For a long time, bean burgers and veggie burgers in general made me suspicious. As a pretty loyal fan of those other burgers made of cow meat (you may have heard of them), everything that pretended to be a contender for their soft hamburger bun throne immediately made me eager to defend their meaty honor. Because let’s be honest: anything from turkey to tofu to beans that pretends to be beef in the name of healthier living is going to fall pitifully short.
But then at some point, in my beefy pride, I realized something: a lot of those sandwiches were pretty good. I don’t mean the dry and tasteless patties from the freezer section or carelessly assembled turkey burgers, but honest-to-goodness delicious sandwiches made from either low-fat or meatless ingredients in the name of better eating. There are honestly some delicious sandwiches out there, and as soon as I started eating them for their own sake and stopped comparing them to the reigning burger champion, they began to shine in their own light.
So I, as I often do, decided to take it upon myself to attempt to create my own awesome version of some of these great patties. Because here’s the unfortunate problem with meatless burgers: they’re usually either not very good, or not very cheap. I’ve been at a few restaurants that serve amazing veggie burgers, and I’ve even tried some great ones from the store, but in general they’re either chalky or mushy and fairly flavorless if you’re not paying a professional to prepare it for you.
These bean burgers are my best effort so far, and I’m going to continue experimenting with other variations in the future. I’m obviously biased, but I think they’re pretty darn good. They’re low fat and vegan, hearty and flavorful without pretending to be meat, and hold up texturally a lot better than earlier drafts Rachel and I have created. Since they’re bean burgers, they still are fairly soft compared to a meat patty, but I used vital wheat gluten and grains to give a little more bind and texture.
There is plenty of room to improvise on this recipe, so as always please play around with it and let me know what you improve. If you’re on the fence about veggie burgers though, this is a great place to start. Enjoy!
Black Bean Burgers Recipe
4-6 ounces mushrooms
1 poblano pepper
1/2 medium onion
3 gloves garlic
11/2 cups (cooked) grain such as brown rice or barley
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten (or something like bread flour if you can’t find the gluten)
2 tablespoons flax meal
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
3 cups cooked black beans, drained
salt, pepper, and spices to taste (things like thyme, oregan, cumin, coriander work really well depending on what direction you want to go)
Chop and sautee your veggies, then set aside. Don’t worry too much about how consistent your pieces are, since they’ll get all blended up soon anyway.
Take your rice or barley and prepare normally, then set aside to cool as well. It’s okay if it’s a little underdone or “chewy”, it’s designed to help the texture.
Toss the veggies and grains in a large food processor, and process fairly thoroughly. You’ll be continuing to process as you go, so it’s fine if it’s not completely or evenly chopped.
Add the gluten and mix in thoroughly. Mix the flax meal and the liquid ingredients and let sit for a few minutes, then blend that in as well.
Now for the beans. Add them in a cup at a time, and process. I let them stay fairly “rough”, there were even a few whole beans left in the mix. Mix in the rest of the spices and flavors, by hand if you prefer. Leave the mixture in the fridge to cool for about an hour.
When you’re ready to cook, heat a cast iron pan to medium high heat. You can use other kinds of cooking surface, but I think cast iron will do the best for you. When the pan is hot enough, oil it generously and drop some scoops of your bean mixture onto the pan.
After a minute or two, flatten the scoops into patties with a spatula. Alternatively, you can pre-form the patties and place them as-is, but I think this works a little better for me this way. It’s still a pretty sticky mixture, so don’t worry if it takes a little finagling to get it to work for you.
Give the patties time on both sides to get some good crust and color. This helps both the flavor and texture of the patties, since the crust tastes more crispy and cooked and helps hold together the mushiness a little better.
Continue the same process until your bean mixture is used up, and serve on some delicious sandwich rolls. It’s a good idea to use a soft bread since a tougher sandwich will tend to smush the burgers. Garnish with avocados, red cabbage, or your accoutrements of choice. I also used my favorite chipotle paste to mix up some chipotle ketchup, which worked really well in this sandwich.
What do you think? Any veggie burger experts out there with some more advice on how to improve the formula? Any favorite recipes of your own?