When Melissa Baker, Manager of Nutrition and Wellbeing challenged UBC Culinary Director and Executive Chef David Speight to create a vegetarian/vegan pop-up menu, he delivered – and then some!

Over lunch one day in early November, Chef David took over the Square Meal station in Open Kitchen to serve up a delicious beet and quinoa veggie burger, Thai curry Buddha bowl, super cozy butternut squash stew and superfood salad. Chef David is a familiar face on campus, but this pop-up was a rare opportunity to enjoy his cooking first hand.

After so much great feedback from the event, we have plans to host more chef pop-ups and share recipes! Scroll down for the recipe for the Ultimate Veggie Burger, featuring UBC Farm beets, crispy yams and smashed avocado lime tahini dressing on a soft brioche bun.

“My inspiration for the Ultimate Veggie Burger came from lunch chats with students who wanted to see a veggie burger on the menu. We weren’t going to buy a pre-made patty so we did this one in house.


The UBC Farm isn’t growing much at this time of year but they do have beets, so we made that the star of the patty to keep things seasonal and local. Crispy sweet potatoes give the burger texture, plus I love anything with avocado so the guacamole replaces a traditional mayonnaise.”


Chef David Speight

Want to see more pop-ups like this across campus? Let us know! 


What’s so great about the Ultimate Veggie Burger?

This recipe is a great way to use a seasonal, antioxidant-packed vegetable like beets and a great alternative to the less healthy and less sustainable beef burger. Plus:

  • beets have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • quinoa is a great source of quality proteins, but also minerals like manganese, magnesium, and zinc. It’s also an easy way to introduce more whole grains into your diet.
  • sweet potatoes are one of the richest foods in beta-carotene, which is turned into vitamin A by our cells.
  • avocado is packed with minerals.

Fun fact: Did you know that quinoa is actually a pseudo grain? It is treated as a grain because of the way we use it and because it has a similar nutrient profile. Quinoa is is botanically related to the chard, spinach and beet family.


Ultimate Veggie Burger Recipe

Yield: 4 servings


For the Burger Patties
2 cups beet root, peeled and cut into cubes
1 cup red quinoa (or white), cooked
1 tbsp plus 1tsp olive oil
1 egg
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tbsp flax seeds
2 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp sea salt

For the Dressing
1 ripe avocado
2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
3 tbsp lime juice
1 garlic clove
¼ tsp sea salt

For the Crispy Sweet Potatoes
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4″ wide strips

To Assemble
4 whole grain brioche buns


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Place the beet root cubes on a lined baking tin, rub with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  4. Place the roasted beets in a food processor and pulse two or three times. You need some texture for the burgers, so make sure you don’t mash them completely.
  5. Transfer the beets into a large bowl, add all the other burger patty ingredients and stir to combine. If the texture is too mushy add more bread crumbs until you obtain the desired consistency.
  6. With slightly wet hands, shape the burger patties and place them on a lined baking sheet.
  7. Place the sweet potato strips on a separate baking sheet and rub with olive oil.
  8. Bake burger patties and sweet potato fries for 25-30 minutes. Flip patties half way through and bake sweet potato fries until golden brown.
  9. While the burger patties and fries are baking, prepare the dressing. Place all the ingredients in the food processor and process to make a creamy sauce.
  10. Assemble the burgers immediately after removing from the oven.
  11. Cut the buns in half, spread bases with dressing, add the beet burger and sweet potato fries, and top generously with avocado dressing and watercress.
  12. Serve immediately.

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