Taste Test: Best Veggie Burgers

Veggie burgers make for a quick and healthy meal. But which ones taste best?

From the WebMD Archives

Veggie burgers have come a long way, baby! They've definitely graduated from the lackluster vegetarian burgers I used to buy back in Berkeley, circa 1985. I still love to have meatless meals, and veggie burgers make a quick, convenient entree. Of course, not all veggie burgers are created equal. So below, you'll find my picks for the best veggie burgers you can buy (along with a recipe for a dressed-up version).

But first, a few words for people who aren't sure they're ready to go veggie when it comes to burgers. Being a longtime veggie burger consumer, I developed five sure-fire tips to make you a veggie burger lover for life.

Veggie Burger Tip No. 1: Trial and Error

Everyone has different tastes, and you may need to try several brands of burgers before you find one that works for you personally. My husband and I both like the Vegetable Masala Burger with Indian spices from Trader Joe's, and I also like the Garden Burgers at my regular supermarket. My husband? Not so much.

Veggie Burger Tip No. 2: Very Veggie or Beef Burger Look-a-Like?

Decide whether you're looking for a burger that is trying to pose as beef or one that is unapologetic about featuring vegetables. Both types are available in most supermarkets these days. Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burgers are literally green, and contain chunks of vegetables. This burger is undeniably all about veggies, and I rather like that. But if you aren't into the "green burger scene," you may want to choose another.

Veggie Burger Tip No. 3: Use a Spritz of Cooking Spray

Some veggie burgers -- like Amy's Chicago Veggie Burger-- benefit from a light coat of olive or canola oil cooking spray before you put them in a nonstick skillet or on the grill. This helps them to brown up and appear less dry.

Veggie Burger Tip No. 4: Dress Them Up

Throw some cheese or condiments on top of your veggie burger for extra fun and flavor. Check out the Indian Blue Veggie Burger recipe below for one example. Keep your sandwich low in fat by using condiments like mustard, honey mustard, catsup, BBQ sauce, and balsamic vinegar. If you like cheese, use a small amount of a high-flavor cheese, or try a reduced-fat type. Other high-flavor toppings include avocado, pesto made with olive or canola oil, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh herbs like basil or salsa.

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Veggie Burger Tip No. 5: The Ultimate Quick Meal Option

Veggie burgers can be a simple weekday lunch for one or two, or they can be a quick dinner for harried weeknights. They keep in the freezer, usually in individual wrappers, and you can heat up one or two in five minutes.

The Best Veggie Burgers

Have I met a veggie burger I didn't like? Definitely. Are there plenty of great-tasting veggie burgers worth buying again and again? Absolutely. Check out the table below and see which ones sound like they would interest you.

1. Amy's Chicago Veggie Burger

Ingredients: The first 10 ingredients on the label are organic mushrooms, organic onions, organic brown rice, filtered water, organic celery, organic carrots, organic oats, wheat gluten, organic bulgur wheat, and cheddar cheese.

Nutrition facts: One burger has 160 calories, 10 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 20 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, and 390 mg sodium. It contains 30% of the Daily Value for vitamin A, 4% for vitamin C, 8% calcium, and10% iron.

Comments:I liked this burger best when it wasn't by itself but was on a toasted bun with condiments. The taste is halfway between a beef burger and a veggie burger.

2. Amy's All American Veggie Burger

First 10 ingredients: Organic onions, organic mushrooms, filtered water, wheat gluten, textured soy protein concentrate, organic bulgur wheat, organic celery, organic carrots, organic walnuts, and organic oats.

Nutrition facts: 1 burger = 120 calories, 10 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 0 gram saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, and 390 mg sodium. It contains 15% of the recommended Daily Value for vitamin A, 6% vitamin C, 4% calcium, and 10% iron.

Comments: This veggie burger had a pleasant texture and taste and would go nicely with several different condiments or toppings.

3. Boca Garden Vegetable Meatless Burgers

Ingredients: First 10 ingredients are water, organic textured soy flour, organic zucchini, organic red bell peppers, organic textured wheat, gluten, wheat gluten, contains less than 2% of organic soy protein concentrate, red bell pepper puree, organic expeller pressed canola oil, and konjac gum.

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Nutrition facts: 1 burger = 130 calories, 15 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 0 gram saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 400 mg sodium; 0% Daily Value for vitamin A, 0% vitamin C, 10% calcium, and 10% iron.

Comments: This veggie burger has a mild flavor that works well with stronger flavored toppings and condiments, like stone-ground mustard or spicy BBQ sauce.

4. Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burgers

First 10 ingredients: Carrots, onion, string beans, soybeans, zucchini, oat bran, peas, spinach, expeller pressed canola oil, and broccoli.

Nutrition facts: 1 burger = 110 calories, 5 grams protein, 4.5 grams fat, less than 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 13 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 250 mg sodium; 50% DV vitamin A, 6% vitamin C, 4% calcium, and 14% iron.

Comments: Nice veggie flavors if you can get past the burger being green (I did).

5. Gardenburger Original

First 10 ingredients: Cooked brown rice, vegetables (mushrooms, onions), water, rolled oats, bulgur wheat (hydrated), cheddar cheese, wheat fiber, mozzarella cheese, and nonfat milk.

Nutrition facts:1 burger = 100 calories, 5 grams protein, 3.5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 14 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 420 mg sodium; 4% DV vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 2% calcium, and 4% iron.

Comments: This is still Gardenburger's top-selling burger for a reason. It has the same great flavor and texture that helped define veggie burgers years ago. 

6. Gardenburger Black Bean Chipotle

First 10 ingredients: Cooked brown rice, soy protein concentrate-hydrated, onions, black beans, corn, Anaheim chilies, soy fiber, high oleic canola oil, red bell peppers, and isolated soy protein.

Nutrition facts:1 burger = 80 calories, 5 grams fiber, 2.5 grams fat, 0 gram saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 13 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 250 mg sodium; 6% DV vitamin A, 8% vitamin C, 2% calcium, and 6% iron.

Comments: Really nice flavor if you're looking for a veggie burger with a kick. This is one of Gardenburger's most popular new flavors.

7. Gardenburger Portabella

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First 10 ingredients: Cooked brown rice, mushrooms, onions, mozzarella cheese, soy protein concentrate-hydrated, rolled oats, oat fiber, spinach, salt, and wild rice,

Nutrition facts:1 burger = 90 calories, 5 grams protein, 2.5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 15 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 360 mg sodium; 6% DV vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 6% calcium, and 4% iron.

Comments: Not for everyone. Though I love portabella mushrooms, I prefer the original Gardenburger to this one.

8. Morning Star Garden Veggie Patties

First 10 ingredients: Vegetables (mushrooms, water chestnuts, onions, carrots, green bell peppers, red bell peppers, black olives), textured vegetable protein, egg whites, cooked brown rice, rolled oats, and corn oil.

Nutrition facts:1 burger = 110 calories, 10 grams protein, 3.5 grams fat, 0.5 gram saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 350 mg sodium; 4% DV vitamin A, 0% vitamin C, 4% calcium, and 4% iron.

Comments: Tastes pretty good -- especially on a bun with some tasty condiments.

9. Vegetable Masala Burger (Trader Joe's)

First 10 ingredients: Potatoes, canola oil, carrots, green beans, water, bread crumbs, bell peppers, onions, corn, and salt.

Nutrition facts: 1 burger = 120 calories, 2 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 12 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 360 mg sodium; 8% DV vitamin A, 15% vitamin C, 2% calcium, and 4% iron.

Comments: Nice Indian flavor with "hot" spices, slightly oily texture. Serve this burger with high-fiber bread or bun to increase the fiber for the meal.

Indian Blue Burger

Here's a sample veggie burger recipe for you to try at home:

Ingredients:

2 Vegetable Masala Burgers (available at Trader Joe's in the frozen food section)

2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese

2 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain buns or rolls

2 tablespoons chopped or sliced red onion (or sweet onion)

6 thin slices tomato

4 small Romaine lettuce leaves

Preparation:

  1. Heat medium nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add burgers (these don't need any oil or cooking spray) to hot pan. Cook about 3 minutes per side, or until nicely brown and thoroughly heated.
  2. Turn off the heat. Spread a tablespoon of blue cheese evenly over each burger, then cover pan and let rest for a few minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, toast the buns, if you desire, or coat cut sides with canola cooking spray and lightly brown on a nonstick griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Place the cheese-topped burgers on the bottom portion of the buns. Top that with onions, tomato slices, lettuce, and the top of the buns. 

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Yield: Makes 2 sandwiches

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 veggie burger sandwich + 1 ounce low-fat cheese.

Nutrition Information Per serving: 331 calories, 11 g protein, 47 g carbohydrate, 13 g fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 6 g fiber, 830 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 35%

Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; © 2008 Elaine Magee

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column
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