I think black bean burgers were one of the first standard “healthy” foods I learned to make at home for myself. I was a fledgling home cook, and I had recently read In Defense of Food (the book that, in more ways than one, changed my life). I knew I wanted to start trying to cook more foods from scratch, but homemaking a version of the frozen veggie burgers I loved so much for quick work lunches seemed so intimidating!
Then, I was sharing my veggie burger fear with one of my health-minded coworkers at the time, and she said she had a recipe for black bean burgers that were super easy, super tasty, and not at all intimidating. She emailed me the recipe, and I think I made them that night after work. They were great! I did some tweaking to that recipe, and eventually found a perfect recipe for our family (Homemade Black Bean Burgers). We almost always have a few of those black bean burgers stashed in the freezer for easy lunches!
Ever since I first got over my fear of the veggie burger, I’ve been experimenting! I love playing with different textures and flavors to make a tasty, hearty, and crazy healthy veggie burger.
I’m not nearly as awesome at veggie burgering as my friend Jenn (seriously, homegirl has some amazing recipes on her blog), but I could hold my own in the veggie burger Olympics! I probably wouldn’t end up on the medal stand, but everyone would say my performance was “respectable.”
I will say that this particular veggie burger is wayyyy better than just respectable. These pumpkin black bean burgers are amazingly delicious! The pumpkin puree isn’t super pronounced—there is just enough pumpkin flavor to add some sweetness. And that sweetness pairs really nicely with spicy chili powder and earthy cumin.
Remember a few days back when I was talking about how pumpkin is an ingredient that spans the healthy spectrum? Sometimes it’s used in not-so-healthy recipes (ahem, I’m looking at you, Three Layer Pumpkin Brownies), but other times, it can be used in a super healthy way? Well, these pumpkin black bean burgers are healthy to the max! They are vegan, gluten-free, and packed with whole grain fiber and plant-based protein.
If you’ve ever had a veggie burger that is mushy in the middle, you know that getting the right texture can be tricky. I tend to like my veggie burgers to be moist, but not mushy at all, and crunchy on the outside. I like ’em to crumble a bit (just like a ground beef burger would).
To get them this way, I bake them low and slow—at 325° for about 45 minutes. That really allows the burger to dry out all the way through. If you prefer a softer burger, you could always cook these babies in a skillet or over the grill—those methods tend to cook the burgers more quickly, making the outside crisp and delicious, and the inside tender.
Just like my original black bean burgers, these guys freeze wonderfully. You can freeze them before cooking, if you like—just freeze them flat on a baking sheet after forming, and then transfer to a zip-top bag once they’re solid. Or, you can do what I like to do, and freeze them after cooking. That way, all you have to do is pop them in the microwave or toaster oven to warm before lunch.
If I do plan on making these for freezing, I tend to undercook them just a touch so they can stay tender after reheating.
As far as toppings go, I like to top my veggie burgers with more veggies! We always have homegrown sprouts in our fridge (this time I had alfalfa sprouts), so those normally go on all sandwiches. If I have it, ripe avocado, fresh tomatoes, and onions are also favorites. And sometimes, I melt some cheese on top of the burger. And always, I top the whole thing with sriracha mayo—AKA: the best burger condiment on the planet. Have fun with your toppings! Enjoy.