Where’s the beef? 4 other ways to enjoy burgers

Julie Van Rosendaal offers some suggestions for beef-free burgers that will still satisfy the most voracious carnivore.

Julie Van Rosendaal offers some suggestions for beef-free burgers

Beef burgers will always be a traditional classic, but here are some other options for a tasty dish. (Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Burgers don’t have to come from a cow, as there are endless ingredients you can combine to make equally delicious patties for your backyard barbecue.

Here are a handful of seafood and veggie options even the most voracious carnivore will want to sink his or her teeth into.

Lentil, Mushroom and Walnut Burgers

  • canola oil, for cooking
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 - 19 oz. (540 mL) can lentils, rinsed and drained (or 2 cups well-cooked lentils)
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
  • ½ cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • soft buns
  • mayo, pesto or other condiments
  • spring greens or pea shoots

In a heavy skillet, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onion for three to four minutes, until soft. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for five minutes until the excess liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are starting to turn golden.

Set the mushroom mixture aside to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to the bowl of a food processor and add the lentils, walnuts, bread crumbs, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Pulse just until the mixture is combined, but not mushy. 

Shape the mixture into patties and fry them in a little oil in the same skillet set over medium-high heat until they’re golden and crusty on both sides. Serve on soft buns with mayo, pesto or other condiments, topped with something green and crunchy.

Makes six burgers.

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Open-faced Ahi Tuna Burger

Leave it open and it's more like a tuna melt — or lid it for a cheesy, flavourful ahi tuna burger. If you can’t find tuna steaks, use good quality canned tuna and don’t bother cooking it.

olive or canola oil, for cooking

  • 2 ahi tuna steaks
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh fennel
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 cup grated aged white cheddar or Gouda
  • focaccia or burger buns
  • spring greens, for serving

Drizzle a skillet with oil and set it over medium-high heat. Pat tuna steaks dry with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sear in the skillet for two to three minutes per side, or until just cooked through. Set aside to cool, then break apart with a fork and toss with fennel, parsley or cilantro, mayonnaise, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Pile it on four slices of focaccia or the bottom halves of burger buns set on baking sheets, scatter with grated aged white cheddar or Gouda, and broil for two to three minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly and golden. Top with spring greens and bun tops, if you like.

Serves two to four people.

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Chickpea Falafel Burgers

A crispy falafel makes for a fabulous burger.

Alternatively, cook one-inch balls or patties of this mixture in a hot skillet with a generous drizzle of oil to turn it into crispy falafel — serve in soft pitas with cucumber, lettuce, tomato and tzatziki. It will be wet, but will set into a patty as it cooks. (A hot skillet works better than a grill for this one.)

  • ¼ purple onion
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 - 19 oz. (540 ml) can chickpeas, drained
  • zest of a lemon
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. cumin or curry powder
  • pinch salt
  • ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 4 soft burger buns
  • tzatziki
  • sliced tomato
  • leafy greens
  • thinly sliced cucumber

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the onion, garlic, chickpeas, lemon zest, cilantro, egg, cumin and salt until well blended but not smooth. Add the breadcrumbs and pulse once or twice. 

Heat a generous drizzle of oil in a large, heavy skillet set over medium-high heat. 

Gently shape the chickpea mixture into patties and cook until golden and crisp on both sides. (If the mixture is soft, push it around the edges in the pan to help it keep its patty shape.)

Serve on buns with tzatziki, tomato, greens and cucumber.

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Salmon Burgers with Caper Mayo

Chopped fresh salmon or steelhead trout makes for an amazingly juicy, flavourful burger that cooks in about five minutes without drying out. (Adapted from RicardoCuisine.com – with huge thanks!)


  • 1 lb skinless salmon or steelhead trout
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup soft breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. grainy mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • canola or olive oil, for cooking

Caper Mayo:

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1-2 Tbsp. capers, drained and chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • soft buns
  • lettuce
  • tomato
  • thinly sliced cucumber

Roughly chop the salmon or trout, and combine it in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Set a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add a drizzle of oil.

Shape the mixture into four patties and place them gently into the pan; cook until deep golden on one side, then flip and cook on the other side. They should cook through and be crusty and golden in about five minutes.

To make the caper mayo, stir together the mayo, lemon juice, capers and pepper. 

Spread on the buns and top with salmon patties, tomato, lettuce and thinly sliced cucumber  and a little more caper mayo. Serve immediately.

Serves six people.

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

About the Author

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal shares recipes and cooking tips with the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. The cookbook author explores Calgary's culinary wonders in her column Food and the City.