Sparrow Tavern's Veggie Burger

Sparrow Tavern’s Veggie Burger . $3.75 for 8

These Veggie Burgers are amazing!! A bit of work but totally worth it!

Diners, Drive Ins & Dives is on Netflix this season and this episode features the Sparrow Tavern in Astoria, New York – a run down rock & roll type bar with gourmet style. One of their star items was the Sparrow Veggie Burger and even the carnivores were going on about it. After I made them, I can see why – they’re flippin’ AWESOME! A bit of work, but the best Veggie Burger I’ve ever had!

Sparrow Tavern Veggie Burger

Sparrow Tavern Veggie Burger – early version, I fixed the “cracking” flaw.

There was no actual recipe, but with a few rewinds I sailed blithely into the kitchen. The taste was fantastic! The burgers, not so much – they crumbled into what looked like a hash. I searched online for hints, but it seemed everyone who had posted about this burger had come up with the same initial recipe I had…they just preferred not to mention the flaws. Shove it all in a Pita, get a shot and who cares, huh?

It became apparent that my attempt to go light on the grains, potatoes and Panko (what I deemed the less healthier aspects) in the recipe was a partial cause of my failure. Too much moisture was another. Then there was the cooking time/temperature. A bit of tinkering, a few adjustments in the recipe and cooling the burgers before cooking made a huge difference. These burgers need to be handled with care, but they’re vastly improved.

Frankly, there’s a good bit of work here, but its all worth it, I promise! These burgers really are great. Even Kraig, who can easily eat pounds of meat, asked for seconds, then asked if he could make one up later that evening. Then wandered into my room in the a.m. and said, “I was thinking about making up a couple veggie burgers, do you want one?” Yeah, I do! I love it when a veggie burger can bridge the gap between vegetarians and those who follow a Standard American Diet.

Sparrow Tavern's Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce

Sparrow Tavern’s Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce

The potatoes, mushrooms, barley and brown rice all had to be cooked. I maximized my time by making larger amounts. What I didn’t use was bagged and tagged and tossed in the freezer (short-term only) for down the road. My pressure cooker helped speed this recipe along, too. You do have a pressure cooker, right? 🙂 It’s no big deal if you don’t but some of these whole grains take a long time to cook, stove-top.

Had I planned ahead and made and served corn, potatoes, mushrooms and/or the peas earlier in the week for a dinner or two, making enough extra to use in this recipe, things would have really moved along quickly. I also left the skin on the potatoes, carrots and zucchini – healthier & easier!

Stupid Simple Sweet Potato Fries - they're crispy!

Stupid Simple Sweet Potato Fries – they’re crispy!

This recipe makes eight good-sized, six-ounce burgers (depending on how large the zucchini and carrots are) but the burgers, after being baked and cooled, freeze well. Separate them with a bit of parchment or plastic and keep them in a Ziploc, ready to pull out and saute at a moment’s notice. I’ve started doubling the recipe just to have them stashed in the freezer. You’ll need a huge bowl if you do – I had to use my Dutch oven!

At the restaurant, these Veggie Burgers are served with a Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce (it is fantastic!) and frisee lettuce in a Pita Bun. I used my Super Easy Flat Bread with Romaine and red onion – these tend to be a bit *meh* on a hamburger bun. Accompanied at the restaurant by Sweet Potato Fries with rosemary and onion, my Stupid Simple Sweet Potato Fries make a great (and easier) substitute.

Eight burgers ran me about $3.75, not counting buns, Sparrow Tavern’s Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce or extras, leaving plenty in the budget for all kinds of add-ons and sides. Talk about a bargain! Sure beats one burger for about 10 bucks at the restaurant. Better, it costs about half that of the cheapest stamped out, premade hamburgers – and these rock!

Sparrow Tavern Veggie Burger

Sparrow Tavern Veggie Burger – early version, I fixed the “cracking” flaw.

