The Impossible Burger. It is said to be “the one that bleeds,” a plant-based burger made from “plant meat” (Read: GMO soybean root heme—and doesn’t that sound appetizing.). Finding its way from high-end restaurants to fast food chains to grocery store shelves, this impossible imposter claims everything from “the burger of your childhood” to the “ultimate environmental savior”. I’m not impressed.
To be fair, I’ve never eaten this essentially “veggie” burger. The Impossible Burger is made from the root system of GMO soy, so that’s an automatic no for me—no on health factors and certainly no on environmental factors. And, really, I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly 30 years—why would I want to experience the burgers of my childhood? According to a June 2019 article on the website EATER, these burgers weren’t really intended for vegetarians like me anyway: “Meat eaters, not extant vegans or vegetarians, are the primary area of growth for plant-based food companies.”
And what I’ve heard from folks I admire most, like Chef Mike Colameco of The Bite, is a mixed bag of reviews that equally don’t impress. Yes, I am a strong believer in increasing plant foods in everyone’s diet. Yes, I support limiting animal production and consumption to small, regenerative operations and setting a torch to all the inhumane, planet-destroying CAFOs that now supply most of the world’s “real” meat as they almost single-handedly wipe out the Amazon Rainforest. Yet, I find it “impossible” to be a fan of the Impossible Burger. Me and Michael Pollen are still in the background screaming: “Eat Real Food!!”
So, putting my skillet where my snarky little mouth is, I’ve done exactly what you’d come to expect: I created the Possible Burger! I dove back into all my versions (there are myriad) of veggie burgers and came up with a new recipe that NO doesn’t taste like meat or feel like it in your mouth, that NO doesn’t bleed anything, that NO doesn’t contain GMO soy, but YES tastes like the best spicy black bean burger you are ever gonna eat!
My Possible Burger uses only real food, avoids tedious grilling and frying, and supplies enough patties to freeze and reheat for a handy, anytime-you-want-one meal at home, work or school. Green Gal fast food…well, once you get it all together.
Okay, confession: it will take work to pull this together–work, planning ahead and an investment of at least one afternoon messing around with a long list of ingredients. Be brave. And—to complicate matters just a bit—you’ll need a large-capacity food processor. I was quite lucky this year to receive a NINJA from my friend Deb for my birthday, which is why I considered tackling this project in the first place. But even with the NINJA, I had to divide my mixture into three batches. Just so we’re clear here before you begin. To help, i have some tips to make ahead, store, freeze, cook and reheat your Possible Burgers once you’ve made them. They follow the recipe. And you will make them, right? It’s so possible!
- Six cups black beans, pre-soaked eight hours up to overnight, cooked soft with a bay leaf and a teaspoon sea salt, drained and chilled up to 24 hours
- Four cups cooked brown rice, chilled at least four hours (Locally grown Cahokia Rice is the only rice for me.)
- One cup dehydrated mushrooms, any variety, soaked overnight to hydrate, then coarsely chop, liquid retained to make one cup
- Two cups ground rolled oats (I used my smaller food processor to get a fine even grind before including in the burger mixture.)
- One-half cup diced yellow onion
- One-quarter cup chili powder (You want something high quality without added salt but you can use any combination of chili powders you like and customize the heat level to family preference. I used my side-of-the-road New Mexico finds, but I also like varieties offered by Penzeys.)
- One-quarter cup tomato paste
- One tablespoon garlic powder (I use a fresh local product but, again, check Penzeys for the best, no-salt version.)
- One cup toasted walnuts, chopped coarsely (Toasting is essential; don’t skip.)
- Two cups shredded carrot (I did this ahead and froze until ready to use!)
- One cup fresh-ground flaxseed
- Two teaspoons coarse sea salt
- Two teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- One cup toasted sesame oil (If you don’t use it all in the recipe, reserve it—you'll need it later.)
- As indicated on the list above, preparing your ingredients ahead in a certain order will make this easier. So, begin a day or two before you are planning to make the burger mixture by pre-soaking the beans at least eight hours, cooking them with the bay leaf and salt until they are soft but not falling apart to mush, draining and chilling.
- Next move on to the rice. I have a specific way of making my rice—toasting it in oil, adding water quickly, cooking totally undisturbed, and then chilling it down fast in the frig. But you make your rice any way you like. Do, however, chill it in the frig along with your beans—the overnight option has everything all done and waiting for you on burger-making day.
- Finally, complete your do-ahead steps by soaking those mushrooms, making sure you keep one cup of the liquid to give your burgers great flavor. Why use water when you can add flavor and nutrition?
- On burger-making day, you’ll need that large-capacity food processor and your biggest mixing bowl. Making sure to combine each ingredient in as you go, add to the bowl the beans, rice, chopped mushrooms, oats, onion, carrot, spices and seasonings, tomato paste and flaxseed. The order doesn’t matter so much, but mixing as you go does. You want to have all the ingredients evenly combined when you are done with this step so that each batch you add to the processor contains all the ingredients.
