I've begun to experiment with creating the perfect vegan hamburger. Hamburgers was something I held very dear before I stopped eating meat and I haven't been able to find something that even comes close to a meat based burger.

Now I've done some experiments with seitan and I feel that I'm getting there with the texture and chewiness, however the taste is still far off and I would like to ask you for your best tips on recreating the beefy taste that hamburgers have.

I've tried the usual, soy, ketchup (or dried tomatoes), garlic, onions, marmite, nutritional yeast and vegan worcestershire sauce. And of course a tad of liquid smoke, but I feel lost and unable to track down what I miss and need to make it just right.

  • Have you tried mushrooms, or sherry?
    – Matthew
    Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 23:05
  • 1
    I don't think you can recreate the taste and texture of beef (or any meat) with vegetables. Instead you should search for or create a quality veggie burger recipe. I am not making this an answer as recipes are never answers, but here is a link to Kenji Alt's attempt to do so: aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2012/03/…
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 8:08
  • I have to concur with @SAJ14SAJ; speaking as a card-carrying carnivore, I've eaten some truly excellent savory vegetarian meals from friends, but you're never going to fool us into thinking it's meat. This is not to be taken as a comment against veggie/pesca/vegan diets, but if you want meat, then eat meat. Veggie substitutions are more appropriate if you're trying to recreate a dish that merely traditionally contains meat, such as chili, casserole, burritos, etc.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 23:45
  • @Aaronut Of course I don't intend to trick anyone into thinking they're eating meat. It's just that I miss the taste of a good hamburger. Eating meat is not an option for me. My ethical stance will simply not allow it. But I still love the taste of meat.
    – INT
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 21:23

2 Answers 2


Cooks Illustrated has an ultimate veggie burger recipe that you can adapt. Their key to umami is cremini mushrooms. I've made that recipe and it was well received. Of course, no one mistook them for real hamburgers, but the patties tasted quite good.

  • MSG (monosodium glutamate) is to umami flavour what sugar is to sweet flavour. So if you're pro-msg, you can try that, too. And pleanty reasons not to ;)
  • I recommend trying shitake mushrooms as well.
  • Also try up to 5% wheat germ/flour which should help with the caramelization and related flavours.
  • grated vidalia onions in the patties also help (caramelization and umami).
  • 2
    +1 for the onions. I once read somewhere that many of the flavors we have come to associate with roasted meat actually come from the onions which are omnipresent in recipes. My own experience confirms this.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 9:07
  • Kelp powder contains naturally occurring glutamates, for those who want to avoid using MSG.
    – SourDoh
    Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 18:34
  • Thanks alot for your tips MandoMando, I haven't been able to try it yet. Ran out of time for cooking stuff back at my parents home, so the project is put on ice for awhile until I can get back to a decent kitchen again. Will be sure to fiddle with your ideas. Anything else come to mind?
    – INT
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 21:25

While I agree with Mando Mando's answer, I would add a couple of thoughts. First, if you use shiitakes,use dried, they have much more umami (the name of that beefy taste) when used properly. You probably will need to mix a few ingredients. While umami taste is activated by glutamate (found in high levels in fresh shiitakes, soy sauce, tomatoes, kombu kelp, etc), when it is combined with certain other amino acids, the umami taste is multiplied, rather than added to. While glutamate is the most common amino acid in life, the others can be harder to come by. Here is a list of common ingredients and their levels of the 4 most umami-evoking amino acids:


What you want is to combine as many of these aminos as you can. Unfortunately, of the ingredients inventoried there, only three are vegan AND have significant amounts of umami aminos other than glutamate: dried shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms and truffles. And the enokis and dried shiitakes seem to lack the necessary glutamate activator. So I would combine these ingredients with other things you've tried (like soy) or other suggestions made (like pulverized kombu kelp.)

  • Great thoughts! Burger season is coming up so should get down with experimenting pretty soon. Thanks alot!
    – INT
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 21:07

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