As a New Yorker who doesn’t have outdoor space of her own, I don’t have a regular grill. But I do have a grill pan, and these summer months are when I use it the most. These balsamic grilled vegetable burgers are my new favorite way to put it—and all of my summer produce—to good use.
As you can see, these vegetable burgers are really just that: burgers made with veggies. I love homemade bean and grain patties, like my quinoa artichoke burgers and black bean sweet potato burgers. They’re a lot of work, though. These burgers entail marinating and then grilling (or roasting) vegetables, so they’re pretty hands off. I found that trimming and slicing the veggies was actually the most time-consuming step!
Burger-friendly summer vegetables
I chose to make the balsamic grilled vegetable burgers with some of my favorite summer veggies, eggplant, and red bell peppers. I added portobello mushroom caps to add a dense, hearty texture to the burgers, and I threw in red onion slices for sweet savoriness.
You can definitely be creative and seasonal with the veggies you use for this recipe. Zucchini and summer squash would be a great addition. Any color of pepper will work. I think grilled tomatoes are a cool idea. Cauliflower steaks would be fun, too.
The only thing to be mindful of is that some vegetables (zucchini) will grill a lot faster than others (cauliflower steaks). So, keep an eye on all of your vegetables as they sizzle away in the grill pan. You can flip and remove them piecemeal, making sure that everything is perfectly cooked. Same if you’re roasting the vegetables instead of grilling them, which is an option in the recipe.
Balsamic grilled vegetable burger tips
If you’re in a rush, it won’t hurt to marinate the vegetables here for only a few hours. But if you have the time, I recommend allowing them to marinate overnight. The veggies will absorb more flavor and soften up considerably if you give them lots of time to soak up the marinade.
Choose a good storage vessel
If you stack the vegetables while you marinate them, they may not be able to soak up lots of of the marinade. You can layer them in a wide casserole dish or a roomy storage container. But I think it’s even easier to marinate them in one or a couple of storage bags (these silicone bags are a great alternative to plastic bags, and I use them for marinating often).
Not only do vegetables cook at slightly different speeds, but depending on how evenly/thinly sliced they are, some pieces might cook faster than others. Keep an eye on your grill pan as you go, and work in smaller batches (I needed 3 total) to make sure that everything cooks carefully. If you roast your veggies instead of grilling them, check them in the oven ever 5-10 minutes to ensure that they’re not burning.
Serving balsamic grilled vegetable slices
Of course, the savory sweet grilled vegetables don’t only have to be used in burgers. They’re great in sandwiches and wraps, for roughly chopping and throwing into grain bowls, or even for dumping into a casual pasta dish at dinnertime. I’ve doubled the vegetable portion of the recipe once now, so that I’d have extra vegetables to use up as the week went by. I was never sorry to have them in my fridge.
For the marinade:
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce, tamari, or liquid aminos
- 2 tablespoons maple or agave syrup
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning or dried oregano
- 1-2 cloves minced garlic (optional and to taste)
For the burgers:
- 2 large or 4 small portobello mushroom caps, stems trimmed and gills removed
- 1 small eggplant or 1 baby eggplant, sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch slices
- 1 large or 2 small red bell peppers, cut into 2-inch strips
- 1 large or 2 small red onions, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
- 4 burger buns, toasted
- To make the marinade, whisk all marinade ingredients together.
- Marinate the vegetables for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. I recommend overnight for extra flavor. You can spread the vegetables in a casserole dish or two and pour the marinade over them, flipping them to ensure that both sides of the veggies get coated. Or—my preference—marinate them in gallon sized silicone or plastic storage bags (this is especially easy if you're throwing them in the fridge overnight).
- Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Remove the veggies from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Grill them for 6-10 minutes, flipping now and then so that both sides grill evenly. You can baste the vegetables with the reserved marinade every so often as you flip them. When all of the vegetables are soft and nicely grilled, remove them from heat. You may need to remove ones that cook more quickly (eggplant) before others (peppers).
- Alternatively, you can roast the vegetables on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet at 425F for about 25-35 minutes, flipping and basting them halfway through, or until they're tender and browning.
- To serve, pile the vegetables on burger buns in hearty stacks. Feel free to add any condiments, herbs, greens, or garnishes you like!
The marinade I used for the balsamic grilled vegetable burgers would be pretty great with either tofu or tempeh. I’m pretty sure that balsamic grilled tofu is in my near future—maybe as an addition to these burgers, as well as an everyday staple.
It was a difficult week here. Nothing serious or dire, just an intersection of my mood and the customary ups and downs of life. I responded in what I’m increasingly realizing is the sensible way: with as much tenderness and patience as I can muster. It’s not easy, this gentleness, but it’s important. Till Sunday, sending you some gentleness, too.