On our recent trip to Minnesota, we ate wild rice every chance we could get, savoring the chewy texture and rich, nutty flavor of this Great Lakes specialty. Some of our most memorable meals were the meat-free, wild rice burgers served at restaurants like Fitger's Brewhouse, Black Woods, and Grandma's in Duluth. Although these popular eateries keep their recipes a closely guarded secret, we managed to come up with a remarkably satisfying version of our own, and it's sure to please vegetarians and omnivores alike.
The chewy texture of wild rice really lends itself to a burger, and we rounded out the nutty flavor with some sharp Asiago cheese and a hint of spice. To hold the burgers together, we used breadcrumbs and eggs. You can use store-bought breadcrumbs like panko, but it's very easy to make your own from white or whole-grain bread. (If you're avoiding eggs and cheese, see the vegan variation below.)
The only time-intensive part of this recipe is the wild rice – depending on the particular grains you have, it may take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to cook. If you want, make the rice a day or two ahead, cool it on a baking sheet, and store it in the refrigerator until you're ready to make the burgers.
We highly recommend seeking out natural lake and river wild rice, which has a better flavor than cultivated rice; either kind is delicious, though. If you don't live near the Great Lakes, look for wild rice at Trader Joe's or even par-cooked pouches of it at Target.
I'm always a fan of veggie burgers that celebrate the textures of vegetables and grains and don't try to emulate the texture of meat. These wild rice burgers offered a satisfying crunch and were quite easy to put together. The mixture may seem a bit loose as you're forming the patties, but once they get into the pan, they'll fry up nice and crispy.
If you have a hard time finding the Asiago cheese, shredded Parmesan is a great substitute. Wild rice isn't a cheap ingredient, but the small amount here goes a long way!
1/2 cup uncooked wild rice (or 1 1/3 cups cooked wild rice)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/3 cup small-diced onion
1/3 cup small-diced celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh or panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup shredded aged Asiago or Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/16 teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
Burger buns and toppings (optional)
If you are using uncooked wild rice, cook it according to package instructions or use the boiling method. Cool completely. (Can make a day ahead and refrigerate.)
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat and sauté onions, celery, and garlic until onion is translucent. Set the skillet aside (no need to wash).
In a large bowl, combine onion-celery-garlic mixture with wild rice, breadcrumbs, cheese, salt, oregano, thyme, paprika, cayenne, and black pepper. Cool completely and then add eggs, stirring to combine.
Divide the mixture into 4 portions and shape each into 1/2-inch-thick patties.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the nonstick skillet over medium heat. Fry patties 2 to 3 minutes on each side until crisp and golden.
Serve with your favorite burger toppings.
Variation: For a vegan version, omit the Asiago cheese and replace the eggs with 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds whisked with 6 tablespoons water.
Updated from a post originally published October 2011.