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You need this beet-burger hybrid at your next holiday BBQ

Beetroot vegan burgers with chickpea and herbs. Healthy vegetarian food concept. Copy space, light background.
Photo credit: vaaseenaa/Getty Images

I’m not particularly good at following directions. Especially when it comes to cooking. Though one of my favorite parts of hosting parties and celebrations is poring through volumes of cookbooks to plan menus, shopping lists and timetables for preparation, I know full well that something is probably going to change between the planning and the actual party. Dishes get changed, cut or added, and it’s all part of the adventure of following your senses. The good news is that, often, one can find something unexpectedly delightful simply by getting it wrong. And so my beet burgers recipe was born.

I was planning for a backyard cookout and leafing through Louisa Shafia’s marvelous volume The New Persian Kitchen when I came across her recipe for “smoky beet burgers.” I thought to myself, “Well, that sounds tasty!” I added ground beef and beets to my grocery list, and went along my merry way, only to find when I returned that her recipe was for a vegetarian patty of smoked beets and lentils. Whoops!

But undeterred, I decided to make my own version of what I thought the recipe was and, as it turns out, beets add a fantastic amount of color and flavor to burgers. The cookout was a success, and I knew that these would be making it into the regular rotation of meals to make all summer long.

One of the hidden benefits of these delicious beet burgers is that they use about a third less meat than traditional ones, making sustainably farmed meat more accessible, even when cooking for a crowd. Not only is grassfed beef better for the environment, but it’s more nutritious, too. So, really, it’s a win-win for everybody!

For toppings, I’ve found that a bright quick pickle with lots of dill and a dollop of sour cream pairs beautifully with the richness of the meat and the sweetness of the beet, but goat cheese and a thick slab of tomato would be just as fantastic.

MORE: The Best Hand Mixers of 2019

To make beet burgers for six, you’ll need:

1 pound ground beef
1 large beet (about the size of a softball, or two smaller)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt, plus pepper, to taste

For the pickles:

  • 4 small cucumbers (about 8 ounces total — look for thin-skinned Persian ones if you can)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch chopped fresh dill, fronds only (save the stems for stock)

For serving:

  • 6 buns or rolls, buttered and toasted or grilled
  • Sour cream or a tangy plain Greek yogurt

First you’ll want to cook your beet, which honestly is the most annoying part of this recipe, so I wouldn’t blame you if you bought it pre-cooked to save time. Roasting will give you the best flavor, but steaming or boiling works as well. To roast, quarter your beet and place it on a square of aluminum foil. Douse with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then wrap up the beet and place it on a tray (you don’t want leaked beet juice dripping onto the bottom of your oven — trust me). Roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes. Or you can boil it for about the same amount of time, or pop it in the Instant Pot for 15 minutes if you have one. Just make sure to puncture the skin with a fork so it doesn’t explode. However you cook it, it will be easier to peel the beet once it’s cooked, and you’ll know it’s ready when a fork goes smoothly into the center. If you’re not sure it’s done yet, keep going. It’s nearly impossible to overcook a beet, but underdone ones are always disappointing.

While the beet is cooking, get your pickles started. Slice up the cucumbers nice and thin (a mandoline is great for this) and place in a large bowl. Heat the rest of the ingredients, except the dill, in the saucepan just until they start to bubble at the edges, then pour over the cucumbers. Place a plate on top of the bowl to keep the cucumbers submerged and let sit for 20 minutes. Stir in the dill and let cool before placing in the fridge to chill down further. (Pickles will keep for about two weeks, so you can easily make these ahead or double for later snacks.)

Now, back to the burgers: Combine the ground beef, egg and spices in a bowl and grate in the cooked beet. Blend the mixture together with your hands to get the best distribution and avoid staining any wooden cooking spoons (besides, it’s fun!). Form the mixture into six patties.

Cook your burgers to medium-rare, which will be hard to tell by color because of the beet, but it should only take about 4 minutes on each side. Obviously these are a great choice for grilling, but you can also sear them off in a large skillet with a swirl of oil. To keep them juicy, avoid pressing down on the burgers. They don’t need to be fussed with outside of flipping them. (Yes, I know they press down on the burgers in commercials, but they’re wrong, OK?)

MORE: How to make vegan deviled “eggs”

Just before you’re ready to serve, butter up your hamburger buns or rolls and toast them in the oven or stick them on the grill for a minute. Serve the burgers with the pickles and a dollop of sour cream.

Notes: These burgers are just as good served over a salad and make an excellent meal prep protein for just that purpose. Try combining equal parts chopped cucumber, onion and tomato with olive oil, white vinegar, fresh dill or parsley, salt and pepper for a traditional Israeli-style salad and serve the burger on top with goat cheese. Or make the mixture into meatballs and serve over couscous with a herb-heavy dressing.

Beet burgers

Ingredients

For the burgers

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large beet (about the size of a softball, or two smaller)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus pepper, to taste

For the pickles:

  • 4 small cucumbers (about 8 ounces total -- look for thin-skinned Persian ones if you can)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch chopped fresh dill, fronds only (save the stems for stock)

For serving:

  • 6 buns or rolls, buttered and toasted or grilled
  • Sour cream or a tangy plain Greek yogurt

Instructions

  1. Quarter your beet and place it on a square of aluminum foil.
  2. Cover with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Wrap the beet with the aluminum foil.
  4. Roast at 400F for about 45 minutes. You'll know it's done when you can easily puncture the skin with a fork. 
  5. While the beet is cooking, prepare your pickles. (See below.)
  6. Combine the ground beef, egg and spices in a bowl and grate in the cooled, cooked beet.
  7. Form the mixture into six patties.
  8. Cook your burgers to medium-rare, about 4 minutes on each side.
  9. Butter hamburger buns or rolls and toast them in the oven or on the grill for a minute.
  10. Serve the burgers with the pickles and a dollop of sour cream.

Pickles

  1. Start by slicing the cucumber thinly. Place them in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Heat remaining pickle ingredients -- except the dill -- in a saucepan until the mixture bubbles at the edges.
  3. Pour heated mixture over the cucumbers. 
  4. lace a plate on top of the bowl to keep the cucumbers submerged. Sit for 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in dill and allow the mixture to cool completely before storing in the fridge to chill completely. Once chilled, they are ready to serve. 

Notes

These burgers are just as good served over a salad and make an excellent meal prep protein for just that purpose. Try combining equal parts chopped cucumber, onion and tomato with olive oil, white vinegar, fresh dill or parsley, salt and pepper for a traditional Israeli-style salad and serve the burger on top with goat cheese. Or make the mixture into meatballs and serve over couscous with a herb-heavy dressing.

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