A humble start
The seed for vegetarian burgers was planted in 1969, when Gregory Sams opened a macrobiotic diner in London’s Paddington neighborhood. At the aptly named SEED, he offered what were, at the time, exotic items like seaweed, unleavened bread, and miso, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
His original concoction: a meatless patty made from seitan flavored with tamari and mixed with adzuki beans, oat flakes, dried herbs, tomato, and onion. This unusual offering drew in customers. Among them were John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who eventually became regulars.
Veggie Burger A growing market
With the vegetarian revolution well underway by the 1970s, Sams created a dry mix version of his star patties. He kicked off his commercial efforts in 1982, and followed up the original mix with a frozen VegeBurger version in 1984.
Paul Wenner created his version of a veggie patty in 1981 at his Oregon restaurant, the Gardenhouse. Customer demand proved so strong for his burger that he closed the restaurant in 1985 and founded Gardenburger, Inc. By 1993, his company was named the fastest growing publicly traded company in America.
Winning taste buds
The veggie burger is now a mainstay on American menus. Inherently healthy, it appeals not only to vegetarians and vegans, but also to flexitarians and meat eaters.
Food writer and cookbook author Melissa Clark confides, “I turn to veggie burgers when I crave the hamburger experience but would rather consume vegetables than meat.” She goes on to say that making a decent veggie burger is pretty easy, but “making a great one is a lot harder.”
That challenge was accepted by veggie burger producer and author Lukas Volger in his lively best seller, Veggie Burgers Every Which Way. Featuring novelty burgers such as tofu and chard, Thai carrot, baked falafel, and corn burgers with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, Volger easily won with flavor.
Volger’s advice for a great veggie burger:
- Focus on a protein with one or two main ingredients
- Use a binder, such as egg and breadcrumbs
- Go big and bold with flavors, and mix in generous amounts of fresh herbs and spices
- Top off the burger with strongly seasoned ingredients like pickled onions, olive tapenade, and spicy relishes
- Sear the veggie burger over high heat on the stovetop and then finish it off in the oven for a crispy crust and beautifully cooked interior
Ready to embrace the trend? Share how veggie burgers have earned a spot on your menu.