I remember the very first bean burger I ever ate like it was yesterday. Years ago, new to being a vegetarian, I thought those sad-looking, tasteless packaged veggie burgers were my only options at summer barbecues. Boy, was I wrong. To my delight, my parents took me to a restaurant that offered a vegetarian burger—black bean to be exact—on the menu (not common ten years ago). That day changed my view of veggie burgers, and ever since I've been making my own in as many different ways as is possible. I slightly change it up each time and I'm always testing new recipes.
This black bean and lentil version was inspired by some leftover lentils in my fridge. Not one to waste anything, I thought they'd make for a really great binder instead of the usual egg, which makes them vegan and supertasty! I've made bean burgers that taste great but fall apart on the grill; these burgers passed the grill test. I think the key was twofold: the lentils and the thickness of each patty.
Of course you can cook these on the stove top, too; bean burgers are good year round, not just in the summer!
As an ode to fresh spring produce, I pickled some carrots and radishes for a condiment. It's a nice change to the usual pickle on top, but these bean and lentil burgers will be great with whichever toppings you choose.
Black Bean and Lentil Burgers with Pickled Carrots and Radishes
Makes 6 to 8 patties, depending on size
for the pickled carrots and radishes
1 to 2 carrots, sliced no thicker than 1/8-inch
1/2 bunch radishes, sliced no thicker than 1/8-inch
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp chile flakes, optional
1/4 cup rice vinegar
for the burgers
1/2 cup dried red lentils or 1 cup cooked
1/2 red onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup wheat bran or wheat germ
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup packed cilantro
1 carrot, shredded
2 cups cooked black beans
for the pickled veggies
Place the carrots and radishes in a small bowl and toss with the tablespoon of salt. Let sit for 10 minutes. At this point you should see some liquid in the bottom of the bowl and the veggies will be slightly softer. Rinse off the veggies in a colander and allow to drain completely.
Place back in the bowl, add the sugar, chile flakes, if using, and the vinegar. Allow to sit for at least 2 hours for maximum flavor, but you can also make ahead of time and keep covered in the fridge for up to a week.
for the burgers
If you already have cooked lentils, then you can skip ahead. If not, rinse the lentils and place in a saucepan. Pour in about 2-1/2 cups water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until lentils are soft. Drain if there is any excess water and set aside.
Place the onion and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the onion is minced. Add in the cornmeal, wheat bran, cumin, chile powder, sea salt, and cilantro. Pulse a few more times until everything is well combined. Place this mixture into a large bowl and stir in the shredded carrot.
Place the black beans and cooked lentils in the processor bowl. Blend until the beans and lentils are smooth. Place into the same bowl as the onion mixture and mix well. You can either use a fork or your hands.
Divided the mixture into 8 equal portions and shape into patties with your hands. It's important to make them thick enough so they don't fall apart easily: I find making them no less than 1/2-inch thick is perfect.
Grill the burgers for about 6 to 7 minutes on each side or until browned and grill marks start to show. You can also cook them in a skillet. Heat about a 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Place 4 of the patties in the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, or until browned and crisp on the edges. Repeat with the remaining patties, adding more oil as you go.
Serve with the pickled carrots and radishes and all your other favorite fixings. I love mine on a whole wheat bun with avocado, tomato, lettuce, and mustard. But don't forget about bell pepper, cheese, ketchup, cucumber, whatever you can think of—make it yours!
The burgers can be made a day ahead and stored covered in the fridge before cooking and serving. You can also freeze the patties, tightly wrapped and sealed, for up to a month.
Jacquelyn Scoggin became a vegetarian at the age of 16 and has since been in the kitchen whipping up meals for her family and friends. She writes and photographs her love for vegetarian food on her blog, So Good & Tasty. In 2009, she and her husband started Slide Sideways, a graphic design and handmade business. They maintain their love for the environment by using organic fabric, recycled paper, and environmentally friendly cleaning products.