Dec 072009

Let’s be real for a minute. We all know that beefy burgers are bad for us, right? Even if you’re like me and you don’t particularly like 98% of the burgers out there (the rosemary burger at the Bear Tooth Grill in Anchorage is the lone exception, in case you were wondering. And while we’re on the topic of the Bear Tooth, that burger is served with scrumptious garlic-cilantro fries – utterly unfair. Again, I don’t particularly like the fries at 98% of restaurants, but the Bear Tooth is the one place I will get them. Holy digression, Batman!) it doesn’t change the fact that sometimes you just want to eat something that you can hold like a burger, like a sandwich piled so high you have to unhinge your jaw just to shove it in. Ahi burgers are a great way to fill this niche, but what if you live in, ahem, a desert and have spotty access to good seafood?

Rancho Gordo midnight black beans

A lot of people turn to garden-burgers, and they are… oh, how do I put this delicately?… absolute rubbish. I once heard a Brit say that the idea repulsed him, since they call their lawns gardens over there, and he imagined it being full of yard clippings. Really, I don’t think he was far off the mark.

So, because of those disgusting facsimiles of real food, vegetarian burgers get a bad rap that they truly don’t deserve. Done right, they’re substantial and full of flavor. No, they don’t taste like beef, but they’re not supposed to, and in my opinion, they’re much more delicious than all but 2% of the cow burgers out there. They’re far more healthy and honestly I think they’re even heartier and more filling.

You may be thinking “Sure, Stacey, it’s obvious that a tree-hugger like yourself would love these, but what about people who really enjoy meat?” I’ll bring in Exhibit A, The Hubs, one who is much happier than me to eat beef. He actually requests these on a regular basis, so, to borrow an awesome phrase from Heather, they get the stamp of Manproval!

Of course, in a recipe like this ingredients matter. I can’t stress enough how much better these are when used with heirloom beans that I know to be less than a year old, as opposed to the five-to-ten years-old beans that you’ll find in on supermarket shelves. As usual, I have been gaga over the results I’ve gotten with Rancho Gordo midnight black beans, but you will still get good results with supermarket beans – you will just need to cook them longer and use more aromatics and spices to flavor them. Canned beans will work just fine too if you want to make these on short notice.

I think that the only thing that could really make these black bean burgers even better is a good homemade whole-wheat burger bun. I have yet to branch out into those but I shall soon! These were photographed on bagels that had been baked that day. Unconventional, yes, but who am I to say no to using whatever fresh homemade bread I have on hand as an alternative to store-bought buns?

So pull out your stores of black beans and get a-soakin’. Treat yourself to a real black bean burger and revel in the fact that you can finally have a burger that tastes great and is actually good for you!

Black bean burgers on a home-made bagel

Black bean burgers with chipotle ketchup
Adapted from The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook
Serves 8


  • When forming patties, resist the temptation to make them overly large or, most especially, overly thick. When the burgers are on the small side they stay together much better and are still plenty filling.
  • Form the burgers as you need them. The bean mixture does just fine in the fridge, so if you’re going only to eat four burgers, only make four patties and save the rest.
  • I do not recommend cooking spray for cooking the burgers. Too much of the surface of the skillet will be bare during cooking, which can lead to some extremely difficult-to-clean situations later. Use regular canola or olive oil instead.
  • My favorite side for these burgers is sweet potato oven fries. Preheat the oven to 425, slice the potatoes into wedges, toss with a little olive oil and fresh or dried herbs of your choice, and roast until tender and caramelized.

You will need:

  • For the ketchup:
    • 2 fresh Roma tomatoes OR 3 whole canned tomatoes, diced
    • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
    • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
    • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • For the burgers:
    • 3 3/4 cups cooked black beans, cooked with 1/2 an onion, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons cumin, a bay leaf, and several sprigs fresh thyme
    • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
    • Canola oil, for sauteing
    • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
    • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
    • 2-3 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
    • 1 green onion (scallion), thinly sliced
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 3/4 cup fresh whole-grain bread crumbs
    • Whole-grain hamburger buns
    • Burger toppings such as sliced red onion, tomatoes, spinach or leaf lettuce, etc.

To prepare:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients listed for the ketchup in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced and the mixture is a thick sauce, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a nonstick skillet, heat a small amount of the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 yellow onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the bell pepper and remaining garlic and saute until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt (if using), transfer the mixture to a bowl, and let cool. Set the pan aside.
  3. In a food processor, combine the cooked beans, the onion, mixture, the brown rice, cumin, pecans, green onion, and remaining salt (if using). Pulse several times until the mixture is coarsely pureed. Fold in the beaten egg and bread crumbs. Form the mixture into patties (see note above on sizing).
  4. In the same skillet you used for cooking the onion mixture, heat a small amount of canola oil over medium heat. Add the patties and cook, turning once, until nicely browned on both sides and heated through, about 7-9 minutes total.
  5. Put each burger on a bun topped with a dollop of the chipotle ketchup and your favorite veggies. Serve with sweet potato oven fries (see note above).


  • If you want to use canned beans, replace the dried beans with 2.5 15-ounce cans of beans. Try to find a low- or no-sodium brand that you like since most canned beans are loaded with sodium.

  One Response to “Black bean burgers with chipotle ketchup”

  1. We leave Alaska in less than three months, (I’m separating), and I definitely will go try the Bear Tooth’s Rosemary burger. Thanks for the heads up. I hope you’re doing well!

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