Forget everything you know about veggie burgers. No, wait – for just a moment, remember everything you know about veggie burgers: the suspiciously rubbery feel of those textured-vegetable-protein disks; the patties that look like coagulated oatmeal; mushy, homemade bean burgers that disintegrate the second you put them between the two halves of a bun.
Now forget everything you know about veggie burgers. Veggie burgers shouldn’t try to imitate hamburgers much at all: We don’t yet have the technology to make fake beef that tastes anything but disquieting. Veggie burgers simply need to be sturdy, savory and juicy – flavorful and dense enough that you know you’re eating something distinct from the bun, and not getting more bland starchiness. The way to accomplish that is marinated tempeh.
Tempeh is a fermented soy product. Originally from Indonesia, it’s typically sold in the U.S. in half-pound shrink-wrapped rectangles. Tempeh is the closest thing vegetarians have to a non-weird meat substitute. And it’s absolutely the best ingredient for veggie burgers.
Tempeh doesn’t have much flavor on its own, but it soaks up other flavors like a sponge. So making good tempeh veggie burgers is merely a matter of dousing those rectangles in a delicious marinade and baking all that flavor in. To make the marinade, start with soy sauce, which will infuse your burgers with moisture. Garlic and thyme will give your tempeh burgers some savory flair, while a little honey will leaven the saltiness of the soy sauce.
You can eat tempeh burgers right out of the oven, but you can also bake them in advance, refrigerate them, and then reheat them on the grill. There’s just one drawback: Thanks to those shrink-wrapped rectangles, tempeh burgers are inevitably square, not round. But sacrificing visuals is a small price to pay for veggie burgers that actually taste good.
For a printable copy of this recipe, click the link: