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I love a really good vegetarian burger. I have ordered them at many vegan and vegetarian restaurants and some are better than others. I realize that seitan, made from wheat gluten, is a popular meat alternative used to make vegan dishes, including burgers. As well, texturized vegetable protein (TVP) made from soy is a high-protein meat alternative. I personally don’t love the texture of either of these products in my burgers. I want a vegetarian burger to taste and feel like vegetables, legumes, and grains. I am not looking for a burger that mimics a beef hamburger.
The best vegetarian burger I ever had was the black bean burger at Candle 79, an upscale vegan restaurant in New York City. I had tried to make bean burgers in the past with little luck. They often don’t hold together. But this burger inspired me to try again.
This vegetarian burger recipe isn’t vegan because I use an egg as a binder. I will offer an option in my notes for making this vegan. I start the recipe by soaking dried black beans overnight and cooking them in the morning. I always have bags or jars of dried beans in my pantry. I haven’t tried making this with canned black beans yet. I also add pulsed gluten-free rolled oats and pumpkin seeds for a sturdy burger. These burgers also have corn kernels, roasted garlic, and plenty of seasonings.
These black bean burgers hold together well enough to cook them like a beef burger in a skillet so they get that charred sear on the exterior. You can also bake them in your oven or cook them in an air fryer. I serve them on gluten-free bread or rolls with lettuce, tomato, feta cheese, and a little ketchup. These burgers are great with our Greek lemon fries.
- 1 ½ cups of dried black beans
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup gluten-free rolled oats
- ⅓ cup of raw pumpkin seeds pepitas
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper flakes
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup frozen corn kernels defrosted
- 1 large whole egg
- Gluten-free flour for forming patties
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- 4 gluten-free hamburger buns
- Romaine lettuce
- Ripe tomato slices
- Feta cheese
- Avocado slices
- All ingredients ready? Let's begin!
- Pick over the beans to remove any stones. Rinse them under cold water. Place the beans in a bowl and cover with water. Stir the baking soda into the beans. Set the beans aside to soak overnight, about 8 hours.
- Drain the beans and place them in a stockpot over high heat. Cover the beans with water that is 2-inches above the beans. As soon as the water comes to a boil, turn the heat down to a low simmer, cover the pot, and cook until tender, approximately 50 minutes.
- Drain the beans and set them aside to cool.
- In a large cast-iron or another heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, warm 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add the garlic cloves to the pan and roast until golden brown, turning often. This will take just a few minutes. Transfer the garlic to a paper towel or a plate and remove the pan from the heat.
- In a food processor, pulse the oats and pumpkin seeds into a coarse flour. Place this in a mixing bowl and stir in the paprika, chili powder, oregano, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper.
- Place the beans, corn, egg, and garlic in the food processor and pulse into a coarse paste.
- Add the bean mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well to combine. Dust your hands with a little flour. Form the bean and oat mixture into 4 patties, adding more flour to your hands to prevent the mix from sticking to your hands. If the patties aren’t holding together, add more flour to the mix. Place the burgers on a platter and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.
- Turn the heat on to medium-high under the skillet. Add the olive and coconut oil to the pan. As soon as it is hot, sauté the burgers for 4 or 5 minutes until seared. Turn them over and continue to sauté until seared and cooked through, approximately 4 to 5 minutes longer.
- Place the cooked burgers on the buns and add your toppings of choice. Enjoy while warm with a side of fries or chips.
Notes & Tips
- This recipe has a few steps that are worth the effort. The baking soda helps the beans to plump and soften. You can skip the soaking and cooking of the beans by using canned beans.
- If you want to avoid extra fat in the dish, bake the burgers in a 375°F oven on a parchment-lined sheet pan for 20 minutes, flipping them over halfway.
- You can toast the buns in the same skillet you cooked the burgers in, or toast them in the oven just before the burgers are finished baking.
Substitutions & Shortcuts
- Black Beans: Dried beans are my preference for this recipe because they seem sturdier than canned beans. You can use rinsed and well-drained canned beans to save a step. If you don’t have black beans, try kidney beans or garbanzo beans. These are also sturdy.
- Pumpkin Seeds: If you don’t have raw pumpkin seeds or pepitas, I think raw walnuts would also work well in this recipe and will add a nutty flavor.
- Egg: If you want this to be a vegan burger, try Just Egg. It is a liquid plant-based egg alternative. Or, use a flax egg by mixing 1 tablespoon of flax meal with 2-1/2 tablespoons of water.
- Cooking Oil: I like to combine olive oil and coconut oil for frying because the coconut oil has a higher smoke point and helps to keep the olive oil from burning. It also adds a nice flavor to these burgers. If you don’t tolerate coconut, add a little ghee to the olive oil, or just use your favorite seed or nut oil.