Sparrow Tavern's Veggie Burgers

  • Servings: 8 six oz
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

  • 2 shredded carrots*
  • 1 medium shredded zucchini*
  • 1 cup cooked and drained barley (about 1/3 cup raw)*
  • 1 cup corn, thawed if frozen and drained by pressing against a strainer.
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed if frozen and drained by pressing against a strainer.
  • 1 1/2 cups (2 medium potatoes, about 10 ounces) mashed with an egg*
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced scallion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, diced and cooked until quite dark*
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (about 1/2 cup dry)
  • 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon Olive oil, divided. 1 teaspoon for mushrooms, one tablespoon for cooking burgers.

Using hands, heavily mix all ingredients except oil until it forms one cohesive mixture. The mixture should not feel “wet” but rather very thick and heavy, and the mashing should be firm enough to distribute all ingredients through out the mixture, but not so hard as to break open the peas. Refrigerate and leave for at least one hour, overnight is fine.

Measure out six-ounce portions (this works out to about a cup, loosely packed.) Form into a tight ball, really pack it. Place on a well greased baking tray. Gently press and form into uniform patties, rounding edges.

I found it easy to form patties by placing mixture into a one cup measure, pressing down firmly, packing to about 3/4 cup, then tapping the mixture out on the baking tray and then forming.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Do not turn patties. Rotate sheets from top to bottom about halfway through if using more than one baking sheet. Remove from oven, let cool, then cover and refrigerate. Once refrigerated, the patties are easier to remove intact from the pan with the help of a thin spatula.

When ready to serve, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add desired amount of patties and cook until golden brown, flipping once. It’s best to cook quickly over a fairly high heat, starting with the side that was on the bottom when baked. Over cook and they can be a bit mushy and crumbly, under cook and they won’t be crispy, so look for a good golden brown color.


  • Barley: A medium grain barley is perfect in this recipe, adding a good bite and chew. It’s not critical, however, and anything you have on hand will work. The amount dry varies depending on which type of barley is used.
  • Zucchini and carrots should be shredded with a large grate. I found the ideal texture was to push them very hard and quickly through the food processor, forming large shreds. The shredding option on a mandolin would work as well. This helped with excess moisture. If grating by hand on a box grater, drain as much moisture as possible by pressing against a strainer.
  • The amount of potato in this recipe is pretty critical. To cook potatoes, cut in quarters, cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes. Drain, then mash while dry. Add an egg when slightly cooled and mash thoroughly.
  • To cook mushrooms, roughly chop. Add to a saute pan with about a teaspoon of oil. Turn on heat, stirring several times, then  place a lid on the pan. Cook for about six to eight minutes until the mushrooms have given up most of their moisture. Remove lid, continue to cook until moisture is gone and mushrooms have turned a deep color, slightly toasted in places.

from the kitchen of, adapted from Diners Drive Ins & Dives

Zucchini and Carrots should be grated carefully, then strained if necessary

Zucchini and Carrots should be grated carefully, then strained if necessary

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Read {Strategies Applied} for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving money/time and managing this recipe.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
Bag & Tag long cooking grains and freeze (short term) to make the most of your time

Bag & Tag long cooking grains and freeze (short term) to make the most of your time


Cal 214, tot fat 4g, 4%; sat fat 1g; mono 2g; poly 1g; chol 23mg; sod 193mg; pot 580mg; carb 40g; fib 6g; sug 6g; prot 7g; vit A 87%; vit C 55%; calc 3%; iron 8%.

For comparison, 6 ounce burger 80/20, not seasoned:

Cal 427, tot fat 33.6g, 64%; sat fat 12g; mono 15g; poly .9g; chol 119mg; sod 113mg; pot 454mg; carb 0g; fib 0g; sug 0g; prot 16g; vit A 0%; vit C 0%; calc 3%; iron 18%

Put Your own Spin on it:

  • Although I’ve so far only made these with Panko, another dry toasted bread crumb would likely work in this. Perhaps just a bit less if using a commercial one.
  • Another grain other than barley could probably be used, but it should have some moistness to it.
  • Vegetables other than those stated would likely work well, just make sure that they’ll “act” the same way in the recipe. Lima beans for peas, for instance. Perhaps other squash for the zucchini.
  • The flavor is wonderful just as it – actually rather of a surprise! Still, variations could be made to suit another profile, perhaps curry, adobo seasoning, Cajun, etc.

