliced
- 4 brioche burger buns, sliced and lightly toasted
- 150–200g (¾-1 cup) kimchi, or to taste
- sriracha sauce, to taste
Unwrap the tofu and drain off any liquid. Wrap the block in a triple layer of kitchen paper and rest it on a plate. Put another plate on top, then balance a couple of heavy tins on it to weigh it down. Leave to gently squeeze for a good hour or so, or a few hours in the fridge if you have time. Pressing the tofu firms it up and creates a more structurally sound burger.
Place the mushrooms, onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Pour the sesame oil into a frying pan and set over a medium heat. Once hot, add the mushroom mix, soy sauce and chilli flakes and stir-fry for about 12–15 minutes, until soft and quite dry. The more moisture you can get rid of the firmer your burgers will be. Once cooked, scoop into a bowl and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Stir in the cooked rice and ground flaxseed and season generously with salt and pepper. Unwrap the tofu and use your hands to crumble it into the mixture, then stir it in well. Divide the mix into 4 even-sized balls and put them on a plate.
Put the sesame seeds into a shallow dish. Take one of the balls of burger mix and flatten it in your palm to around 2cm (¾ inch) thick. Gently dip it into the sesame seeds to coat all over. Repeat with the other balls, then chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
When you are ready to cook, pour a little vegetable oil into a large frying pan and set over a medium-high heat on the hob or barbecue. Once the oil is hot, add the burgers and fry for about 5 minutes each side, until the sesame seeds are crisp and golden.
To serve, place a little lettuce and cucumber on the base of each bun, top with the burgers, add some kimchi and finish with a drizzle of chilli sauce, if you like.
Extracted from Charred by Genevieve Taylor (£16.99, Quadrille), out now
Martin Nordin’s black bean and king oyster mushroom burger recipe
- rapeseed (canola) oil or peanut oil, for frying
- 60g finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco, or Midsummer’s Louisiana Hot Sauce
- 3 tablespoons HP Sauce or other brown sauce (steak sauce)
- 2 large king oyster mushrooms
- 50g walnuts, peeled and chopped
- mild chilli powder, e.g. piment d’Espelette
- 150g (2½ cups) cooked black beans
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves
- 40g (scant ½ cup) cooked beluga lentils
- 300g (3 1/3 cups) cooked porridge (oatmeal)
- sea salt flakes
- 2–3 red (bell) peppers
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 burger buns, halved
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 6 eggs
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
- parsley leaves
Heat some rapeseed or peanut oil in a frying pan and fry the onions on a fairly high heat until they have browned thoroughly and are almost on the verge of being burnt. Lower the heat, mix in the Tabasco and HP sauce and take the frying pan off the heat.
Cut the mushrooms into 1/2 cm (1/4 in) cubes.
Warm plenty of oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the mushrooms and fry until soft, for around 20 minutes. Drain the oil.
Toast the walnuts in a dry cast-iron pan on a medium heat until they begin to colour, for around 2 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally to make sure the nuts don’t burn too much.
However, it doesn’t matter if they take on a lot of colour. Remove the pan from the heat and season with chilli and salt.
Place the walnuts in a bowl together with the beans, parsley, lentils, porridge, mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Mix together using a potato masher (the beans should only be slightly mashed). Add the onion mixture and stir to ensure that everything is mixed.
Shape the batter into six round patties – either by hand or by using a shaper. Place them on a plate and cover with cling film.
Leave them to stand in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour – preferably longer – so that they hold together better when being grilled.
Light the barbecue and grill the peppers hard so that they turn black on the outside. I usually place the peppers onto the barbecue while the fire is still burning – preferably on top of a wood-burning fire. Put the peppers in a plastic bag and leave to cool for around 10 minutes. Rub the skin off by massaging the peppers while they are still in the bag. Cut into even strips.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron pan, either on the hob or on the barbecue.
Fry the patties on a medium heat for a few minutes on each side. Then place them on the barbecue in indirect heat, close the lid and roast for 10–15 minutes.
Brush the cut surface of the buns with olive oil and grill them quickly on the barbecue.
Dry out the cast-iron pan, then add in a tablespoon of butter. Return it to the grill and fry the eggs.
Add a generous tablespoon of mayonnaise to each bun and place the burger on top. Top with the grilled pepper, parsley and the fried egg.
Extracted from Fire, Smoke, Green by Martin Nordin (£15, Hardie Grant), out now
Bettina Campolucci-Bordi’s The Best Burger You Will Ever Eat recipe
Bettina says: “Don’t be afraid of the ingredients list on this recipe – I know it seems long, but these are well worth making and cook beautifully on the grill so are perfect to take along to barbecues. They freeze really well, and last a good 4–5 days in the fridge and can be made fresh”.
Makes 4-6 patties
- ½ leek, green and all, chopped
- 5 mushrooms, chopped
- 30g thyme leaves
- 140g GMO-free firm tofu, chopped
- 1 handful of kale
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 240g drained tinned black beans
- 3 tablespoons oat bran
- 2 tablespoons pre-cooked brown rice
- 2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts (filberts) or walnuts
- 40g (generous ⅓ cup) chickpea (gram) flour (optional)
- olive oil, for frying
- sliced tomatoes, red onion and lettuce, to serve
- burger buns, to serve
For the burger dressing
- 4 tablespoons plant mayo (see below) or shop-bought
- 1 teaspoon tomato ketchup
- 1 tablespoon chopped gherkins
- salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 pinch of cayenne
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the leek, mushrooms, thyme, chopped tofu and kale for about 5 minutes. Then add the mustard, tamari, and half of the drained black beans and give it a good stir.
Transfer the mixture to a blender and pulse a few times but make sure the mixture is still chunky and has bite. Take the contents of the blender and scoop into a bowl and add the rest of the black beans, the oat bran, rice and chopped nuts and give it a good mix.
Shape the burger mixture into patties and let them rest in the fridge if you are grilling (broiling) them. If you are pan frying them you can fry them off straight away. I like dipping them into chickpea flour before but it’s just an option.
For the burger dressing, mix all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Fry the patties for 4–5 minutes on each side until lovely and crisp. Choose your burger toppings, add a pattie and some sliced tomatoes, red onion and lettuce to your burger bread and a generous dollop of burger dressing and enjoy!
Extracted from 7 Day Vegan Challenge by Bettina Campolucci-Bordi (£15, Hardie Grant), out now
Photography: Jason Ingram; Martin Nordin; David Loftus; Nassima Rothacker
Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.