Burgers Made with Beans and Grains

I eat a lot of veggie burgers. Veggie burgers are one of my go-to meals. When I need something quick and satisfying, a burger does the trick. I have a couple of frozen brands that I like and I always keep some in my freezer, ready to make a quick meal.

But it has certainly occurred to me that I should be able to bypass the frozen brands and simply make my own at home. That gives me complete control over the ingredients, the added flavorings and the freshness. And of course, I can use beans and grains!

Awhile ago, Mark Bittman had an article in the New York Times titled, “No Meat, No Dairy, No Problem“. He presented several meat-free, dairy-free recipes. One of those recipes was for a bean burger. Naturally I was intrigued. It’s such a simple recipe and is just chock-full of good-for-you ingredients. A similar recipe appears in Mr. Bittman’s book, “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”. If you get the recipe from the book, he presents lots and lots of options for the preparation of these burgers.

The time had come for me to give this recipe a try.

I used his recipe from the book which is slightly different than the recipe in the NY Times. The recipe called for 2 cups of drained beans (any variety), one onion cut into quarters, 1/2 cup rolled oats, chili powder, salt and pepper, and some olive oil for pan frying. The book calls for one egg, to act as a binder or if you want the recipe to be vegan, leave out the egg and use a 1/4 cup of vegan mayonnaise.

Bean Burger Ingredients; simple and healthy


You can use canned beans or home cooked beans. If you cook your own, let them cool before making this recipe.  I used garbanzo beans for my burgers, because I like their taste and texture. I used only half of an onion because I didn’t want it to be overpowering.  And I used chili powder, but it occurs to me that many other seasonings would also be delicious (curry powder, Old Bay, a Moroccan spice blend…).

I threw all the ingredients into my food processor and pulsed that until the mixture was broken down but still has some texture. I am going to show you a photo…but be aware that it’s not the most delicious looking thing you’ve ever seen!

Burger ingredients in the food processor. Not very photogenic!


The recipe in the NY Times suggests that you make 4 burgers out of this mixture. I think that results in a patty that is way to big. I divided the mixture into 7 patties. That seemed more manageable. Keep reading…I’ll tell you more about that in a bit.

Patties formed and ready to cook


I heated a large non-stick skillet that I had coated with a tablespoon of olive oil. I cooked the patties three at a time for about 5 minutes on each side. Here is the trick – these patties are a little bit difficult to turn over.  They will have a tendency to fall apart and/or lose their shape. Don’t over crowd the skillet so that there is plenty of space to maneuver. Also  use two spatulas to flip the burgers so that you can keep everything together.

Burgers cooking on the second side


The burgers turned out very  nicely. They were well browned. They had a crunchy exterior and a moist, crumbly interior. They didn’t taste really “beany”. I served them just like a burger; on a bun with tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, mustard and mayonnaise.

My Burger

I took the remaining burgers and froze them. I laid them out carefully in a freezer bag and froze them flat so that they weren’t touching and would not stick together too much. I have used my frozen burgers. I didn’t thaw them. I put the frozen burger on a piece of foil and put it on a hot grill. I am sure that a hot skillet or toaster oven would work as well.

So what’s my take-away? I like these a lot and I will definitely make them again. But I will make one change.  I would divide the bean/grain mixture up into smaller patties, maybe the same diameter but less thick. I think I could easily get 10 patties out of this recipe. I found that if the burger was too thick it had a tendency to smoosh when eaten.

I think that this would great served like you would a crab cake…so it wouldn’t be on a bun, but would be the centerpiece of the meal. You could season it with Old Bay and serve it with tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. You could season the patty as you would falafel and serve it with a yogurt or tzaziki sauce. You could use black beans instead of garbanzos and serve the patty with salsa.

I love that it is so simple to make. I love that it is made with straight-up beans and grains. And I love that it is something that I can make ahead and freeze.

I think there are lots of interesting ways to play around with this recipe. I will be experimenting!