Food history: the veggie burger

Today, vegetarianism and vegan-ism is on the rise, so it’s no surprise that veggie burgers are still holding strong. They’ve come a long way and have many different varieties now – black bean burger, portobello mushroom burger, etc. 

But, where did the original veggie burger come from?

Recipes for a “vegetable burger” have been in print as early as 1969, according to However, the true veggie burger as we know it today was invented by a man named Gregory Sams in 1982.

Sams grew up in West London. He became a vegetarian at the age of 10, when his father gave up meat for a New Year’s resolution. At just 19, he opened up a macrobiotic restaurant called SEED.

At the time, during the 1960s, a plant-based or no-meat diet was not very common in the UK; in fact, it still had yet to gain serious popularity in the US. Although, a decade later, vegetarianism became a more commonplace lifestyle.

Sams featured sunflower seeds, organic rice, and seaweed, among other natural foods. In 1982, he decided that there needed to be an inexpensive meat alternative. It took him six months to get his idea for a meatless patty just right. Part of his struggle was the fact that Sams had never actually eaten a real hamburger before.

The world’s first official veggie burger – spelled “vegeburger” – consisted of wheat gluten, sesame, soy, and oats; later, herbs, tomatoes, and onions were added. Eventually,  the term “vegeburger” transformed to veggie burger. 

Trying to replicate the veggie burger of SEED, Sams worked to transition from the restaurant world to the commercial food world.  However, the original veggie burger as a prepacked food was not sold frozen, as it often is today under brands such as Morningstar; it was distributed in dried food packets.

During the first launch of the veggie burger as a commercially sold product, 2,000 packets were sold during the first three weeks. Sams expanded his business from there.

If you’re ever at a point in life where you’re craving a burger, but don’t want the health risks of red meat, give one of these veggie burger recipes a try: