I’ve lived in a vegetarian household for over seven years now, and it’s fair to say I’ve made my share of veggie burgers. Some have been insanely good, some meh, and some downright disgusting.
Two qualities are necessary for a good veggie burger: The right texture and, of course, incredible flavor. If you achieve only one of these, your burger will probably fall into the “meh” category — you don’t like it and you don’t hate it, but you probably won’t ever make it again. And if you’re missing both flavor and texture, forget it.
Then you have the veggie burgers that have it all, like these sturdy Thai veggie burgers — made all the better because they’re piled high with Thai pickles and finished off with a generous smear of curried cashew cream. They’re a little bit involved, so they’re not your everyday kind of veggie burger, but they’re perfect for a Saturday evening when you’ve got time on your hands and you want to make a dinner that will impress.
Inspired by a Thai Turkey Burgers recipe from Epicurious, these veggie burgers are packed with flavor thanks to Thai spices, toppings, and sauces. And the texture is just right — nice and firm so that they hold up to being topped, sauced, and manhandled in the bun. You know, like a burger should be!
When I was developing this recipe, I knew I wanted to use a blend of beans and oats to achieve the texture and flavor that would make this burger unforgettable. After a few failed attempts, I finally stumbled on a combination of edamame, oats, and — most importantly — dried chickpeas, soaked for 24 hours to soften them. The beauty of the soaked chickpeas is that there’s no need to cook them first. Just grind the soaked beans in your food processor along with the rest of the ingredients, form your patties, and cook.
Soaked chickpeas are my secret to nailing the perfect texture in falafel (see my Sweet Potato Falafel recipe!) and they work for burgers too. The soaked chickpeas have a texture that’s almost closer to a nut than a bean, so you avoid that mushy, bean-y texture that some veggie burgers can have. In a pinch, you can use cooked chickpeas from a can, but they may throw off the texture, so if at all possible, give this method a try because it’s worth it! There really isn’t much more prep time involved; you just have to remember to set the chickpeas out to soak the day before you make the burgers.
1/2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked for 24 hours, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons Thai Chili & Ginger sauce
Salt to taste
Zest of 1 lime and 1 teaspoon lime juice
3 tablespoons minced cilantro
Grapeseed oil, or other neutral-tasting, high smoke point oil for cooking
4 hamburger buns, toasted
Additional cilantro for topping (optional)
For the curried cashew cream:
Add all of the ingredients to a high-speed blender or food processor fitted with the S-blade. Blend, stopping to scrape the sides as necessary, until it’s smooth and has a consistency similar to hummus. If your machine seems like it’s struggling, add more vegetable broth, a tablespoon at a time, until it’s running smoothly. Season with salt to taste and refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.
For the Thai pickles:
In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, honey, and orange juice until the honey dissolves. Add the cucumber and carrot strips, cilantro, basil, and mint. Toss to combine. Set aside to marinate while you make the burgers.
For the Thai veggie burgers:
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S-blade, combine the garlic, lemongrass, and green onions. Process until all of the ingredients are finely chopped. Add the chickpeas, edamame, oats, egg, Thai chile & ginger sauce, salt, and lime juice. Process, stopping to scrape the sides once or twice, until the ingredients are combined and are about the same size as small grains of rice. Fold in the lime zest and chopped cilantro.
Line a small baking sheet or large plate with parchment paper. Divide the burger mixture into 4 mounds on the parchment and shape them into 1/2-inch thick disks. Place patties in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes to firm up while you toast the buns.
When you’re ready to cook the burgers, place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon or two of oil and heat until shimmering. Gently place the patties in the pan — you want to hear a loud sizzle when the patties hit the oil, otherwise it’s not quite hot enough yet. Fit as many patties in the pan as you can without crowding them. Cook the patties for 5-7 minutes, flipping halfway through the cooking time. The exterior should be crisp and golden brown with slight charring around the edges.
To build your burger:
Spread a generous amount of the curried cashew cream on each side of a hamburger bun. Set a patty on top of the bottom bun, place a heaping mound of Thai pickles over the top, scatter cilantro over the pickles if using, and place the other half of the bun on top. Repeat with each burger and serve.
The pickles and curried cashew cream can both be made in advance to save on prep time.
If you can find Thai basil leaves, buy them for the pickles! They have a stronger flavor than regular basil. If you’re unable to find Thai Chili & Ginger Sauce, we’ve tested this recipe successfully using 2 tablespoons of Thai chili garlic sauce and 1 teaspoon of minced ginger instead (cut the sauce down to 1 tablespoon for milder burgers!).