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We have tasted a lot of veggie burgers through the years, and the verdict is too often thumbs down. The bad burgers have been among the worst convenience meals we have tasted. We have only tasted a few that might be really good, but that doesn't keep us from looking for more options.
I noticed the Engine 2 brand burgers in the freezer case at Whole Foods (which is the only place Engine 2 brand foods are sold) and they looked appealing. For those of you not familiar with it, the Engine 2 diet, from a book by Rip Esselstyn, is loosely based on his father's diet. Dr. Esselstyn's diet is based on flawed science and is pretty restrictive, but that doesn't mean that the food can't be good, so we decided to put these to the test.
First off, the numbers are pretty appealing. We tested the Poblano Black Bean and the Thai Basil Edamame. The black bean comes in at 130 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and only 100 mg of sodium. Yes, you read that right. 100 milligrams. The edamame burger is only 50 mg of sodium and also has fewer calories (120) and less fiber (3 grams). It is not often that you see food that is lower calorie like this with that little sodium, and the team was dubious, thinking that these would be bland.
And they are. But not offensively so. The flavor is actually quite good, and if each burger had about 200 mg sodium they would likely be excellent. (Yes, I know that all I ever do is complain about there being too, too much salt in convenience foods, but there is a limit to how low you can go and have food taste good.)
The Poblano Black Bean is not very spicy nor all that Southwestern tasting. That said, the black bean flavor is good and the texture is meaty and not overly dry. Served with a whole wheat bun, with a little mayonnaise (though mayo is definitely not allowed in Dr. Esselstyn's diet), mustard, lettuce, and tomato, and this is pretty good. The Thai Basil Edamame suffers the same fate of being very bland and not having much Thai flavor. Something, anything would be good – a bit of soy sauce, sesame oil, even five spice powder – just a bit for some real Asian flavor would be nice. The overall texture is good and the soy beans give it a great hit of almost nutty texture, although this burger was much more moist than the Black Bean burger.
We did try all three cooking suggestions: stovetop, oven, and microwave. The microwave method wasn't bad (and is certainly the fastest by far), but they didn't come out with any sear on the burgers, nor did they get particularly hot. The pan-cooked method of four minutes per side had a little more of a crispy crust develop. The oven method (about 15 minutes) is better than cooking them in a pan, with the burgers getting very hot and a thin crispy sear on the outside. You might not want to waste the energy heating the oven up for just a couple of burgers, however (note that there are three in a box for about $5.00 per package).
A surprising finding. Not because they're being sold under the brand of a silly diet, but because they are good veggie burgers, which we don't find often. They would be really good with just a bit of salt, some salsa, or maybe some tasty spices – anything to make them less bland.
Reviewed: January 3, 2014