- Working in batches, add your ingredient mixture to the processor bowl. Through the top spout or tube, add some of the reserved mushroom liquid and some of the toasted sesame oil—several tablespoons of each to start. Begin pulsing your mixture, adding a bit of mushroom stock and oil as you need, until you have a consistency that is about 80 percent smooth and 20 percent chunky—I hope that makes sense. What you are looking for is a burger mixture that can be easily shaped into patties but still reveals a few black beans, bits of rice, tiny piece of mushroom and stray carrot, onion or nut piece. As you finish each batch, scrape the processed burger mixture into a big, big bowl.
- Once all the mixture has been processed and turned out into the second big bowl, take a wooden spoon and give it a good mixing by hand—just to make sure it is all mixed thoroughly.
- At this point, I chilled my burger mixture about an hour to give it a bit of body and make it easier to shape into patties. However, if you are really working ahead here, you could probably chill this mixture overnight and shape your patties next day. Whatever works for you.
- When you are ready to shape your patties, take the mixture from the frig and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. You will also want to have ready a 9 x 13 dish with lid because I doubt you will be making all these at once—you can, but check the yield—36 patties! (Keep calm; we’ll discuss options below the recipe.) Line your 9 x 13 dish with parchment paper, too.
- As you make the patties—think a standard, good-size burger here, about the size of the average adult palm—place them on the baking sheet. I baked up to eight at a time. Finish shaping the rest of your patties and then put them between sheets of parchment paper in your 9 x 13 dish, cover and refrigerate for up to five days or freeze up to three months. I filled two 9 x 13 dishes, to be honest.
- Preheat the oven—I really preferred using the convection setting for this recipe with a temp of 375 degrees for 40 minutes. But I also baked one sheet of burgers on my regular oven setting with a temperature of 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes. So you decide based on your oven capability.
- While the oven is preheating, take a pastry brush and give each patty going into the oven a generous coating of the toasted sesame oil—use the reserved oil, if you didn’t use it in the burger mixture; otherwise, grab your bottle.
- Bake according to one of the methods described above, carefully flipping the burgers one time at the halfway point and rotating the pan for even doneness.
Realize that the prep time of 2 hours refers to the time it takes to mix the burger ingredients, process the burger mixture and shape the patties. It doesn't include the make-ahead steps for the beans, rice and mushrooms.
And that’s it. Just follow this graphic to help you create the perfect burger mix–
I know. I see the look on your face. Two days of prep? Three batches of mixture? Two big bowls and two 13 x 9 pans. Am I kidding?
But there are options!
So consider this choice—halve all the ingredients and make fewer burgers. You’ll still come out with about 15 or 16—still enough to freeze or refrigerate for quick-cook or easy-reheat meals.
Start with a plan and make note of all the ways to work ahead, including chilling the processed burger mixture in the frig up to 24 hours. Figure out what will work for you and your schedule.
Frozen patties should be taken from the freezer just as needed and cooked as above—you will need to adjust cooking time by adding about 5 minutes so that the burgers are cooked through. I would go ahead and coat them with oil before baking. You might also consider allowing them to thaw in the frig while you are at work or school and then cooking them as if they were fresh. A little experimentation may be necessary.
Already-cooked burgers can be stored in the frig for about a week. Reheat patties about 15 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees, until heated through. It may be possible to freeze pre-cooked burgers, too, but I didn’t experiment with this. So you try and let me know!
A word about microwaves: And the word is “unsure.” I don’t own a microwave oven and haven’t used one in years. So not much experience to offer. I do think it will work to reheat a cooked burger in a microwave more easily than it will be to cook a raw one, but just don’t know. Again, if you figure it out, drop a line!
Just keep in mind that having 30 burgers in the freezer could mean healthy, super-fast weeknight meals, weekday lunches and real-food snacks in no time for a whole month. Won’t that help you stay away from fast food takeout in 2020!!!!! Think about it.
And if that weren’t enough, my daughter got creative at the Christmas dinner table, grabbing a second burger and crumbling it up in a pile of tortilla chips, topping it with cheese and salsa and proclaiming Possible Meatless Nachos! It was yummy. And, in case you are curious, those are the famous Freezer Pickles in the photo.
So I bet you are wondering if I’m giving that Impossible Burger a fair shot, especially since I’ve never eaten one and never care to. It’s a good question. Here is my answer: take a look at the video I found that is pretty much a promotion for the Impossible Burger and then see if you still want to eat one. Just to be fair.
But really, with all the possibilities that are before us as this new decade begins, consider upping that game in the kitchen and spend a few extra hours—and possibly one snowy weekend afternoon—setting your sights on what’s possible in your kitchen. Then grab a bun and pass the mustard.