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Remember Sweet Earth Natural Foods? We discovered their burritos back in 2014 with their breakfast burritos, then found they also made regular burritos a few months later. At the time we noted that Sweet Earth also makes veggie burgers, but we hadn't run across them until now. We snapped up all three varieties, expecting an easy thumbs up from the panel.
The burgers are sold in the refrigerator section, not the frozen section, which is probably why we hadn't noticed them before. They come two to a pack, shrink-wrapped together with a piece of waxed paper separating the two patties. There's no microwave option for these, just oven (or toaster oven) and skillet, which is labeled "Preferred." When given a choice of ways to cook the items we're testing, we usually choose the one we think most people would use, so after some discussion we went with the skillet method, cooking each burger with a spray of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat, 3 minutes per side (we used a timer).
We chose to test the Teriyaki burger first because it's the highest in both calories and sodium, at 250 and 400 milligrams respectively. While the sodium level is higher than I'd like to see in a veggie burger, there's an impressive 5 grams of fiber. After its 6 minutes of time in the skillet, it was passed around the tasting table. It's our practice, when tasting veggie burgers, to taste the burger alone, without a bun or other accompaniments. We want to taste the burger, after all.
We'd half expected that the Teriyaki burger would be far too sweet, like so many teriyaki frozen meals are. Instead, this burger has a fairly subtle teriyaki flavor thats strongest note is ginger and garlic with a touch of sesame. The texture is firm and meat-like, with quite a bit of crunch from the quinoa, flax seeds, and sesame seeds, and the burger itself is dotted with bits of edamame and red bell pepper. All in all, a pretty darn good burger, the panel agreed.
With that positive start we were sure we'd enjoy the Za'atar burger, which is described as "garbanzo beans, quinoa, spinach, green lentils and carrots PLUS a Middle Eastern spice blend." It has fewer calories and less salt than the Teriyaki burger, at 240 and 390 milligrams, but more fiber (6 grams), no doubt because of the lentils we could see along with the bits of carrots and green onions. (These also contribute to the same meaty, yet crunchy texture as the Teriyaki burger.) Fewer calories doesn't always mean less flavor, as you probably know if you've used Dr. Gourmet recipes, but in this case it seems to: its strongest flavor is that of cumin ("And only vaguely of cumin," put in one panelist), with sesame and cilantro a distant second and third. No hint of the "Middle Eastern spice blend" could be discerned. Another panelist summed it up: "not bad... but not very interesting."
Our highest hopes were for the Santa Fe burger, making it the biggest disappointment. On the one hand, it sort of lives up to its description ("Black beans, corn, sweet potatoes & green chilis") in the sense that we saw a single kernel of corn and what appeared to be a couple bits of sweet potato. (Indeed, the burger is fairly orange in color likely because of the sweet potatoes.) And green chili (or rather, green bell pepper, which is a more accurate description of the flavor) fights for the title of dominant flavor with nothing so much as "fake smoke flavor," as a panelist described it. Another panelist said "It tastes almost burned." The package says that the patties are "flame broiled," so perhaps we got an especially broiled package? In any event, only the Teriyaki Burger gets a thumbs up, with caution due to its sodium content. A real disappointment, Sweet Earth Natural Foods.
Reviewed: April 8, 2016