Build back better black bean burgers

I was looking for one single word for alteration to go with black bean burgers and instead I found three words.

Read Time: 7 minutes

I love burgers. Almost all of the time, the burgers I eat are made from beef, but occasionally we change things up at our house. At some point, my wife or I found this recipe for black bean burgers on Serious Eats. The recipe was created by J. Kenji López-Alt and if you’re looking for a homemade veggie burger, I think it’s perfect. If you want to cook it, just press the button below to go check out Kenji’s original recipe or watch the video.

If you’re totally uninterested in black bean burger content jump forward to the pretzel sandwich bun stuff. Are you a video person? Here’s Kenji’s extremely educational black bean burger video.

If you have a problem with enjoying black bean or veggie burgers, the only suggestion I can offer is to think of them as something other than a burger. They’re not going to be the same texture or flavor as your favorite beef burger, they are their own thing. They are similar but to me, they are a very different sandwich that I enjoy from time to time. Give it a shot if you haven’t.

Now that you have the recipe for the burgers, I’m going to write about my experiences with the recipe and one of my favorite toppings that I eat on these or any other type of burger. Oh, and also, my pretzel bun recipe is a bit further down the page as well.

Sometimes your veggie burger accidentally gets bacon on it.
Caramelized onions and mushrooms with white cheddar and roasted garlic mayo.

Making the black bean burger mix

First off, it takes about 30 minutes to make the black bean burger mix. A lot of this is dependent on the time the beans need roasting in the oven, but you still have a few things to chop, and you use a food processor (or do a lot of chopping). Because of this, there is a little bit of work required. BUT you can make the black bean burger mix when you have 30 to 45 minutes available and then put the mix in the refrigerator and form patties to cook whenever you want.

Black beans are in the name of these burgers, so first you must roast a bunch of them. The roasting process dries the beans out and helps turn them from potentially mushy into a nice texture for the patty.

Three other important ingredients are sauteed onion and poblano peppers with one diced chipotle. Neither of these peppers will make the black bean burgers very spicy, but they do add flavor that is very evident in the final patty. The chipotle adds what will almost be a smoky taste that leads your mind to believe these were cooked outdoors even if you seared them on your stove indoors. An unexpected (for me) ingredient that I greatly enjoy is cashews. These nuts are chopped fine, but they still provide a great texture to the cooked patty.

Note: these patties do crumble more than ground beef does, so be prepared for that when cooking and be a bit more careful when flipping or moving the patties. For this reason, I think they’re easier cooked indoors on a skillet, but I have cooked them outdoors on a grill before.

One of the keys to the recipe is roasting the black beans, to remove some of their water to help the patty consistency. This is a photo of fully roasted black beans.
Sauteed onion, poblano and chipotle (not shown) are key ingredients in the flavor of these black bean burgers.

When it comes time for me to cook these, I form the patties on parchment. I typically take a small handful of black bean burger mix and form it into a patty shape on a piece of parchment paper. You can make a few on a big sheet of parchment, form them properly, and then use scissors or a sharp knife to cut each patty onto its own small piece of paper. This allows you the ability to place each patty on the pan/griddle/grill exactly where you want it. It wouldn’t hurt if you put a tiny bit of oil or non-stick cooking spray on the paper first, but I usually forget this, and the patties still do not stick.

I like to form my patties on parchment and then using scissors or a sharp knife I cut out around each patty so I can pick the paper up and easily transfer each patty to a hot surface or grill.
The grilling process for two different black bean burgers. The caramelized onion recipe on the one closest to you is available down below.

Get your pan hot and cook for about 4 or 5 minutes per side. Flip carefully as there could be some crumbling or broken patties if you are handling your spatula in a rough manner. If something crumbles, just push it back together with your spatula and it will stick.

Form your patty about the same size as your bun (maybe a tiny bit larger). These will not shrink as meat burgers do.
Almost a NICE temperature. So close.

I said this already, but you can make the black bean patty mixture well in advance and you can form them all into patties or pull out what you want on the nights that you want to cook them. For myself and my wife, we can easily get 3 to 4 nights of meals out of this recipe. If you’re feeding a family of four, you can make this mixture Sunday afternoon and have two weeknight meals sorted. Just pull out what you want to cook, form them into patties and you can have burgers on the table in under 20 minutes.

The pretzel buns

I’m sure you knew this, but pretzels are fun. Pretzel buns aren’t quite as fun as soft pretzels, but they still add a different and interesting component to your sandwich.

Hello, fresh pretzel buns!

I enjoy pretzel buns, but if you’ve ever had them in a restaurant, sometimes they can be a bit tough and dense. If you make them at home, they’re way fresher and my recipe leaves you with a light interior and a pleasing chewy, seasoned exterior.

Here’s my pretzel sandwich bun recipe. If you want to make this recipe, make sure you check out the notes section below the recipe.

