Black Bean Burgers Don't Have To Be Bland

Vegetarian burgers have long been maligned, from the inception of the soy burger to the mashed legume black bean burger. Not all meat alternative burgers are equal, but black bean burgers haven't been given a fair shot, because just like black beans can make a delicious addition to taco night, they can also taste great on a burger bun. Part of the reason so many black bean burgers come out below expectations is because we forget to treat them like we would a beef burger. To prevent bland black bean burgers, you need to treat the beans properly.

Whether you use canned black beans or soak them from dry, it is crucial that you remove some of the moisture before moving on to your next steps. Not only will they otherwise fall apart in the cooking process, but wet and moist black beans also won't be able to get a proper sear — the same reason you pat your steak dry before cooking. And not only will getting a proper sear add a satisfying, crispy texture to the patties, but it will actually improve the flavor of the black beans — thanks to a chemical phenomenon known as the Maillard reaction. Excess moisture also dilutes the flavor of the black beans. To dry them properly, allow them to sit on dry dish towels and gently pat dry or put them in the salad spinner for a few rotations before forming them into patties.

Don't forget to dress up your burgers

Many folks think of black bean burgers as bland for the same reason they grew up thinking they didn't like vegetables — too little or no seasoning. Black bean burgers should be properly salted and peppered, just like you would season a beef patty. You can also get experimental with other flavors, depending on the type of burger you're hoping to create. Paprika, garlic granules, chili flakes, and steak seasoning blends all make for a much more complex black bean burger. Along with spices, try infusing the patties with herbs and other additions. Diced garlic, cilantro, panko breadcrumbs, and green chiles complement the starchy flavors of the beans without overpowering them. 

Finally, don't expect a black bean burger to really sing without toppings and condiments. A chipotle mayo, cilantro slaw, salsa, and pickled jalapeños are ideal for a Mexican-inspired veggie burger, for example. You can also top your burgers with a fried egg for additional fat and protein. Because black bean patties won't have the same tender, chewy texture as a meat-based one, you want many types of textures on the burger so that you don't feel like you're chewing through mush. Crisp lettuce, pickled red onions, and tortilla chips add plentiful crunch.