The Sometimes Vegetarian

October 31, 2011

Are you a Meatless Mondays enthusiast but not ready to take the plunge for the rest of the week? Maximize your meat-free meals with personal chef (and Whole Foods Market Cooking recipe tester) Natalie Barbarese's column, The Sometimes Vegetarian, where she shares a mouthwatering, vegetarian recipe every other Monday.

This week: Natalie reinvents the tired veggie burger with black beans, bulgur, and a lemony yogurt sauce.

bean burgers natalie barbarese
Photo by Natalie Barbarese

- Natalie

As a self-proclaimed "sometimes" vegetarian, I like to minimize the amount of meat and animal products I consume, and this can be a challenge when eating out at restaurants. After scanning the menu, I know my only option sans meat is going to be the veggie burger, tucked way down at the bottom of the menu, just waiting to emerge from its box in the freezer and greet me with its perfectly (read: unnaturally) circular shape and strange, indescribable color. Just because you ordered the veggie burger when all your carnivore companions got the bacon cheeseburger doesn’t mean you want a door stop in a hamburger bun or rabbit food. (Ironically, one of the best black bean burgers I’ve ever had was at Rabbithole in Brooklyn.) For this week’s recipe, I’m sharing my favorite method for making a healthy and satisfying bean burger with simple ingredients you probably have on hand.

To me, a good veggie burger must never come out of a freezer, especially when ordered at a restaurant. Like most people, I have a stash of these on hand for hunger emergencies, but they’re really never my first choice. I want something homemade, packed with veggies and whole grains, with a crispy crust and creamy middle. Trust me, it’s not too much to ask.

When I make any kind of burger from scratch, I make sure it has a few key components: aromatics (onion, garlic, etc.) for a flavor base, spices or fresh herbs to give it direction (a Tex-Mex burger with cumin and cilantro? An Asian-themed burger with soy sauce and sriracha?), and citrus juice or zest to brighten everything up. I like to sauté the aromatics so their flavor is tempered and pieces of them don’t fall out of the patties during cooking, and I almost always add a bell pepper for color, sweetness, and crunch. Like most of my recipes featured on this site, you can take the idea and method as a base and put your own spin on the flavors. Black beans and bulgur are a truly blank canvas for just about any flavor profile -- let your imagination go with the toppings and sauces.

If you’ve never cooked with bulgur wheat before, I highly recommend giving it a try. It’s a super low-maintenance grain like rice or quinoa -- just boil water, add it to the pot, and cook until all the water is absorbed. It’s low in calories, has lots of fiber, and even 5 grams of protein per 1/4 cup serving. When cooking these burgers, make sure your pan is preheated to medium-high. You'll want to hear a nice sizzle when you drop these into the pan to ensure a golden-brown, crunchy crust. Try them with salsa or the yogurt sauce I've included, and if you’re watching your carbs, they’re still filling without the bun.

Bulgur and Black Bean Burgers with Yogurt Sauce

Makes 6-8 burgers

For the burgers:

1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
1 egg
1/2 tsp tomato paste
A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
A few dashes of liquid smoke
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp lemon zest
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
Scant 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

For the yogurt sauce:

1/2 cup Greek or regular yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp parsley, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Like this post? See Natalie's previous topic: Tofu Salad with Ginger-Soy Vinaigrette.

Natalie is the chef/owner of Broccoli Rose, a personal chef business serving healthy meals to locations within 60 miles of Montclair, New Jersey.

natalie barbarese

2 Comments Add a Comment
  • Img_8031

    Natalie Barbarese says: That's a great question! I know these have a lot of gluten from both the bulgur and bread crumbs. I'm thinking you could try cooked quinoa or brown rice in place of the bulgur and your favorite gluten-free bread crumbs. Let me know how it goes!

    over 2 years ago Reply to this »
  • Missing_avatar

    Dot1 says: what could you substitute for the bulgur wheat if you wanted to make this gluten free? This looks so yummy - I'd love to try it but try to stay away from gluten.

    over 2 years ago Reply to this »

You can post comments here after you log in.