Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spicy Black Bean Patties

What vegetarian doesn't like veggie burgers? I think that pretty much anyone who makes the decision to become vegetarian or vegan goes through a phase of relying on things like veggie burgers as a simple way to fill out a meal. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of good veggie burger options out there, but when I began to care more about eating whole foods and less processed and packaged items, I realized that many of the veggie burgers available are made up of a very long list of ingredients that don't sound particularly healthy or delicious. I set out looking for ways to construct my own "burgers" out of ingredients that taste good and are actually good. The first recipe I ever tried, and still my favorite today is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Spicy Black Bean Patties. Not only is the flavor of these patties hearty, smoky and rich, but because they are packed full of vegetables, they taste bright and fresh. I must mention right off the bat that I decided to call this recipe Black Bean Patties, rather than Burgers for a reason: I don't really think they taste good on a bun. While they can, of course, be slathered in ketchup and eaten on a roll (and my husband eats them this way quite frequently), I think that the texture of the mashed beans is too soft to hold up against a roll. The soft bread and the soft beans are too similar and tend to meld together into one texture. You can serve them however you like, but I tend to best enjoy them alone, paired with various sides, and not as a sandwich.

Preparing these burgers is not complicated at all, but it does take a moderate amount of time. The best thing about this recipe is that you can make the entire thing up to a day in advance (maybe more than a day...haven't tested that out). When you have formed all the patties, simply wrap them in saran wrap or in a tupperware separated by wax paper. About a year ago for July 4th, J and I were camping and I brought four of these patties along in our backpacks all day to cook over the fire at night. I think our meat-eating fellow campers were actually jealous.

Begin by gathering all of the ingredients:
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp oregano
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cups cooked black beans
1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/8 cup whole wheat flour
1/8 cup cornmeal or grits
nonstick cooking spray

Saute the onion, garlic, oregano and peppers until tender. In a large bowl, mash the beans with a pastry masher or a fork until they are pretty well broken up.
Mix in the cooked veggies and all other ingredients except the flour and cornmeal. Use your hands to really mush everything up. You may want to let the veggies cool a bit before you add them, so as to not burn your hands, but usually I'm too impatient. The moisture from the veggies really combines with the beans to make a texture that is easily formed into 6 round balls. Flatten each ball into a hearty patty with your hands and set aside. Mix the flour and cornmeal together in a shallow dish and coat each patty lightly in the mixture. This last step is really optional, but I find that it goes a long way to keep the patties together and creates a tiny crust on the outside which is delicious.

Heat a cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium high heat and spray with cooking spray or oil. I usually cook three patties at a time. Place the patties in the pan and cook until toasty brown, then flip. Sometimes I spray the pan again when I flip the patties. That tiny bit of oil goes a long way to crisp up the outsides. Serve the patties with any assortment of sides you wish. Most of the time we go with grilled or baked vegetables or a big salad. Sometime we'll serve some rice or other starch, and as I mentioned, J usually eats one with a bun. I find that ketchup or barbecue sauce mask the delicate flavor of the patties, to I prefer to put a bit of pico de gallo or salsa on top and leave it at that. However you make them, these patties are a definite winner and put any veggie burgers you can buy in the freezer case to shame.


  1. There's only two brands of veggie burgers I like, but I think the homemade ones are SO much better!

  2. Lately, I've been experimenting with lentil burgers. Haven't perfected them yet...still too mushy, but getting there. I agree, the ones made out of real food are better tasting AND better for you!