Veggie Burgers with Salt-free Ketchup

These burgers use lettuce leaves in place of buns and are served with homemade, salt-free ketchup, sliced onions, avocado and tomatoes. Leftover burgers also taste great crumbled into a green salad or on top of a baked potato.

½ cup dried pearl barley or short grain brown rice
1 ¾ cups water if using barley, or 1 cup water for brown rice

1 15-oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup rolled oats
½ yellow onion, diced
6-8 mushrooms, diced (white button, cremini or shitake)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
¼ cup no-salt ketchup (see below) or tomato paste

On the side: tomatoes, lettuce leaves, avocado, sliced red onion, salt-free ketchup (below) and/or mustard

1. Place ½ cup dried pearled barley into a pan and add 1 ¾ cup water. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 60 minutes. If using brown rice, combine 1 cup water with the 1/2 cup rice, bring to a boil and simmer covered for 50 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, toss the cooked barley, beans, oats, onion, mushrooms, herbs and spices, and ketchup. Transfer half of this to a food processor and pulse a few times, just until sticking together. Place this into a new bowl. Pulse the second half of the vegetable mixture, and add to the first half.

3. To make burgers, shape into patties about 3-4” wide and about a half-inch thick. Place patties into a non-stick skillet (see below) and cook on medium heat, flipping after about 5-10 minutes on first side. Cook until browned lightly on both sides, pressing down occasionally with the spatula. Don’t overcook or over-flatten these, since as they cool a bit they will firm up. Serve with lettuce leaves as buns with tomato, avocado and onions, mustard, and salt-free ketchup (click here for recipe).

Notes: Cook the barley or rice the night before and refrigerate for better results when forming and cooking the patties. / If you are avoiding gluten, use short grain brown rice (sweet brown rice is very good since it’s so sticky) instead of barley, and gluten-free oats may be substituted for regular oats. / Since we’re not using any oil in the pan, use a good quality non-stick pan; I like the Berndes brand, made in Germany. / Westbrae Naturals makes a salt-free ketchup.

Pulse mixture in food processor until it looks something like this.

Preparation: 20 minutes; cooking time: 10-15 minutes each burger (60 minutes to cook barley); makes: 10-12 patties

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  1. rnesel says

    These burgers taste “normal”! A friend of mine didn’t know it wasn’t just hamburger with “stuff” added to make it taste good. (I used Trader Joe’s organic ketchup, which has a little sodium; and “medium” cornmeal because that’s what I had on hand.)

    They seem to taste best after being refrigerated overnight or frozen and re-heated … flavors blend, I guess. I like them as a quick, cold snack, too.

    Made a double batch but the volume of ingredients required me to blend them first in a big bowl, then do two separate batches in the food processor. Then I mixed the batches together in the big bowl before making the patties.

    Got 12 good sized patties out of it.

    Later, made the salt-free ketchup to use on the burgers. Surprised me …tasted good!

    This recipe is now an official “favorite” in my collection. Thanks!

    • says

      Thanks for the feedback and tips here! I’ve tried the medium cornmeal a couple times and it just tastes so gritty to me. I’m not sure what I would use it in, ideally. Yes, that salt-free ketchup is always a surprise to people. And it’s so easy to make. Thanks for your comments, as always 😉

    • Bonnie says

      I’m so thrilled I found your blog! Your recipes look and sound so wonderful, I cannot wait to try them all. I’m on a fast right now for spiritual reasons and also to cleanse myself, as I’m wanting to go sugar, salt, and oil free, I’m already vegan. Can’t wait to try them, yum!

  2. Bob says

    These were awesome veggie burgers….no aftertaste of grease! Big slab of tomato and red onion on top. Tomorrow, I will crumble leftovers on a big salad.

  3. says

    Yay Bob! I made these again on Tues for my class and used sweet brown rice instead of barley (I added this option to the above recipe) since many people are avoiding gluten, and they were great! :)

  4. Pam says

    These are the BEST veggie burgers that I have made, and are now in my standard rotation. We also use them crumbled up on baked potatoes and my husband tucks them into tortillas with lettuce, tomatoes and jalapenos.

    I have been making double batches and freezing them. They reheat in the microwave from frozen really well, and I think the flavor actually improves on freezing; maybe the flavors blend together more.

