September is National Mushroom Month and National Veggies and Fruit Month. By combining mushrooms with a traditional meat choice such as the hamburger, we can add more vegetables to our diet and enjoy the best of both the plant and animal worlds. The “blended burger” is a two-for-one celebration that flies in the face of the old English proverb that “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Turns out we can when seeking alternatives to 100% animal protein burgers.
With the continued explosion of plant-based burgers on grocery shelves and restaurant menus to meet the rising consumer demand, the simplicity of existing choices like lean ground beef blended with mushrooms can be overlooked. According to The Hartman Group, the concept of “half meat, half plant” burgers resonate with us since many have an interest in reducing their intake of animal protein but still want the taste without the guilt. According to the group’s Food & Technology report, participants agreed that a combination of beef and vegetables provides a winning combination.1
A study, published in the Journal of Food Science, validates the “blend benefit.” For example, when finely chopped mushrooms are mixed with ground meat, the flavor and nutritional profile of the traditional burger is enhanced.2 The study showed that a traditional ground meat recipe prepared with 50% mushrooms and 50% meat (or even 80% mushrooms and 20% meat) provides the desired flavor profile due to the umami taste of the mushroom.
Beyond the Flavor
The “blend benefit” not only exceeds taste expectations but excels equally on the nutrition side. The popular array of processed plant-based burgers portrays a “health halo” image but nutrition profiles do not deliver. Blended burgers reflect a lower calorie, fat and sodium content than most plant-based alternatives while delivering the benefit of additional fiber and nutrients, including Vitamin D, potassium, B-vitamins and antioxidants.3 Adding mushrooms into the beef with a simple “chop, blend and prepare” makes it easy to add an extra serving of vegetables to the plate — another advantage over ready to eat plant-based burgers.4
The blended burger provides us with an “and” rather than an “either/or” choice. Blended burgers are truly the “best of both worlds” as they are viewed as a solution to fulfilling our enjoyment of the flavor and nutritional value of a traditional burger while aligning to health and ethical aspirations.1 As seen by the popularity of their acceptance, blended burgers are the “middle ground” solution in the plant versus animal conversation. They appeal to those of us trying to eat a little less meat and add a few more vegetables in our lifestyle eating habits. The basic blend burger is eight ounces of finely chopped mushrooms of choice mixed with one pound of ground beef. Complete directions and more blend ideas can be found online at blenditarian.com.
The bottom line? Blended meat products give us an easy way to match flavor expectations with desired nutrition and ethical eating goals; proof that you “can have your cake and eat it too.”
1. “Blended Burgers: Gateway to the Mainstream for Plant-Based Protein Alternatives?” The Hartman Group, October 7, 2019. Accessed March 15, 2021.
2. Myrdal Miller, A., Mills, K., Wong, T., Drescher, G., Lee, S.M., Sirimuangmoon, C., Schaefer, S., Langstaff, S., Minor, B. and Guinard, J.-X. (2014), “Flavor-Enhancing Properties of Mushrooms in Meat-Based Dishes in Which Sodium Has Been Reduced and Meat Has Been Partially Substituted with Mushrooms,” Journal of Food Science, 79: S1795–S1804.” doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12549.
3. “Mushrooms: A Food with a Purpose,” by Marianne Smith Edge, Mushroom News: Nutrition, March 2021.
4. The Blend, The Mushroom Council, Accessed March 18, 2021.
This article was adapted from “Blending the Best of Both Worlds,” by Marianne Smith Edge for The Mushroom Council, April 14, 2021.