When Meat Prices Soar, Sweet Potato Burgers Are What You Need

In case you haven't noticed, beef prices are skyrocketing. Several factors contribute to this phenomenon. Labor shortages and reduced processing capacities have impeded the smooth flow of production, leading to a diminished supply. Consequently, the challenges in raising animals for meat have increased, driving up the costs associated with their care. So why don't we give the cows a break and grab a sweet potato instead?

In times of escalating meat prices, the culinary landscape often seeks alternatives to provide both sustenance and flavor, and that's where sweet potato burgers come in. As a vegetarian option, these burgers offer a satisfying and nutrient-rich alternative to traditional meat patties. Leveraging the natural sweetness of sweet potatoes contributes to a unique flavor profile that effortlessly blends with seasonings and toppings. 

However, these burgers are not to be confused with an actual veggie burger, which is usually a vegetable mixed with some kind of lentil or mushroom mayhem. We're talking about sweet potatoes on a bun. This separation is noted by author Martin Nordin in his book "Green Burgers," as reported by The Washington Post

But how do you turn a sweet potato into a satisfying burger alternative? The trick to getting the sweet potato to hold its shape lies within the salt. By salt-baking sweet potatoes, it causes the skin to almost pull away from the flesh of the potato. Salt baking is a culinary technique that involves encasing a food item, like sweet potatoes, in a layer of salt before baking. This allows the sweet potato to sit firmly on the bun, making the perfect substitution for pricey meat. 

How to salt bake your sweet potatoes

To salt bake your sweet potatoes, start by creating a thick paste using coarse salt and olive oil. This paste will create a protective crust during baking. You have options when it comes to salt too, but table salt, flaky sea salt, or even kosher salt will work. However, investing in coarser salt like kosher or sea salt is recommended for coating your sweet potatoes. For those curious, "kosher salt" doesn't suggest that a Rabbi blessed it, but rather, it got its name from its use in the koshering or processing of meat.

Ensure complete coverage of the sweet potatoes with the salt mixture to lock in moisture and flavor while cooking. Place the salt-coated sweet potatoes in a preheated oven at 350°F for around 45 minutes or until they're fork-tender. After baking, allow them to cool briefly before attempting to remove the skin. Once the skin is off, shape the sweet potatoes into patties and pan-fry them.

Next, assemble the sweet potato patties with your chosen bun and toppings. Opt for toppings like pickled red onions, arugula, or sautéed oyster mushrooms. Remember, the potential of sweet potatoes as a meat substitute extends beyond burgers. They're equally versatile in dishes like sweet potato curry, soups, and even burritos. Incorporating salt-baked sweet potatoes into your culinary repertoire offers a new way to "peel" the layers of meatless options and save yourself some money!