These roasted beet burgers are packed with smoky flavor and fortified with tofu to make them as filling as they are delicious. Vegan and gluten-free.
High Noon Café, the only vegetarian restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi, where I live, serves the most unusual beet 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 beet burger 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 made them I added a thickener–either a couple of teaspoons of corn starch or a couple of tablespoons of oat flour (oatmeal pulverized in the blender). It made a big difference, but they’re still not super-firm, so don’t use this recipe if you care about firmness or want them to hold up on the grill.
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
- 2 medium beets
- 1 medium onion
- 6-10 garlic cloves or as many as you like
- 14 ounces extra-firm tofu (not silken) lightly pressed
- 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. Drain off any liquid from the beets and add them 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.
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