Las Vegas Vegan Burger

las vegas vegan burger
Photo: Bill Milne

A vegetarian burger that makes heads turn: This one, a handsome stack of grilled vegetables on a portobello mushroom bun, has proven its worth with long-lasting popularity at Burger Bar.


Makes 4 servings

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon very finely chopped garlic
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large portobello mushrooms, 31/2 to 4 inches in diameter
  • 1 pound fat zucchini (about 2 inches in diameter), preferably both yellow and green ones, cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 1 pound plum tomatoes, thickly sliced
  • 2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1 1/2-inch-wide strips
  • Marinated Eggplant (below) or 1 large (about 1 pound) purple eggplant cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (about 8 slices)
  • 4 large handfuls arugula
  • About 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (if using fresh eggplant)
  • About 1/3 cup Cilantro-Arugula Pesto (below)

vegan burger


Step 1: Build a medium-hot fire in a barbecue. In a medium bowl, whisk together the 1 cup of olive oil, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.

Step 2: Scrape the gills from the portobellos and arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet. Add the zucchini, tomatoes and bell peppers to the baking sheet. Brush all the vegetables with the herbed oil. If you are grilling the fresh eggplant, brush it, too, with the herbed olive oil.

Step 3: Brush the grill rack with olive oil, transfer the vegetables to the grill, and cook, turning as needed and being careful not to let the olive oil flame up, until tender. The zucchini and tomatoes will be done first, needing just 2 to 3 minutes per side. The peppers will be done next. If you have been careful to just brown them, they will not need to be peeled. The mushrooms and fresh eggplant will need about 5 minutes per side.

Step 4: In a medium bowl, toss the arugula with a little of the marinade from the Marinated Eggplant, if using. Otherwise, toss the arugula with some of the remaining herbed olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Taste for seasoning and set aside.

Step 5: To build the burgers, generously spread the gill side of 4 mushrooms with pesto. Top with yellow zucchini, several tomato slices, green zucchini, eggplant slices, and several strips of bell pepper. Drizzle another small spoonful of pesto over all and close with another mushroom. Arrange some of the arugula salad on the side and serve immediately.

Marinated Eggplant

Serves 6 to 8

The marinade infuses the eggplant with a terrific medley of sweet, herbal flavors. Prepared this way, the eggplant retains its shape and doesn't get mushy. The marinated eggplant tastes best at room temperature or reheated in a low oven or in a dry skillet over low heat. Build Your Own: This makes a great addition to all kinds of sandwiches and burgers or can be served on its own, perhaps with some feta or goat cheese crumbled over it. Save the remaining marinade; it makes a delicious dressing for salads of tomato, baby spinach, or mixed greens.

  • 2 1/3 cups olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 2 large (about 1 pound each) unpeeled purple eggplants, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices

Step 1: In a large saucepan, combine 2 cups of the olive oil, 3/4 cup of the balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons of the sherry vinegar, the onion, honey, garlic, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, coriander seeds, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then simmer gently, uncovered, until the onion is tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato and return the marinade to a boil. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Keep the marinade hot until needed.

Step 2: Meanwhile, brush the eggplant slices on both sides with olive oil. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the eggplant quickly on both sides until brown and just beginning to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the slices as they are done and arrange them in a single layer in a large, nonreactive baking dish. Add more oil to the skillet as needed. When the eggplant is cooked, remove the skillet from the heat and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of each balsamic and sherry vinegars to the skillet. Stand back so as not to get splattered. Stir and scrape all over the sides and bottom of the pan. Scrape the contents of the pan into the hot marinade.

Step 3: Stir the marinade and pour it evenly all over the eggplant. Tightly cover the dish with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight to marinate. The eggplant will finish “cooking" in the marinade. Refrigerate the eggplant in the marinade until needed. It is at its best within about 3 days but will keep for several days longer. To use, carefully lift each slice with a slotted spatula to allow it to drain a bit. Reheat in a low oven or in a dry pan over medium-low heat, or serve at room temperature. Strain any remaining marinade and refrigerate in a clean, covered, nonreactive container for up to a week longer to use as a salad dressing.

Cilantro-Arugula Pesto

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

The color of this pesto is as vibrant as its flavor. The combination of cilantro, lime, and macadamia nuts gives this pesto a South American twist. It's a welcome addition to just about any burger you can think of.

  • 1 large bunch fresh cilantro
  • 12 roasted, salted macadamia nuts
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, to your taste
  • 2 cups packed arugula
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/3 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim the larger stems off the cilantro and discard them. Put the nuts and garlic in a food processor and process until they are finely chopped. Add the cilantro, arugula, lime juice, and lime zest, and process until you have a coarse purée. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a thin stream and process until smooth. Scrape down the sides as necessary. Pulse in the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the pesto to a container, cover, and refrigerate until needed, or for up to 2 days.

Recipe courtesy of Burger Bar.

burger bar cover