Not that big of a deal black bean burgers; vegan & gluten free

Mmmmm….who wouldn’t jump all over a marginal sandwich?

Except that’s not what I mean by “not that big of a deal.” What I mean is that there’s very little fuss, they’re super customizable, and hard to screw up. They’re a pretty good go-to meal.

Living in a hybrid household (I’m plant-based, hubby’s anything but) we’re always looking for meals we can cook together and actually eat together. Black bean burgers fit that bill. I like them because they are a good source of protein and fiber and he likes them because they have a spicy kick.  (I prefer mine without the kick; rather a spicy “nudge.” )

In fact, he’s taken a liking enough to the black bean species that he’ll occasionally order them when we’re out even when carnivorous options are a-plenty.

Anyway, years ago we started with this recipe, and have since adapted it to fit my nutritional preferences better, and make it a bit more grill-friendly. We’ve now made it so many times that we don’t use a recipe and just mix from memory. Which made it problematic when our last dinner guest asked me to share the recipe and I couldn’t share the original because I had morphed it too much.

So since I was typing it up I figured I would share with you!


Makes 5 patties

  • (2) 16 ounce cans organic black beans (thoroughly rinsed & drained)
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp defrosted frozen corn, or cooked fresh corn 
  • 2 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 2 tbsp gluten free toasted bread crumbs (directions below) OR Panko if not worried about gluten
  • 2 tbsp whatever tomato sauce you have around OR substitute 1 tbsp tomato paste with 1 tbsp hot sauce for a bit more pep (the tomato paste version is more grill-friendly)
  • 2 tbsp chopped jalapeno pepper (mild to hot, depending on your preference.) I used jarred and it’s just fine
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, to taste)
  • oil for frying, if you’re going that route, but they can be grilled


  1. Put 1 – 1/2 cans of beans, tomato sauce or paste/hot sauce, onion, garlic and spices into food processor (it fits in a small processor!) and “grind” until it resembles a chunky paste. Do not obliterate it or burgers will be too sticky. (Food processor not necessary; it’ll take more elbow grease but you can mash the mixture in a large bowl instead.)
  2. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add remaining beans, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, corn and bread crumbs. Get your hands in there and mix thoroughly. (Wetting your hands first will help the mixture from sticking to them.)
  3. Mold into 5 equal patties and place on wax paper until it’s grill time. For best results make them ahead of time to let the flavors meld in the fridge. This step also helps them stay together better on the grill.
  4. Grill over medium heat about 5 minutes on each side. The first side might be a tad sticky, so be gentle when you flip them.
    If you’re opting for stovetop, coat the bottom of pan with oil at medium heat and cook for 4-5 minutes each side.


Vegan & Gluten free toasted bread crumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 250°
  2. Break up one slice of vegan/gluten free bread (I use any number of Food For Life varieties) and toss into small food processor. Pulse for about 15 seconds until it’s completely, well, crumbed!
  3. Spread evenly on baking sheet for about 10-12 minutes – check frequently to avoid burn.
  4. One slice makes approximately 1/4 cup crumbs.

Making these for a vegan guest?  Check out this article for more tips.  

About Kristin Dowell

Kristin is a group fitness instructor and personal trainer with certifications from ACE and AFAA, is qualified to coach over a dozen specialty programs, and is the creator of 3 exercise DVDs. From creating physical training programs for fire academies, to teaching preschool dance, (and just about everything in between)...
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