Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Review of "Compassion Over Killing"'s Black Bean Burgers

Veggie burgers are bloody expensive, have you noticed that? I shop in bulk whenever possible, and Bocca burgers and their ilk are nearly twice the cost of meat burgers. That's a wonder, since vegetarian options are normally cheaper than their carnivorous cousins. Also, they're highly processed, and since I read Pollan I'm a bit against processed food when I can get away with something that need not have preservatives or industrial ingredients. Furthermore, the more processed a food is, the more packaging it usually has. In general, premade food is the worst for a semi-vegetarian environmentalist.

My New Year's resolution is to make more food than I'm buying premade this year, no matter how busy and stressed I get, so I'm trying recipes right and left. Compassion Over Killing is a rather hard-line vegan site, but their recipes are usually pretty tasty since they're aimed at the new vegetarian/vegan. I got my favorite tofu taco recipe from them, so I'm willing to look twice at a recipe for black bean burgers. Here's their recipe, with my annotations in parentheses.

Compassion Over Killing's Easy Vegetarian Recipes: Dinner: Black Bean Burgers
Serves 2
      (More like 3-4, with the size of burgers I made. Half the recipe was unwieldy and made a HUGE patty. 1/3 was much more manageable.)

  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained  (Drain them *well*. My mix was too moist and started to fall apart because I missed some liquid.)
  • 1/4 cup diced and sauted onions (I caramelized mine; I love caramelized onions.)
  • 2 slices multigrain bread, finely crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of garlic powder, black pepper, and onion powder (The recipe claims optional. Use these and the salt, they make the house smell delicious and I think the burgers would be bland without it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cracker crumbs (In my version, I used a very very stale piece of bread, turned into crumbs. Waste not food that can be used for something else).

In a large bowl, mash the drained black beans. Add the sauted onions, crumbled bread, and spices. Mix thoroughly. Add about 1/4 cup of cracker crumbs (or just enough to be able to form patties from the mixture). Using your hands, form the mixture into 1/2-inch thick patties. For a breaded burger, gently coat each patty with more cracker crumbs.

In a lightly oiled non-stick pan, fry both sides of the patties. Serve with a garnish of lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and any other condiments on buns or over a bed or rice.

Jane's Review: Really, really delicious and fairly easy to make, if a smidge labor intensive when it comes to crumbling all that bread! I hadn't had black beans outside of a Rubio's side dish, and I really like them in this recipe. My mix was too wet, so the burgers tended to fall apart. I made the second round thinner and that helped a bit with cooking stability.

I talked to my foodie mother, and she told me I should probably let the mix sit for five to ten minutes to let the bread and crackers absorb enough liquid to make it more stable. This is apparently what you do in a meatloaf. The other solution is to add an egg as a binder, which Compassion wouldn't do because they're mostly vegan cooks. Personally, I have no ethical problems with secondary products, so eggs are on my menu.

I served them up as a lazy Sunday dinner with a dollop of salsa, sour cream, and a sprinkling of cheese. The beans give it a nice flavor, especially grilled, and I think they'd crumble well as a ground beef substitute in sauces and fillings.


  1. Hmmm, I may have to try... :-)

  2. Monkey, let me know if you come up with any good variations. I'm new to veg/vegan cooking, so I'm always looking for new recipes!

  3. I tried this recipe and (accidentally) found a different solution to the burgers falling apart. I made them thin (about 1/4"), which is how I've always liked my patties. Then I simply stacked them two high on the sandwich. You'd think thinner patties would crumble more, but I guess the oil may have been able to penetrate a greater percentage of the pattie or something. Either way, same delicious taste, surprisingly less crumbly!