In Charlotte, the vegan option used to be “salad.”
But we’ve progressed. Now the vegan options are “salad” and “black bean burgers.”
Charlotte’s fascination with black bean burgers is an odd and disturbing thing. Almost every non-ethnic restaurant offers them. And standing in the Taj Mateeter one day, I counted no less than four different brands of black bean veggie burgers.
What about the other beans? Kidney beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans, navy beans, garbanzo beans, black eyed peas? And lentils, what about lentils?
Why are Charlotteans such legume snobs?
My desire to never eat another black bean burger led to my making my own bean burgers at home.
One of my favorite bean burger creations is this incredibly flavorful Rajma Masala Veggie Burger, made with red kidney beans and all the spicy, exotic Indian seasonings of that classic Punjabi curry Rajma Masala! (If you’ve never heard of Rajma Masala – kind of an Indian chili – here’s my Rajma recipe.)
But the curry is something to make on a Sunday afternoon, when you’ve got time to cook dried beans and fry onions. These Rajma Masala Veggie Burgers are for frazzled Tuesday evenings, when you get home late from work and there’s not much in your pantry except a can of beans, half an onion, and your spice rack. You could run out to the store and buy some more boring black bean burgers … or you could stay home, put on your PJ’s, and make this spicy little sandwich.
Rajma Masala Veggie Burger Ingredients:
1 TBL Olive or Vegetable Oil
1 Can Red Kidney Beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 Medium Onion, chopped
1 Clove Fresh Garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Ground Coriander
1/3 Cup Oats (Quick or Old Fashioned)
2 TBL Ketchup
Green Chilis, to taste
1/2 Cup Cooked Basmati Rice (Optional)
Directions for Rajma Masala Veggie Burgers:
First, prep your ingredients, as this recipe moves quickly!
Place the kidney beans, onions, garlic, and spices in a food processor and pulse several times until coarsely blended. This shouldn’t be entirely smooth – you want to see some bean chunks and bits of onion.
(If you don’t have a food processor, simply mash the beans with a potato masher until you get a rough puree.Then add the onions, garlic, and spices and mix well with spoon.)
Scrape the food processor into a large mixing bowl.
Add the green chilis to taste. (I usually use 1-2 green Thai chilis; minced jalapeno will also work. Remember, heat is in the seeds so de-seed if you can’t take the heat!) Add the ketchup. Stir.
Add the oats and the cooked rice, if using. Mix.
With your hands, form the bean mixture into patties and place on a plate. Let the patties sit for about 10-15 minutes while you clean the food processor and dishes. This will allow time for the oats to soak up moisture, resulting in a firmer patty when you fry it.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and – gently! – fry the patties over medium heat, about 5 minutes each side. This should get them nice and brown on each side. Carefully, remove the first batch from the pan – they’re still fragile at this point.
(You could skip the frying step and go straight to the oven, but I think veggie burgers taste better, seem more “burger-y”, and have a better texture if you take the time for a quick pan fry.)
Next, put the patties in an oven preheated to 375 and bake for 10 minutes. This not only ensures the burgers are cooked all the way through, but really firms up the texture.
Place on toasted buns and serve with the usual burger toppings – tomato, onions, spinach – or cilantro! What condiments to use? Mango chutney is excellent if you have some. I also love mixing a little green chili chutney with Vegenaise. And you can’t go wrong with ketchup.
Use only 1/2 teaspoon of the garam masala – a little goes a long way! Too much will leave you with a bean burger that tends to be more sweet than savory.
You may be tempted to make this even faster by using powdered onion and garlic, but don’t. The fresh ingredients really make a difference in taste, and the onion also adds some nice texture.
Leftover cooked patties can get a little soft if reheated in the microwave, so reheat in a toaster oven if possible.