    Today I tried baking them instead of pan-cooking (I wanted to make them quicker and without standing over a hot stove). Worked great! Baked in a 375 degree convection oven for 18 minutes. I used a Sil-Pat on my cookie sheet, but one could probably use parchment paper. I made them a little thicker because I was afraid them might dry out too much in the oven, so I got 18 out of the double batch rather than 24.

  5. Sarah says

    These really are the best veggie burger and I have tried many! They stick together well and look like a real hamburger. Thanks for the recipe!

  6. Sara says


    I’ve just discovered your site through the Healthy Cooking Blog contest, and am so glad that I did because I’m here to stay. :) Quick question–in your photos you always have the most delicious-looking tomatoes, so I was wondering what type you use.


    • says

      Hi Sara, welcome! :) I think that photo with the tomatoes was taken in summer, which means that they are in season and the best. I buy them at the local organic farm and usually get a variety. Store-bought tomatoes are often not very good. Sometimes the cherry/grape tomatoes are ok though. Take care and thanks again for checking out the blog! 😉

  7. Jane Casasanta says

    Hello, have you ever broken down the nutritional info per serving? I like to track my food in my fitness pal. Thank you!

  8. Carol says

    Cathy, I’d like to try this recipe! If I already have a batch of cooked brown rice in the refrigerator, how much should I use? Thanks.

  9. Kathy Shelley says

    These look great! I am new to this, having started the first Monday of June following Dr. Esselsyn’s plan. I was initially going to give it a 90 trial as he claims that fat cravings go away after that much time. But I am so happy with the results that I think it will be my life plan from now on.
    ** I am heading to two non-vegan family picnics and was searching for an easy burger I could bring and maybe share. Thing is I don’t have a food processor. Will a blender work. Thanks

    • says

      Hi Kathy, welcome! :) Yay for your new life plan! Instead of using the food processor, I would just be sure to chop the onions and mushrooms very small to begin with, maybe even mash the beans on their own, and give the oats the slightest pulse or two in your blender (you don’t want oat flour); then use your hands or a bean masher to process it until it’s like meatloaf consistency. It’s too thick to put it all in a blender, though. Good luck! 😉

  10. LEH says

    Okay, these are the best veggie burgers I have ever had!! I just finished three of them for my lunch with sliced tomatoes and sprouts. I used lentils instead of beans and oat bran instead of rolled oats as those are what I had on hand. Otherwise just delicious. I just discovered this site through a link on Dr. Michael Klaper’s blog site. I think you have some of the best recipes on the planet and I can actually eat them. I follow Dr. Klaper and Dr. Fuhrman and all of your recipes meet their strict guidelines and so far taste great! Keep up the good work. I am very impressed.

  11. Holly says

    new to plant based recipes. I am starting with 3 meals a week for hubby and step-daughter and hopefully within a couple of months we will be totally plant base eating!!! have a quick question, again I am new to some of these ingredients, can I use quick cooking barley or instant brown rice? probably a stupid question but i wasn’t sure if it mattered!!thanks

  12. deborah says

    I’m enjoying one of these burgers right now and it is delish.. I changed it up a bit by adding crumbled tofu with some nutritional yeast and they have the best texture. The best and easiest veggie burger recipe i’ve found. Thank You so much for all your wonderful recipes. I’ve been plant based for a cpl years now and your everyday approach is so appreciated.. I love mustard on these burgers!!!!

  13. Norma says

    Hi Cathy, I’m new to this way of eating. I have been doing it for the past 4 months. I follow Dr. McDougall and Dr. Fuhrman. I have been looking for a good Veggie Burger for some time now. This looks really promising.. Can you add some seeds to this mix. I love sunflower and pumpkins seeds.. What do you think?

  14. Missy says

    Another delish dish from Cathy- Thanks!! Eating them now with water sautéed veggies and a big salad. heaven:)

  15. Abi says

    Hi Cathy,

    firstly, you’re blog is a great resource! I’ve been plant-based for a while but my husband is pretty new to the idea and your recipes are providing some very tasty ideas!

    I was curious to know if you’ve ever tried replacing the barley/rice with quinoa?

    • says

      Hi Abi, I have not but I’d love to know if it works. Barley and rice are sticky and quinoa is not, so the burgers may be a bit more fragile. If you try it, let me know. :) Thanks!

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