Black Bean Burgers & Sweet Potato Fries

There’s tremendous controversy swirling around this Sandra Lee recipe.  It’s possible that it may eventually come to blows.  Many love it, but it also has a lion-size share of haters.

Am I naive becuase it never crossed my mind that Sandra Lee doesn’t actually come up with all these recipes herself?  Several commenters on this recipe at suggested that she had a team of test-kitchen chefs who actually come up with these dishes.  Really?  That sounds like a job I’d be up for. Just sitting around the kitchen all day thinking, “hmmm, peanut butter and…. vodka! Yes! That’s it! Back later, guys. I’m off to BevMo!”

The thought never occured to me that Sandra doesn’t come up with all these recipes on her own, but maybe she’s just too darn busy conditioning that shiny blond hair of hers to bother.

It really is shiny hair, too.  Just look at it.

I bet it smells like wildflowers.  Gee.

I’m not sure of the actual time Sandra’s Money Saving Meals airs on Saturdays, but it nearly always coincides with my return home from breakfast with MG at our spot, Vintage Enoteca, where the weekend panini specials are peerless. Flopping down into my reading chair with my feet up on the ottoman, desperate to avoid fading into an eight-hour food coma, I usually catch the tail end of Rachael Ray, followed immediately by Sandra… sunny, inviting, 100% Aryan… opening up a world of flavorful and economically sound dishes, and then delightfully revealing to you that, by using her methods and ingredients over more traditional options, you save yourself…wait for it… a whopping…  thirty cents! Forty-seven cents! Maybe even… en entire half-dollar! Oh that money-saving Sandra, always looking out for that household food budget. With the money you save following her remarkable hints, your home will always be flush in ballpoint pens, postage stamps and Tang.

This past Saturday, Sandra showed me how to make inexpensive, meatless burgers using just black beans, some breadcrumbs, an egg and some seasonings. I happen to be a major fan of black beans, and nearly always have a can or two in the cupboard. Additionally, MG has been looking to steer clear of ground beef, but loves himself a good burger, so this recipe shot to the top of my must-make list. The divisive reviews on Sandra’s page at, however, gave me pause. One group declared the recipe a glowing success, the other an outrageous disaster. Stories of mushiness, blandness and lack of burger cohesion were alarming. After a year, I have yet to experience a major fail in the kitchen, and I’d like to maintain the record, or at the very least not have it obliterated by black bean burgers, so I carefully poured over each review. Some samples:

“The flavor combination is great but I also had problems keeping the patties together. I wound up adding a bit more breadcrumbs to get the texture right. I am thinking I had extra moisture left from draining and rinsing the beans” – Laurie

“Great taste on this one. Very easy to prepare and even easier to eat. The one thing that I would have done differently is to make the patties thinner. I grilled them and, even though they crisped up on the outside, they were still kind of mushy inside.” – Mike

“WORST RECIPE EVER. Falls apart. Tastes bland. Better off putting the mix into a burrito or taco.” – Cheryl

“I make this at least once a week. It is healthy, tasty, and my husband even likes it! I make a side of sweet potato fries that accompany this dish nicely.” – Kristina

I finally decided to proceed, with caution and the addition of some bonus ingredients to ensure flavor and stability.  It was the right move.  These burgers are terrific!  They take a little more TLC during prep and cooking than your standard burgers would, but the pay out is worth it!

I highly recommend you set aside a portion of the black bean mixture and use as filling in another meal – goes great as a filling in tacos or enchiladas, over eggs or nachos, or could be cooked into a chili or even a dip … so park some in the fridge.

The recipe for the sweet potato fries is also Sandra’s.  Lots of taste without the controversy.  Sandy says the fries are so flavorful, you can eat them without ketchup.  Sandy clearly also believes in unicorns, leprechauns and the Y2K bug, because there is NO FRY known to man that doesn’t benefit from ketchup!

Black Bean Burgers

  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained, divided
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 egg (I added a second egg hoping it would create a stronger bind for the rest of the ingredients – seemed to help)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I added an extra quarter cup, again to ensure the burgers held together)
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Hamburger rolls
  • Addition to Sandra’s recipe – one jalapeno pepper, chopped up, seeds and all, for added punch and flavor.  I lean to the spicy, but if that’s not your thing, forgo the jalapneo

Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-low heat.

