Cookout-Caliber Smoky Veggie Burgers

Hi guys!  This is Christine, and usually on Friday I check in with a healthy dessert recipe, but today I’ve got something special for you!  Maybe it’s the warm weather, but this week I’ve got burgers on the mind!

Frozen Hockey Pucks vs. Mushy Bean Patties

Looks like the real thing, huh?

Have you noticed that veggie burgers only manage to fall into these two categories?  Don’t get me wrong—I’m always psyched to find Boca Burgers at a cookout, and I am just as happy to say ole! to a round of black bean burgers.

Still, we’re always forced to settle: either enjoy an expensive pattie of processed soy, or keep pretending that those smooshed beans are satisfying your carnivorous friends.  Lately, I’ve been yearning for something more.

Perfecting the Veggie Burger

Instead of filling this summer’s barbecues with sub-par burgers, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I thought long and hard about all the burger recipes I’ve tried, and what exactly I liked about each one.

First, I had to address the texture of the burger.  Mushrooms were a necessity for me after I tasted the beefiness of these portabella burgers.  I also really like the way the lentils and flaxseed worked in structuring the Reluctant Vegetarian’s recipe for lentil burgers.  Next, I decided to include nuts after seeing how well the almonds worked in these raw burgers from Thrive.

I chose to include vital wheat gluten to get a real chewiness out of the burgers.  This is usually the second ingredient in those frozen boxed versions, after TVP of course.  Vital wheat gluten will bring the most realistic feel to the patties, but you could also use regular whole wheat flour, bread crumbs, or an alternative flour like buckwheat.

As for taste, I loved the way the red wine, tomatoes, and onions brought out the beef burgundy side of plain old lentils in the recipe aptly titled Hungy For Meat?  Eat this instead.  With a dash of liquid smoke, vegan worcestershire sauce, and thyme, I believe I am on my way to perfecting the veggie burger.

NMA Grill-Worthy Veggie Burgers


  • 1/2 lb dried lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 portabella mushroom caps, gills and stems removed, chopped
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 3/4 cup vital wheat gluten

Rinse the lentils and cook in the water until they are tender and water is absorbed, about 30-35 minutes.

Fry the onion in the oil until soft.  Add the mushrooms and garlic; fry until fragrant.  Stir in the tomato paste, salt, thyme, and black pepper.  Let fry for a few minutes.  Stir in walnuts and let toast.  Slowly add wine, vinegar, worcestershire sauce, and liquid smoke.  Stir in the lentils.

Remove from heat and stir in flax seed and vital wheat gluten.  Keep stirring to strengthen the gluten and get the burgers chewy.  Form into ten patties and refrigerate for an hour.  You can freeze them now to cook later, or preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle baking sheet with cornmeal and arrange patties on the pan.  Bake for 20 minutes, then fry in a pan on medium heat with a little oil for 2 minutes per side.  If you just want to fry them without baking, lower the heat and fry for 3-4 minutes per side.

I was so pleased with these burgers that I made a double batch so I would have plenty to freeze!  The vegan worcestershire is really yummy as a topping too!  I hope you give these burgers a shot at your next cook0ut—I’d love to hear how they taste on the grill!

See you next week when I’ll put the sweet back in Sweet-Tooth Friday!

xoxo, Christine



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  1. These look yummy, and so hearty! I recently made veggie burgers with chickpeas, which turned out great, but I definitely want to try a lentil-based burger next.
    .-= Amber Shea @Almost Vegan´s last blog ..Maple cinnamon pecan milk + GIVEAWAY! =-.

  2. those burgers look great! thanks for the linky love. 🙂
    .-= Reluctant Veggie´s last blog ..Recipe: Corn Chowder =-.

  3. I’m going to try these out on the still-eating-meat hubby and see what he says. Looks yummy!

  4. Great recipe girl! I wish I liked mushrooms 🙁 I keep trying. The burgers just look like they came out perfect! Hope you have a good weekend.
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..I Love SC & Vegan Coconut Cornbread Muffins =-.

    • Hey Erica,

      Even though the mushrooms don’t taste too strongly in this recipe, they do a great job sucking up the flavors of the wine and smokiness. The only thing I can think of to do that job would be diced firm tofu.

      Otherwise, for just texture replacement you could try chopped black olives, roasted red pepper, green mango, or celery.


  5. These look great! Making homemade veggie burgers is on my “to-make” list for the summer. But do you think there’s a substitute for the wheat? I can’t eat gluten
    .-= Evan Thomas´s last blog ..The Fastest My Heart Has Ever Beat =-.

    • Hey Evan!

      Try buckwheat, almond meal, or chickpea/garbanzo flour. You mentioned you use Bob’s red mill— their all-purpose mix would be good too.

      If you do use bean-based flour, make sure to bake them to get the beans fully cooked. And if you have some trusty xanthan gum around, a 1/2 teaspoon of that wouldn’t hurt.

      I bet you could try those gluten-free (rice based) bread crumbs too, but I don’t have any experience with them.

