I still remember my first veggie burger. It was at Ruby Tuesday’s and I was about fifteen. I’d been a vegetarian for a couple of years at that point, but meat substitutes weren’t easy to come by back then, so discovering that they were now available at a mainstream chain restaurant was pretty exciting to me. My first though: tastes like stuffing, as in, bready Thanksgiving stuffing, with some added veggies. I guess I expected it to taste like meat, but the surprise deviation was actually much welcome.
While I love veggie burgers, I’ve never been big on the type that are intended to replicate the taste of meat. They’re ok and all that, and they’ve come in handy in the past when hosting vegetarian barbeques, as meat eaters tend to prefer them, but I prefer their more veggie heavy counterpart. One of the coolest things about the “veggie” variety of veggie burgers, as opposed to the mock meat variety, is that there are so many directions you can take them! You can do a bready, veggie thing, like my old Ruby Tuesday burger, you can make tofu burgers, tempeh burgers, bean burgers, and with all of the different seasonings you can add, the possibilities are endless.
This particular recipe was inspired by Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burger. With my love of veggie burgers and my love of Indian food, I was pretty excited to discover these. They are quite delicious, but maybe a little too potatoey for me. I usually end up snacking on them sans bun with some chutney for dipping. For my veggie masala burgers, I used chickpeas and mushrooms as the base and garam masala as the flavoring. The grilled paneer makes these even more delicious and hearty, and my reviewers tell me the chutney mayo gives them the perfect zip. You can buy your chutney for this at most Indian markets, or if you don’t have one nearby, purchase online. It doesn’t need to be the brand I’ve used here. Pretty much anything labeled as cilantro chutney will work.
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups diced mushrooms
1/2 cup uncooked oats
1 tbsp. garam masala
1/4 cup ketchup
1 (14 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
6 oz. paneer
1/4 cup Veganaise or mayonnaise
2 tbsp. cilantro chutney
Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sautee until soft, about five minutes. Add garlic and sautee until fragrant, about another thirty seconds. Add mushrooms and continue to sautee until soft, about another five minutes. Finally, add garam masala, ketchup, salt, pepper and oats. Cook for about another two minutes. Place in food processor with garbanzo beans, and process just until a chunky mixture that holds together when pressed is formed. Form into six patties.
To cook burgers, spray skillet(s) with cooking spray, and place over medium heat. Grill patties on each side until browned. This should take five minutes or so, per side. Meanwhile, spray another skillet (or skillets) with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Slice paneer into six slices. This may be a little tough, as paneer is a pretty firm cheese. If you need to cut your block of paneer into chunks and slice them up, creating multiple small slices for each burger, that’s just fine. Use a sharp knife and do your best. Grill each side of each paneer slice until brown spots form – five minutes or so.
Slather buns with chutney mayo, and sandwich with patties and paneer. Baby spinach makes a nice topper, and a mixture of ketchup and sriracha goes well right on top of the paneer.