While meat lovers look forward to a Memorial Day barbecue, many people might be looking for a vegetarian option.
With their high protein content, black beans lend meaty substance to veggie burgers. Too often, though, the patties turn to mush. So for this recipe from our book “Cook What You Have,” which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy, weeknight meals, we went looking for ways to improve their texture. The answer was three-fold.
First, we only mash the beans coarsely so that when combined with other ingredients, we’re not left with a smooth paste. Second, we incorporate a significant amount of quinoa — two-thirds of a cup to one 15½-ounce can of beans — to vary texture with little pops of the nutty, high-protein grain (though technically it’s a seed). And finally, we pan-fry the patties until browned and crisp.
To ensure they don’t fall apart, we don’t rinse the beans; the starchy liquid clinging to them helps bind the mixture. We also add egg and panko breadcrumbs, and chilling the formed patties in the refrigerator for 15 minutes firmed them up for easier flipping in the hot skillet.
Flavored with scallions, cumin and paprika, these vegetarian burgers are terrific sandwiched between buns with your favorite fixings. But they’re also satisfying on their own with a tossed green salad.
White, red or rainbow (tricolor) quinoa all work well, so use whatever you have. If you purchased pre-rinsed quinoa, there’s no need to rinse and drain it before cooking.
Start to finish: 1½ hours (20 minutes active)
⅓ cup quinoa (see headnote), rinsed and drained
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
15½-ounce can black beans, drained but not rinsed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
2 scallions, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika OR chipotle chili powder
3 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
In a medium saucepan, stir together the quinoa, a pinch of salt and ⅔ cup water. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then cover, reduce to low, and cook without stirring until the quinoa absorbs the liquid, 13 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, then drape a kitchen towel across the pan and re-cover. Let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork, transfer to a small plate and cool to room temperature, stirring once or twice, about 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, using a fork or a potato masher, coarsely mash the black beans. Add the quinoa, egg, panko, scallions, cumin, paprika and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper; stir until well combined. Form into six 3-inch patties and place on a large plate. Refrigerate, uncovered, to firm up the patties, about 15 minutes.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add the patties and cook until browned and crisp on the bottoms, about 5 minutes. Using a wide spatula, flip the patties and cook until browned and crisp on the second sides, about another 2 minutes.
Optional garnish: Sliced cheese OR sliced tomato OR sliced onion OR lettuce leaves OR sliced pickles OR mayonnaise OR a combination.
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