      For the vegan worcestershire sauce, I used Annie’s, but Wizard’s makes a vegan and gluten-free version.


  6. They sure look tasty. I love my veggie burger recipe, but I’m always up for trying something new.

  7. They sound superb! Veggies burgers see one thing i’ve yet to find a knock out recipe for. These will be tried for sure in the next couple of months!

  8. These sound wonderful! I’m going to make them next week!

  9. wow- these look fantastic. Thanks!
    .-= Sonal Modisette´s last blog ..Colfax Half Marathon Race Report =-.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    This is great. My boyfriend mentioned yesterday that he wanted to get more into veggie burgers because he had a fantastic one at work yesterday. I’ve been working on different recipes, but I’ll give this one a shot. The pics look delish.

  11. I haven’t made veggie burgers for a while, and now I feel like trying it again 🙂

    Pre-cooked vegan meals like burgers are almost inexistent here, and if you find them, they cost a fortune. So my burgers have always been the beans/lentils type.

    I’ll definitively give a try to this ones 🙂
    .-= Ksenia´s last blog ..I would like to stay little forever (my mum’s vegan bread recipe) =-.

  12. Wow, those burgers look amazing! I bet they would be great on the grill. 🙂
    .-= chow vegan´s last blog ..Seven Vegetables Quinoa with Harissa =-.

  13. I really enjoyed the one you gave me. It did have that “burger” texture we talked about. I’m sure I’ll be making a batch to freeze.

  14. I’m so glad I stumbled my way over here – I’ve been looking for a veggie burger recipe like this one to rock on Memorial Day! I’ll let you know how it goes!

  15. I made this veggie burgers some days ago, and they turned out delicious! 😀 I made plenty of dough of purpose, so I could freeze some of them.

    I’ve tried to oven-bake them and pan-fry them, and I had better results with the last method. I even didn’t defrost them, but just put in the saucepan and cooked on low heat with a little olive oil for 10 minutes or so. Delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe ^^

  16. Tried these yesterday… delicious!

    One thing though… is there any trick to make them even “stickier”? They were so good… but would squish out a bit when I squeezed the burger to fit it in my mouth.

    No biggie, just wonderin. 🙂

    • Hey Chad,

      Yep, getting firm burgers without lots of processed soy is the classic veggie burger hurdle.

      I would suggest chickpea flour or fava bean flour in place of the flaxseed. Bean flours tend to bake up a little firmer.

      You could also try swapping in some protein powder for the flaxseed too.

      Don’t forget that gluten bonds get stronger the more you work them, so go ahead and knead the burger batter for some extra time (10 mins of kneading would be a good start) to get the most out of the wheat gluten.


      • Thanks Christine – great suggestions! I only kneaded the burger batter for 5 minutes, so I’ll up that a bit next time and then look at the other options if it still needs a bit more.

  17. Thomas Price says:

    I just about hurled after trying garden burger brand portabello burgers but having bought them (because they were on sale) made me want to try finding a good nonmeat flavor burger. I am still a carnevore but I need to lose some weight and a reduction in my meat intake would be a good thing.
    as a simplist I do not keep balsalmic vinegar, red wine, liquid smoke or flax seed. I could see possibly buying the liquid smoke, but how important are these? (I hate nuts so those will be flat out removed.)

  18. writeforfun says:

    I love the sound of these – but I wish there were a few more reviewers. I’m impressed with how the ingredients all sound together and that you were one of very few I could find on the web wise enough to use the vital wheat gluten (which is why most people’s homemade burgers fall to pieces – if you’re allergic to gluten I’m Sooo sorry – I’m allergic to milk and feel so bad that anyone should have to read More carefully through ingredients than I do. I feel for those with gluten and peanut allergies). My one “whoa” at the ingredient list (from a taste standpoint) is the Amount of liquid smoke- that’s a Lot! Is it so much because most of the ingredients don’t absorb the flavor? I’m willing to try it – but I’ve always been told a few drops of liquid smoke is a strong amount- so I just thought I’d ask about it first. My other really important question is – do you know how much protein these have? I’m pregnant, and have been vegetarian for so long that the taste of meat is now quite unpalatable. I wanted to add chicken and maybe more back to my diet Just for the length of my pregnancy – but it’s sooo tough! and always tastes dry to me! What I remember of chicken is nothing like what I taste of it now – ick! and I’m not vegetarian because meat grosses me out – I always loved chicken- I just loved it smothered in cheese… and alas when I was told I couldn’t have milk I just gave up the chicken too- it wasn’t worth it without some amazing cheese on top – or in some wonderful butter sauce… That was 7or so years ago- now the texture of chicken is Weird to me – bizarre in fact- it sticks to my teeth! I would Never have noticed this before. But I digress… and this is rambling. I would love the nutritional break down on these, and any suggestions for managing 70grams of protein a day (holy moley! I have no Idea how to accomplish that without meat or protein shakes)- the required daily intake for a momma to be. It’s currently 4TB or protein powder a day in apple juice for me – but I like variety from both a taste and nutritional standpoint- so Please, please, please – suggestions 🙂

  19. After trying a few of the bean based recipes I was getting a bit dis heartened with veggie burgers, then I saw this one, red wine and portobellos ! How could you go wrong ?

