Anyone who went through a vegetarian phase in the early 2000s has an arsenal of “vegetarian option” memories they’d rather forget. I suffered through TVP omelets at summer camp, countless imitation chicken nuggets from the freezer at friends’ houses and well-intentioned but bone-dry underdone portabello burgers. I still shy away from black bean burgers in restaurants because they bring back memories of thick, salty mouthfuls of patty-shaped refried beans. But making my own veggie burgers has never been foolproof; I’ve swung and missed more times than I’d like to admit making patties that hold their shape in the pan and straddle the fine line between choking-hazard dry and sad soggy mess.
Enter Lukas Volger, veggie burger aficionado and unbearably charming Twitter presence. He has two cookbooks under his belt, and he’s a fellow longtime sufferer in the grocery store freezer aisle. After publishing Veggie Burgers Every Which Way, he realized that he could do more to improve vegetarians’ mainstream grocery store options. Last year he launched Made by Lukas, a new line of ready-to-form burger patties.
Made by Lukas products reside next to the tofu in the grocery store, but the similarities end there. Rather than create another semi-palatable-if-smothered-in-condiments burger, Lukas had the revolutionary idea of making veggie burgers that taste like vegetables. To solve the texture problem he incorporates some dehydrated ingredients and quinoa. He’s currently offering three flavors: beet, kale and carrot parsnip.
I had the chance to sample all three last week. They were delivered to my door in a loud zebra print insulated bag along with an e-mail apologizing for the zebra print (he hates disposable bags, last time he was buying the reusable type they only had loud patterns). Unlike other burgers, which come individually wrapped and individually freezer burned, Lukas’s are sold refrigerated and free of preservatives, dairy and gluten. You form your own patties, which allows you to control size, thickness and shape. Kind of like real meat.
For the most part, the burgers hold their shape in the pan. The beet hazelnut version does a little better than the other two, and its flavor was by far my favorite. I fed them to my friends, and the general consensus was that the burgers really do taste like vegetables (radical, I know). I made a build-your-own spread that included quick jalapeño pickles, avocados and Havarti, among other condiments. The entire preparation took about 20 minutes from start to finish, and everyone left satisfied.
But my favorite preparations weren’t actually burgers at all — they came from the website’s recipe page. Lukas’s recipes seem designed to be weeknight-accessible, something I appreciate after a full workday. I’d recommend the veggie burger tacos or the beet bites with fennel-yogurt sauce for a low-maintenance meal.
Even though Lukas’s veggie burgers are delicious, easy and filling, I can already hear my nutritionist mom’s voice in my head asking me about their protein content. Unfortunately, each serving only contains about 3g of protein compared to 20g of protein in a hamburger. Try them over quinoa or with a fried egg to help make up for the difference.