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The Best Bean Burger, Well So Far

The first rule for vegans ought to be, “Forget about trying to fool carnos with meatless analogs.” A “realistic” homemade meatless hamburger has too much prep and unexpected ingredients (beets for bloodiness), while the new generation of store-bought patties is highly processed and unexpectedly expensive.

But happy childhood memories of frankfurters spring from the mouthfeel and even the taste of a carrot coney. Then this summer I found the best bean burger to date. You can’t reasonably expect to fake a beef burger, but there’s no reason not to discover or modify* recipes for the veggiest veggie burger. (* “Modify” because nothing is original, nothing.)

Previously, my go-to, no recipe needed, comprised all or part of a drained can of black beans partially mashed with some onion, a few spoons of salsa, mashed into patties. Quick, tasted OK, too mushy.

Then web surfing finally landed on Quinoa Burger from Feel Good Foodie. Yumna Jawad’s clear recipe taught the burger “dough” should be far dryer than any I’d tried.

Jawad led me to take the grain component more seriously. My main adaptation was using leftover cooked grain, not cooking quinoa just for this, and for me forms a half-dozen burgers. It’s easily doubled. I usually have cooked grains in the fridge left over from something else.

Would ours beat hamburgers in a blind test? Nor would factory patties. But it’s the tastiest, toothiest and simplest burger — not to mention whole-food plant-based no-oil vegan — to pop in a bun with all the fixin’s.

  • 1 15 oz. can pinto, kidney or black beans
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa or cooked rice, cold to room temperature
  • 3 oz tomato paste (half a small can)
  • 1/3 cup panko OR matzo meal OR dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried garlic granules OR powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. Drain and reserve liquid from can of beans. Do not rinse beans.
  2. Place beans in medium mixing bowl and mash but leave about a third holding their shape. Use fork, potato masher or a hand.
  3. Add to bowl remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly but gently. The “dough” will be on the dry side, a little dryer than ground beef at this stage. If too dry (perhaps from using cooked rice), add a little reserved bean liquid, just a tablespoon or two.
  4. Form 2.5- to 3-ounce patties by hand, placing them on a plate etc. This recipe makes 6 approximately 3-ounce patties.
  5. Preheat skillet on medium. Add the least amount of oil appropriate for the skillet to prevent sticking. Place burgers in with sides not touching. Cook 4-5 minutes, flip and cook 3-4 more minutes. These burgers can be grilled instead.
  6. Serve as you’d like, buns or not, traditional or exotic condiments and so on.


  • Dried onion and garlic are better than fresh as the former absorbs a little liquid. Same principle with using dried herbs.
  • Firmer beans preferred so black, kidney or pinto over white. Chickpeas and lentils have a good texture but would be unappetizingly pale. Also, while rinsing beans does remove some salt and perhaps a slimy feel, you lose nutrients, and the “ick” factor disappears in forming the burger dough.
  • After Step 3, the bowl of burger dough can be refrigerated, covered, for a couple of days. Or fry some patties then form and cook the remainder later. Usually I separate all into patties, place on a cutting board or plate and freeze; when frozen (doesn’t take long) I gather them into a plastic bag and return to the freezer. Do not thaw frozen patties but place them directly in the preheated skillet or on the grill; the frying time is about the same.
  • What happened to the “quarter-pounder” concept? It’s too big a patty — the veggie patty does not shrink like even a lean beef patty does. A 3-ounce burger is satisfying, and there’s nothing wrong with making a couple more by going with 2 to 2.5-ounce patties. Yes, I use a digital kitchen scale for dividing the dough.
  • An alternate to the cooked quinoa or cooked rice is uncooked rolled oats, either traditional or quick. Like cooked quinoa, raw oatmeal will not need extra bean liquid for the best consistency.
  • Rather than fried in a skillet or on a griddle, these burgers certainly could be baked. Time and temperature would be the same as similar foods, but I’ve not put them in the oven before so unsure on specifics.
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2 replies on “The Best Bean Burger, Well So Far”

thanks for the tip. i was doing bean burgers the way you originally did, without the grain. i will add grain this week. now, the magic ingredient in your recipe is the smoked paprika. God invented that! takes away any sadness about not eating meat! i am not vegan but much of my eating is plant-based. also, i hate having to add bread crumbs and i’ve never bought Panko. do you think oats would be enough? p.s. i think i eat “burgers” for the toppings: tomato, pickles, mustard, ketchup, caramelized onions… actually i think i eat a lot of food for what goes on it!

Panko is just breadcrumbs and now commonly available. I call matzo meal the Jewish panko! Smoked paprika finally is commonly available, thank heavens.
Rolled oats work great. I’ve used them, prefer old-fashioned over quick and definitely not instant oatmeal. If you are cooking the burgers right away, I might give the oatmeal a whirl in a spice / coffee grinder (or food processor etc.). Not to the point of oat flour, just a little chopped. Or just wait a half hour for some absorption. Whole oatmeal is visually appealing in burgers and are like Mom used to make.

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