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Black Bean Burgers

February 22, 2011

Don’t get me wrong, I can devour a big, juicy cow-burger with the best of them. One of the comforting things about moving away from my home country was the knowledge that a Big Mac would never be too far away. (As it stands, I’ve eaten 2 Big Macs and a Whopper in England, which is more fast food burgers than I had eaten in the previous year.)

American food binges aside, meat – and red meat in particular – is not necessarily something you want to eat every day.

As a proud omnivore, I’m not usually a fan of “vegetarian alternatives” like fake meat. I think there are plenty of vegetables that taste great on their own without resorting to tofu manipulated to resemble animal flesh. Even though black bean burgers are an obvious alternative to the ground beef classic, they aren’t trying to be like meat. They taste pretty much how you’d expect, which is pretty damn tasty.

This particular recipe is a go-to dinner for me because all of the ingredients are things I usually have on hand. When you compare them to the frozen kind, these burgers are a perfect example of making a better homemade version at a fraction of the cost.

They don’t take too long, either. If you want to be really speedy about it, you can even make the whole thing in a food processor, but I tend to chop by hand for a chunkier texture. For extra credit, you can even make a bunch and freeze them.

I got this recipe from Allrecipes years ago, but I’ve made some pretty big changes along the way.

Looking at this picture, I’m realizing that 80% of my dinners start out this way: onion, bell pepper, jalapeño and garlic. I don’t always include the jalapeño; it obviously increases the heat but doesn’t change the overall flavor that much. You can speed this up with a food processor, but drain out any excess liquid.

Mash up about 1.5 cups of cooked black beans (or one can, drained). I overcooked these a bit, which is perfect for the burgers.

Add a little elbow grease, and…

Toss in the chopped veggies, some cumin, chili powder and an egg. Sometimes I add a splash of lime here too.

Mix it all up and then add dried bread crumbs a little at a time until the mixture just comes together. The amount varies, but it’s usually about half a cup.

Heat up a skillet to medium and add a drizzle of olive oil. Spread a medium red onion, sliced, over the pan and cook for a minute. This onion bit isn’t crucial, but it’s highly recommended.

Then move the onions around as you place the burgers on the surface of the skillet. You end up with your burgers nestled in among the onions. This is another opportunity to drizzle lime juice over everything.

Cover and cook for 7-9 minutes on each side until golden brown. (I have also cooked these on a grill, but they tend to fall through the bars, so cooking them on a piece of foil is recommended.)

Melt cheese on top and eat with the grilled onions and your favorite burger fixings: ketchup, mustard, lettuce and tomato, the list goes on. Since it’s got a Southwestern flavor, it’s really good with salsa and/or pickled jalapeños.

Just don’t panic if the burger is too large for your bread:

Black Bean Burgers

Makes 4-6 burgers
Adapted from Laurenmu on Allrecipes

1½ cups black beans (or a 16-oz can, drained)
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, minced
Optional: 1 jalapeño, minced
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 Tablespoon chili powder (hot or mild)
1 egg
~1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
Drizzle of olive oil for cooking

1 medium red onion, halved and sliced
juice of one lime
slice of cheese for each burger

1. In a medium bowl, mash beans into a puree.
2. Add onion, peppers, garlic, cumin, chili and egg to the beans and stir together.
3. Stir in breadcrumbs a little at a time until the mixture can be molded into “patty” shapes.
4. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and stir for a minute.
5. Form bean-mixture into patties and place on the surface of the skillet. (Move the onions around while you do this so the burger is touching the skillet.) Drizzle with lime juice if you like.
6. Cover and cook for 7-9 minutes on each side until the burger is golden brown. (~15 minutes total.)
7. Enjoy on a bun or bread with your favorite burger fixings.

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