Basic meat and tofu mixture for mini-burgers, meatballs and more

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I spent about an hour on Sunday making and cooking up a big batch of a basic burger mixture. The mix is very versatile, so I made four different things from it. Now I have enough mini-burgers, meatballs and more in my freezer for at least 20 or more bento portions. It was an hour well spent! I love just knowing that my freezer has a nice stock of ready-to-go bento items - it takes the pressure off considerably on busy mornings.

Recipe: Basic burger-meatball mixture

You can use more ground beef or ground veal or chicken instead of the tofu. The tofu makes it a bit lighter.

  • 450g / 1 lb ground beef
  • 225g / about 8 oz. ground pork
  • 225g / about 8 oz. (about half a block) soft or silken tofu
  • 1 cup fresh soft breadcrumbs (made by whizzing up 2 slices of bread in a food processor)
  • 1 large onion
  • A little milk or soymilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp or so black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. or so nutmeg (optional)
  • Oil for cooking

If necessary, make fresh breadcrumbs by chopping up 2 slices of bread (white or whole wheat) in a food processor. Moisten with a little milk.

Chop up the onion finely (I do this in the food processor too, after the breadcrumbs.) Saute in a little oil in a frying pan until soft.

Drain the tofu well and crumble.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix with your hands until a bit sticky and paste-like. The tofu should be all smooth and incorporated into the meat.

Heat up a frying pan with a little oil. Form the meat mixture into various shapes, as follows:

Mini-burgers: Take about 3 tablespoon-portions and form into little patties. Fry on one side, then turn and fry on the other with a lid on the pan for about 4 minutes until the patties are a bit puffed up.

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Meatballs: Take 1 tablespoon-portions and form little balls. Roll around in the pan with a little oil until browned on all sides.

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Stuffed tofu slices: Cut a slit into a small block of tofu, and stuff with about 1/2 Tbs. of the meat mixture. Dust the tofu with cornstarch and fry, turning all around, in a hot frying pan until browned on all sides.

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Stuffed mushrooms: Twist off the stems of medium-size mushrooms, leaving the caps (use the stems for something else). Stuff each cap with about 1 Tbs. of the meat mixture, pressing down well. Put the stuffed mushrooms meat side down in a hot frying pan, and sprinkle the mushroom cap with a little salt. Turn over when the meat side has browned, lower the heat to low, put on a lid and let steam-cook for about 5-6 minutes.

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Cool everything completely, and freeze. You can just put them in plastic freezer bags and take out only what you need.

Defrosting and saucing

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Defrost either in a microwave for about 3-4 minutes, depending on how big your burgers or meatballs etc. are; or in a small frying pan with the lid on to steam-cook them. You can also pop them in a toast oven from frozen, wrapped in foil - they’ll take about 8-10 minutes this way.

The mini-burgers and so on will taste a bit bland when cold. To perk them up, you’ll want to add a sauce to them. The easiest are plain ketchup, oyster sauce, “Bulldog” sauce, or even soy sauce. Just heat up the sauce of your choice in a small frying pan and toss the defrosted mini-burger in it.

This little mini-burger is sauced with a mixture of 1 Tbs. ketchup, 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, and about 2 Tbs. red wine (per 3 of this mini-burgers). Add all the sauce ingredients to a small frying pan and mix; add the burgers to the hot pan, and coat with the sauce.

Teriyaki sauce is also great, especially for the stuffed tofu slices. Sweet and sour sauce works well too. The stuffed mushroom caps may not need any sauce at all - maybe a little drizzle of soy sauce on top if that.

You can also simmer the meatballs in a little homemade or store bought tomato sauce, crumble up the mini-burgers and stir fry with vegetables…and whatever else you can come up with.

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a tasty cold meatball

Here’s a recipe from Julia Child that makes meatballs that are v. tasty cold or room-temp, even without sauce. I love them in my bentos. http://sheepscreek.com/recipes/lamburger.html

The Way To Cook is my

The Way To Cook is my favorite cookbook of all time! I’ll have to look up those lamb burgers. Thanks for sharing!

