Everyone knows they should eat their veggies and eating them in burger-form is a delicious way to do it. But before you eat just any veggie burger, make sure you know what’s in it. Many veggie burgers, especially processed ones, have tons of sodium, oil, preservatives, and processed ingredients. If you read the labels, some burgers have over twenty ingredients. Some even contain harmful toxins such as hexane. That can undo the healthy choice you’re trying to make. While there are a few packaged veggie burgers that have healthy ingredients, the best bet is to make your own. When you make your own burgers, you get to choose the ingredients including how much sodium, fat and fiber is in them. You can make your veggie burgers as light or hearty as you want and you get to choose the flavor profile. Nothing is as good as the healthy, homemade veggie burger. Here are my tips and tricks to making them clean, hearty and delicious.

1. Use Beans and Legumes

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Beans and legumes are some of the most amazing foods we can eat. They are healthy, filling and a hearty addition to many dishes. Beans and legumes are economical and a great value for your money, especially if you buy dried beans. They are convenient, easy to cook and easy to store. They also make incredible veggie burgers. Their texture is perfect for making tender yet hearty burgers that will hold together while their flavor can range from the mild blank canvas of pinto beans to the “meatiness” of lentils.

One of the first veggie burgers I learned to make were Chickpea Burgers. To make them: in a mug or small bowl, combine 2 Tbs. flaxseed with 1/3 cup warm water. Stir and let sit about 10 minutes until it thickens into a gel. Heat a sauté pan or skillet with 2 tsp. oil. Add ½ small onion, chopped, 2 finely chopped or grated carrots, 2 finely chopped stalks of celery, and 3 minced cloves of garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes until the veggies are tender. Let cool. In a food processor, put 4 cups of cooked chickpeas and process until they are smooth with no whole chickpeas left. Add the cooled veggie sauté to the chickpeas. Add the flaxseed gel. Season with 2 tsp. each ground cumin, ground coriander, celery seed, paprika and dried dill, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Process until just combined. Transfer the chickpea mix to a bowl. Add up to ½ cup chickpea flour, a little at a time, and mix with a spatula or your hand, until you have a consistency that feels like it will hold up.  When it’s thoroughly mixed, place the entire blob of chickpea mix into the refrigerator, covered, and chill for at least 30 minutes. When you are ready to cook, remove the mixture from the fridge and make the patties. Divide the mixture into 4 patties. Using a 3 ½” cookie cutter ensures a perfectly formed, dense, thick burger patty. Let the patties sit for a couple of minutes. Heat 1 Tbs. of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat (I just wipe out the one I used to cook the veggies). Cook the patties until browned, about 6 minutes per side. You may want to flip them carefully several times to ensure that the inside cooks while the outside doesn’t burn. Alternatively, bake in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until crisp and browned, flipping halfway through. Serve on a bun or in a pita with Tzatziki sauce or atop a bed of greens.

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Some other awesome veggie burgers to try include these Red Lentil Burgers with Kale Pesto, Black and White Bean Burgers, Hearty Lentil and Brown Rice Burgers, Vegan Chickpea Patties, Spicy Bean and Coconut Burgers, Vegan Burger King, Potato and Black Bean Burgers, Hoppin’ John Sliders with Lemon Aioli, Moroccan Spiced Lentil Butternut Squash Burgers, and Mexican Flavored Bean Burgers.

2. Use Lots of Veggies

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You would think it should go without saying that a veggie burger would contain…well, veggies. When you make your own burgers, you choose which veggies and how much to put in them. You can make burgers out of almost any vegetable. Check out 10 Vegetables You Can Make Burgers With for ideas. Then try these veggie-packed burgers: Chipotle Maple Sweet Potato Burgers, Daikon Patties, Sweetcorn Sunrise Vegan Burgers, Amazing Pumpkin Burgers, Sweet Potato and Kale Patties, Zucchini and Corn Veggie Burgers, The Vegan Eggplant Crunchburger, Roasted Beet Burger Patties, Raw Yam Burgers, Baked Broccoli Burgers, Spicy Cauliflower Potato Burgers, and Portobello Mushroom Burgers.

