Bean burgers sounded like a bit of a stretch for me. I mean, how do you get them to stay together? And, truth be told, I’m not a burger fan. (Shhhh! Don’t tell my husband; he makes great burgers – but for me, it’s still always about getting great toppings that make a burger worth eating, no matter if it’s ground sirloin or chuck.)
When I started looking through various black bean burger recipes, I realized a couple of things: first, that they were constructed a lot like meatballs, with bread crumbs and an egg to hold them together – and second, that bean patties are common. Who knows: Maybe falafels – those balls of ground, fried chickpeas often wrapped in a warm pita – were the inspiration for black bean burgers.
Here’s what I didn’t like about the recipes I came across: Why no ‘bean fushion’? I like black beans, but what about adding in a few red beans or pinto? The flavoring in black bean burgers seemed fairly expected, too: garlic and onions, onions and garlic, sometimes sauteed and sometimes added raw. I figure if you’re already using beans for your burger, you should make it a southwest burger with enough spice and heat to distinguish it from its beefy cousin.
So instead of bread crumbs as a binder, I used ground-up tortilla chips – and I didn’t even bother with onions and garlic; I spiced it as I might a burger with onion powder, garlic powder and then chili powder. I also tossed in a little mayonnaise to hold it together and, to brighten the flavor even more, I added plenty of fresh-chopped cilantro. As for the beans, I decided on a black-pinto combo.
The results? I really wasn’t expecting to like the bean burgers much (I mean, it is still a burger). But the crisped patties melded together with the vivid flavors of beans, cilantro, southwest spices and corn won me over. My kids, too. My husband even had seconds, and said – I kid you not – “I like these better than regular burgers.”