These Grilled Eggplant Burgers, while slightly unconventional, are great for enjoying any summer evening. And the burger patties are packed with wonderful umami flavor that is unlike any other plant-based homemade patty I’ve had before!
Now, I say that these burgers are slightly unconventional because you grill the eggplant before assembling the burger. And while you’re welcome to grill the burgers again, after baking them, it’s not necessary!
Grilling the eggplant before mixing in protein, seasoning, and binders makes sure that there’s not too much moisture in the burger base. Plus, the FLAVOR it adds is incredible. Combine the eggplant with ground up, dried shiitake mushrooms and toasted sesame oil, for a seriously tasty, Japanese-influenced meal.
I’d like to add, that this is a great way to use up a bounty of eggplant. This recipe uses 1 pound, but you could easily double the batch and freeze some patties for later. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great eggplant parmesan, but sometimes you gotta switch it up!
Now, let’s get into ingredients and substitutions, remembering that I have not tested all of the sub recommendations; but they are based on my experience!
Ingredients + Substitutions
- Eggplant – In this case I used the most commonly found variety, black beauty. I like it in this application because the ratio of “meat” to skin is higher than smaller varieties.
- Toasted sesame oil – this amber-colored oil is seriously one of my favorite ingredients and has such a rich, amazing flavor. In this case, we’re using it to coat the eggplant before grilling it, so the flavor is subtle but still there.
- Dried shiitake mushrooms – These are a KEY ingredient in these patties because not only do they bring extra umami flavor, they also help bind the patties. Do not use fresh mushrooms as they will be too wet and the burgers will end up mushy. If you happen to have ground shiitake powder, you can use 2-3 tablespoons of it in place of pulsing the mushrooms yourself.
- Panko crumbs – gluten-free panko crumbs as well as regular bread crumbs will work in this case. These are used in combination with the mushrooms as a binder for the patties.
- Red or kidney beans – these are just what I had on hand and ready, but they worked really well, here. Another option is to use black beans or adzuki beans!
- Yellow onion – white or brown onions will also work here, as they’re used to add a little zing to the patty, much like traditional animal-based patties.
- Tamari – this is another ingredient that adds a pleasant savoriness to these grilled eggplant burgers, but you are welcome to use liquid aminos, soy sauce, or if avoiding soy, coconut aminos. (though you may need more salt if using C.A.)
- Toasted sesame seeds – this is to double down on the sesame flavor, but also add some teeny bits of crunchy to a patty that is otherwise pretty soft on the inside.
- Toppings – now, this is where you can do you, but I suggest steering away from traditional burger toppings like ketchup and yellow mustard. For mine, I used fresh cucumber (a lil’ splash of rice vinegar could be nice on that!), plus a quick sriracha-vegan mayo mixture, and mixed greens. An Asian-inspired slaw with carrots and cabbage could also be really tasty with these! Basically, play around and find your favorite combinations.
Tips for making grilled eggplant burgers
While my instructions are clear and straightforward, I want to share some tips if you’re looking for extra guidance. Salting the eggplant helps reduce a little bit of the bitterness, but also draws out a couple tablespoons of water. And in the case of veggie burgers, that makes a big difference!
And, when pulsing the shiitake mushrooms, or anything super-dry for that matter, in a food processor, I cover it with a kitchen towel to make sure that it doesn’t become too airborne. Inadvertently, this dampens the sound of a noisy processor just slightly!
As mentioned before, you can grill these burgers after they’ve baked if you’d like a stronger smoky flavor. If you are planning on doing this, cut 10 minutes off of the baking time so that you don’t end up with a product that is too dry. Also note, that as the patties cool when taken out of the oven, they will become more firm, so you may want to wait 10 to 15 minutes before transferring them to a well-oiled grill.
Lastly, before I get to the recipe, I enjoyed these burgers with some grilled corn on the cob that was slathered with a little extra of the sriracha-vegan mayo spread I made. Then, I sprinkled black sesame seeds over the top and it was SO good. So, there’s a lil’ extra nugget of food wisdom. 😉
For the patties
- 1 pound (455 g) eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (22 g) dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 cup (60 g) panko crumbs, gluten-free if necessary
- 1 tablespoon (9 g) toasted sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) toasted sesame oil
- 15-ounce (425 g) can red or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/3 cup (40 g) diced onion
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) tamari
For assembly (suggested)
- 3 tablespoons (30 g) vegan mayo
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sriracha or gochujang
- 6 burger buns
- Mixed greens or shredded cabbage
- Sliced cucumbers
- Thinly sliced red onion
- First, lay the eggplant slices out and sprinkle salt over the cut sides, to help get rid of some of the liquid. Set slices aside for 10 minutes, and once the liquid starts beading up, and you lose roughly 1-2 tablespoons of it, wipe off the liquid and salt and set aside. Pre-heat a grill or grill pan to medium heat.
- While the salt leaches the eggplant, break the dried shiitake mushrooms into chunks and place them in a food processor equipped with an s-blade. Process until the mushrooms become a fine powder, if there are a couple of chunks left, just remove them.
- Next, add panko crumbs and onion powder to processor and pulse until combined, then transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.
- Return your attention to the eggplant, brushing it with toasted sesame oil and grilling it for 5 minutes on each side, 10 minutes all together, or until tender when poked with tongs with prominent grill marks. Roughly chop the grilled eggplant and place it in the food processor, along with beans, onion, tamari, and a pinch of salt.
- Pulse mixture until it is coarse, but evenly mixed (no whole beans), then transfer it to the large mixing bowl. Fold dry and wet mixtures together until combined, taste and add more salt if needed. Cover bowl and set aside for 20 minutes, while preheating the oven to 400F (200C).
- Coat a baking sheet with oil, or line it with parchment paper. Form six patties with 1/2 cup-sized (135 g) scoops of the mixture. Use your hands to form them into patties roughly 3/4-inch thick. If the mixture is getting sticky, just rinse your hands with water.
- Bake patties for 20 minutes, then carefully flip them over and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until deep brown and crusted on the outside. Mix sriracha and vegan mayo, then spread it on the bottom 6 buns. Layer greens, then burger patties, cucumbers, and red onion, then serve. (Or top with whatever you like!)
Substitution and ingredient notes + tips are in the blog post!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 307Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 705mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 5gSugar: 9gProtein: 10g
The nutrition information is calculated by a plug-in, and isn't always accurate. Please calculate your own with the products that you use, as it will be different for everyone.
I have to add, that I loved these so much, I ate two leftover burgers cold and had no issue with it. The flavor is just so good! I think this burger base would also be great for teriyaki meatless balls. Mmm…