In this age of vegetarianism, veganism, and other restrictive diets, veggie burgers have become nearly as ubiquitous as regular hamburgers, and unfortunately, mediocre versions are rampant. While we find the premade frozen patties OK, we prefer to make our burgers ourselves. A sampling of house-made restaurant burgers left a lot to be desired, so we set off on a mission to create the very best veggie burger. The following is our stab at the perfect formula.

What to buy: TVP, short for textured vegetable protein, is a meat substitute made from soybeans that is low in fat, high in protein, and has a pleasingly chewy texture. It is often found in dried, flaked form in the bulk foods section of grocery stores.

Panko is coarse Japanese-style breadcrumbs, available in many grocery stores.

Game plan: Be sure to have the lentils and rice cooked before starting the recipe (leftover brown rice from your Chinese takeout works great). For the lentils, start with 1/4 cup dry lentils and cook according to the package directions. For the brown rice, use 3/4 cup uncooked rice.

You’ll also want to make the kaiser rolls before you begin.

This recipe was featured as part of our Hamburger Through Time story.

  • Yield: 7 burgers
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Total: 1 hr 
  • Active: 30 mins 

Ingredients (23)

  • 1 cup dry TVP (textured vegetable protein)
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1 cup grated zucchini (from about 1 medium zucchini)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced yellow onion (from about 1/2 medium onion)
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 cup grated carrot (from about 1 carrot)
  • 1/3 cup peeled, shredded red beet (from about 1/2 large beet)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons ground mustard, such as Colman’s
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked short-grain brown rice (about 3/4 cup dry)
  • 2/3 cup cooked brown lentils (about 1/4 cup dry)
  • 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup coarse whole-wheat panko, such as Ian’s
  • 3/4 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 7 whole-wheat buns or kaiser rolls (see Game Plan note), for serving


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the TVP and water. Stir and set aside until ready to use.
  2. Toss the zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and place in a colander or strainer set over a bowl to drain, at least 10 minutes. Squeeze the zucchini to release any excess water, then set aside, discarding the liquid.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft and translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the soaked TVP mixture, the zucchini, carrot, beet, 1/4 cup of the sunflower seeds, the tomato paste, ground mustard, 3/4 cup of the brown rice, 1/4 cup of the lentils, the parsley, thyme, and 1/2 cup of the panko. Add the sautéed onion and garlic and mix well; set aside.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in the same frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  6. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl of a food processor; add the egg, egg white, tamari, pepper, and remaining salt, TVP, sunflower seeds, brown rice, lentils, and panko. Process until the mixture is well combined and uniform, about 30 to 45 seconds. (The mixture will not be smooth.)
  7. Add the puréed mushroom mixture to the reserved TVP mixture and combine well (using your hands works best). Form into 7 patties (about 3/4 cup each) and place on a baking sheet. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 3 patties to the pan and brown on one side, about 6 to 7 minutes; flip and continue cooking until the burgers are crispy and heated through, about 5 to 6 minutes more. Repeat with the remaining patties and serve on whole-wheat buns or kaiser rolls with your favorite toppings.

Beverage pairing: Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, Chile. The Casablanca Valley in Chile is one of the coolest places to grow wine grapes in South America. Consequently, this Sauvignon Blanc is zingy and bright, with grassy, citrus, herbal flavors that will complement this earthy burger.