    Made it as close as I could, used LSA instead of the linseed,
    Used du Puy lentils,
    Used Wholemeal spelt flour a whole egg plus an egg white instead of gluten.
    fried in pan.

    Turned out really good and easily the best of 4 veggie burger recipes I have tried.
    Next batch I will,
    Halve the worcester sauce,
    at least another garlic clove
    Use italian herbs rather than just thyme, and double it.
    Use sunflower seeds instead of walnuts
    and Thanks.

  20. Christian Olde Wolbers says:

    what kind of dressing do you recommend on the burger?

  21. I loved these. I had to modify a bit since I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand, but they were a hit with my and my newly vegetarian husband! I made a fresh homemade tomato sauce and formed them into meatballs and we had meatballs and tomato sauce over black rice! Yummy….Love this site.

  22. Hi
    Tried these last night. Great flavor. but a little muchy. when you talk about Kneading them are you kneading like bread?
    My batch was a little moist, do I need to add more flour?

  23. Ok, if these are grill worthy, I’d hate to try the recipes you scrapped before this one! Maybe they really need to be baked first to give the gluten that chewier consistency. I made the recipe exactly as it says, and froze the patties to bring to a music festival. They stay together nice, but when cooked on the grill, they really just taste like mush. I would have been much happier marinating the portabella mushrooms and just cooking those. Good attempt, but the flavor and consistency need a lot of work.


    I am allergic to walnuts, what other nuts I can try?

  25. I knew this was just the right recipe I was looking for when I read over the list of ingredients! I have them all at home! I am making these for lunch today! 🙂 thanks for sharing.

  26. Which lentils are you using? There are nearly 20 different types of lentils in my local shore; French green, Puy, 5 different yellow Indian, black beluga, Mexican macachiados, brown, red… they all have very different texture and cooking times.


  27. Your recipes all look so delicious! I really need to save up and get some ingredients. Been dying for some tofu “meat”.

  28. Linda Holley says:

    My version (for what it’s worth): I use about 2 cups of dried black beans that I’ve cooked in my crock pot due to ‘watching my salt intake.’ Normally add: grated onion, fresh cilantro, Liquid Smoke,3/4 cups oats, tri-colored peppers, celery, mushrooms, minced garlic, etc. blend in food chopper and shape in to patties. I placed as many as I could on my lightly oiled- Olive or Coconut-, black skillet and my husband placed on the grill. Let’s just say they were awesome. I used wax paper to wrap each one for the freezer. This particular recipe made about 14 burgers. I always just throw in a little curry, grated carrots, parsley..whatever is in season at the time. So good with a very small amount of bbq sauce that I generally make (vegan) and serve with baked potatoe, corn on the cob, salad, whatever. Shape in to balls then flatten if cooking in skillet, but give them a little time to harden on the bottom so they are easier to flip over w/out sticking..about 5-7 minutes on each side.

  29. Heather McFadden says:

    Excellent! !!! I made these and pulled them out of the oven. Then my husband put them back in the turned off but still warm oven when we went out. .. So when we came back, I thought the would be over done….but no. They stayed together easily. so good! !!! Thank you!

  30. Modest Chef says:

    I stumbled upon your website and this recipe because I was looking for great veggie burgers for some very special people (daughter and family), and I had on hand some of the more unusual ingredients (liquid smoke, vital wheat gluten, flaxseed in abundance). The results were spectacular–fat burgers that were impressive at first sight, and taste that matched the initial impressions. You must indeed be approaching perfection with this recipe. Even better, perhaps, you’ve won a reader. Thanks.

  31. How many burgers does the recipe make?

  32. Wow, I just made these fabulous veggie burgers! The only change made was that I used 8 baby portobellos, and as suggested by other readers: Italian spice mixture and some sun flower seeds (I made a mixture of walnuts and sunflower seeds, which were toasted in a separate pan). The mixture was hot when the Flax and the vital wheat gluten was added, so I kneeded it with a wooden spoon for the full 10 minutes, that was a workout in itself! I have been making patties for a while now and I always measure 1/3 cup of the bean mixture as the standard amount for the perfect size patty that my boys like (they say 1/2 a cup is a bit too big). So this mixture yielded 13 patties, that were then baked, cooled, wrapped in wax paper, placed in a freezer bag, and then frozen. We did eat 2 of them for supper, so yummy! I must admit they are wonderful, flavorful, a nice chewy texture and not mushy!! Thank you for your hard work and effort in developing and sharing a great veggie burger!!
    PS, even my T-Rex husband said they are great!

  33. I also can’t stand the two choices you describe. I knew I use gluten to make a decent burger at home, so I stumbled upon your recipe. I didn’t follow the recipe particularly closely, but the essence was there; your recipe gave me the confidence that my idea would work. Everything turned out great, so thanks for the motivation!

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