An Indian-Spiced Potato Burger to Woo Your Vegan Heart

June 11, 2018

It was more than 20 years ago in the middle of the night, somewhere on the East Coast. My husband and I were on a long road trip. We got hungry for something deep-fried and stopped at McDonald’s. My order consisted only of fries, and the cashier couldn’t help asking me, “You don’t want a Big Mac?” I replied, “No, I’m a vegetarian.” Her eyes grew as big as saucers, “’ve never had a Big Mac before?”

India remains the only country in the world where McDonald's does not serve beef and pork products. When McDonald’s started operating in India in 1996, they customized their fare for the local taste and culture by offering the McAloo Tikki instead of their best-known product: the beef hamburger. This localization owes credit to an Indian street snack called aloo tikki in Northern India and ragda pattice (a phonetic obfuscation of the English word “patties”) in western India. Aloo tikki a patty made out of boiled potatoes and peas, seasoned with ginger, garlic, and Indian spices, and served with a variety of toppings like cilantro chutney, tamarind chutney, sweet dates, and a spicy bean-y curry called ragda.

Homemade McAloo Tikkis. Photo by Julia Gartland

This is my take on that vegan burger.

At the heart of it is boiled potato. I prefer to use russets as they have a low-moisture content, yet fall apart easily once cooked. When you boil, peel, and mash them, they become a necessarily dry yet pliable mass that serves as an ideal base for other vegetables and spices. Plus, they’re easy to turn into patties. Another feature I like about these potatoes is that they brown easily on the outside providing a crunchy exterior and a soft interior. Peas and potatoes are a favorite combination in India (in curries and in dry sabjis), but I decided to skip peas because they introduce a sweetness which I’m not fond of. So, enter cauliflower, carrots, and beans, finely diced, preferably in a food processor. Instead of boiling and reducing them to a mush, I sauté them in oil just enough so they lose their raw flavor, but still keep their bite in order to provide texture to the burger. This vegetable mix is flavored with Indian spices like ginger and garam masala. I like to add tanginess to this mix with a raw mango powder called amchur. If you can’t find amchur, substitute with lime juice.

Now comes the binder. Instead of store-bought bread crumbs, I use bread as a binder. Any bread is fine as long as it’s neutral and doesn’t have seeds and additions like cheese. Soak it in plain water till it becomes limp, about 5 minutes. Stale bread is perfectly usable, though it may require a longer soak time to soften. Squeeze this bread between the palms of your hands and throw it into the vegetable mixture. ( Note that in India, egg is not a binder of choice as many Indians tend to be vegetarians, so bread softened by water is a perfect substitute.)

It’s perfectly fine to freeze these patties, fully pan-fried and cooked, in an airtight container. That way your vegan friends will be covered at your next BBQ.

These Indian-spiced potato patties, lathered with cilantro chutney between two toasted buns, are an ideal BBQ mainstay. But don’t forget to try the patties on their own, sans burger accoutrement, with a generous spoonful of cilantro chutney. It’s the perfect weeknight dinner, as you can reheat the frozen patties in a minute’s notice.

Regardless of how you eat these, your vegan friends will be happy, happy! But don’t be surprised if your non-vegan friends want a bite, too.

Veggie burgers, yay or nay? Let us know in the comments below.

Order now

The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

Order now


Zoe October 15, 2018
This recipe sounds absolutely delicious and as a lifelong vegetarian and lover of Indian food I can’t wait to make it this week despite the less sunny weather. Thanks for it! <br /><br />Other reason I’m commenting is to recommend Burger King for your veg road trip needs, they serve Morningstar veggie burgers that a made perfectly gross and fast food delicious.
Zoe October 15, 2018
*are made. Oops. <br /><br />They have nothing on India McDonald’s flavor though. <br /><br />
Sharon June 20, 2018
I made these and they were absolutely delicious and unique from other veggie burgers. I subbed lime juice for amchur and used a slightly grainy wheat bread but they still held together quite well. I grilled them after letting them chill in the freezer for about 45 minutes and had no issues with them falling apart while grilling. I’ve been eating the leftovers for lunch and they’re great reheated (retain shape and flavor). Thanks for recipe—these will definitely be added to my veggie burger rotation!
Author Comment
Annada R. June 21, 2018
Thank you, Sharon! Your comment makes me a happy, happy woman. Thank you for trying the recipe and letting us know.
Danuta G. June 12, 2018
Perfect timing, as we're having friends who are vegan over for dinner this weekend, and this sounds bang on! You mention to serve these patties on a bun, but what type? <br />
Author Comment
Annada R. June 12, 2018
Hello Danuta, happy to hear that this recipe is timely for you. Any kind of neutral bun that does not introduce its own flavor works for this vegan burger. So ciabatta roll, slider bun or sesame seed bun is fine as long as you ensure that is vegan. If I don't have the time to shop for buns, I have put this patty in the middle of 2 white bread slices too, of course, with the cilantro chutney and tomato and onion slices.
Matt H. June 11, 2018
Do you have a recipe for the cilantro chutney? I eat something similar to this frequently from a takeaway place and would love to make your version.
Author Comment
Annada R. June 11, 2018
Hi Matt,<br /><br />Here's the recipe for cilantro chutney.<br /><> I had posted it to be used as a spread for vegetable sandwich. But cilantro chutney, as you know, is so versatile, that it can be used anywhere and everywhere.<br /><br />Here's my article on cilantro chutney <br /><><br /><br />Enjoy!
Author Comment
Annada R. June 11, 2018
Sorry the link to the article and recipe did not get posted. Here they are<br /><br /><br />
Matt H. June 16, 2018
Thank you so much!
Jamie N. June 11, 2018
Why wouldn't you just make a vada pav?
Author Comment
Annada R. June 11, 2018
Thank you for your comment, Jamie! I love, love vada pav though don't prefer it in the summer because it is deep-fried. This vegan burger is a great summer-time, BBQ dish for me.