Play Me a Recipe

Brinda Ayer makes Black Bean & Corn Burgers

Episode Summary

Director of Content Brinda Ayer—self-proclaimed hater of black beans, but working on it—makes 'The Full Helping' blogger Gena Hamshaw's smoky black bean and corn burgers.

Episode Notes

On Play Me a Recipe, your favorite cooks will walk you through their most treasured recipes, offering all the insider tips, stories, and tricks you won't get from a written recipe—and you'll be right alongside them, every step of the way. Feel free to pause, jump back, or navigate the steps via the podcast chapters.

If you're cooking along, here's the recipe we're making today. Go ahead and grab the ingredients below (Brinda starts listing them at 0:28) before starting the episode.

Black Bean & Corn Burgers

  1. Sauté onion and garlic in the olive oil for eight to ten minutes, or until golden, soft, and fragrant.
  2. Add 2 cups of the beans, the cumin, the paprika, the chili powder, the sea salt, and pepper to taste. Stir in the sauté pan till all is warm.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  4. Add the oats to the bowl of a food processor and pulse them a few times. Add the onion, garlic, and bean mixture. Process everything together, until it's well combined but still has texture.
  5. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl. Add the last cup of black beans and the corn and mix well with your hands. Check for seasoning and season to taste. If the mixture is too mushy to form into patties, add a little more oats or bread crumbs.
  6. Shape mixture into four large or six smaller patties. Transfer burgers to a baking sheet and bake for 30 to 35 minutes (or until golden), flipping once through. Alternately, you can chill them for twenty minutes before transferring them to a grill and cooking through. You can also pan fry them in olive oil until golden on each side.

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Episode Transcription

Brinda Ayer: Oh, I spilled one on the ground. Stirred a little aggressively. 


Brinda: Hi, I'm Brinda Ayer. Welcome to my kitchen in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Today we'll be cooking Gena Hamshaw's black bean and corn burgers. I'm going to walk you through the recipe, which is linked in the show notes right alongside you. Feel free to pause or jump back if you just need a sec. 


Brinda: For this recipe, we'll need a small yellow onion, a clove of garlic, some olive oil, two cans of black beans, drained, or three cups of cooked and drained black beans, and some spices: cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper. All the good stuff. You'll also need quick oats or fine breadcrumbs--more on this in just a sec--and some fresh or frozen corn. Since it's not quite corn season where I am right now, I'm using frozen, and that's totally fine, so you can make this all year round. 


Brinda: The other great thing about these burgers is that they can be baked or fried on the stovetop. Today I'll be baking them, so I also have a saute pan, which you'll need for the recipe, as well as a baking sheet. Last thing: we'll need a food processor for this recipe. So, grab yours. Mine's already out on the counter. 

Step 1: Prep onion and garlic

Brinda: Alright. So we're gonna get started by chopping our small yellow onion and a clove of garlic. Let's just get the ends off here. And a fine dice is totally, totally great here. I have been a vegetarian my whole life and I have not found a veggie burger that is both extremely flavorful and doesn't have a million ingredients, and stays full of moisture and doesn't have this dry or crumbling texture that a lot of veggie burgers can have. So I was delighted when I came across this recipe which is actually one of the most popular recipes on Food52. Our community really loves it. And discovered that not only was it really texturally interesting, it has a lot of flavor, and it has a lot of, you know, whole ingredients, and ingredients that you can really recognize. It's so not fussy, and I think that's what I love about it the most.

Gena is a registered dietitian and a food blogger, recipe developer, um, a writer, the list really goes on. She's a super talented person and a very dear friend of mine. So many people are eating plant-based right now, and I think that's why this recipe has remained as popular as it has over the years. Our onion is just all chopped up. I'm gonna grab this clove of garlic. I'm just going to chop this very, very finely, so there are not huge chunks of garlic kind of running around in our burgers. Of course, this will all get food processed in just a second, but just want to make sure that we're kind of giving it a head start. And guess what? That's all the chopping you need to do in this recipe. 

Step 2: Sauté with beans and spices

Brinda: Next, we're going to start by sauteing our onions and garlic. Just a saute pan and a little bit of olive oil in the pan will do the trick. Let it heat for just a second, and just going to drop in my onions and garlic. I don't want to do this at too high of a temperature, otherwise the onions will get sort of burnt and bitter, and I don't know if you've accidentally burnt garlic, but it is a very unpleasant, very strong, and, and like I said, bitter taste. We're going to keep them here for about 8 to 10 minutes, keeping an eye on their color, making sure you adjust the heat as necessary to prevent them from burning, and allow them to brown and get really, really fragrant and golden. They're already smelling so good. They've only been in here for about 30 seconds, so we have a bit of a long way to go, but just let them hang out. Don't stray too far from the stove so you can adjust as needed. Oh, spilled one on the ground. Stirred a little aggressively. But this would be a good time to drain your black beans if you haven't yet. I haven't, because I'm not very well prepared. 

