Tofu Burger with Chard

You know what they say about tofu, that it’s a “blank slate for flavor.” Maybe you haven’t heard that exact phrase, but you’ve no doubt heard reiterations of it. That tofu soaks up the flavors of whatever it is cooked with may be true, but my concern is more often its texture.

When tofu is undercooked and underseasoned—and blitzed in a food processor—it tastes heavy and cloying and in my opinion is basically inedible, the tofu equivalent of wet cardboard or wet newspaper or congealed wallpaper glue. I made many heavy, cloying, wallpaper-glue veggie burgers before I got to this one.

One trick is all the seasoning: the soy or tamari, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic are bold decorations. The other is that you puree only half the mixture. This way the tofu both acts as a binder and provides texture. For good measure, and for flavor and additional texture, I add a dose of hearty greens. Feel free to use chard, beet greens, spinach, or anything else you  have on hand. I got a purple hue in the photo above because I used rainbow chard. And the glaze might seem frivolous, but that little nip of pomegranate molasses—this veggie burger, like all veggie burgers, transcends geography—is a welcome jolt.

Tofu and Chard Burgers with Sweet Sesame Glaze (V)

Yield: Six 4-inch burgers

14 oz extra-firm tofu
1 bunch chard, roughly chopped into 1 to 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons oil, divided
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey or 2 teaspoons agave nectar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
3/4 cup toasted breadcrumbs
Sweet Sesame Glaze (see below)

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Drain the tofu and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Layer the slices on one half of a clean towel or a few layers of paper towels; fold the other half of the towel over the top; set a broad, flat weight on top (a cutting board, or plate with a can of beans placed on top) and let stand for about 10 minutes so as to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Dice into 1/2-inch cubes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chard, tossing with tongs for about 2 minutes, until fully wilted. When it’s safe to handle, wrap it in a clean kitchen cloth and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Chop finely.

Wipe out the skillet and return it to medium-high heat. Add the remaining oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, and honey, swirling or stirring the pan to combine. Add the tofu and cook, tossing occasionally, until the much of the liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Remove half the tofu and puree in a food processor. To the remaining tofu, add the chard, garlic, and ginger and cook for another two minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Coarsely mash the tofu with a potato masher, then fold in the pureed tofu. Fold in the breadcrumbs. Allow to stand for 5 to 10 minutes so that the crumbs soak up as much moisture as possible. Shape into 6 patties.

In an oven-safe skillet or nonstick frying pan heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the burgers and brown each side, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Move the pan to the preheated oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until firm and cooked through.

Drizzle with the sesame-honey glaze just before serving.

Sweet Sesame Glaze (V)(GF)

Yield: 1/2 cup

1/2 cup soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey or 2 teaspoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons scallions, thinly sliced 1 inch into the dark green parts

Combine all ingredients except the seasame seeds and scallions in a small saucepan over medium heat, swirling the pan often, until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the sesame seeds, and allow to cool to room temperature; it will thicken slightly as it cools. Stir in scallions just before serving. This sauce can be made ahead and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


11 Replies to “Tofu Burger with Chard”

  1. These sound delicious, but what to do if I’m gluten free? I wonder, if I made bread crumbs out of millet bread, would that be icky or good? Tried anything like that?

    1. You’ve probably tried the GF breadcrumbs they sell at grocery stores, which aren’t much more than rice flour or corn meal. I’d go, as you suggest, with making them from a GF bread you like.

  2. Oh man,

    I just made this from the cookbook where it says 8 ounces of extra firm tofu instead of 14 ounces. I added the breadcrumbs and everything fell totally apart. My son and I ended up with some pleasant tasting tofu scramble, with toast included.

    It was quite edible, just a bit frustrating.


    1. Ok, problem solved. I can’t use the super-firm tofu from Trader Joes. I just made it using regular tofu from San Jose Tofu Company, and it worked just fine. When I blended up half of that tofu after cooking, it turned into paste, while when I blended up the super firm tofu, it turned into soggy edible packing material.

      To make six patties though, I do think it needs to be 14 ounces of tofu, like specified here, rather than 8. That is the recipe I made.

    2. Edith, sorry for my late reply, and I’m more sorry you had problems with your first batch and that the recipe didn’t work the way you’d like. In the end I definitely felt that 14-ounces of tofu was too much—for me 8 ounces resulted in the best taste and, more importantly, didn’t produce a leaden, wet-cardboard texture. But I had not really considered that different brands would produce such different results (I always buy mine in bulk at the Korean grocer down the street). Thank you for giving it another go, though, and thanks also for sharing your tips.

      1. Hi Lukas,

        I really like these tofu burgers now. I did another batch starting out with regular tofu but from the grocery this time (my fourth batch now), and this time with the original chard rather than spinach, just to be sure it worked that way. I haven’t found it to be too wet cardboardy for me or my son with the higher level of tofu so far. My first batch with the less tofu (that didn’t form patties but we ate it anyway) had too much of a breadcrumb flavor for me.

      2. So which is it? It sounds like you’re standing by the 8oz of tofu recommendation, but the recipe here calls for 14oz?

        I generally buy the extra firm from the supermarket which in all of my experiences is identical to the tofu I have occasionally gotten from korean grocers, so it’s likely it will be of the same general consistency you usually work with Lukas.

      3. I’ve come around to thinking that 14 ounces works best. Also, I’ve been scaling back a lot lately on the bread crumbs–starting with 1/4 cup and going from there–and liking the results.

  3. Hi Lukas,
    I just made this tonight and my husband liked it, but for me they felt a bit bland as the flavours of the sesame oil and soy sauce didn’t get absorbed into the tofu. May try it again, any suggestions? Hmm….I’m confused, do you prefer the 8 oz or the 14oz of tofu….

    1. Hi Lisa, Sorry for confusion! I now go with 14 ounces, and with this burger in particular I’m very cautious as I add the breadcrumbs. Depending on the type you use, I have recently only needed to use about 1/4 cup. As for flavor… I haven’t had flavor problems with this one before, in fact I usually hear that there’s too much flavor. You could certainly add more of the flavoring agents, or a bit more of the glaze in the final cooking stage if you want to amp it up.

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