Bao-veggie burgers for the braai

Bao-veggie burgers for the braai

It’s a good idea to prepare the burger mixture and the caramelised onions the day before, to give yourself room to relax. And once all the hard work is done, you can freeze the extra burgers. At a push, prepare the burger mixture at least two hours before you’d like to cook them, so the flavours have a chance to get through the how-do-you-do’s and become acquainted.

Being a non-meat-eater who loves to braai, our recipe developer Candice Douglas, dreamed of creating a homemade veggie burger that holds its own over the flames. Four batches of delicious but rather crumbly burgers later, she was working out how to accept defeat. But she decided to give it one more go – and bingo! Her recipe experimentations finally paid off!

Even her meat-appreciating husband was excited as he came in from the braai with the flame-browned, still-shaped-like-a-patty veggie bao-burgers, and the bite he had, got rave reviews for flavour.

In the end, it was finding the sweet spot with the amount of baobab powder which held it all together. The bao-burgers are beautifully bolstered by melted camembert, caramelised onions, fresh sprouts, and chunky sweet potato wedges. And yes; the extra time it takes to properly prepare the caramelised onions is so very worth it.

Beet & Bulgar Bao-Burgers


  • 1 cup cooked bulgur well drained
  • 1 beetroot (about 100g)
  • 1 sweet potato (about 200g)
  • 1 can chickpeas drained
  • 1 red onion finely diced
  • 4 tsp cumin powder
  • 4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp turmeric
  • 2 large garlic cloves finely diced
  • 1 cup pecan nuts
  • 1 cup dates depipped and roughly chopped (about 160g)
  • ½ cup baobab powder
  • 3 Tbsp Eureka Mills cake flour
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil + more for cooking
  • 4 Tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 punnet fresh coriander
  • 2 tsp salt we love the Oryx Smoked Salt!
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large free range egg


  1. Cook bulgur wheat to package instructions.  Drain any excess water once cooked, if necessary.  Set aside.
  2. Coarsely grate beetroot and sweet potato.
  3. Heat a generous splash of olive oil on med-high and sauté onion with a pinch of salt until glassy, stirring every few minutes.  Stir in cumin, paprika and turmeric, and cook until onions brown around the edges without burning. Switch heat off, and stir in garlic and rosemary.
  4. Remove from hot stove plate after a minute, or as soon as you can smell the pleasing garlic aromas being released.
  5. In a separate pan, toast pecan nuts on a medium heat until nicely browned around the edges, keeping an eye on them and giving them a good shake from time to time.  Approximately 10 minutes. Then chop them roughly.
  6. In your food processor, combine chickpeas, baobab powder, flour, bulgur wheat, beetroot, sweet potato, and onions.  About 10-20 seconds on high.  Stop halfway and scrape sides of bowl if necessary.
  7. Move burger mixture to a large mixing bowl and add egg, pecans, dates, olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Stir until all ingredients are distributed evenly.
  8. Return the mixture to food processor and add the coriander.  (At this point, depending on the size of your food processor, you may want to work with half of the mixture at a time, in which case remember to halve the coriander.)
  9. Blend on high until combined, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides.  You can leave it quite chunky, with bits of the dates and nuts peeking through here and there.
  10. Refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.

Chef’s Tip: Be sure to wash your food processor immediately, so as to prevent turmeric’s pretty yellow kiss.

  1. On a lightly floured* surface, roll out the mixture into a sausage shape and cut into 6-8 pieces, depending on how large you would like the burger patties.
  2. Roll into balls, and manipulate into burger patty shape.
  3. Lightly flour (you can use baobab powder for this too)  both sides of each patty, and oven bake on baking paper at 180C for 10-15 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.  Timing depends on your preferred burger thickness.
  4. If you’re braaing, braai over hot coals for 10-15 minutes, turning every few minutes.
  5. Serve with caramelised red onions and sweet potato wedges.

Sweet Potato Wedges

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • Juice of one small lemon about 3-4 Tbsp
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  1. Chop sweet potatoes into thick wedges, and coat in olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
  2. Oven bake on 180C for 30 minutes, shaking the pan to toss the wedges around half-way through the cooking process.
  3. Turn heat up to 220C and roast for another 5 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned.


Chef’s Tip:  If you’re making these at the same time as the veggie burgers and they don’t all fit in one oven tray, put the burgers nearest the top in the oven until they’re cooked, before swapping the trays around to allow the sweet potatoes to brown. 

Caramelised Red Onions

Makes a generous portion.
Store in a glass jar and add to salads and sandwiches.

  • Butter or olive oil for frying
  • 3 red onions halved and sliced
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar, or honey
  • 1 Tbsp coarse salt
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
  1. Cook onions in butter on med-high until soft.
  2. Add sugar, salt, and the two vinegars. Bring to boil.
  3. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer for 60-90 minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquid has cooked away and the onions are dark, sweet and sticky.
  4. Store in a glass jar and refrigerate. 

Gourmet Suggestions:

Serve with a dollop of bao-mayo topped with toasted sesame seeds. Top burger patty with thick wedges of Camembert and melt in the oven. (Note: it takes only a few seconds, so keep your eye on it.) Dress with a mixture of yoghurt, hummus, herbs, and freshly grated apple. 

Chef’s Tip: you can make extra and stash them in the freezer either uncooked  (separate them with rounds of wax paper – extra flour works too), or freeze them ready made, defrost and simply warm up.


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