Vegan “ground beef!” It is easy to prepare, high in protein (12.4 g per 1/4 pound!), and free of grains, gluten, soy and nuts. One batch makes about 3 pounds.
This post began life as a simple idea for a great summer burger recipe. But as I tested and tasted, I soon realized that what I was making had potential for more. So much more!
Specifically, a versatile, vegan substitute for ground beef.
It can be browned, for use in casseroles, tacos, or spaghetti sauce.
Shaped and baked into meatballs.
And, of course, burgers!
You can season the vegan beef with herbs, spices, hot sauce, or whatever else suits your fancy. It boasts all of the following attributes:
*High in protein (12.4 g per 1/4 pound)
*Very high in fiber (12.7 g per 1/4 pound)
The ingredients are familiar and frugal: uncooked lentils, canned beets, onion, flaxseed meal, coconut flour, mushrooms, and seasonings (garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper}.
I add nutritional yeast, too. It adds tremendous umami flavor, as well as protein and B vitamins. If you cannot eat yeast, not to worry; leave it out (see the recipe notes for adjustments).
Making this vegan ground beef is a straightforward affair. First, cook the lentils in a saucepan with enough water to cover the lentils by at least 1 inch (2.5 cm). Bring to a boil over high heat and then simmer for 10 minutes.
The lentils should be plumped and mostly, but not entirely, soft. They will still have some bite. Rinse and drain the lentils.
Place the lentils in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped with only a few irregular pieces. Scrape the lentils into a large bowl (no need to clean the food processor).
Place the mushrooms and onion in the food processor bowl. Before adding the beets, first press them between layers of paper towels to remove as much excess moisture as you can (it will look like you’ve cleaned up a crime scene).
Add the blotted beets to the processor and pulse all of the vegetables until you have a very finely chopped, uniform mixture, but not a puree. Stop to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl several times. Add to the bowl of lentils, along with the remaining ingredients.
Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings to suit your tastes.
I chose a combination of flavors and spices (nutritional yeast, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper) that boost the umami flavor profile of the “meat” while still keeping the overall flavor fairly neutral. Take the flavors in whichever flavor direction you like, depending on your tastes/needs, as well as the recipe you are planning for its use.
The moisture in vegetables can vary, so adjust the flax and coconut flour as needed, too. The meat should be moist, but not wet, and should hold together easily when gathered together into a small ball or patty.
This is the end result, in “raw” form:
But wait, there is no fat in the recipe! It’s true, and it is not an accident. You can keep the meat oil-free, or add the amount of fat you would like for any given recipe. For example, I like to brown the meat (1 pound/454 g) in 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil, or add the same amount for burgers, meatballs or meatloaf. It’s entirely up to you!
Use the vegan beef right away, refrigerate for several days, or freeze for future use!. I like to separate the mixture into 1 pound or half pound packages.
Oh, one more note: the meat will darken slightly (it will look even more meat-y) after a few days of refrigeration, or after freezing and thawing. Here is the same mixture after 1 day:
Enjoy your weekend, everyone!
Making this recipe? I would love to see it!
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- 2 cups brown lentils, rinsed
- 1 can (15 oz/425 g) whole or sliced beets, drained
- 6 oz (170 g) white mushrooms, quartered
- 1 small (about 5 oz/142 g) or ½ of a medium-large onion, trimmed, cut into large chunks
- ½ cup (40 g) nutritional yeast
- ⅓ cup coconut flour
- ¼ cup flaxseed meal
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 and ¼ teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 and ½ teaspoons fine sea salt (more or less to taste)
- ¾ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper (more or less to taste)
- In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils and enough water to cover by at least 1 inch (2.5 cm). Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes (the lentils will be slightly undercooked). Drain and rinse under cool water.
- Place lentils in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped with only a few irregular pieces. Scrape the lentils into a large bowl (no need to clean the food processor).
- Place the mushrooms and onions in food processor bowl. Firmly press beets between layers of paper towel to remove excess liquid; add to food processor. Process until very finely chopped, but not a puree. Add to lentils in bowl.
- Add remaining ingredient to bowl. Stir everything together until blended. Taste; adjust the seasonings to suit your tastes. Use immediately or see storage options for future use!
Lentils: I used common brown lentils, but you can use any variety of lentils in this recipe. If using split lentils (e.g., red), you may only need to reduce the cooking time by 1-2 minutes.
Leaving out the Nutritional Yeast: If you cannot eat yeast, leave It out. Add more coconut flour and/or flaxseed meal (2 to 3 tablespoons) to make up for its absence.
For Browning: Cook ½ or 1 pound in a large nonstick skillet (optional: add oil to skillet) over medium/medium-high heat for 5 to 6 minutes until browned.
For Meatballs: Shape 1 pound of meat into 1-1/4 inch (3 cm) balls (about 20 total). Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake in preheated 375F(190C) oven for 25 to 30 minutes until browned.
For Burgers: If desired, add fat (e.g., oil of choice) to meat (no more than 2 tablespoons max per pound; add a small amount more coconut flour, as needed). Shape 1 pound of meat into 4 patties. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake in preheated 375F(190C) oven for 18 to 23 minutes until browned. The tops will look plain, but the bottom side will look browned and grilled when flipped!
For Meatloaf: Shape 2 pounds of meat into a loaf. Place in a parchment paper lined 9x5-inch (22.5 x 12.5 cm) loaf pan. Bake in preheated 375F(190C) oven for 50 to 55 minutes until browned (If desired, brush top of loaf with barbecue sauce or ketchup during last 15 minutes of baking.