October 26, 2017

Vegan patty options: Portobello, seitan and everything in between

The vegan diet has grown so popular in recent years that even McDonald's is now on board. In October 2017, the global fast food restaurant introduced the McVegan at select locations in Finland with the intent to test the efficacy of meat-free burger options. Made from soy, the quarter-pounder is served with the familiar condiments and toppings (sans cheese) and is in the same price range as beef or chicken options.

By combining the love of burgers with the health benefits of veganism, chefs have created a range of patty options that can be customized to taste and texture. Culinary students looking to appeal to the plant-based crowd should experiment with many different types of patty concoctions.

Here are a few to get started:

Portobello mushroom

Replacing a meat patty with a portobello mushroom is now one of the most common ways chefs can easily veganize a burger without introducing fake meats or overly processed alternatives. Better yet, chefs likely already have portobello on hand in their kitchens, so it's just a matter of whisking a mixture of oil, basil, oregano, vinegar, salt and pepper to pour over the top and placing on a grill for five minutes or so.

Seitan

Foodies who don't care much for the slick texture of mushrooms will find seitan patties to be the perfect mimic to the real thing.

Made from a soy protein, seitan has a similar texture, grit and "meatiness" to beef or chicken, and diners oftentimes can't tell the difference. Combining seitan with minced peppers, onions, garlic and cilantro provides more of a spice to the patty, which you can also cover with breadcrumbs for added crispiness.

Seitan patties can be cooked on a grill, oven or stovetop.

Portobello mushrooms make perfect patties. Portobello mushrooms make perfect patties.

Black bean

Perhaps the longest-serving stand-in for meat patties, black beans have been on American menus for more than a decade. In fact, it's frequently the only vegetarian or vegan option on a standard bar menu.

By processing black beans, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro and red pepper flakes, then mixing with bread crumbs, you get a patty-like mix that can be molded as large or as small as necessary. Place into hot oil on a pan or grill for six minutes, and you're done.

Sweet potato and wild rice

A newer addition to the vegan dining lexicon, the sweet potato and wild rice patty combo brings a chewier, grainier mix to the burger conversation. Combining the two ingredients and adding chickpeas and curry creates a well-rounded and diverse patty that packs a lot of nutrients.

Many chefs create a spicy, breaded texture by tossing the patty in wheat flour, cumin and garlic powder before placing on the grill. This produces a patty with a buffalo chicken-type flavor that diners love.

Chickpea lentil

Lentils and chickpeas may not be on every menu just yet, but chefs breaking into the vegan burger market can whip up this patty pretty quickly.

Using red lentils, drained chickpeas, chili powder, diced peppers, oat flour, cumin and carrots, you can quickly create savory patties that cook in just five minutes on the grill. The best part is that the "burgers" are packed with protein, a key sticking point for many skeptical of veganism.

With this rundown, you've got a great starting point in your journey toward a plant-based menu. After all, who doesn't love a great burger?