The Simplest Bean Burgers
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings
TIME: 20 minutes with cooked beans
This is the way to go when you want a burger and have neither the time nor the inclination to fuss. When made with chickpeas, they’re golden brown and lovely; with black beans, much darker; with red, somewhere in between. Lentils give you a slightly grainy texture.
There are, of course, an infinite number of ways to jazz these up (see the variations, as well as 13 Ways to Build Delicious Burgers), but this has good flavor and texture and is excellent served on a bun with the usual fixings.
If you start with beans you’ve cooked yourself especially well-seasoned ones the results will be even better, and you can put the bean-cooking liquid to good use (I usually don’t use the liquid from canned beans, which often has a tinnier taste than the beans themselves). Like almost all veggie burger mixtures, these will hold together a little better if you refrigerate them first (ideally you’d refrigerate both before and after shaping, but that’s only if you have the time).
2 cups well-cooked white, black, or red beans or chickpeas or lentils, or one 14-ounce can, drained
1 medium onion, quartered
1/2 cup rolled oats (preferably not instant)
1 tablespoon chili powder or spice mix of your choice (to make your own, see Chili Powder)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bean-cooking liquid, stock, or other liquid (wine, cream, milk, water, ketchup, etc.) if necessary
Extra virgin olive oil or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, as needed
Combine the beans, onion, oats, chili powder, salt, pepper, and egg in a food processor and pulse until chunky but not pured, adding a little liquid if necessary (this is unlikely but not impossible) to produce a moist but not wet mixture. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes if time allows.
With wet hands, shape into whatever size patties you want and again let rest for a few minutes if time allows. (You can make the burger mixture or even shape the burgers up to a day or so in advance. Just cover tightly and refrigerate, then bring everything back to room temperature before cooking.) Film the bottom of a large nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet with oil and turn the heat to medium. A minute later, add the patties. Cook until nicely browned on one side, about 5 minutes; turn carefully and cook on the other side until firm and browned.
Serve on plates with any of the accompaniments listed in Serving Burgers, or on buns with the usual burger fixings. Or cool and refrigerate or freeze for later use.
Simplest Vegan Bean Burger. Many options: Omit the egg, obviously. Add 1/2 cup Mashed Potatoes; or 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal or short-grain rice (white or brown); or 1/4 cup Vegannaise; or 1/4 cup miso or 1/2 cup tofu.
Bean-and-Cheese Burger. As a flavor-adder, cheese can’t be beat, plus there are two bonuses: You don’t have to mess with melting cheese on top of the burger, and for the most part it acts as a binder. Add 1/2 to 1 cup grated Parmesan, cheddar, Swiss, Jack, mozzarella, or other cheese to the mix (you can omit the egg if you like).
Bean-and-Spinach Burger. Of all the veggies you can add to a burger, I like spinach. You can leave it uncooked and just shred it if you prefer (figure about 2 cups), but this gives better results; it’s great with a little garlic added: Squeeze dry and chop about 1 cup cooked spinach (you’ll need about 8 ounces of raw spinach to start, or you can use frozen spinach); add it to the mix and proceed with the recipe.
Bean-and-Veggie Burger. Many options, but don’t overdo it or the burger will fall apart (for more veggie-laden burgers, see The Basics of Veggie Burgers): Add up to 1/2 cup carrots, bell peppers, shallots, leeks, celery, potato, sweet potato, winter squash, zucchini, or a combination. Cut into chunks as you do the onion and grind with the beans or shred or mince and add afterward.
High-Protein Bean Burger. The soy gives it just a little boost: Instead of rolled oats, use rolled soy (soy flakes).
13 Ways to Build Delicious Veggie Burgers
There are more ways to vary the burgers in this section than I can imagine, but here are a few ideas. The basic rules are to make sure the mixture is neither too dry nor too wet (if you find yourself in the first situation, add a liquid ingredient; in the second, add some oats, ground rice powder or flour, cornmeal, flour, bread crumbs, or the like). But as for flavors, the sky’s the limit.
- Fresh herbs. You can almost not go wrong with fresh herbs, as long as you don’t use overwhelming amounts. Add up to 1/2 cup parsley, basil, or dill leaves; somewhat less of mint, cilantro, or chervil; a tablespoon of oregano or marjoram; or only a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme, tarragon, or rosemary.
- Dried herbs. Use by the pinch; to really get the seasoning right, taste and adjust it (you can cook a little bit first if you don’t want to taste it raw).
- Spices. The spice mix chili or curry powder, for example (to make your own, see Hot Curry Powder) is an easy way to go, but you can combine fairly small amounts (usually 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon) of various spices as you like. Try, for example, smoked paprika, cumin, and ground chiles; coriander, cumin, ginger, and cardamom; or anything else that appeals to you.
- Garlic. Can’t go wrong, really. Add 1 teaspoon or more minced garlic to the mix, or a tablespoon or more Roasted Garlic, with a little of its oil.
- Chiles. For heat, you can simply add cayenne, hot red pepper flakes, or the like. But if you want some texture, you might include 1/4 cup or more roasted (or canned) green or red chiles.
- Soy sauce or miso. Just a tablespoon or so of soy sauce, but up to 1/4 cup of any miso; you can omit the egg if you like.
- Ketchup, salsa, or mustard. Up to 1/3 cup of ketchup or salsa (both of which are pretty good); 1 tablespoon or so of Dijon or other mustard.
- Nuts or seeds. The nice thing about nuts is the crunch; see Fast Nut Burgers for more details. Add 1/4 cup or so of sesame or sunflower seeds and up to 1/2 cup nuts or pumpkin seeds toward the end of the processing so they don’t become too powdery.
- Lemon, lime, or orange zest. The slight acidity brightens the taste.
- Tomato paste. A tablespoon or two will give the burgers nice color and a more complex flavor.
- Mushrooms. Add a tablespoon or so of dried mushrooms, soaked and cooked, as you would any other vegetable (see number 12). Or use up to about 1/2 cup raw, trimmed and added along with the oats and beans.
- Cooked veggies. Milder flavor, softer texture than raw veggies (see Bean-and-Veggie Burger): Add up to a cup of cooked vegetables onions, greens, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, zucchini whatever you like. If you use potatoes and add them to the food processor along with the beans, you can omit the egg and oats.
- Cooked grains. All-grain burgers tend to be mushy and uninteresting, but adding a bit of grains to other burgers results in a terrific light texture. Feel free to add up to a cup of cooked grains, along with the beans. Omit the oats and, if you like, the egg.