In a food processor, pulse onion and garlic until finely chopped. Add 1 can black beans, cilantro, parsley, egg(s), jalapeno pepper, and red pepper flakes and pulse to combine.

Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl, add the remaining can of black beans and the bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and mix until well combined.

Divide remaining mixture into 4 portions (you’ll be able to get 6 or 7 if you choose to not save any of the mixture for furtue meals) and form into patties. Place on hot oiled grill (or pan) over medium-low heat.  Use a spatuala and a fork to form the patties back togehter tightly if  any fell apart when transferring to the pan (it happened to me).

Cook about 6 minutes a side or until heated through. When flipping, use two spatulas, or one spatula and a fork.  One on top the patty, one below, then filp.  Pack back together anything that might fall loose, and as they continue to cook on the second side, squeeze together gently with spatula and fork.

Toast hamburger buns on a grill. Place a burger on the bottom of each bun. Top with lettuce, tomato and ketchup. Cover the burgers with the top of the bun and serve.

Sweet Potato Fries

  • 2 sweet potatoes, washed
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place a baking sheet in the oven.

On a cutting board, slice the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise. Slice each half into 6 wedges. Place wedges in a large bowl, add canola oil, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and toss to coat.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Place the fries onto the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the fries and bake for another 15 minutes until brown and crispy. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.

Sweet potato fries, all greased up and ready to go… just like Sha Na Na.
Beautiful beautiful picture.  I love all those colors and the happiness they’re going to bring my taste buds.
Forming gently into patties.  A little messy and not as cohesive as you’re used to with meat, but treeat them gingerly and you’ll manage to navigate them into your skillet.

Some stray chunks after the flip that I pressed back into the patties with a fork and a spatula.
Would you like fries with that?

These burgers are not going to be as juicy as meat burgers.  You will want to have your favorite condiments on standby.  They certainly are spicy though so be prepared, especially if you added my jalapeno suggestion.  Enjoy!

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6 thoughts on “Black Bean Burgers & Sweet Potato Fries

  • March 26, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    I’m giggling through this post … as a recipe developer (a schlep, not a star) I can’t imagine a time when I’ll ever be important enough to NOT come up with my own recipes. I think that’s just flat out odd. That would be like being a painter who asks others to paint for him.

    I guess once you’re as busy as dear Sandra, you may need a little help. At any rate – I adore black beans and veggie burgers in general. I’ll definitely give these a go! Of course, I’ll be the only one eating them in my home, but that’s all good – more for me 🙂

  • March 26, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Haha Anne – well if that’s the case, I’LL come over and we can have them together! I loved them. They will go into regular rotation at
    Chez TvFoodAndDrink. And, to be fair, there was NO confirmation that Sandra has these little elves helping here, but a number of commenters at FoodNetwork mentioned it, so it just got be thinking… could be the case.

  • March 28, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Gary, So glad you stopped by! I am enjoying your blog. As to Sandra, there has been a long standing ” I hate Sandra” contingent who comment on her recipes on a regular basis. Everything is laughable and ridiculous to them in what she prepares. Sometimes I too find her recipes a little lacking, but I think she has a good heart and believes in what she presents. The proof is in the results and I am glad you were happy with this burger (Any burger is my favorite food). I will be back.

  • March 28, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Penny loves burgers? Hmm, I never would have guessed that as at this moment I am reading the recipe for your bacon cheeseburger and fries soup! You are a madwoman. You’re breaking all the rules. Bacon cheeseburger and fries soup? I didn’t know you were EVEN ALLOWED to do that. I thought there was some sort of law. As for Sandra, I kid her, but I do like her. I have made her recipes before. Today she was all about cookies, and I wasn’t interested so I turned her off. She’s got a great recipe for ale-house burgers with onion compote that I made a few months back. Delicious!

  • March 28, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Hey Gary, Wrong Penny your responded to here. I haven’t checked out Mimi’s kitchen yet, but will after this. I am also a Mimi to my Granddaughter. I am Lake lure cottage kitchen. Who would have thought, too many Pennys…. , Looks like a whole new blog window for new friends.

  • March 28, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Oops! A duplicate penny. Two Pennies are luckier than one! Well, I love both your sites and am getting los of ideas from them!

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