I never understood why people ate veggie burgers. Until three years ago, I thought it odd that someone who didn’t want to eat animals would want to recreate a cow-flavored burger. I realize now that I was assuming all veggie burgers were posing as meat imposters. I was also making assumptions about why people chose not to eat meat. I think we’re seeing a trend here: I shouldn’t be making assumptions. We all know the only safe assumption to make is that every cupcake is a good cupcake.
I began eating the meatless burger in Italy. Perhaps the last place on this green Earth you’d hope to be introduced to something processed and packaged. One Tuesday night, my friends and I thought it wise to hit up the Hard Rock Cafe in Rome. I know. What a crying shame. But you know Americans, we can’t stay away from the swill bucket for too long. Upon arrival, I felt compelled to order the same dish as my roommate. Menu envy, I suppose. Hard Rock’s veggie burger. A thick patty that was nutty, texturally interesting, packed with vegetables, and full of smoky grilled flavor. I was one step away from diving into the vegetarian pool. Enamored. I realized that veggie burgers had veg in the title for a reason. They didn’t all have faux meat flavor, nor were they all trying to be a second-rate stand-in for a Quarter Pounder.
Thankfully for me and for the country of Italy, I put my veggie burger exploration on ice and resumed my ‘G’ diet: gnocchi, gelato, gorgonzola. When I returned from Italy, all of the weight that I set out to lose a year before was gone. I was eating well, experimenting with new foods, and interested in giving those colorful patties another go. And though I was genuinely into their flavor, I must admit that the low calorie content is what really led me to the grocery store freezer case. They taste delicious and they’re 120 a pop?! Hot damn.
I tried them all: Boca, Morningstar Farm, you name it. It was like Supermarket Sweep, only on my own dime. But about a year ago, as my eating philosophy began evolving to a more natural, real food approach, I phased most of them out. Along with all other 100 calorie confections. And I bid adieu to behemoth bowls of sugar-free fat-free Jello pudding. It wasn’t you, Mr. Cosby. Because what are all of those ingredients on the back of the box? I asked myself why I, personally, eschewed beef for beefless? In most cases, I’d say beef is the better choice, as long as you’re not vegetarian and you’re not eating beef at every meal. I won’t even get into the green side of things, because you all don’t have 57 minutes to spare. Unfortunately I think it’s already been 57 minutes.
I admit to still loving the taste of Morningstar products, but these days I buy Amy’s if I’m going the veg route. Amy seems to use wholesome ingredients, and her veggie burgers taste like nuts, vegetables, and grains. That’s what I’m going for if I’m not going for a juicy beef burger- the taste of something unique, interesting to the taste buds, something deliciously different atop a soft bun.
This vegan black bean burger is just that. I adore the play of textures created from mashing only half of the beans and leaving half intact. And then there’s the subtle flavor of sauteed vegetables, sweetness from a dollop of ketchup, a spicy kick from cumin and chili powder, and sharpness from dijon.I topped my burger with lettuce, tomato, slices of creamy avocado, and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro. Ba-da bing, ba-da bang, ba-da boom.
Black Bean Burgers (makes 2 large patties)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onions
- 1/4 cup finely chopped carrots
- 1/4 cup finely chopped peppers (any color)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cremini mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 TBSP ketchup
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground chili powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup black beans
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add your onions, carrots, and peppers. Saute for 4-5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds.
Add the ketchup, mustard, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
Remove vegetables from heat and set aside. In a medium bowl, mash half of the black beans with a fork. You can also just grab the beans with your hands and mash them between your fingers if that’s easier.
Form the mixture into two large patties. Place them on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray and bake for 15 minutes at 450°. The burgers will hold together, but they’ll always be slightly mushy and have a tendency to crumble if handled too much. Just place them on a bun using a spatula and garnish with your favorite burger toppings!