Recipe: The Real Burger (aka Now and Zen Burger)

What we all need is just one basic recipe for a big batch of tasty burgers that can be made ahead and stored, one that is not affected by long periods of freezing, one that you can take to non-vegan barbecues, and one that doesn’t crumble if you toss it around a bit on the grill.

This is a recipe that takes me back to the days of my little bistro in San Francisco, where we had many “devotees” of this simple burger, including several celebrities. There was one couple who made monthly rips from Monterey just to have these delightful patties. They are juicy, savory, chewy, and completely oil-free and go with all sorts of sauces. I get more requests from omnivores for this burger than for just about anything else. I always have a few in my freezer, just in case we need a quick meal.


  • 2 pounds white or cremini mushrooms, quartered

  • 2 large onions, diced

  • 4 cups cooked brown rice

  • 1/2 cup tomato paste

  • 1 cup parsley, chopped

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce

  • 3 tablespoons white or chickpea miso

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon dried savory

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 3 cups vital wheat gluten

Serving suggestions (optional)


  1. Pulse the mushrooms in batches in the food processor until minced but not mushy. Transfer them to a large bowl, then mix in the onions, rice, tomato paste, parsley, soy sauce, miso, and herbs and spices. Mixing is most easily done with your hands. When everything is well incorporated, add the wheat gluten and mix well.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease two baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.

  3. Now form the burgers. You can just pat them into eighteen burgers with your hands, or follow one of these easy suggestions for forming: Use a large ice cream scoop to form balls, drop them onto the prepared baking sheets, then flatten with your hand to form patties. Find a large, deep lid for a jar, like ones often used for giant jars of peanut butter. Line it with plastic wrap. Pack in the burger mixture, then flip it out onto the prepared baking sheets (you can keep reusing the same sheet of plastic wrap). This method makes perfectly shaped burgers like the kind that come out of a box. Fool your kids with this method if they tend to clamor for “bought” goods.

  4. Bake for about 30 minutes, until firm to the touch. Refrigerate or freeze until use. Refrigerate for a week or so or freeze for 6 to 8 months. You can reheat them in a skillet with a little oil, throw them on the grill, or pop them back in the oven.

  5. For serving, the usual mustard and ketchup work fine, but I prefer these with some sautéed onions and a sweet Dijon sauce. To create the sauce, in a small bowl, mix together the mustard and 3 tablespoons syrup (or more, depending on how sweet you like your condiments) and set aside. In a sauté pan, sauté the sliced onion in a little oil over medium-high heat until browned. Spread burger buns with vegan mayo, place a hot burger patty on the bun, and top with a generous helping of the onions and sweet Dijon sauce. If you like, throw on some lettuce and tomatoes, too.

RECIPE NOTES: Recipes reprinted from THE HOMEMADE VEGAN PANTRY Copyright © 2015 by Miyoko Schinner. Photographs © 2015 by Eva Kolenko. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

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