Super Burger-y Bean Burgers

As you  may remember, sometimes, I cook! And right now, I’m pretty obsessed with these awesome bean burgers.

Now, I tend to divide bean burgers into two categories: beany bean burgers and burgery bean burgers. The former are beautiful, spiced bean patties that are delicious and experimental. They do not hide the fact that they aren’t meat, and they don’t give a damn. The latter, however, are those burgers that are satisfying due to their very burgerness–savory, chewy, and great with some melted cheese and all the fixins. These burgers definitely fall into the latter category, and are easily the burger-iest burgers I’ve ever made–definitely the kind of burgers that will make less-receptive eaters says, “I can’t believe it’s not meat!…Well, I can, but Sweet Baby J, is this thing delicious!” And, to top it off, they’re vegan (sans cheese, obviously)! I’m planning on making these bad boys for 4th of July noms.  I’ve only pan-fried them before, but I’m hoping to test them out on an electric grill (think George Foreman).

Finally, always give credit where credit is due: this recipe is my adaptation of Robin Robertson’s Independence Burgers from Party Vegan.

Makes four good-sized burgers

  • 1 cup cooked black beans, drained and rinsed (although you can substitute kidney beans, black beans give the burgers an overall look closer to ground beef or bison; you can also used canned beans, but they don’t taste as good in my opinion)
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped yellow onion
  • 3 – 4 good-sized cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup corn (fresh or frozen & thawed in a bowl of cold water)
  • 1/2 cup vital gluten flour (the kind you use for seitan)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (I use tamari)
  • 1/2 tsp veg Worcestershire sauce (Mark Bittman’s got a great recipe; feel free to add more to taste)
  • A few splashes of liquid smoke to taste (I use hickory)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper or more to taste
  • Olive oil for frying

In a food processor, finely chop the beans, walnuts, onion, and garlic. If you have a small food processor like I do, get out your Janky Spatula (you know, the ratty one you don’t care about that’s gotten cut, chopped, pocked, and scratched from scraping the insides of your incredibly full food processor/blender while the blade’s still in place) and then add the gluten flour a little at a time, using the spatula to help mix it in so that all the flour doesn’t end up sitting on the top or bottom of the mixture. Now add the soy sauce, veg Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, salt, and pepper, mixing again to avoid all the liquid/dry spices hanging out at the top. As you run the food processor, stop every few pulses to scrape any still-dry gluten flour off the sides and bottom of the processor well. Process until well-combined, but with some texture remaining–remember: you want chewy burgers, not pureed black beans.

Split the mixture evenly into four balls, and then smush and shape each into patties of desired diameter/thickness. If the  mixture is too wet, add a little more gluten flour and knead together. Pause time–if cooking these patties immediately, arrange them on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. If making them in advance, tightly wrap the burgers (or, as I would do, avoid even making patties and wrap the whole ball of burger mix) and pop ’em in the freezer. Don’t forget to give them time to thaw out when you’re ready to cook ’em.

In a large skillet, heat a small amount of oil over medium heat–if you really want the outsides to be crispier, pan-fry them for real in a thin layer of oil. I tend to only add just enough oil to give them what would naturally come out of animal products, which (to me) is approximately a tablespoon. Add the burgers and cook until browned on both sides, turning once (about 4 – 5 minutes per side at this temp; feel free to turn down the heat and cook them more slowly if you’re running around the kitchen doing a lot of other prep).

My preferred serving style: once I’ve flipped the burgers and the second side is cooking, I assemble a layer of cheese slices on top to allow it to melt without overcooking one side of the burger (which, in turn, is easiest if you’ve sliced your cheese while the patties are in the fridge). Once the burger is almost ready, I toast my buns (oh my!), grab some of the onion I sliced into rings at the beginning of the burger prep, some sliced tomato, and a big ol’ piece of romaine and stack it up. Perfect with homemade french fries, macaroni and cheese, steamed veggies, a salad, you name it!

One last note about this recipe–the texture is so chewy and the mixture stays together so well (unlike some bean burgers, which can tend toward dryness/crumbliness) that this would make a great replacement for “ground meat” soy analogs (feel free to leave out the corn in that case, if so desired). Shape this stuff into smaller balls if you like meatballs, or crumble it into your pan and fry it a little for a great bit of texture and protein in homemade marinara/red sauce for pasta (Bean Burger Helper, anyone?). You could easily slice it for pizza “sausage”, too.


About Chelsea
I'm currently pursuing my MFA in Writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. My ideal career path involves using writing, publication, and writing education to enact progressive social change.

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