Black bean beet burger experiment

Anytime a recipe is labeled “best ever” — Beware!  Best according to whom?  Anyway I’ve been on a quest for an at-least-decent bean burger recipe, aside from the one in my book “Feed Your Vegetarian Teen”.  I’ve written about my experiments with white beans, chickpeas and tofu as the basis of meatless burgers.  A friend recommended this recipe for Best Ever Veggie Burger, made with black beans and beets.  Of course I was intrigued.  Even better, I’d already bought some fresh beets.  What could go wrong?

Well, plenty.  The first problem had nothing to do with the actual food.  It was the unnecessarily wordy recipe instructions.  Next problem, which I discovered much later, is that the recipe yield is way off.  I made half the recipe, which clearly would have yielded 8 burgers.  Yet the full recipe claims to make 6 burgers.  Only if you want them the size of dinner plates or 3 inches tall, which I do not recommend, and which in fact wouldn’t work anyway, as they’d just slump and spread out.

Here are the ingredients for half the recipe:

  • 1/2  pound fresh beets.  I absolutely recommend weighing the beets, rather than following the original direction to pick “3 large beets”.  Given the random sizes of vegetables, you could end up with way more or way less than you need.
  • 1/4 cup raw brown rice
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped, about 1/2 cup
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 2 TB old-fashioned rolled oats
  • one 15.5-ounce can black beans
  • 2 TB chopped prunes
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika (I just used regular)
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 large egg (optional, leave out for vegan burgers)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. You’re supposed to first cook the beets by roasting them for 50-60 minutes, which I didn’t do.  I had already boiled them.  This might have introduced extra moisture into the mix, but beets are quite dense, so it wouldn’t have been that much.
  2. While the beets are roasting, cook the rice in 1/2 cup water.  Put the oats in a food processor and process until fine.  I suppose alternately you could just use oat flour and save yourself some trouble.
  3. Sauté the onions in some olive oil until browned.  Add the garlic and cook briefly.
  4. Drain the black beans.  Put half of them in the food processor, along with the prune pieces and process until roughly chopped but not completely puréed.
  5. Remove the skin from the cooked beets and grate them.
  6. Put everything in a large mixing bowl, the processed beans and oats, the rice, onions, beets, seasonings, the rest of the black beans and the whisked egg.  Mix it all together and refrigerate at least 2 hours before making burgers.

The instructions say to scoop up about a cup of the batter and pat into a burger shape.  Smoosh!  These were extremely wet and sloppy.  Not to mention … red.  I had to be extremely careful to avoid getting the red beet stains on my clothes.  I carefully arranged the rather messy burger patties in the hot pan.  Here’s another potential problem: scorching.  Beets are naturally high sugar.  The prunes are also high sugar.  Sugar browns very quickly when cooked over high heat, and these burgers had a tendency to scorch before they were cooked through.  I had to turn the heat down to make sure they heated through without turning completely black.

Not surprising, the burgers did not hold together after cooking.  The edges kept falling off, not surprising given the very soft overall texture.  They had a sweet flavor compared to other recipes; a dab of horseradish would make a suitable condiment.

I’d rate the 4 burgers in my recent meatless burger saga this way:

#1 White Bean burgers

#2

#3

#4 Tofu burger, Chickpea burger, Black Bean Beet burger

I came up with three criteria for a successful meatless burger recipe:

  1. It holds together after cooking.
  2. It tastes good.
  3. The recipe is minimally complicated and messy

So far few of the recipes I’ve seen meet all three.  Mess and falling apart are the two most common problems.  Who has time or patience for any of that?  In many cases, it makes more sense to just cook the ingredients together as a different kind of dish.  For example, the tofu burger would have worked much better as a tofu stir fry, with much less mess and fuss.

Burgers that are based primarily on beans have the best chance for success.  Beans can be mashed/processed to a suitable texture that holds the ingredients together.  The addition of a chewy cooked grain like farro can be helpful.  Small gritty grains like quinoa or millet will be less successful.

Conclusion: in my opinion, this was not the “best ever” veggie burger.  Will I try more recipes? Only if I find recipes that are substantially different from the ones I’ve tried already.  I’m getting tired of messy experiments that end up in the compost.

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