2 hours and 52 minutes
Pretzel sandwich buns

These rolls have a chewy exterior with a soft, pillowy interior and they make for a great sandwich roll. Top with pretzel salt or something like everything bagel seasoning for an interesting sandwich option.

Get Recipe

And here are a few more photos and some suggestions on how to reheat with salt down below.

If you form your buns in more of a ball shape, they will end up with deeper slashes.
As you can see, these are flatter buns so the slashes do not expand quite as much when rising.

If you want a true pretzel bun experience, you must use pretzel salt. Kosher salt doesn’t work. Flaky sea salt doesn’t work. I have found it is not super easy to find at the grocery store, so I’ve always had to buy pretzel salt online (this is the “Amazon’s Choice” brand. The brand I currently have is from King Arthur Baking).

I know your instincts are to package your bread up quickly after baking so that it doesn’t get stale on the counter, but if you have salted your pretzel buns, you MUST let them fully cool off (1 or 2 hours) before bagging or packaging it up. The salt will start melting if you bag the buns up too soon, due to the moisture and condensation build-up in the bag.

Second day and reheating with salt

The best tip I can offer after a couple of weeks of making multiple versions of this recipe is that you should only bake pretzels or pretzel buns with salt on them if you plan to eat them THE SAME DAY. After about 24 hours on the top of the bun, pretzel salt will start to melt, no matter what. This is why soft pretzels served at movie theaters or county fairs are salted when you order them. Salt will destroy the top of your bun and make the top look ugly.

The best plan and the one I’ve implemented in my last two batches is that you should only salt the pretzels that you plan to eat within 24 hours. For the rest of the pretzel buns, you should leave them unsalted with the plan to salt them right before you plan to eat them. Or you don’t have to salt them at all if you don’t want to.

For post-baking/next day salting, you should: get a small bowl with water in it, wet your finger and spread that moistness on top of each bun, and use that moisture for the pretzel salt to be sprinkled on and stick to. Once you’ve added a tiny bit of water and salt, bake your bun in a 425-degree F oven for 5 minutes and then you’ll be set and the salt will be set (stuck) as well.

This is a fresh bun baked a few hours before eating. Note that the salt all looks whole, and the bun does not look like it has been moistened.
This is a 1-day old bun. It was probably baked 2 minutes longer than the previous image, so that explains the color. You can see how the pretzel salt is still visible, but I can tell you that some of it has been absorbed and you can tell the bun looks like it has been moistened some. Day-old salted buns are still tasty and good, they just don’t look as good.

Add caramelized onions

A good addition to a black bean burger (or pretty much any burger) is caramelized onions.

This black bean burger has caramelized onions, French’s fried onions (for texture) and aged Swiss.

Here’s my easy recipe for caramelizing onions.

40 minutes
Caramelized onions

Caramelized onions are a great refrigerator staple when it's time to make flavor combinations. Sweetness and texture additions will complement the savory elements you might already have in your sandwich.

Get Recipe

In the instance below I also added sliced, cooked mushrooms to the burger with the caramelized onions. They’re easy to cook, just slice (or buy pre-sliced) add to a hot skillet over medium heat with a couple of teaspoons of butter or oil and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until you think the mushrooms are cooked to the texture that you like. Salt and pepper the mushrooms a little when you start cooking. If you don’t know what texture you like, just grab a fork and taste a mushroom after 5 minutes and see what you think.

Once you flip your black bean burger, add cheese to the top, cooked side. My mushrooms and caramelized onions are staying warm at the back of the griddle.
As soon as there has been some cheese melting happening, add the hot mushrooms to the top to assist.
Then I like to top the mushrooms and cheese with the caramelized onions.

Here are some more black bean burgers you can look at

I ate all of these, and you should too!

This is about as traditional of an American-style burger as I eat. Lettuce, red onion, tomatoes, and American cheese.
This is a photo of a black bean burger on a bun that I did not make.
This is another one of those second-day salted pretzel buns. They still taste great and are soft, but you can see how the salt just totally messes up the appearance on the top of the bun.
Can’t see much of the black bean burger under there, but it is. Topped with melted white cheddar, caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms, with homemade roasted garlic mayo and a potato bun I baked.
Classic toppings on a pretzel bunned black bean burger.
Pickles and lettuce, hold the tomato.
This one got the French’s fried onions in addition to the caramelized onions and mushrooms.

Try these black bean burgers

Seriously, this black bean burger recipe is great. Let me know on twitter, instagram or facebook if you’ve tried it or plan to give it a shot.

Check back next week when we do something a little Super. I’m going to make a sandwich combining the cuisines from the cities/regions of the two teams playing in the “Big Game” that’s coming up. At the point of writing this, I don’t know which two teams will have won (edit: it’s the Los Angeles Rams vs Cincinnati Bengals), so I have no idea what sandwich I will be making. Should be a big Bowl of fun!

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