Bean-based burgers

All the flavor, none of the meat.


I was at the beach recently, flipping through a food magazine that I grabbed on my way out of Stop & Shop. It was cookout-themed, with recipes for big salads and chicken thighs. Nothing really stood out to me until, suddenly, a burger.

The last time I had a hamburger was probably sometime in 2017. I was never much of a red-meat fan, and in the past couple of years, I’ve ditched it completely. Given that, you can imagine my surprise at the random craving. I decided to find a plant-based compromise.

These black bean burgers were my first-ever attempt at making a veggie burger from scratch. While you might be able to find some premade options in the grocery store freezer section, I bet you’ll prefer the handmade alternative. These patties are stuffed with only good things: quinoa, toasted walnuts, and a heaping half-cup of your favorite veggies. While I opted for bell pepper, carrots, and spinach as my filling, I recommend you go with whatever sounds good to you. Mushrooms, corn, onions, and zucchini are just a few other veggies that would work great here.

Even though I made these burgers my own, I took inspiration and guidance from this recipe by Minimalist Baker. The website offers a recipe that’s less reliant on vegetables, but creates a sturdy enough burger that you can actually grill it. I recommend checking it out if you like char marks or outdoor cooking.

Minimalist Baker’s recipe will also tell you that you can mash beans with a fork, and then fold in spices with a big spoon. I didn’t have much luck with that; my hands did most of the work here. By all means, if you have more success with utensils than I did, let me know for some very high praise. My recipe is below.

Black Bean Veggie Burgers
Serves 4

¼ cup cooked quinoa (can substitute brown rice if desired)
2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
1 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped green onion
½ cup diced veggies of choice (I used red bell pepper, carrots, and spinach)
1 tsp. each chili powder, cumin, and paprika
1 tsp. brown sugar
15 oz. of black beans (1 can)
⅓ cup bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. barbecue sauce

Cook the quinoa according to the package instructions. Mine took about 15 minutes. While the quinoa cooks, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add walnuts, and toast for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool.

Keep the same skillet over medium heat. Add in oil, green onion, and the half-cup of diced vegetables. I recommend adding slower-cooking veggies first, and quicker-cooking ones after the others have softened. Season with salt and pepper, and sauté until all veggies are cooked. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add toasted walnuts to a blender or food processor with chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Blend into a powder.

Drain black beans and let dry slightly. You can pat them gently with a paper towel to speed up this process. Add beans to a large mixing bowl, and mash well with a potato masher, fork, or your hands.

To the bowl of mashed beans, add quinoa, sautéed vegetables, the walnut-spice mixture, bread crumbs, and barbecue sauce. Mix thoroughly with hands or a wooden spoon until a moldable dough forms. If too dry, add a bit more barbecue sauce. If too wet, add more bread crumbs.

Divide mixture into four sections, each about a half-cup in size. To form the patties, roll each section into a ball. Press down gently with hands to flatten into a ¾-inch-thick patty.

Heat the previously used skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot, add a bit of oil or cooking spray to prevent sticking. Then add as many burgers as will fit comfortably in the pan.

Cook each burger for 3-4 minutes, or until well browned on the underside. Flip gently, and cook for 3-4 minutes on the other side. Reduce heat if browning too quickly.

Remove patties from heat to let cool slightly, and prepare any toppings for your burger. Leftovers keep in the refrigerator for two to three days, or can be frozen for up to three weeks.