Veggie burger recipes are a dime a dozen. But just because you can shape practically anything into a patty doesn’t make it a burger. Most veggie “burgers” fall short of their beefy brethren, both in taste and nutrition. Slap a typical one in a bun and you have a whack of carbs, a mouthful of “meh” and little else—poor fare for hard-training athletes. But not these ones. These burgers have the meaty texture and look of a seared beef burger cooked rare, not to mention lots of protein and good fats. I challenge you to pass these off as the real thing with an unsuspecting carnivore.

Beets make these burgers juicy and sweet, and give them a deep pink hue (think extra rare). And, as my mom pointed out, beets can be stored over the winter months allowing you to enjoy local produce year-round. Protein comes from tofu and flax meal, which are also high in unsaturated fats including omega-3s. Nutritional yeast, a secret ingredient, imparts umami, the so-called fifth taste which is often absent from vegetarian cuisine. BBQ sauce also plays a key role in the faux-meat ruse. Finally, beets are all the rage in the endurance sports world due to their high levels of endurance-boosting nitrates. So these burgers will really help you beet the competition.

Unbeetable Veggie burgers (makes one dozen)

  • ~6 medium sized beets
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 block firm tofu (~400 grams)
  • ½ c. flax meal (or breadcrumbs)
  • 1 onion
  • several cloves of garlic
  • ~4 tbsp BBQ sauce (or ketchup, or salsa)
  • black pepper
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • parsley (optional)
  1. Remove the tops and roots from the beets. Place the beets in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Young, small beets will take ~40 minutes to cook. Large and storage beets will take an hour or more.
  2. Drain as much water as possible from the tofu by squeezing it between your hands or pressing it between two plates over the sink.
  3. Whisk eggs together in a large mixing bowl. Add minced onions and garlic, flax meal, BBQ sauce, nutritional yeast and spices. Crumble in tofu.
  4. Drain the beets and remove skin. Grate the beets into the bowl. Mash together thoroughly using a potato masher.
  5. Form the mixture into patties (~3 cm thick and ~10 cm across) and place on a non-stick baking sheet.
  6. Bake ~50 minutes at 350°F (180°C).
  7. While the burgers are perfectly good straight out of the oven, grilling on the BBQ or frying in a little olive oil will give them that authentic seared flavour and look.
The raw veggie burgers sure look like the real thing. Sorry if this offends the sensitive vegetarians.

Binding agents are a crucial ingredient in veggie burgers. They’re the glue that holds everything together. Use too little and the patties will be crumbly and difficult to flip. Some common vegetarian binding agents include eggs, flour (wheat, rice, chickpea…), flax meal, breadcrumbs, bean paste and mashed potato. And here are a ton of other options for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free cooking and baking.

Look for another succulent veggie burger recipe featuring toasted buckwheat and portobello mushrooms coming soon. This post is part of a series, Endurance Eats, where I share healthy vegetarian recipes for hard-training athletes.