The Quest for the Perfect Veggie Burger

Let’s make this absolutely clear: nothing is better than a good hamburger.  When I make burgers I go to the butcher and buy beef shortribs, bone and grind them, and make the most delicious and meaty burgers with them.  They are a delight to behold and to eat and are truly one of the finest burgers you have never had the privilege of trying.

But sometimes it’s nice to have a vegetarian alternative to the classic burger.  I’m not interested in commercially-available soy protein based burgers.  They offer very little in terms of flavour, and from an environmental and ethical perspective, I’d much rather eat well-raised beef than a highly-processed food reliant on a byproduct of the petroleum industry.  When I want a veggie burger, I want something flavourful that gives me something that I wouldn’t normally get from a beef burger.

Making veggie burgers is surprisingly difficult though.  The ones I’ve made in the past have generally tasted good but it’s been really tough to get the texture right: a meat burger has that great firm bite, but my experiments in bean-based veggie burgers have been mushy.  When you bite into them, the patty flattens and squeezes from the side of the bun.  It’s not great.

The best veggie burger recipe I’ve tried to date comes from Mille Petrozza of my favorite Teutonic thrash band, Kreator, and can be found in Annick “Morbid Chef” Giroux’s suberb cookbook Hellbent for Cooking.  Mille’s burgers are oat-based and have this wonderful firm texture that is pleasant to bite into.  They also seemed like the perfect base from which to explore different veggie burger flavours.

I went for the classic flavour of black beans for this veggie burger experiment, and used Tex-Mex inspired spices to season it.  We topped the burgers with sour cream, some homemade mango salsa that needed more heat, sliced avocado, red onion, and cilantro to keep with the Tex-Mex theme, but you could really use any toppings for this.

It was a fairly successful experiment.  The flavours were all solid and while I never set out to replicate the taste of a beef burger, this burger did have a nice earthiness that didn’t bring beef to mind, but did recall the sort of taste that makes a burger so great.  It was decent texturally, though it perhaps could have used more oats in proportion to the beans.  Though it could just be that I tend to make my burgers wide and flat, because Anna had one of these for leftovers the next day but she made hers thicker and said that the texture was better on that one.  In the meantime, the quest will continue until I have made the perfect veggie burger.

Black Bean Burgers
makes 4 decent sized burgers

1 cup dried black beans, soaked overnight
1 cup oats
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp cumin, toasted and ground
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano (more if using fresh)
A handful of chopped cilantro
4 cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

Soak the beans overnight.  Chop the onion and cook it in a medium-sized saucepan with your choice of oil until the onion is translucent.  Add the beans, throw in the veggie stock and your spices, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a vigorous simmer.  Simmer until the beans are nice and tender, probably close to an hour, then add the oats and boil until the whole mixture is thick and gooey.  Let this cool for a bit then transfer it to a food processor, add the cilantro, and process it until the whole thing is a nice uniform mixture.  Form into burger-sized patties and fry in a skillet until they’re nicely browned and crispy on the outside.  Serve with your favorite toppings.


5 thoughts on “The Quest for the Perfect Veggie Burger

  1. interesting. i’ve been making black bean burgers with oats, onion, cumin etc recently too, but i don’t cook the oats, just add them raw to process it all together. i felt the texture was too mushy and didn’t hold together well. onward in this quest for a good veggie burger.

  2. Try adding grated sweet potato sometime. Black beans and sweet potatoes make an EXCELLENT pair, and the very best veggie burger I’ve ever had are the veggie sliders at Root Down in Denver, CO – which are sweet potato based.

    I actually just posted a really excellent black bean and sweet potato salad recipe on my blog today – that’s how much I LOVE the pairing. :)

  3. I have had both the soya based ones from the store and homemade ones….none impressed me and were dry….usually chickpeas. I like this version with a softer beans and the oats. Will have to try this over the summer

  4. Hello friends!!!
    Tony and I have been ranting and raving about (this is no joke!) the President’s Choice think and juicy portobello swiss vegetarian burgers at Maxi. I know this isn’t a recipe but they are really yummy and I thought they might give you some ingredient ideas. Tony loves meat but prefers the veggie burger!! Nancy

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