Yum Veggie Burger:

Related Post: If you’d like to read a review of the Sparrow’s Veggie Burger, read Yum Veggie Burger. She’s reviewed a LOT of Veggie Burgers, and Sparrow is in her top 10.

13 thoughts on “Sparrow Tavern’s Veggie Burger . $3.75 for 8

  1. Jean

    I’ve been meaning to comment on these for years! These veggie burgers are our most favorite, wonderful, yummy burgers! Not for the faint-hearted, though. All your tips were very much appreciated, especially the first time I made them. I start 1 or 2 days ahead and make the grains in the instant pot, and the mashed potatoes. Even so, it took me 2 1/2 hours to do the rest, up to putting them in the oven. Since all my ingredients were cold, I didn’t refrigerate before forming the burgers. The trick with the one cup metal measure works great. After smashing it all down in the cup, I take a spoon and cut around the edge, pushing a little towards the middle, Then I kind of loosen the patty by slightly lifting up on two sides. It almost comes out clean in my hand, where I can finish shaping. We use your Cayenne mustard sauce and flatbread recipes and sometimes the sweet potato fries. We just made a double batch, and I swear I almost had to go clean out an empty drywall bucket to mix it all in! We are going on a 2 month long trip in our motorhome and will be taking these with us in the freezer. Thanks for this great recipe!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Oh, Jean, I’m so glad you like the post and thanks for the technique update! I have actually been thinking about making these in a quantity now that we’re getting zucchini, but as you said, this is not for the feint hearted, lol!!

      I’m laughing at the drywall bucket – it sounds like something I would do, lol!! I hope you have a wonderful trip and thanks for taking the time to comment. You made my day~ And inspired me to redo my flatbread post, lol!

  2. This burger sounds delicious. I’ve started to like veggie burgers just as much as meat patties.

    I love these tips, and they’re spot on. The only one that’s hard is mushrooms… my boyfriend and I both love mushrooms, but they’re often $2.99 for one small box of white button mushrooms, and when they go on sale they do NOT keep. Then again in the summer I can get 3 zucchini for a dollar at the market, so it all works out.

    • Thanks Myriam! And thanks for stopping by to comment.

      Things can vary so much in price from place to place – although that’s REALLY a high price for mushrooms! Wow!

      I noticed mushrooms are starting to come in a plastic container when they used to come in a pressed cardboard and I think they are deteriorating faster. There’s usually moisture in the bottom and those mushrooms go fast! If I remember to do so, I try to take them out, shake them out on the counter, take out the bad ones, let them air out a bit, then loosely cover them. Unfortunately, I don’t always have time to do that or I forget!

  3. I tried to make veggie burgers only once but without any positive outcome- it was a disaster to be honest. I think Im gonna try this recipe because it seems managable and I really want to be able to make veggie burgers!! This burger on the picture looks really yummy you know 🙂

  4. Hi Frugal Hausfrau, thanks for stopping by my blog and leading me to yours! I like the look of these vege burgers, our favourites are based on bulgur/burghul and have tahini in them, so different flavours, but also surprisingly yummy.
    I also love how you include all the shopping tips/costs…

    • Thanks, “Pud!” if I can nickname you! I enjoyed your blog and could tell you cook much like I do – newer recipes, favorite recipe and the treasured family ones! Of course, I haven’t been through the whole thing yet! I did particularly like your story on the German Coffee Cake! I’m guessing he probably was American, and like many older gentleman probably wanted to give you a little something for your piggy bank or to buy a bit of candy with. I had had many experiences with that growing up.

      Yanno, with beef hamburgers there’s really only a few variations, but veggie burgers? They’re endless! Glad you like the tips; sometimes I think maybe they’re too much!

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