Caprese Stuffed Veggie Burgers / by Chelsea Zwieg

Ok, let's talk about burgers. Specifically burgers that are stuffed with creamy, melty cheese that oozes from the center when you eat it kind of like a giant, burger mozzarella stick. Because is there anything better than that? I think not. 

It turns out that burgers, even veggie ones, are kind of ideal for stuffing. Since they are sturdy enough to shape into a patty, the logical next step seemed to be making a well in that patty, filling it with cheese and sealing the top up with a little bit more burger. As the burger cooks, the cheese melts and what you are left with is true perfection on a bun. 

I decided to make these stuffed burgers caprese inspired because if there ever was a time to eat tomatoes it is this very moment of summer. The burgers are a variation of my favorite veggie burger recipe, which I posted here, but I subbed in lentils for the sweet potato and mixed in some pesto. They are stuffed with a slice of fresh mozz, topped with slow roasted, garlicky tomatoes and topped with some more pesto. Absolutely insane. In the best, garlicky, cheesy, way possible. 

Just a few tips. Letting the burger mixture cool completely before shaping the patties will save you from a whole world of pain. If it seems to stick to your fingers even after it cooled, you may need more binder. Just mix in a few more spoonfuls of lentils until it is shapeable, and you are good to go. Also, if veggie burgers are not your thing, this cheese filled, tomato topped situation can also happen on a meaty burger. Mix a a tbsp. of pesto into the burger meat, stuff that bad boy with some cheese and continue on with the recipe. Lastly, I am all about the garlic in these burgers, in the tomatoes, in the pesto. Kind of my ideal situation. That being said, if you plan to interact with humans shortly after this or have some sort of hot kissing date later in the evening, you can cut the garlic or pesto out of one or more places and it will still be delicious. Just not as delicious. You know? 

And of course, burgers always, always, always need fries. The sweet potato fries creeping in on these photos are coming to you later this week. Spoiler alert: they have garlic. Are you even a little surprised? 

Caprese Stuffed Veggie Burgers

Makes 4 burgers

Note: These burgers use a mixture of cooked quinoa and lentils. The fastest way is to just cook them all in the same pot. I like to cook a bit of extra lentils. In case the burgers are not sticking together, adding more will help them bind.

| Ingredients | 

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup cooked lentils
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tbsp. pesto
  • 4 thick slices fresh mozzarella
  • 4 buns, split and toasted

| Instructions | 

  • Preheat oven to 425. Arrange tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and add 1 clove minced garlic. Toss to combine. Roast tomatoes 20-25 minutes until they release their juices and begin to shrivel. 
  • Pulse the mushrooms in a food processor until finely ground. Switch to the grating attachment and shred the zucchini (you can also use a box grater). Use a kitchen towel or paper towel to wring any excess moisture from the mushroom and zucchini. 
  • Heat a tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and remaining garlic and cook until the shallot is soft and slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and mushrooms and cook for 2 more minutes. 
  • Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the quinoa and lentils. Let cool.
  • Once cooled, stir in the breadcrumbs, lime juice and pesto. Squeeze a clump in your hand. If it does not hold it's shape stir in a spoonful or two more lentils. 
  • Divide the patty mixture in half. Form half into 4 small patties, and make a well in the center. Place a slice of cheese in each. Top each with the remaining mixture and shape into a patty,  pressing at the sides to make sure there are not holes. 
  • Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-heat. Add two of the burgers and cook, flipping once, until brown and crispy on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining burgers.
  • To serve, place each burger on a bun and top with the roasted tomatoes and a dollop of pesto. If you like a more saucy burger, you can make a quick pesto mayo using 1 tbsp. pesto per 1/4 cup mayo. If the burgers are not going straight from pan to plate, reheat them before serving to get that whole gooey cheese situation going on.