I still remember the first time I tried a Beet Veggie Burger. I was sitting on the patio of Northstar Café, right in the heart of the Short North. It was lunchtime and the place was packed. Conversation fluttered around us as we watched people of all colors and stripes bustle past. A waitress slipped a plate of food in front of me. On it, a bright pink burger. My very first veggie burger.
I raised a skeptical eyebrow, and remember wondering why I ever thought it was a good idea to order a veggie burger, let alone one made with beets. I don’t even like beets! I gazed longingly at the Mr.’s sandwich, stacked high with chicken and avocado and roasted red pepper. I looked back at the bright pink spectacle on my plate. There was no turning back now. Preparing for the worst, I took the first bite.
Wait a second.
Then another. And another. And another.
I actually liked it.
No, I more than liked it. I loved it.
As I gobbled down bite after bite, I began to realize this burger was more than just a really good veggie burger. No, this was a good burger. Period.
This was the kind of burger that could hold its own in a line up of beefy, bacon topped burgers. A burger that may even make Ron Swanson a believer.
Wait, who am I kidding, that’s never, ever happening.
The burger was thick and substantial, with a hearty texture and a robust flavor. It had a nice sear around the outside that made it a tad crisp, and a filling center that wasn’t crumbly or mushy. Savory, smoky, and just a tad sweet from the beets, this was one sophisticated burger.
Ever since that first try, I’ve been obsessed. This beet burger isn’t the kind of thing you just eat because there’s nothing else better around. It’s the kind of thing you crave.
Since daily trips to Northstar wasn’t in our budget, I knew I had to find a way to make these at home.
I’ve tried a few other recipes—some with beans, some with oats, others with eggs, others with mushrooms. But nothing came close. I tried store-bought Bocas and Garden Burgers. Still, nothing rivaled it.
One day I finally just googled ‘Copy Cat Northstar Veggie Burgers’. Low and behold, there was a recipe. It was from the website, The Kitchn, which, ironically enough, I’d been following for a year before I made this discovery. A few of the folks from The Kitchn live here in Columbus so I knew they were searching for the same thing I was.
I took their recipe and the comments (people are passionate about this veggie burger, let me tell you!), adapted a few things, and made my own version of this beloved burger. The joy of the veggie burger is that you can taste as you go, so I adjusted the seasonings along the way.
I have to say, these came out pretty darn close. The brown rice lends it the nice crisp crust and sturdy texture, beans bind everything together, and the beets give it that undeniable bright pink color. I added a little Chipotle pepper in adobo to get that characteristic smokiness. For a true Northstar burger, you’ll need a few slices of Sharp White Cheddar cheese, some lettuce, tomato, and a spot of Dijon mustard. (This coming from the girl who hates mustard—it’s amazing what one burger can do).
These are a little bit tricky to grill, but they are doable. They stay together remarkably well for a veggie burger, and even if they start to crack a little bit, you can smoosh them together with your spatula pretty easily. I placed mine on a veggie tray on the gril. If you’d rather not use the grill, you can get that same crisp crust by using a hot, hot cast iron skillet.
This recipe has several steps and is definitely more time consuming than a standard meat burger, but I say emphatically, IT IS SO WORTH IT. I hope you’ll take the plunge and let this veggie burger be a part of your regular summer rotation.
Some tips for making this process quicker:
-Make up a bunch of rice earlier in the week to use for this recipe. I do this often with rice because it makes such a good leftover anyway. Turn it into fried rice, serve it as a side with another meal, or put it in this recipe. Alternatively, make extra rice then save it for a meal the next day.
-If you have a food processor, use it. No one wants to spend all night dicing up onions and beets. I used my small prep processor to just pulverize the onions and beets into teeny tiny chunks. This cut down on prep time and cooking time and also seemed to help the burgers stay together.
-Make a double batch and freeze the extras. Go ahead and cook the extra patties then layer them between sheets of wax paper and stick them in the freezer. When you’re ready, take them out, let them thaw in the fridge, and just pop them on the grill for a few minutes to warm up.
-I know it’s a pain to open a whole can of chipotles in adobo just for a teeny bit of sauce. But you don’t have to waste the rest of that jar! Simply spoon the mixture into an ice cube tray, cover, and freeze. Once they’re frozen, pop them out of the tray and store in a plastic bag until you need them. I try to put two chipotles in each cube–this seems to be a good amount for most recipes.
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1½ cups water
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 onion
- 3 large red beets, rinsed and scrubbed
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- juice from ½ lemon
- 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons parsley, minced
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon liquid from chipotle peppers in adobo
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- salt and pepper
- thin slices of white cheddar cheese
- Dijon mustard
- Tomato slices
- Place rice in a large pot along with 1½ cups water. Set over high heat and bring to a boil uncovered. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and let simmer for 25-30 minutes or until firm but not mushy. Drain off any excess water and set aside.
- Meanwhile, either dice the onion and beets small or use a food processor to pulverize them into tiny bits. I used the food processor and it worked well and seemed to cut back on my cooking time.
- Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a saute pan set over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add beets and cook until softened, another 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Pour the cider vinegar into the pan and use a spatula to scrape up any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Set this mixture aside.
- Place the black beans into a large bowl and use a pastry cutter to mash them up. They don’t have to be a paste, but you want them to be broken up a bit. You shouldn’t have many whole beans left.
- To the beans, add the cooked rice, the onion mixture, lemon juice, oil, parsley, coriander, paprika, salt, pepper, and chipotle sauce. Stir together with a wooden spoon or with your hands (I prefer to just take off my rings and have at it!).
- Taste. This is the beauty of a veggie burger. There’s no raw meat so you can taste and adjust the seasonings as you like. Want it a little spicier/smokier–add chipotle and paprika? Needs more salt or a little tang? Add lemon juice or vinegar.
- When the taste is right, add the flour and mix it in until no white remains. The mixture should thicken slightly.
- Use your hands to shape the mixture into 5 patties and place them on a baking sheet.
- To cook on the grill: Place burgers on a veggie tray on a preheated grill. Cover and cook for 7 minutes. Flip the burgers, add slices of cheese, cover, and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes or until heated through.
- To cook in a cast iron skillet: Heat skillet over medium high heat. Add a teaspoon of oil and allow it to warm up (it should look shimmery and flow easily throughout the pan). Add the patty to the skillet (it should sizzle!) and cook for 3 minutes. Flip, add the cheese, and cook an additional 3 minutes on the opposite side.
- To serve, place burgers on grilled or toasted buns with a slice of tomato, fresh greens (if you have them), and Dijon mustard.
- Patties keep well in the fridge or freezer.