Big Little Recipes

Veggie Burgers You Could Make in Your Sleep

Inspired by falafel, this Big Little Recipe is as fuss-free as it gets.

September 27, 2021

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer—not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. For the next month, we’re sharing sneak peeks from the Big Little Recipes cookbook, all revving up to its release on October 26 (blasts airhorn, throws confetti in the air).

For a great burger, you only need ground beef. For a great veggie burger, you only need—actually, apparently, according to most recipes, you need a lot of things.

This makes sense. When you cook meat, be it beef or pork or chicken, its flavors multiply like a meme on Twitter. That’s thanks to the rising internal temperature, which intensifies the taste and smell, and also the Maillard reaction, which results in “several hundred aromatic compounds,” according to food science expert Harold McGee.

If someone is grilling burgers in their backyard or on their balcony and you happen to stroll by, you know it. But if someone is grilling a veggie burger, well, who’s to say?


So it’s easy to see why veggie burgers call for so many ingredients. There are hundreds of flavorful compounds to make up for, and more ingredients means more flavor, right? Maybe it’s toasted nuts, smoked paprika, or grated cheese. Or garam masala, garlic, or quinoa. You get the idea.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“While I love veggie burgers and always thought about making them, I have been daunted by long lists of ingredients and time. So, this recipe is absolutely the best! Thank you, thank you!”
— krey K.

More ingredients might mean more flavor. But fewer ingredients can mean more flavor, too. You just have to know what to do with them.

This Big Little veggie burger doesn’t want to be compared to beef. It is—and I mean this in the best possible way—exceedingly lazy. You only need three ingredients (plus Big Little staples salt and oil). A food processor does all of the hard work. You can store the patties in the fridge for days and pan-fry them in minutes whenever you’re hungry.

The secret is to soak dried beans, rather than using the cooked or canned stuff. Such is the time-tested strategy for Middle Eastern falafel: Grind soaked chickpeas (or in Egypt, fava beans) into oblivion, shape the mixture into little balls, and fry them until they’re crunchy outside, juicy inside, and impossible to eat just one.

I’ve been stuffing my face with falafel for decades, but I never thought to falafel-ify veggie burgers until I read Joe Yonan’s wonderful cookbook Cool Beans and gawked at his Black Bean–Chipotle Falafel Burgers in our Genius Recipes column.

As he writes, “In the ongoing quest for the perfect veggie burger recipe, at a certain point a realization occurs: Wasn’t the perfect veggie burger created long ago—in falafel? Soaking but not precooking the beans, it turns out, is a good hedge against the curse of mushiness that befalls so many of this ilk.”

It’s also a hedge against the curse of blandness. Many falafel recipes include a handful of ingredients, from leaveners like baking powder to spices like cumin to herbs like parsley to aromatics like garlic. Yet there are also recipes that include just chickpeas, water, and salt, a testament to the sheer power of chickpeas.

In this week’s Big Little Recipe, we are adding only two other ingredients for a defiantly minimalist veggie burger: marinated artichokes (tangy and herby, thanks to floating in vinaigrette) and sun-dried tomatoes (make sure they’re oil-packed for that bouncy texture and buttery flavor). And in the Big Little Recipes cookbook, I share two more two-ingredient variations that are just as fuss-free.

But when it comes to toppings? Ignore everything I just said. Add mayo and mustard and ketchup and lettuce and tomato and pickles and cheese and whatever the heck you want. A little maximalism is delicious in moderation.

Snag a copy of the Big Little Recipes cookbook in our Shop, or a slew of other places, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million,, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Powell's, or Target.

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate and Skimlinks affiliate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

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Put down those long grocery lists. Inspired by the award-winning column, our Big Little Recipes cookbook is minimalism at its best: few ingredients, tons of flavor.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • TXExpatInBKK
  • Caitlin Gunther
    Caitlin Gunther
  • Carel Hoyt
    Carel Hoyt
  • daisybrain
  • krey kellington
    krey kellington
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


TXExpatInBKK October 13, 2021
I've never made veggie burgers at home because it seemed like too much work. Then I saw this recipe and decided to go for it! While I'll never mistake these for beef, they are flavorful and delicious and I will definitely make them again! Thank you, Emma!
Caitlin G. October 10, 2021
can't wait to try this one!
Carel H. September 28, 2021
Don’t raw chickpeas need to be cooked … even if they’re soaked?
Emma L. September 29, 2021
Hi Carel! Yes, they still need to be cooked—the chickpea patties get pan-fried in a skillet.
Carel H. September 29, 2021
Pan frying is enough?
Thanks ~~
I’m vegan, so this is a nice recipe to have.
daisybrain September 28, 2021
Every time I make falafel I always use the extra dough for burgers. Why I never considered just making burgers this way, I'll never know.
krey K. September 27, 2021
While I love veggie burgers and always thought about making them, I have been daunted by long lists of ingredients and time. So, this recipe is absolutely the best! Thank you, thank you!
Emma L. September 29, 2021
Thanks, Krey K!
Jennifer M. September 27, 2021
Can’t wait to try! Finally not 14 steps!!💚
Emma L. September 29, 2021
Yay, hope you enjoy, Jennifer M!
AntoniaJames September 27, 2021
Whoa. Must try this. ;o)
Emma L. September 29, 2021
Thank you, AntoniaJames! :o)
Rebecca R. September 27, 2021
Congratulations on new cookbook…this recipe is effortless…good job
Emma L. September 27, 2021
Thank you, Rebecca!