I first fell in love with the walnut burger when I tried one at Beans & Barley in Milwaukee, Wis. Sadly (oddly?) I’ve never seen a walnut burger at any restaurant I’ve been to since. (Though … I don’t regularly nosh at health food restaurants so perhaps that’s the reason.) What’s a girl supposed to do when she’s craving a burger that’s served at a restaurant 2,000 miles away? Make her own version.
Here’s what I said about my first attempt in 2010:
I’ve been dying to try a walnut burger recipe forever. Tonight seemed like a good night because my dad just arrived in town, and I know he likes walnut burgers as well. I was working with limited capability in regard to kitchen electronics. My sister has the smallest food processor I’ve ever seen: 4 cups. The ingredients barely fit inside the processor and I couldn’t get all the ingredients to mix completely. So I added another egg and more olive oil. Still nothing. Then I took to scraping the mixture into a bowl and using a hand-held mixer. The hand mixer worked well to finally blend the ingredients, but the recipe seemed too sticky. So I added more walnuts until I thought the mixture was dry enough to stick together in the pan.
I found that when making walnut burgers one of the keys is making a thinner patty. I made one of the patties too thick and was afraid the middle wouldn’t cook through. So I stuck it in the oven. The second patty I made thinner and that seemed to work better. I used ciabatta rolls as buns (because both my dad and I love them), and I would not recommend using ciabatta rolls for walnut burgers. Walnut burgers are messy and fall apart easily. So you need a bun that’s softer and gives when you bite into it. Almost my entire burger slid out of my bun as I attempted to bite through the ciabatta roll.
The flavor of the burger was great. But I needed the patty to be more cohesive. Perhaps I should have had a stickier, wetter mixture that I had before I added the extra ground walnut. I served our burgers with mayo (reduced fat, made with olive oil), sliced beefsteak tomato, sliced avocado and fontina cheese.
I would be interested in trying this again when I have my large industrial sized food processor and perhaps a different recipe would work better.
I was largely disappointed by this recipe back in the day. I wanted something more closely aligned with the Wisconsin walnut burger I ate for years before moving to the West Coast.
So I did some research to find an idea of what goes into a true Wisconsin walnut burger. Walnut burgers are actually famous in Wisconsin thanks to the Trempealeau Hotel. Their walnut burger debuted in 1986, when they opened the hotel, in an effort to provide options to vegetarians. The veggie burger’s overall popularity and customer requests to take the burgers home for consumption prompted the Trempealeau Hotel to manufacture the burger locally. Now the burgers are packaged and sold across the state, including at my beloved Beans & Barley.
The recipe I tried in 2010 involved walnuts, garbanzo beans, eggs, onion, bread crumbs, fresh herbs, garlic and red wine vinegar. Looking back, the red wine vinegar seems like an odd choice.
While I could not find an exact Trempealeau Hotel Walnut Burger recipe, I did enough reading to ascertain that walnuts and brick cheese are the main and key ingredients in the Trempealeau burger. So I searched high and low for recipes involving walnuts (no other protein, such as beans) and cheese and found two recipes (Taste of Home and The Cheap Vegetarian) that helped me to form the recipe below, a true winner. Dad, Sis and I scarfed these burgers down. This recipe is just as good, if not better, than the ones you can find on sale in your local grocery store in Wisconsin.
- 1 ½ c. walnuts
- 4 oz shredded cheese (Brick cheese makes this a Wisconsin burger)
- 2 slices of whole wheat bread, torn (such as Dave’s Killer Bread)
- ½ medium onion, grated
- 1 T. tomato paste or ketchup (I used tomato paste)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp. of salt plus more for cooking
- a few cranks of freshly ground pepper
- 3 to 4 brioche buns
- Lettuce, tomato, avocado, cheese, mayo, mustard, ketchup (all optional)
- In a food processor, combine walnuts and bread and pulse until coarsely ground. Pour out into a large bowl.
- Mix in the cheese, salt and pepper and onion until thoroughly combined.
- In a small bowl whisk egg and tomato paste or ketchup. Mix into the walnut mixture until entirely incorporated.
- Divide into 3 or 4 equal-size parts; roll into balls, and flatten with the palm of your hand into ½ to ¾-inch-thick patties.
- Heat a large fry pan over medium heat and add some avocado oil to the bottom. Place burgers in frying pan; cook covered over medium heat 4 to 5 minutes per side. If adding cheese, add immediately after flipping over.
- Serve hot on toasted buns with lettuce, tomato, avocado and mustard, ketchup or mayo.
Looking for other meatless burgers? Try:
- White Bean Burgers
- Grilled Portabella Burger
- Pioneer Woman’s Black Bean Burger
- Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers
- Zucchini, Quinoa and Mushroom Burgers