There are two ways that my husband compliments a meal: "I would eat this on a biscuit!" or "This tastes like it comes from a restaurant!" Never has one meal received both compliments until these burgers... they are pretty much the opposite of a "Quee-noo." (Have y'all seen this commercial? It makes me laugh every time!) While I would not be personally inclined to put black bean burgers on a biscuit, I'll take it! These burgers rival any veggie burger I've had in a restaurant, which truthfully says less about my ability to craft the perfect burger and more about my sad experience with restaurant veggie burgers. Unfortunately, most of the ones I've had are sorely under salted, mushy, and generally lacking all desirable burger qualities... or they came from a frozen box at Costco. Let's take back the veggie burger!
In my book, these burgers are everything a vegetarian burger should be: incredibly savory, a bit spicy, crunchy on the outside, and firm through the middle. To date, they are the most requested meal in our house, and nothing makes me happier than seeing Chase swoon over a meatless meal.
Let's talk burger anatomy. Apart from whatever constitutes the "burger" portion of your burger, there's so much opportunity for brilliance in thoughtfully selecting the supporting elements: buns, toppings, sauces. In our neighborhood, there is a small bread shop that makes the best hamburger buns. Baked fresh everyday, these buns are tall and fluffy, and they come unsliced which protects the inside crumb from drying out.
First step to brilliant burgers at home: super fresh buns, toasted.
Second step to brilliant burgers at home: fancy sauce.
The Pharmacy, a burger shop in Nashville, makes an amazing curry ketchup which inspired me to start mixing flavors into ketchup at home. Here, a chipotle ketchup adds a smokey layer of flavor that I love, and for some tang, I made a spicy lime crema with creme fraiche.
Then there are toppings. I'm a purist in this regard... too many toppings (especially wet ones like sauteed mushrooms) make a burger hard to eat, and they start to compete with sauces (heaven forbid!). The exception is caramelized onions which are always welcome, in any meal! Here, buttery avocado and fresh baby greens give these super flavorful burgers a nice freshness.
After rounds and rounds of flop veggie burgers (too dry, too mushy, under flavored, annoyingly long ingredient lists!), I'm glad to say I've finally landed on a recipe that works. Bonus: this recipe doesn't include an egg, so we can feel good about eating the filling by the spoonful!
Quinoa black bean burgers
Keep these burgers on hand in the freezer or fridge for a quick and satisfying lunch atop a salad, too! They reheat quite well.
What you'll need:
2 cups cooked black beans (or 1.5 cans)
3 cups cooked quinoa
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 T tomato paste
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp olive oil
4 slices pepper jack cheese
handful of mixed greens
spicy lime crema
If you'd like to make your own bread crumbs, start by drying out two pieces of bread in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes. Let cool, then pulverize in a food processor. Roughly mash black beans, quinoa, chopped chipotle peppers, tomato paste, cilantro and bread crumbs until thoroughly combined and sticky. If you are using canned black beans instead of homemade, add 1 tsp each of cumin and salt. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Divide the cooled quinoa and black bean mixture into four equal parts, and form into patties. To ensure your burgers stay together, start by rolling the mixture into a ball, then gently flatten them out into a patty about the same circumference as your buns.
Once pan is hot, scoot patties into the pan and allow to cook for 10 minutes without touching them. Gently flip and cook for 7 minutes on the other side.
Brush the inside of buns with olive oil, and broil inside facing up in the oven for 2-3 minutes until crisp and brown. Smear a generous portion of spicy lime crema to the bottom of each bun and place the cooked burgers top. Top each with a slice of cheese, and return to oven to broil for 1-2 minutes until cheese is bubbling.
Assemble the rest of the burgers with avocado and spring mix. Slice in half and serve with a side chipotle of chipotle ketchup.
1/2 cup ketchup
1 chipotle pepper, finely diced (more to taste)
1 T adobo sauce from the peppers
Add all ingredients to a small bowl and stir to combine. It's of utmost importance to very finely diced the chipotle peppers so you don't get a big bite of pepper! Use up to two chipotle peppers if you dare (I almost always do).
Spicy lime crema
1 8oz container creme fraiche
1 large lime, juiced (or 2 small)
1 T cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
Add all ingredients to a small bowl, stir to combine. Store in a small jar for 1 week (if it last's that long!)