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I'm not a vegan, so let me get that out there as the first sentence. I can find recipes all over the place for veggie burgers, but all I've tried have been bland. I may indeed have an umami flavor addiction.

What are your pro tips for great taste in a veggie burger? To keep within the scope of the question, let's say that at least 75% of the weight must be made of things that would be considered vegan. Items must be available to a foodie in non-boxcar size quantiles through regular sources (though not necessarily "common" or "everyday" sources.)

I'm looking for items, not recipes.

I think I'm going to tag this question as "vegan" so 100% vegan answers are welcome too and will be up-voted.

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Is your question "How can I get more umami in a veggie burger?" Because that would be a clearer (and more on-topic) question than what reads largely as a recipe request. –  Aaronut Jun 15 '11 at 1:39
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What Aaronaut actually means is that if you don't rephrase this, the question will be closed as a recipe request that would be better asked on ask.recipelabs.com or tinnedmince.co.uk - I'd rephrase it to meet the requirements mentioned in the FAQs. –  James Barrie Jun 15 '11 at 1:50
    
@Aaronut I thought I'd run into issues, but then there's this "How do I make a really flavorful turkey burger?" question out there without comments like this... –  OpenID-test2 Jun 15 '11 at 11:54
    
(a) we had almost no moderation in July 2010 and there's still a lot of loose ends to tie up and (b) one previous question which happened to stay open doesn't invalidate what's in the FAQ. The thing is, you actually seem to have a real question other than recipes, so I'd really prefer for you to rephrase it than for us to close it. –  Aaronut Jun 15 '11 at 14:42
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"How do I make a really flavorful veggie burger from scratch?" Add meat. –  Jack B Nimble Jun 15 '11 at 15:55
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7 Answers 7

Umami comes from natural glutamates. Two excellent vegan sources of umami are tomato paste and dried shiitake mushrooms (rehydrate then mince). Fresh shiitake aren't nearly so high in glutamates. They are available very inexpensively at Asian groceries.

If you want vegetarian, but not vegan and can find a rennet-free parmesan-style cheese, they are also very high in glutamates.

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"natural glutamates" remind me of that "agave syrup" stuff, (which gets bandied about as having a lower glycomic index, and yea technically it isn't made of high fructose corn syrup, but might as well be ;-) –  OpenID-test2 Jun 17 '11 at 2:01
    
@OpenID-test2, MSG is overhyped. It's in everything: cheese, tomatoes, seaweed.. –  Brendan Long Jul 13 '11 at 8:08
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While I go along with the best idea being to add dried mushrooms, also adding turmeric and kombu will improve the effect. Kombu enhances the effect of MSG.

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+1 for turmeric. –  5arx Jun 16 '11 at 11:44
    
now we're getting somewhere. maybe mushrooms, dried tomatoes (partially rehydrated, so they are chewable), egg binder to hold it all together, and lots of Maggie to tickle the taste buds while still being able to legally label the stuff as MSG-free. Onions, garlic, spices... hmmm –  OpenID-test2 Jun 17 '11 at 1:53
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i would think that Bragg's Liquid Aminos would do it: http://www.bragg.com/products/la.html

another idea would be to read up on umami and use some of the foods that are high in natural umami that fit your style: things like parmesan cheese, mushrooms, etc.

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I'm guessing that stuff is like Maggi, MSG like compounds that don't need to be labeled as MSG in the ingredients. –  OpenID-test2 Jun 17 '11 at 1:49
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i'm sure it's quite similar to maggi. MSG is basically the same thing -- all natural and umami. –  franko Jun 17 '11 at 21:08
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Cook's Illustrated had a great veggie burger recipe in 2005 that used cashews and mushrooms for umami. Their burger was lentil-and-bulgur based, although not strictly vegan, as it did include mayonnaise.

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Like @JamesBarrie, I like to use turmeric and mushrooms for adding umami.

Also Swiss Vegetable Bouillon (http://bit.ly/lzIswt) readily available here in the UK but not sure about N America - Polish food shops might stock it under a different name though). Lightly browned onions and garlic are also good.

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Marmite too exotic? A little goes a long way. What's not to love about a food made from the dregs?

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I think you'd need to be really, really sparing of the Marmite. A little too much and you wouldn't be able to taste anything else! That said, it might be worth experimenting with. –  Matthew Walton Jul 13 '11 at 14:14
    
this is a great suggestion, and I'm partial to both major types of yeast extract. –  OpenID-test2 Jul 30 '11 at 16:34
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I've never tried this, so beware, but: perhaps spreading a little bit of miso paste on the top.

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Or just mixing it in. –  Brendan Long Jul 13 '11 at 8:07
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