Drain 1 can of beans, reserving the liquid, and mash the beans in a medium bowl. Drain the second can, add to the bowl with the breadcrumbs, eggs, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir in Extra Flavorings if using. If necessary, add a little of the bean liquid until the mixture holds together but is not wet. Divide into 6 equal portions and shape into 4-inch patties.
Warm the buns in a 300 degree F oven for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat % cup olive or canola oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the patties and cook, turning only once, until a crisp brown crust forms on both sides, about 6 minutes total. If you've chosen a burger that gets topped with cheese, add it now. Cover the skillet, turn the heat to low, and let the burgers continue to cook until the cheese melts. Top the burgers as desired.
Burger Options (use these extra flavorings to embellish the basic burger):
The Classic: Make the burgers without any extra flavoring and cook according to Stovetop or Grill Method, topping the burgers with 6 thin slices of sharp Cheddar cheese when instructed. Stir together 1/2 cup mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon coarse-grain mustard; spread over warm buns and dress the burgers with green leaf lettuce, lightly salted tomato slices, and thinly sliced red onion. Serve with ketchup.
The Southwestern: Mix in 1/2 cup prepared salsa, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro before forming the burgers. Cook burgers according to Stovetop or Grill Method. Mix 2 mashed avocados with 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread over warm buns and dress the burgers with lightly salted sliced tomatoes and thinly sliced red onion.
The Neapolitan: Mix in 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar before forming the burgers. Cook the burgers according to the Stovetop or Grill Method, topping the burgers with 6 slices mozzarella cheese when instructed. Stir together a generous 1/4 cup mayonnaise and 1/4 cup pesto. Spread over warm buns and dress the burgers with lightly salted sliced tomatoes.
The Curry: Mix in 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1/4 cup Major Grey's chutney (mincing any large mango pieces), and 1 tablespoon curry powder before forming the burgers. Cook the burgers according to the Stovetop or Grill Method. Spread chutney over warm buns. Dress the burgers with cilantro and pickled carrots (4 peeled and coarsely grated medium carrots tossed with 4 teaspoons rice vinegar and a big pinch of salt).
The Cajun: Mix in 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, 2 tablespoons vegetarian Worcestershire sauce, and 2 teaspoons Cajun spice before forming the burgers. Cook the burgers according to the Stovetop or Grill Method. Dress the burgers with slaw (4 cups shredded cabbage mixed with 1/2 cup finely diced bell pepper, 2 thinly sliced scallions, 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 4 teaspoons cider vinegar, and 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning).
The Tahini: Mix in 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, 2 tablespoons tahini, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, and 1 teaspoon ground cumin before forming the burgers. Cook the burgers according to the Stovetop or Grill Method. Dress the burgers with tzatziki (1 hothouse cucumber-grated and squeezed dry-mixed with 1 cup 2% Greek yogurt, 2 minced garlic cloves, 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste).
The Five-Spice: Mix in 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons sugar, 2 teaspoons rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder before forming the burgers. Cook the burgers according to the Stovetop or Grill Method. Spread the buns with Thai sweet chili sauce. Dress the burgers with cilantro sprigs and pickled cucumber (1 thinly sliced hothouse cucumber, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons sugar, and salt to taste).
Variation: Grill Method
Heat all burners of a gas grill on high. Lightly brush the tops of the patties with oil. Place the patties on the hot rack, oiled side down, cover, and grill until spotty brown, about 3 minutes. Lightly brush the tops with oil and flip the burgers. Replace the cover and continue to grill until the burgers are spotty brown on the second side, about 3 minutes longer. If you've chosen a burger that gets topped with cheese, add it now. Place the buns on the grill rack, turn off the heat, and let burgers and buns continue to cook until the cheese melts and the buns are warm. Top the burgers as desired.
Notes and Tips:
- Not every type of bean works for these. When you are using a mix of mashed and whole, the smaller ones, like black beans, white beans, pinto beans, and black-eyed peas, hold together better than bigger legumes like cannellini beans and chickpeas.
- You can add fresh herbs, spices, and flavorings as seen in many of the variations, but the classic is flavored simply-just garlic powder and black pepper-and since most canned beans have already been seasoned, there's no need to add salt.
- For an even quicker bean burger, substitute 1 can (16 ounces) vegetarian refried beans for one of the cans of beans and reduce the eggs from 2 to 1.
- Fork mashing 1 can of the beans helps the patties keep their shape; leaving the second can whole lends appealing texture to the burgers.
Reprinted from Cook Without a Book: Meatless Meals (c) 2011 by Pam Anderson. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc. Available wherever books are sold.
Photograph by Quentin Bacon.