The Best Homemade Veggie Bean Burgers

Like many vegetarians, I spent the first 5 years of my new lifestyle buying boxes of meatless burgers from the grocery store, clumsily figuring out how to cook them without them falling apart or tasting like a tasteless old sofa cushion. Then I started buying them in the “prepared food” and deli section of Whole Foods, but those also weren’t by dream burger. They were too mushy and thick with vegetables I didn’t like, things like carrots and sprouts (yes, we’ve covered this…I am the world’s worst vegetarian).

Progress came when I started eating the homemade Black Bean Burger at the Highland Kitchen in Somerville, MA. Thick and chunky with black beans and topped with guacamole, pico de gallo, and jack cheese, it had all the flavors I craved, but it was a mess. Part of eating it was picking up your fork at the end of the meal to scoop up the dozen generous bites that had plopped onto the plate while you were trying to keep the bun closed by fusing all ten of your fingers together around it. Trying and failing.

Knowing I wanted a burger that was beany and spicy, but also durable, I got into the kitchen and started experimenting. Like soup, veggie burgers are very adaptable, so I don’t think I’ve ever made a matching batch since I got the basics of my recipe down, but they have all been delicious.

Here’s what I do.

I pulse together black beans, corn, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and jalapeno (sometimes also cilantro, but not in this photo) a few times in a food processor until it looks like this:

Then I add some oatmeal and an egg to help bind the mixture together. You could get creative with the oatmeal part and experiment with other swaps…like rice or quinoa.

I pulse the oatmeal and egg with the veggies and beans until the mixture is the consistency I want. How long you pulse it here will determine how “chunky” your final burger is.

I’ll admit it ain’t pretty, but stick with it.

The mixture is transferred to a bowl, where more beans, corn, seasonings, and breadcrumbs are added. You can make your own breadcrumbs or use a traditional version, but I like Panko-style breadcrumbs because they are crispier which gives the burger a better texture. You can also go wild with the seasonings here. I usually do a few dashes each of garlic powder and red pepper flakes, then more (maybe 8 each?) dashes of chilli powder and cumin. Sometimes I add some smoky chipotle seasoning I have.

After it’s all mixed together you can shape it into balls, then lightly flatten them with your palm into patties.  I use a plastic-lined ramekin (or custard cup) as a mold so I get a perfect, uniform shape and size every time.

The best way (in my opinion) to cook a veggie bean burger is on a skillet drizzled with olive oil. Because these babies don’t have any of the natural “grease” found in meat, you’ve got to add a little of your own to get a nice sear. You could still cook them on the grill, but they will need a little more care to make sure they don’t fall apart, and the texture will be drier.

On this day a whole-wheat bun, bed of greens, squirt of ketchup and generous handful of sliced red onions turned my veggie bean burger into a meal.

Pick up and dig in.

I love these things. I make a batch, eat one, then individually wrap the rest on plastic wrap and store them in an old breadcrumbs canister in the freezer (they fit perfectly) so a delicious, healthy, spicy, beany, burger is never far away.

What kind of veggie burgers do you like?

The Best Homemade Veggie Bean Burgers

1 can black beans (15.5 oz), drained and rinsed
1 can corn (8.5 oz), drained
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (keep the seeds and ribs for more heat)
3 small Portabella mushrooms, diced
Handful of cilantro
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup Panko-style breadcrumbs
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper


  1. Put 2/3 of the black beans, 2/3 of the corn, and all of the onion, pepper, jalapeno, and mushrooms into a food processor or blender. Add the handful of cilantro leaves.
  2. Pulse a few times until the mixture is combined, then add the oatmeal and egg.  Pulse again until it’s the consistency you want – more for a smoother texture, less for a chunkier texture.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the remaining 1/3 each of the beans and corn, breadcrumbs, and seasonings to taste.  If the mixture seems too wet, add more breadcrumbs.
  4. Place a skillet over medium heat and drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Form the mixture into patties by using your hands or a plastic-lined ramekin mold.  (For the latter, place plastic wrap over a ramekin, then add a few heaping spoonfuls of the mixture and press into the ramekin.  Lift the plastic up and gently remove the patty from the plastic.)
  6. When the pan is ready, cook the burgers, being careful to turn them gently with a spatula.  Make sure they have a good “seared” bottom before you flip them to help them keep their shape.

Makes 6 burgers.

Individually wrap uncooked leftovers burgers tightly in plastic wrap and freeze.

View and print the recipe for The Best Homemade Veggie Bean Burgers.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

baked sweet potato fries

Unless you’re talking about pizza or an enormous bowl of pasta (and aren’t all bowls of pasta enormous?), I don’t think one item covers it as a complete meal.

It’s like in sugar cereal commercials where at the end of the spot you see a brief flash of the cereal bowl alongside a pitcher of milk, toast, a glass of juice, and some fruit while a rushed voice says “part of this complete breakfast”.

Of course, in that example the extra things are there for “complete nutrition” purposes, but it’s a concept I am on board with.  A sandwich can’t be a meal unless it has something on the side to round it out.  A handful of baked chips, cut up fruit, or three-bean salad works well for me.  So do these baked sweet potato fries.

baked sweet potato fries

Hot, salty, and full of flavor – they partner with the sandwich to convince me that yes, I have a complete meal in front of me, and I shouldn’t let my mind wander to the possibility of a “second supper” a few hours later.

I let it wander to dessert instead.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Adapted from Simply Recipes

2 sweet potatoes, average size
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. seasoning of your choice (I used cumin and smoked chipotle powder)
1 Tbsp. sugar (optional)
Sea salt

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  Put the baking sheet into the oven to heat up while you get the sweet potatoes ready.
  • Peel and cut sweet potatoes into wedges or sticks.  Try to keep the shapes relatively the same size so they will cook evenly.
  • Place sweet potatoes in shallow bowl (or if you’re like me, in a skillet) and add olive oil, seasoning, and a few dashes of sea salt.  Toss to coat, making sure all of the pieces are seasoned.  If you add sugar, it should help the fries get extra brown and crisp when they are in the oven.
  • Carefully remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and arrange the potatoes on it in an even layer, leaving space between each piece.
  • Return the baking sheet to the oven and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Flip all of the pieces and return to the oven for another few minutes until they are lovely and browned.

Makes 2 side servings.

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