What is the No Buns Challenge, you ask? It’s a thing that I completely made up whereby I try to eat sandwich/burger items all week without using bread or buns of any variety.
I’m going to immediately follow that description with the disclaimer that I don’t currently have any restrictions on my diet. I eat dairy, meat, and gluten. That said, the ‘No Buns’ challenge that I brought upon myself was motivated by a couple of reasons:
- I’ve noticed that a lot of you are paleo/gluten-free, and I wanted to gain a little bit of insight into what those diets consist of. I was by no means completely paleo or gluten-free for the week, but I did learn a lot about these diets, including what’s allowed and what’s restricted, and how difficult it can be to comply.
- I am currently in a pre-summer cut (nothing extreme, and I am not competing) which means a low carb and calorie deficit diet temporarily, so the no buns challenge was a fun way for me to out-of-the-box come up with some cool ideas for bread alternatives to help me get my beach bod in order.
In preparation for the challenge, for Sunday’s meal prep I used my George Foreman to grill up a dozen chicken burgers to get me through the week. *Cue really dramatic photos of chicken burgers*
I also got super into the burger theme for the week, and picked up some Bubbies Sauerkraut, Mother In Law’s kimchi, and pickles to have as sides/toppings for my burgers. Without further adieu, let’s get into my meals for the week!
‘Bun’ 1 – Portobello Mushroom Buns
Whoever thought to use Portobello mushroom caps as burger buns was a genius. Unfortunately, it wasn’t me. All you need to make this into a reality is two portobello mushroom caps. Simply remove the stems and scrape out the gills from underneath the caps, grill them up (I used my George Foreman again), and you’re ready to go! I also added a sunny side up egg, swiss cheese, avocado, lettuce, and tomato to the burger, and had some kraut and a pickle on the side. The really amazing thing about using the portobello mushroom cap as a bun is that it’s so juicy and flavorful that you don’t need any additional sauce or spread to liven up your meal. The only downside is that this is a messy dish, and I resorted to finishing it up with a fork and knife.
‘Bun’ 2 – Collard Green Wrap
Let’s go ahead and add ‘wrapping a collard green leaf wrap’ to the list of things I’m not good at. I made a huge mess with this one. As messy as it was, though, it was still really delicious. The collard greens leaf adds an earthy sweet flavor to the meal, and also gives it really good texture. It’s also pretty easy to put together (minus the actual wrapping part) because you can use mostly raw veggies to fill it up. I filled mine with a chicken burger, tomatoes, red peppers, mushrooms, avocado, kraut, kimchi, and goat cheese.
‘Bun’ 3 – Grain Free Cashew Bun
THESE. ARE. AMAZING. Seriously, I highly recommend. The cashews in this recipe make for a subtly sweet bun, and the texture really mimics that of actual bread. You can find my original inspiration for these buns here.
- 1.5 cups raw cashews
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup of milk (any variety of regular or nut milk works)
- 4 tblsp melted butter or ghee (or coconut oil)
- 1/3 cup coconut flour
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
- Line a baking sheet in parchment paper.
- Place the cashews, eggs, vinegar, milk, and butter into a food processor and blend until smooth.
- Add the coconut flour, baking soda, almond flour, and salt, and blend again until smooth.
- Shape the dough into buns (I made 5 buns roughly the size of regular hamburger buns) using wet hands and place on your parchment lined baking sheet. Wet hands ensures that the dough doesn’t stick to you, which ensures less mess.
- Bake for around 20 minutes. Check on them around the 15-17 minute mark for firmness, and a golden brown color. Once they’re firm and they have a nice color, they’re done.
In my recipe, I used skim milk and ghee, and my yield was 5 buns. The resulting nutrition facts of each bun are as follows:
- Protein – 13g
- Carbs – 19g
- Fats – 32g
- Calories – 416
Ok, so these buns are fairly high in calories and fat, but the up-side is that they’re full of healthy fats from the cashews, and they have a decent amount of protein. I’m going to mess around with this recipe to see if I can make it a bit more macro friendly, but as it stands, I still think they’re worth it. I used one bun and sliced it in half to make a top and bottom. To this burger, I added lettuce, tomato, kraut, and goat cheese, and had a pickle on the side. Overall, the cashew bun provided the best flavor and the most similarity in texture and functionality to a regular bun, but was slightly dry.
‘Bun’ 4 – Collard Green Pinwheels
Since I had so much trouble with the collard green wrap, I figured I would try a similar dish that was easier to assemble. I layered the leaf with a chicken burger, tomato, peppers, and goat cheese (which was kind of the glue to hold it all together), and wrapped it up almost like a sushi roll. Then I sliced it up to make pinwheels. The pinwheels were definitely easier to make and eat than the wrap.
‘Bun’ 5 – Paleo Parsnip Buns
These had me a little bit nervous because when I tasted them, they were very sweet from the parsnips. When paired with savory items, though, the sweetness actually works really well to balance out the flavors. I smothered this burger with sautéed mushrooms and onions, and used two separate buns for a top and a bottom (I did not split them like I did the cashew bun). I would also recommend pairing this with a sharp cheese. You can find my original inspiration for these buns here.
- 1/4 cup coconut flour
- about 2.5 oz of parsnips
- 1/4 cup any milk variety, or water
- 2 eggs
- Salt/pepper/seasonings of choice to taste
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Use a food processor to blend the parsnips and coconut flour. Once crumbly, add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
- Using damp hands, separate the dough and flatten into rounds on the parchment paper. If you make these too thin they might fall apart. I made mine about 1/4 inch thick.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until dry on top and slightly browned on the bottom.
In my recipe, I used water, and my yield was 5 buns. The resulting nutrition facts of each bun are as follows:
- Protein – 3g
- Carbs – 7.5g
- Fats – 1.5g
- Calories – 56
Overall, these were a close second to the cashew bun in functionality as a bun to hold together my burger, but they did keep the flavor of the parsnips (you can also use carrots), so you have to like that sweet flavor to make these work. Although, as mentioned earlier, the sweetness of the bun was well-balanced if you put savory ingredients in between. Or, you can probably play off the sweet flavor and use them in a dessert!
I would consider the no buns challenge to be a success! My definitive ranking of ‘buns’ from most favorite to least is as follows:
- Cashew Bun – Pro: Amazing taste, amazing texture, high functionality, and super filling; Con: High cal
- Portobello Bun – Pro: Amazing taste, super juicy, low cal; Con: Very messy
- Collard Green Wrap – Pro: Low cal, great crunchy texture; Con: Messy
- Paleo Parsnip Bun – Pro: High functionality, makes a nice clean burger; Con: Tastes very much like parsnips
- Collard Green Pinwheels – Pro: Low cal, great crunchy texture, less messy than the wrap version; Con: You can’t fit as much stuff into a pinwheel as you can a wrap.
I hope you try these no bun options next time you’re in the mood for a sandwich or a burger! Tag me in anything you make from my page, I’d love to see what you wind up doing with the inspiration!
Stay fit and fresh, all!