High Noon Café, the only vegetarian restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi, where I live, serves the most unusual veggie burgers, bright red with beets and soft in texture from the tofu. The first time my husband recommended I try one, I was afraid to order it, but once his burger came, I couldn’t resist sampling it. The sandwich comes piled with so many extras–vegan cheese, sun-dried tomato aioli, mushrooms– that it took some doing to scrape off a clean sample of the burger, but once I did, I was intrigued by its flavor, which was lightly smoky but in a natural-tasting way, not through the use of Liquid Smoke or hickory-flavored salt. I was sure that the source of the smokiness must be the beets and was determined to try to replicate the taste at home.
To pack in as much natural smoky flavor as I could, I decided to roast the beets as well as the onion and garlic. To avoid adding starch, I used ground flax seeds as a binder, so my burgers came out less stable and easier to fall apart than the restaurant version, but the flavor was very similar, with hints of earthiness and smoke. Since the burgers had a tendency to fall apart, I didn’t flip them over halfway through cooking as I would have liked to do to aid in browning, so the next time I make them I’ll add either a couple of teaspoons of corn starch or a couple of tablespoons of oat flour (oatmeal pulverized in the blender). Otherwise, these red-violet burgers were near-perfect to me. If you enjoy a spicier burger, feel free to add more roasted garlic and chipotle chile powder, but not so much as to drown out the beet. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the one pun!) They’re shown here served with chipotle aioli (pureed chipotles mixed with vegan mayo), which provided a nice spicy kick.
Roasted Beet-Tofu Burgers
These burgers freeze well; in fact, freezing gives them a slightly firmer texture. They can be reheated by microwaving for about 1 minute.
- 2 medium beets
- 1 medium onion
- 6-10 garlic cloves (or as many as you like)
- 14 ounces extra-firm tofu (not silken)
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or wheat-free tamari
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder or smoked paprika (optional, to taste)
- 2 teaspoons corn starch or 2 tablespoons oat flour (optional, for firmer burgers)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Wash and trim the beets, and wrap each one in foil. Trim the onion and wrap it in foil. Wrap the unpeeled garlic in foil (or trim the top of an entire head of garlic and wrap it). Place all on a baking sheet and roast for 50-60 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool until vegetables are easy to handle. (You can do this step ahead of time, if you wish; just keep the roasted vegetables in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make the burgers.)
- While the vegetables are cooling, mash the tofu and stir in the remaining ingredients.
- When the onions and garlic are cool enough, peel the onion and chop finely (I used a food processor). Squeeze the garlic from the cloves. Add both to the tofu and mix well. Peel the skins from the beets under running water, and shred. Add the shredded beets to the tofu, stirring until the mixture is a uniform, bright color.
- Shape into patties about 3 inches wide and 1 inch thick. Place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or silicon baking mat. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to stand for a few minutes before removing with a spatula and serving.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s) | Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 9 burgers
Nutrition (per serving): 79 calories, 31 (39%) calories from fat, 3.6g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 214.6mg sodium, 113.8mg potassium, 6.4g carbohydrates, 2.1g fiber, 2.1g sugar, 6.2g protein.