3. Add Whole Grains

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Adding whole grains to a burger can do triple-duty. They can act as a binder while also upping the nutrients of the burger and adding a chewy texture that will make you want to keep biting away. The next time you make burgers, skip the breadcrumbs and add brown rice, quinoa, barley or oats. If your recipe requires flour, use whole-grain flour like whole wheat or keep it gluten-free with chickpea flour or quinoa flour. Some burger recipes with whole grains include Easy Vegan Sloppy Joes, The Ultimate Vegan Burger, Best Quinoa Veggie Burgers with Pumpkin Seed Onion Cream, Baked Quinoa Burger Patties with Lemon Tahini Sauce, Quinoa and White Bean Burger, Quinoa Veggie Burgers, Cajun Burgers, and Mushroom Barley Grillers.

4. Go Nuts

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Adding chopped nuts and seeds to a burger can add texture but they also raise the amount of protein and healthy fat making your burger even healthier. Nuts also help act as a binder. You’ll go nuts for these veggie burgers: Walnut Lentil Burgers with Cauliflower Puree and Red Onion Relish, Black Bean Corn and Walnut Vegan Burger, Kidney Bean –Walnut Burgers, Maple Sweet Potato Pecan Burgers, and Eggplant Burger with Pine Nuts.

5. Bake Them

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While it’s faster to pan-fry your veggies burgers, baking them is a healthier option. Baking also allows you to do other things while the burgers are cooking rather than stand at the stove watching them. Burgers can be cooked right away or frozen to cook later. To bake most veggie burgers, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can spray them lightly with cooking oil if desired. Depending on the recipe, the veggie patties will need to bake at 350 to 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, flipping them halfway through. The burgers should be firm, crisp and golden-brown. If you prefer to cook them on the stovetop or on the grill, you can pre-cook the burgers in the oven for 15-20 minutes so they will be firmer when they reach the grill. Then just finish the cooking and the burgers will absorb less oil this way.

6. Healthy Toppings

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A healthy burger deserves healthy toppings. But that doesn’t mean the toppings can’t also be delicious. You could always go with the usual lettuce, tomato, and ketchup or you can get creative. Just because your burger is made with veggies doesn’t mean you can’t add more on top. Try different greens rather than lettuce. I love putting kale, spinach and dark, leafy greens on my burgers. Add onions, raw or caramelized. Top your burger with healthy avocados or a bright pesto. Use nut cheese or cashew cheese for some healthy indulgence. See 10 New and Different Ways to Top Your Burgers for imaginative ideas and recipes. Some veggie burgers with really amazing toppings include Hoisin Black Bean Burger with Spicy Sesame Sauce, Black-Eyed Pea Burgers with Mississippi Comeback Sauce, Vegan Moussaka Burger with Béchamel Cheese Sauce, Portobello Eggplant Burger with Cauliflower Cashew Cheese, and Pesto Mushroom Burgers.

7. Nice Buns

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There’s no point in making a healthy veggie burger just to put it on a bun filled with refined flours, sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. If you want your burger on bread, choose whole-grain breads and buns. You can even make your own Homemade Vegan Burger Buns. Or you can do something different like putting your burger in a pita or wrap it in a tortilla. If you want to avoid grains, you can make your own Grain-Free Wraps and Tortillas including lettuce and collard green wraps. Another option to leave your burger unwrapped. Serve it on a plate with toppings and a side of veggies like these Raw Yam Burgers and Daikon Fries with Ketchup.

For more tips on making the best veggie burgers, see How to Make Flavorful Veggie Burgers and Tricks for Making Veggie Burgers that Won’t Fall Apart. With all these great tips, you’ll be making the healthiest, cleanest and heartiest veggie burgers ever but you’ll probably be distracted by how delicious they taste.

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Lead Image Source: The Ultimate Vegan Burger