Black Bean Burgers

  • 2 cups well-cooked white, black or red beans, or chickpeas or lentils, or 1 14-ounce can, drained
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • ½ cup rolled oats (preferably not instant)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder, or the spice mix of your choice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • Bean-cooking liquid, stock or other liquid (wine, cream, milk, water or ketchup) if necessary
  • Extra virgin olive oil or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn.

1. Combine all ingredients except liquid and oil in food processor and pulse until chunky but not puréed. If necessary, add a little liquid for a mixture that is moist but not wet. Let mixture rest for a few minutes.

2. With wet hands, shape into patties and let rest again for a few minutes. (Burger mixture or shaped burgers can be covered tightly and refrigerated for up to a day. Bring back to room temperature before cooking.) Film bottom of a large nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet with oil and turn heat to medium. When hot, add patties. Cook undisturbed until browned, about 5 minutes; turn carefully with spatula and cook 3 or 4 minutes until firm and browned.

3. Serve on buns with mustard, ketchup, chutney or other toppings.

Yield: 4 servings.


Substitutions: I’ve made these black bean burgers a number of times and have never needed to use any additional cooking liquid. I skip the spices because I like to drench my burger in organic ketchup. Also, I find the mixture to be difficult to handle so I don’t form patties before cooking them. I like to spoon the mixture into the hot frying pan and shape a patty using a spoon. These burgers can be eaten with or without buns. When I use buns, I like to buy Trader Joe’s whole wheat hamburger buns.

New York Times
February 15, 2006
The Minimalist

Burgers With Lots of Sizzle and None of the Guilt

VEGGIE burgers are nothing new; I remember them from the kosher dairy restaurants of the Lower East Side when I was growing up. But they have gone mainstream — and in the process, for the most part, they’ve become worse.

The most common ones are frozen disks of what seems like library paste. The fact that it’s often organic library paste — soy flour, water, seasonings and “texturizers” — is presumably what makes it acceptable to sell it for $6 or $8 a pound. (Given that many people are accustomed to meat burgers that do not taste not much better, this is hardly a shock.)

As with traditional burgers, those made without meat don’t need a lot of ingredients or an elaborate process to be juicy and delicious. (They can also be prepared on a tiny budget.)

Whether based on legumes, vegetables, nuts or tofu, they can be flavored in a variety of ways and take a number of forms. The same mixtures used for burgers can generate “cutlets,” “meat” loaf or “meat” balls.

My favorite veggie burger starts with cooked or canned beans. But no matter what you use, a food processor is essential, because you almost always want to pulse the primary ingredient into small bits. (Occasionally you’ll want to puree part of the mix, and the food processor does this well too.) You can use a combination of hand chopping, mashing and a blender, but it’s going to be more time consuming.

Vegetables, legumes and nuts don’t have the connective tissue that helps hold meat patties together, so they require a little binder to create a cohesive mass that can be shaped and handled. The idea is to use ingredients that bridge the gap between liquids and solids by capturing the moisture and transforming it into a binder. The starch found in potatoes, beans, grains or breadcrumbs often does the trick. So does a little egg or even butter. In other cases (like the Tofu Burger), simply pureeing some of the tofu, which has both protein and fat, holds everything together nicely.

Grilling veggie burgers is possible, but they’re fragile, so I usually pan-fry them. There are three secrets to a veggie burger with a crisp outer crust and a tender interior: Be sure there is enough hot fat in the pan before cooking. Let the patties cook on one side until it is nicely browned. (If you’re not using a nonstick pan, you’ll know they’re ready to turn because they will release from the pan easily.) Finally, don’t overcook; you want them hot, but not dry.

These three recipes merely suggest a world of possibilities. To the basic mix you could add cheese; spinach; cooked vegetables; soy sauce or herbs; ketchup, tomato paste or chopped sun-dried tomatoes; nuts or seeds; lemon or other citrus zest; and so on. You can also make these patties with mashed potatoes as a base, adding bits of any chopped vegetables you like.

But this will get you started.

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