A Vegetarian Loco Moco (Hawaiian Plate Lunch)

How’s everyone doing? It’s safe to say that wherever you are, it’s been a rough week. And although I wrote about coronavirus last week, I’m not going to turn this into a corona-chronicle (the world has enough of those). No, I’m going to focus on what I do best…making food. After all, it’s a great time for home cooking whether you’re an expert or new to it.

I’m going to take us to one of the most beautiful places on earth: Hawaii. Imagine warm breezes, palm trees, the soothing sound of the ocean. Doesn’t that sound nice right about now?

And if you’re thinking about Hawaii, you have to also think about the food. One of the most typically plate lunches is called the loco moco and while the components can vary, it most often contains white rice, a beef patty (or spam!), a fried egg, and brown gravy. It’s delicious, but definitely not vegetarian-friendly. I haven’t eaten it, but I do remember watching my fiancé supremely enjoy one at Rainbow Drive-In during our trip.

My vegetarian take on a loco moco keeps the rice and the egg, but substitutes the meat for a veggie patty that celebrates Hawaiian flavors, the gravy for teriyaki or sriracha, and adds greens (because, you know, they’re good for you!). The biggest effort is the patty, but the components are relatively simple to make with easy-to-find ingredients and leave you with a very satisfying lunch…or dinner…or breakfast. No judgements here.

There are four components for this dish: the rice, the patty, the egg, and the greens. Start with the rice. For best results, I recommend using sushi rice and soaking it for 30 minutes before cooking. You can read more details about cooking rice in my Homemade Vegetable Sushi Bowl recipe. Next, get the patty going. You’re going to need to start with a flax egg. Flax eggs are used as binding for baking and other vegan goods, typically mixing flax and water. I put a spin on it by substituting the water for a mixture of soy sauce, maple syrup, and rice vinegar which really increase the flavor profile.

Chop your vegetables – you can be lazy here because you’re going to puree it anyway. Dry your cooked beans. The easiest way to do this is to rinse them and then roll them around on a paper towel to soak up the water. This is not a very environmentally-friendly way to dry them, but aside from leaving them out for a long time I haven’t thought of a good shortcut (if you have one, let me know in the comments and I will promote it!)

Next, sauté mushrooms, onions, ginger, and garlic powder in sesame oil until the vegetables are cooked. Add the flax egg, liquid smoke (optional), spices, sautéed vegetables, beans, corn, green onions, and breadcrumbs to a food processor or high-quality blender (eg, Vitamix) and blend until mostly combined. You can also mix with a potato masher and the result will be chunkier but equally delicious.

Start heating oil in a grill pan (or regular pan is fine too) and forming patties. I recommend making them to order as the patties are definitely the best when fresh. This is a good time to start cooking the fried egg and the greens. I used frozen kale so it only took 4 minutes to heat them in the microwave, but you’ll need extra time if they are fresh. Top the patty (or everything?) with teriyaki or sriracha!

A Healthier Loco Moco (Hawaiian Plate Lunch)

Yield approximately 6 patties. 45 minutes.


Veggie Patty

  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 3 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2.5 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 2.5 ounces red onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 cup pinto beans
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 2 tablespoons green onions, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • 1 Veggie Patty
  • 1/2 cup sushi rice, cooked
  • 1/2 cup sautéed greens of choice
  • 1 fried egg
  • Teriyaki sauce or sriracha, to taste
  • Furikake, to taste (optional)


  • Rice cooker or pot
  • Large frying pan
  • Food processor, high-quality blender, or masher
  • Grill pan (optional)


Make the sushi rice.

  1. Put rice in the rice cooker/large bowl. Rinse the rice in water and drain immediately. Repeat 3 times.
  2. Fill bowl with enough water to cover the rice and soak for 30 minutes.
  3. Transfer rice to a strainer/sieve to remove water.
  4. Put rice in rice cooker and fill with cold water to the 2 cup line and cook.

Make the veggie patty.

  1. Make a flax egg by mixing soy sauce, maple syrup, and rice vinegar with ground flax in a small bowl. Set aside. Chop the vegetables. Rinse and drain the beans, drying them out on a paper towel.
  2. Heat sesame oil in a large frying pan. Add mushrooms, onions, ginger, and garlic powder. Sauté on medium-high heat until onions are translucent, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add beans, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, corn, green onions, paprika, liquid smoke (if using), and salt to food processor. Add the cooked vegetables and flax mixture. Process until smooth. (Alternative: mash beans with potato masher and stir in remaining ingredients.)
  4. Make patties from 1/2 cup of mix, or to desired size. The batter should be easy to handle and should not stick to your hands. If it is sticky, add more breadcrumbs 1/2 tablespoon at a time. It should yield approximately 6 patties depending on the size you make.
  5. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup breadcrumbs onto a plate. Lay down each patty in the breadcrumbs, coating each side. Cook on grill pan or on a lightly oiled frying pan on medium-high heat for 5 minutes each side.

Assemble loco moco plate lunch.

  1. Cook a fried egg and greens as desired. Assemble a plate with 1 veggie patty, 1/2 cup sushi rice, 1/2 cup greens of choice, and 1 fried egg. Top patty with teriyaki sauce or sriracha to taste and sprinkly furikake on rice.

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