Sesame Sweet Potato and Cabbage Burgers

I’m way overdue for a new veggie burger. Over the past few months I’ve attempted several, but none got me very excited or seemed worth sharing. But when the idea for this one coalesced in my head one afternoon, I knew it would be perfect. I was bummed, in fact, that I didn’t think of it when I was working on the book. It would have made a great addition.

The inspiration was three-fold: one, the pair of bowling-ball-heavy heads of cabbage I lugged home from my CSA pickup; two, making my Thai Carrot Burgers recently, where grated vegetables make up the bulk of the burger; and three, thinking back on the recipe for sweet potato and cabbage dumplings that’s in my next book. Put these three things in my head and you get Sesame Sweet Potato and Cabbage Veggie Burgers.

If you’ve made the Thai Carrot Burgers before, you’ll find that this one is very similar. I started with some gorgeously browned onions, fried in the curry tradition where you cook them a hairsbreadth shy of burnt, and then for heat I threw in some cayenne. (Obviously you could swap in a fresh hot pepper if you prefer.) Besides its distinctive flavor that I find complimentary, the cabbage keeps the sweet potatoes from dominating the burger with a mushy texture. And finally, there’s a rounded nuttiness (seediness?) from the combination of toasted sesame oil and tahini. Top it with some arugula or a little mound of coleslaw and a swipe of your favorite veggie burger condiment, and you’re good to go.

(And with those leftover egg yolks, why not make lemon curd? I seem to be snacking on it semi-constantly when I’m home, but I also used it for a loose approximation of a trifle last night. In individual serving bowls, layer the following: crumbled store-bought shortbread cookies, a big handful of blueberries, a scoop of softly whipped cream, and a spoonful of lemon curd. I didn’t complain, though when it comes to dessert, I rarely do.)

Sesame Sweet Potato and Cabbage Burgers
Makes 4 burgers

For the photographed version, I ran out of parsley and cilantro—sorry for the missing green stuff up there!

2 tablespoons neutral oil (canola, grapeseed, peanut, or vegetable oil)
1 large or 2 small onions, chopped
Scant 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 medium sweet potato, grated (10 to 12 ounces, or about 3 heaping cups grated)
2 cups finely shredded cabbage (about a quarter of a head)
2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup breadcrumbs, or more if needed
3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley or cilantro, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon neutral oil in a deep skillet or sauté pan (something big enough to hold the potatoes and cabbage—a wide sauté pan might work) over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cayenne and fry until soft and beginning to color deeply. Add the sesame oil, followed by the sweet potato and cabbage. Stir in the soy sauce and salt. Cover and cook until tender, stirring periodically, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.

3. Whisk together the egg whites, tahini, and lemon juice until combined. Add the cooked potato-cabbage mixture, then fold in the breadcrumbs and herbs. Add additional crumbs if the mixture seems loose, but err on the side of wet because the burgers will firm up in the oven. Shape into 4 patties.

4. Heat remaining oil in an oven-safe skillet (an oven-safe nonstick pan works really nicely with this burger, as the sweet potatoes tend to cling to the pan; going that route you can get away with using less oil) over medium heat. Add the burgers, in batches if necessary, and fry until golden-brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer them to the preheated oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until firm to the touch.

Wrapped individually in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container or bag, the uncooked burgers freeze really well. Just thaw them overnight in the fridge and proceed with cooking. If the mixture seems to wet, fold in a tablespoon or two of breadcrumbs.


9 Replies to “Sesame Sweet Potato and Cabbage Burgers”

  1. Oh wow. I’m marrying this burger. Amazing. Who would have thought it? Only thing I changed was I had 1 small sweet potato so I added 1 small Irish potato and used 1 whole egg instead of whites. I didn’t want to swallow the last bite. I just wanted it to linger on forever. Oh, and I slapped a slice of swiss on them in the last 5 minutes in the oven, but totally unnecessary. Excellent creation!

  2. I was wondering, I’m trying to go vegan and some of your most interesting veggie burgers(including this one) have eggs, whole or whites. I assume the egg is a blinder? Ground flax seed mixed with water makes a pretty acceptable substitute in some cases for eggs, it has the gelatinous quality. I wonder if it could be substituted here, and work as well? Is it really necessary to have the rising action of the egg in veggie burgers? I’ll be interested in your response. Thanks, in advance.

    1. Nancy, I haven’t tried veganizing this one yet, but I think the flax seed egg substitution would work. The eggs really only bind, so yes, the rising action isn’t necessary. I usually opt for vital wheat gluten or plain old egg replacer. If you do try this one vegan, I’d really love to hear how it goes!

      1. I tried veganizing the Thai carrot burger with flax seed (1 tbs ground flax + 3 tbs water, whisked and let to sit a bit). I did have to double the bread crumbs when I did this. And then, even though I probably baked them for about 20 minutes, they were still “smooshy.” I’m sort of hesitant to try veganizing this recipe, since I love the sweet potato burger so much as it is.

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