Amanda Cohen's Vegan Lekka Burger Is Based On A 2,000 Year Old Recipe

Ever bitten into a veggie burger that was just, "blah?" Although there are tons of great veggie burgers out there if you're a plant-based eater, then there's probably a good chance you know the just-okay, bland burgers we're talking about — Michelin-starred chef and vegetarian Amanda Cohen certainly does. In 2011, Cohen lamented the state of restaurant veggie burgers. "Before I became a vegetarian I was a huge hamburger fan," Cohen told Eater. "But I gave up on veggie burgers a few years ago... the patties I was getting at restaurants in New York... were aggressively bad: fried patties made of mush and old vegetables."

At the time, Cohen was the head chef and owner of Dirt Candy, a restaurant in Manhattan's East Village, with a menu that Michelin Guide calls "a bounty of creativity." Since then, the chef decided to give veggie burgers a shot herself. In 2019, Cohen opened Lekka Burger, a plant-based restaurant in Tribeca. Per Gothamist, the menu featured five different burgers, soft-serve ice cream, and loaded fries — all 100% vegan. The same year, Cohen told Vogue, "I guess I was really against all these vegan burger places because, well, it's not really advancing the dialogue of food. They're just all making the same thing over and over again. But then I realized that I was just being snotty, and actually everybody wants to eat a really good burger."

So, what's the Michelin-starred chef's secret to making a better burger? Amanda Cohen's vegan Lekka Burger is based on a 2,000-year-old recipe.

A burger inspired by Song dynasty vegetarians

Per Nation's Restaurant News, Cohen's game-changing vegan burger was inspired by a 2,000-year-old recipe dating back to China's Song dynasty. After college, Cohen moved to Hong Kong where, she tells Michelin Guide, her appreciation and enthusiasm for plant-based cooking soared compared to the trend-soaked blandness of U.S. vegetarian offerings. During her studies with Chinese food scholars, says Vogue, she learned about a meat alternative called "yuguanfei" made from fried dough and red yeast rice (for color).

Cohen has been hesitant to reveal her veggie patty recipe but has shared via Gothamist that beans, mushrooms, and gluten-free grains were somewhere in the mix. She has since cued fans into a few more ingredients, including cannellini beans, portobello mushrooms, chili peppers, onions, and garlic. All 13 ingredients, Cohen says, are simple things "you can find in your kitchen cabinets." Fittingly for the chef's playful culinary dogma, the vegan patty is sandwiched inside a Japanese-inspired milk bun as Cohen says she's bored with the predictable, whole wheat, "idealistically vegan" buns that so often accompany veggie burgers.

Earlier this week, Lekka Burgers opened its second location inside Midtown's Urbanspace dining court. Cohen says she aspires to expand Lekka Burger restaurants into Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami. Only time will tell what happens next for this chef revolutionizing New York City's vegetarian food game.