Black Bean and Mushroom Veggie Burger w Creamy Cilantro Sauce

I'm not a vegetarian by any means.

I acknowledge that it's a lifestyle choice that some people really gravitate towards for myriad reasons because they love animals, because of cultural or religious reasons or because they just plain feel healthier. These are all great and respectable reasons of course but...

Me? I just can't do it. 

I also don't want to do it. It limits my ability to explore new foods when I'm travelling, new techniques and... deliciousness. There is a ton of joy for me in eating, it's honestly the one thing I actually love to do, so I generally set few limits on myself for what I will eat. I love animals too, but I also like to eat them. If you agree with me then you can finally, confidently invite vegan or vegetarian friends over for dinner and have more to offer them than a cold salad.

Let's be friends here, I'll tell you a truth. After a long-term relationship with a pretty dedicated vegan, I confess, I was relieved to finally have more flexibility with food and restaurants when it ended. I probably went a bit meat crazy for awhile afterward, I may have eaten a whole cow worth of steaks. I may or may not have done a song and dance when I didn't have the triple check the menu for acceptable vegan options. I bought every obscure cut of meat and made every recipe I'd wanted to try but didn't previously. I may have given up eating vegetables entirely just because I could when it was over too. Well, on that part I'm kidding as I certainly never gave up my meat-eating ways in that time but there was a lot of meeting in the middle. It definitely was freeing.

With that said, I am totally happy to entertain veggie friends and also completely understanding of the plight that is finding a good meal in a herbivore home or even your average restaurant. I'm sensitive to that and I don't like hosting a gathering where people I've invited simply cannot find something to eat - that means I haven't done my job as a host very well. It also stretches my creative cooking skills so stay on theme and keep it vegetarian or vegan. 

Personally, I aim to eat one meal a day that meatless. Whether that a sad-desk salad that I brighten up with lots of cooked veggies while passing on the addition of chicken or it's a bacon-less breakfast sandwich or some overnight oats. It counts.

These days my only vegetarian guests are my brother and his wife, who recently went vegetarian seemingly cold turkey, which baffled me. And a friend of mine who is always teetering back and forth on whether she is or is not (I like to announce that she's 'betrayed me' every time she's back on the broccoli bandwagon). Then there's me, who's just a fan of vegetables. 

All of this as precursor to my announcement that - these veggie burgers are really really good. I, self pronounced lover of steak, loves these burgers. And OKAY - I did say I love vegetables but I also chose this burger over a beef burger, so that solidifies the goodness guarantee.

These are also great on the grill which from what I understand is a bit of a homemade veggie burger issue, that they don't hold up on the grill. I think they key is keeping them sticky just a bit beyond the point of binding so play with your BBQ sauce-to-panko levels if necessary. I used a tablespoon of barbecue sauce to keep and adds a deeper smokiness and depth but to assist in holding it all together.

I have been really enjoying a creamy cilantro sauce I've been making so I decided to add it to the burgers and it is so good I have to share it with you. It's got a bunch of zip to it which is mellowed out by the sour cream. It's super dynamic as a chip dip and would work well on salads as well.


1 tbsp neutral cooking oil
1 medium white onion
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, rough chopped
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 15 oz cans black beans drained and dried
1 tbsp BBQ sauce
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp white or black pepper
1/4 chipotle pepper powder
salt to taste
1/4 cup of panko breadcrumbs

1) Drain and rinse black beans. Spread them out over a few paper towels or clean rag and wait them out while they dry. Cook brown rice and set aside to cool.

2) Rough chop onions and shiitake mushrooms, heat oil, saute onions and peppers until soft and translucent. Salt to taste. Set aside and allow to cool.

3) Bean mashing time! Using a bowl add beans and all the spices, salt to taste, use a heavy serving fork to mash the beans until your desired consistency. You can reserve 1/2 cup of beans whole and add them in step 4 for another texture layer.

4) Add the cooled mushroom/onion mixture and cup of cooked brown rice to the bowl and fold the mixture until well mixed. Add BBQ sauce and mix until well blended

5) Add panko bread crumbs here. If you find that your blend is still a bit on the we0t side, add additional panko 1 tablespoon at a time. Too much will make your mixture crumbly and will, in addition to making it touch to make patties, will make them harder to handle on the grill.

6) Make patties from the mixture using a 1/2 cup as your scoop. I used gloved hands due to the stickiness of the patties. This recipe yielded 9 patties at 1/2 cup size each.

7) Grill patties for 2-3 minutes per side on an oiled grill. Additionally sear in the same way in an oiled pan.

Make in advance and store in the freezer with parchment paper between each patty. Don't thaw, cook from frozen for an additional 2 minutes per side.

Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce

1 cup fresh cilantro, packed
2 tbsp olive oil
4 small cloves garlic
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp sour cream (or sub healthier Greek yogurt)
salt to taste

1) Pick cilantro from thick stems, leave fine stems and pack into 1 cup.

2) In a food processor add cilantro, white wine vinegar, garlic, salt and olive oil.

3) In a small bowl pour blended ingredients and mix in sour cream. Refrigerate and allow flavors to come together for 30 minutes before serving.

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