Adapting favourite recipes to be allergen-friendly for yourself or friends and family with allergies or ingredient sensitivities can be daunting – if you don’t know where to start!
Each month FBC member and nutritionist, Sondi Bruner, will take a favourite dish and show you how to adapt it to be allergen-friendly, as well as delicious and healthy. She'll even toss in some vegetarian or vegan options. Today she shows us how to remix a grilling favourite – the burger!
It’s safe to say that summer is in full swing, wherever you live in this big ‘ol country. Long, lingering hours of daylight, patios, swimsuits and - of course – barbecues.
In today’s allergen-friendly remix, I’ll show you how to make tasty gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and vegan burgers that’ll become one of your new summer staples.
A typical burger recipe contains the following basic ingredients:
- Ground Meat (beef, chicken or turkey)
Now, let’s look at how we can make some switcheroos.
Gluten-Free Breadcrumb Options
If you have access to decent gluten-free bread in your neighbourhood, you could simply blitz up a few pieces in your food processor. Keep in mind that gluten-free breads can be drier than glutenous ones, and you might need to add a bit more moisture (or reduce the amount of breadcrumbs you use). I’d start off by subbing in gluten-free breadcrumbs 1:1, and folding in additional liquid if needed.
The downside to gluten-free bread is that many store-bought brands are full of processed, refined starches and preservatives. This one by Silver Hills Bakery is my fave because it contains clean ingredients, but if the label on the gluten-free bread you pick up is loaded with chemicals you can’t pronounce, there are a few other choices I’d recommend.
Try wheat-free rolled oats. You can leave them whole, or blend them into a meal in your food processor for a finer texture. Other gluten-free grains would work, too, like dry buckwheat, millet or quinoa.
Another option to experiment with is nuts or seeds – grind ‘em up to a fine meal your food processor or blender, and treat them like breadcrumbs.
When you mix seeds like chia or flax with water, they simulate the binding properties of eggs. Stir one tablespoon of ground flax seed or ground chia into ¼ cup of water, and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes before using.
Mashed or pureed vegetables like carrots, yams, butternut squash, pumpkin or cauliflower help hold things together, and add extra flavour.
My preferred egg replacement, however, is cooked gluten-free whole grains. The starchiness of the cooked grains provides binding qualities, and they offer extra bulk when you’re taking out the meat (which we’ll get to in a moment).
Cooked brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet or buckwheat are fantastic options, and they blend well with most flavours. I like to add a little bit of extra water when I’m cooking grains – if they’re mushier, they’ll help everything bind even better. No need for al dente here!
Swap the Meat for Plants
Let’s talk about plant-based options we can use instead of meat. I promise you, it’s going to be okay.
I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but I stick to a plant-based diet, especially when it comes to grilling burgers.
When animal meats are cooked at extremely high temperatures, particularly over an open flame, carcinogenic chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed. Researchers aren’t sure what level of exposure to these toxins is safe, or how much is too much. (You can read more about this here or here.
Plant-based proteins don’t form these toxic chemicals. So if a burger is going on the grill, I want one full of plants. Here are a few plant options you can use in your meatless burgers:
Beans and legumes.
These provide a hearty texture, and they’re packed with fibre. Chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans or lentils are easy varieties to start with. You can leave these whole, or mash them up to approximate a ground meat texture.
Nuts and seeds.
Walnuts, almonds, cashews or pecans work give burgers a nice crunch. Give them a rough chop or a quick pulse in the food processor before folding them in with the rest of your ingredients. For smaller seeds like sesame, sunflower or pumpkin, you can toss them in whole.
You knew this was coming, didn’t you? I like to load up my meatless burgers with plenty of vegetables. Try finely chopped onions, shredded greens, grated carrots, sweet potatoes or zucchini, or finely chopped mushrooms.
Cooked gluten-free grains.
Adding cooked gluten-free grains in supplies you with extra fibre and binding action.
If a barbecued burger simply isn’t a burger to you unless it has meat, I’d encourage you to consider swapping half of the ground meat for one of these plant based options.
Extra Burger Tips
- Some vegetable-based burgers can be more delicate than the meaty ones, so flip ‘em gently. A vegetable grill or tray can help you avoid losing bits of your burgers through the cracks.
- Strict vegans and vegetarians will appreciate it if you clean your grill after cooking meaty burgers.
- Vegetable burgers can be cooked in a pan on the stovetop, or baked in the oven on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Since we’re not working with raw meat, taste your burger mixture as you go and add more seasonings or veggies if needed.
- Veggie burgers are forgiving, so you can experiment with the amounts of grains, beans, veggies or breadcrumbs you use, and adjust if the mixture seems too dry or too wet.
- Large leaves of lettuce or cabbage make great gluten-free buns. If you’re looking for something more carb-y, cut out squares of something like a herbed quinoa flatbread with a large cookie cutter.
For a little inspiration, here's an Easy, Verstatile, Veggie Burger Recipe from the No Meat Athlete. Top off dinner with my allergen-friendly ice cream remix recipe! Or, you can also try my Allergen-Friendly Carrot Tahini Bean Burger:
- 1½ cups cooked pinto beans
- 1 cup carrot purée (about 6 medium carrots, steamed and mashed – you could also use canned butternut squash, sweet potato or pumpkin purée)
- ½ cup gluten-free rolled oats
- 3 tbsp tahini (or another nut or seed butter)
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp salt
- Put the oats in a food processor and pulse a couple of times. Add the beans, carrot purée, tahini, cumin and salt.
- Process everything until well mixed. It doesn’t have to be completely smooth – you could also leave it chunkier if you’d like.
- Taste and if necessary, adjust cumin and salt. Put the mixture in the fridge for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- After the mixture has chilled, wet your hands and shape it into burgers. I use about a heaping ⅓ cup for each burger, but you could vary the size from ¼-1/2 cup depending on how big you like your veggie burgers.
- Bake for 30 minutes, gently flipping halfway, until they are dry on top. For smaller burgers, check on them at the 25-minute mark. For larger ones, you may need 35 minutes.
- Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
Sondi Bruner is a holistic nutritionist, freelance writer and food blogger. She educates people who follow allergen-friendly diets about how to eat simply, deliciously and safely, allowing them to rediscover the pleasure of food. When she’s wearing her writer’s hat, she works with natural health brands to create content that will help their customers live fulfilling, healthful lives. Find out more at www.sondibruner.com. Or you can follow Sondi on Facebook or Twitter