Nothing beats veggie burgers for fun and satisfying—and super-fast—vegan meals. They’re pre-cooked, so you can heat them in the microwave, toss together a salad and have dinner on the table in about five minutes.
But while they are always a more healthful choice than their meaty counterparts, these convenience foods are often high in sodium and they can put a bit of strain on your grocery budget, too.
Dietitian Mark Rifkin, M.S., R.D. who is an advisor to the Vegetarian Resource Group, has a solution: Big batches of easy homemade burgers to freeze for make-ahead meals. His recipes combine whole food ingredients with convenience products for the best of all worlds—low cost, but easy-to-prepare vegan burgers.
Healthy low-cost vegan meals start with legumes
Beans play a central role in Mark’s recipes because they are economical and healthy. “I had a box of Nature’s Burger which makes 6 burgers at 450 milligrams of sodium each. So I applied my standard approach of diluting the sodium by adding low/no-sodium ingredients, such as a 15-oz can of reduced-sodium chickpeas (about 350 milligrams of sodium for the whole can, after rinsing).”
You can reduce the cost and sodium content of Mark’s recipes even further by cooking up your own beans from scratch. It’s worth that little bit of extra effort if you plan to make several batches of burgers. If you end up with more beans than you need, use the leftovers for homemade hummus or soup.
The two recipes below produce burgers at a cost of 40 to 50 cents each if using canned beans, or 35 to 40 cents if you cook up your own beans from scratch.
Vegan Garbanzo Bean Burgers
1 box of Fantastic Foods brand Nature’s Burger
1 15-ounce can reduced-sodium chickpeas or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
Rehydrate the Nature’s Burger mix according to package directions. If using canned beans, rinse them to remove as much salt as possible. Drain the beans well, mash them, and add to the Nature’s Burger mix. Form into 10 patties. Grill for around 10 minutes, flipping once to get both sides done. Burgers can be eaten right away or frozen for later use.
Lean Ground Beef-style Vegan Lentil Burgers
This recipe uses Lightlife brand Gimme Lean which is a ground beef-style veggie meat. Be sure to read the package if you choose a different veggie ground beef product, since many are not vegan.
1 package (14 ounces) Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style
2 cups cooked lentils, drained
1/4 cup apple sauce or pureed canned pineapple
1 tbsp reduced-sodium vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp barbecue sauce
1/8 tsp black pepper
½ cup dry breadcrumbs (more as needed)
Grated Daiya or other non-dairy cheese (optional)
Combine all of the ingredients except the breadcrumbs and optional vegan cheese in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the breadcrumbs and knead them into the mixture. Form into 8 burgers (add more breadcrumbs if needed to make the mixture stiff enough) and grill for 10 minutes at high heat, flipping them once. If serving the burgers immediately, top them with the cheese after flipping and allow it to melt. Alternatively, the burgers can be frozen (without the cheese) for future meals.
For more on vegan nutrition, check out The Vegan RD–and please follow me on twitter!