There aren’t many people who don’t love a big, fat, juicy burger. Just look at the slew of new restaurants in the past few years that have created their menus around a variety of burgers.
But with many people trying to eat more vegetable-centrically, a new class of plant-based burgers, made from a variety of vegetables, beans, legumes, grains, and even nuts, have begun appearing in restaurants and supermarkets across the country.
If you’re stuck somewhere between—you’d like to eat more vegetables and less meat, but you aren’t quite ready to completely give up beef in your burgers—well, there is a way to have both.
Enter mushrooms. Making your burgers with a mix of ground meat and finely chopped mushrooms is a great way to cut down on meat, without sacrificing flavor.
Why mushrooms? First and foremost, for taste. Mushrooms are high in umami, the fifth basic taste after sweet, sour, salt, and bitter, often described as rich or meaty. Umami indicates a high level of glutamate, an amino acid and building block of protein. The more umami is present in food, the more ﬂavorful it will be. Umami-packed mushrooms are thus the perfect ingredient to combine with ground beef, another ingredient naturally high in umami, for a super savory, delicious burger.
Aside from taste, there are a few other important benefits to consider. As far as making a better-for-you burger, mushrooms amp up the flavor and juiciness while decreasing the calorie content. Since umami intensifies the flavor of a food, you can use half as much salt in your recipe as usual, without compromising taste. Mushrooms are also an excellent source of three different B vitamins and selenium, a mineral that helps the immune system function properly.
Stretching your meat with inexpensive mushrooms also helps stretch your food dollar. Since mushrooms require minimal water, electricity, and space to grow, consuming them is better for the environment, too.
Taking all of this into account, The Mushroom Council, an industry organization created for mushroom producers, introduced the concept of the “blended burger,” encouraging chefs and home cooks to make burgers with at least 25 percent fresh mushrooms. Their recipe for a classic blended burger follows.
To create the burger taste you are probably most familiar with, use ground chuck. For the mushrooms, crimini and white buttons will give you the most flavor, and are easy to find in most stores. Chop the mushrooms, either by hand or in a food processor, to match the consistency of the ground meat, and for the best flavor, sauté the chopped mushrooms until soft, 3 to 5 minutes, before using. Let cool briefly before blending with the meat and forming into patties.
This mushroom-meat blend can also be used for tacos, meat sauce, chili, or anything else you would use ground beef for.
Classic Blended BurgerMakes 4 to 6 burgers
- 8 ounces of your favorite mushroom variety, finely chopped
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 to 6 buns
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the burger patties approximately 4 minutes per side, or to your preferred level of doneness.
Remove the burger patties from heat and toast the buns in the same skillet.
Assemble burgers with your favorite toppings and condiments.
Recipe courtesy of The Mushroom Council
Regina Ragone is a registered dietitian nutritionist with extensive experience creating better-for-you recipes for savvy cooks and beginners in the kitchen alike.