This is a perfect black bean burger recipe for Meatless Monday or any night of the week you want to go vegetarian–or vegan (if you use dairy-free mayo).
Black beans are high in protein and super affordable, especially if you buy them in bulk. I like to cook them ahead on the weekend to use in quick weeknight meals like this one. I don’t even soak the beans ahead, because even though it takes a little bit longer to cook that way, you get more flavorful beans with a better texture and a richer color. (I don’t recommend using canned beans here, which make the burgers goopy.) For more gluten-free action and better texture, I’ve replaced breadcrumbs with quinoa in the burger. If you want to go all out, all you need to do is get gluten-free buns.
Note: Bean burgers don’t shrink like beef or bison burgers, so make them the size you want them to end up. I tend to make my black bean burgers thinner than beef burgers, about 1/2 inch thick, because it’s easier to get them brown and a little crispy when they are on the thin side.
Black Bean Quinoa Burger Recipe with Caramelized Onions, Jalapeños, Avocado, and Blistered Kale [Vegetarian]
Place the beans, onion, garlic, and cilantro sprigs in a large wide pot. Cover with water by at least 3 to 4 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until beans are completely tender, about 1½ hours (if you cook them to al dente the burgers will have a grainy texture). When the beans begin to tenderize, add a few pinches of salt, and stir a couple of times to ensure even cooking. (You can make the beans up to one week ahead. Store in an airtight container covered in their cooking water.)
Drain the beans well (you don’t want a goopy burger!) and discard the cilantro sprigs but leave in the onion and garlic. Cool about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the quinoa. Heat a medium-size pot over medium heat. Add the quinoa to the dry pan and sauté 1-2 minutes to bloom its nutty flavor. Once you can smell it roasting, it’s done. Add 1½ cups of water to the pan, cover, and let simmer 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and the germ has released its spiral. Cover and let cool for 10 minutes; don’t skip this last step, it helps make the quinoa fluffy! (The quinoa can be cooked 2-3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Add one tablespoon of the coconut oil to a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and jalapeños and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until the onions become translucent and the jalapeños start to brown, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the pan.
Add ½ tablespoon of coconut oil to the same sauté pan over medium-high heat. Toss in the kale, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Toss with tongs, so the oil completely coats the kale leaves and cook until blisters form on the leaves and they begin to crisp, and become super light, like tissue paper, about 3-4 minutes. (In order to get that airy, light texture you have to start with very dry kale.) Remove from the pan and set aside.
Once the beans have cooled, in a food processor or blender, pulse half of the bean mixture, 1½ tablespoons mayonnaise, ⅓ cup of quinoa (I save the rest of the quinoa for my weekday lunch salad), coriander, cumin, and ancho chili powder until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the remaining bean mixture. Form the mixture into 4 burger patties, each about 4 inches wide and ½ inch thick.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat (if necessary are more oil to coat the bottom of the pan). Toast buns flesh side down for 1-2 minutes until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
If necessary add more oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Cook the burgers until they are crisp and lightly browned, turning once, about 5-7 minutes per side. Meanwhile, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup mayonnaise and hot sauce until combined. Spread on one side of burger buns and smash avocado onto the other side of the buns.
When burgers are done, immediately serve on the prepared buns and garnish with the onions and jalapeños and top with the kale.
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Image by John Klein. Food styling by Laura Klein