Mini Turkey Circles

Thanks for another great recipe! I make mini turkey circles (more like meatballs at this point) that freeze and defrost well, and even taste great at room temp. You can find the recipe on my website, Toys Are Good Food, but they’re basically ground turkey with garlic, ginger, and mushrooms (for moisture). Yum!

tofu meat balls

We used a version of this recipe and really liked them. We love all the different combinations. Thank you for posting this recipe!

Re: Basic meat and tofu mixture for mini-burgers, meatballs ...

Is there anything I can sub for the ground pork? I don't eat pork.

Re: Basic meat and tofu mixture for mini-burgers, meatballs ...

You can use just 100% ground beef, or veal. You could try turkey though it may turn out a bit dry.

Re: Basic meat and tofu mixture for mini-burgers, meatballs ...

I made these today
They were yummy :]]
turned out great and the tofu gave the mixture a nice texture

Re: Basic meat and tofu mixture for mini-burgers, meatballs ...

Made this twice already - meatballs and stuffed mushrooms. Everyone in the family loved it! The second time I made it I used the ice cream scoop to make the meatballs (approx. 1.5" in diam) and baked them in the oven - 400-425F degrees, 20-23 minutes - a bit easier and turned out great, too. Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe!

Re: Basic meat and tofu mixture for mini-burgers, meatballs ...

This recipe is so versatile that I keep coming back to it to replenish my freezer stash. This morning I put my own spin on it by draining some commercial salsa fresca (chopped tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lemon juice) and pureeing it with a clove of garlic and a small onion. I then followed the recipe as posted to make mini meatloaves and meatballs. I kept back about 3/4 of a cup to make a soboro to stuff in Maki's Potato Oyaki. To pump up the flavor of the soboro, I splashed it with some Sriracha rather than shoyu and sesame oil. My bentos (and maybe a dinner or two) are set for weeks!

storage.

Thank you for this fantastic recipe, I think I'll use it for my first ever bento!
I was just wondering, you say that you can freeze them, but how long will they keep for when freezing?
cx

Re: Basic meat and tofu mixture for mini-burgers, meatballs ...

HI robochrish, they should keep without any deterioration in flavor/texture for couple of months. Beyond that they will still be ok, but gradually get worse, so try to use them up fairly quickly.

Re: Basic meat and tofu mixture for mini-burgers, meatballs ...

Thank you so much for this recipe! It helps a lot, especially in the mornings when I have to make lunch for me and my sister!

Re: Basic meat and tofu mixture for mini-burgers, meatballs ...

Hi

Can I omit the breadcrumbs or substitute with something else?

Re: Basic meat and tofu mixture for mini-burgers, meatballs ...

Omitting the breadcrumbs will make the mixture cook up to be quite heavy. If you want to omit it for gluten-intolerance reasons, try a gluten-free bread, otherwise I would recommend keeping the breadcrumbs in.

Re: Basic meat and tofu mixture for mini-burgers, meatballs ...

Pureed rice is another alternative, as suggested by the lamb burger recipe someone posted.

Re: Basic meat and tofu mixture for mini-burgers, meatballs ...

I Love these little burgers but I made a spicy sauce (pronounced saw-u-ce) that my husband just loved! Simple really. Ketchup, chipotle and a dash of soy sauce, toss in blender, smother on burgers. I also like blending mayo and chipotle but it's summer and i get paranoid leaving mayo in my bento....

Re: Basic meat and tofu mixture for mini-burgers, meatballs ...

I have used Italian sausage (links with the cases emptied) that I rolled up and fried then rolled around in BBQ sauce. Don't knock it til you try it. There great cold and super quick to make first thing. Got some pics on my pinterest if anyone wants to see look me up crimsonpixi under "bento I've done" I'm excited to try making a batch of these for future bento ^_^

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