So in the recipe, Gena has you add the black beans, a couple of the spices, some of the salt, and the red pepper flakes all at the same time. I am actually going to let you in on a little secret: if you put the smoked paprika and the cumin in the pan first and kind of just stir it around with the onions for maybe just 15 to 30 seconds, we'll be able to toast the spices a little bit so they'll get even more flavorful. So just going to put in a teaspoon and a half of ground cumin, and half a teaspoon of smoked paprika, and a teaspoon of chili powder. Just going to stir them around. Also going to throw in a pinch of red pepper flakes. You can use black pepper if you want to. Stir that around for a second. All of it is toasty and ready for the black beans. So I have some black beans that I've drained here, and just tossing them in the pan. Okay, so we're just really gonna heat these through just for a little bit. And remember that we are only going to be using two cups of the black beans here. So that's about 1.5 cans. One and a quarter cans. You don't need to be super exact with it, but save a little handful, up to a cup of the black beans, for incorporating later into the patty mixture. It provides such an interesting and delicious textural contrast. So don't skip this step, it's very important.

Alrighty, so now that my black beans and onions and spices are all heated through, I'm going to just turn on my oven and preheat it to 350°F. So you can either bake these on a sheet pan or pan fry them in a skillet. Both are really delicious. The pan frying will get you slightly crispier, more, more caramelized, whereas the baking will maybe dry them out a little bit more, um, and, and get less of that golden crust on the outside. But I, I really think for people with time restrictions, and if you want to sort of multi task and cook some of your sides or prepare your burger toppings while the patties cook, really baking is the way to go. 

So I just want to talk a little bit about the spices in the mixture here, the patty mixture here. Cumin and chili powder and smoked paprika all lend this really smoky, earthy, deeply savory flavor to the beans and the burgers in general. I think it just brings this familiarity and this really barbecue-esque vibe to the burger. It really adds a lot to the mixture. So Gena has us using black beans in this recipe, and they are a very sturdy, hearty, almost meaty kind of bean. Uh, that said though, you could use really any kind of bean that you want that's not too mushy and has a nice neutral flavor. White beans would work really well, or chickpeas. I might not go for something like kidney because they are a little bit too mushy on the inside, and uh, and velvety, and they would probably disintegrate and not crisp up super well when we bake the patties. And if you want to make these burgers in advance and bake them off at a later date when you're ready to eat them, feel free to form them into patties. Keep them on a plate and, you know, line the plate with parchment between layers of patties, and just stick them in the fridge until you're ready to use them. 

Step 3: Process mixture and shape patties

Brinda: Next, we're going to move on to our food processor and put our beans and some of our binders together and just pulse them until they form a cohesive mixture. So the food processor is my absolute favorite appliance in the kitchen, as nerdy as that sounds. It is such a versatile and worthwhile investment and I use it pretty much every single week. You can make pesto in it or delicious homemade hummuses, nut butters, and obviously veggie burgers. So I feel like it's a must buy. The best part about a food processor is that it can, you know, blend things up and not make them too fine like a blender would.

To my food processor, I am going to add some oats, but you can also use fine bread crumbs if you want, either Panko or just the regular Italian breadcrumbs. I have oats at home so I'm going to use them. We'll need 3/4 of a cup. I'm going to put a little bit less because I'm using the whole rolled oats rather than pre-measured quick oats. But you can just really eyeball this, about--between half and three quarters of a cup. And then we're going to get it all pulsed. My food processor has about 15 lids and you need to secure them all before you're able to turn them on, which is a great safety feature, but little bit cumbersome. So now they're on and I'm gonna pulse. (sound of motor running) I'm gonna scrape down the sides a little bit with a trusty rubber spatula, just cause sometimes stuff likes to hang out at the bottom of the processor. Lid back on, some more pulsing. 

Alright, so our oats are pretty fine, and I think we're ready to add the rest of our ingredients to the processor. But before I do, I'm going to take a quick dish break, um, and I'll meet you right back after this.


Brinda: Now that we're done processing our oats. I'm going to add into the food processor the black beans and onions and spices that we sauteed. But remember that we're still keeping aside one cup of the black beans to add a little bit later. This is so the beans end up having a really great texture and some recognizable crunchy bits. And we're ready to pulse some more. You'll just want to make sure that we're getting a fairly smooth and creamy texture, but not a purée. We just don't want it to be completely homogeneous. There can still be black bean chunks. (sound of motor running) Seems to have done it and I think we're good to go. 

Now we're ready to form our patty mixture. So going to take the food processed black beans and oats and stick them in a nice sized mixing bowl. Alright, so turn all that out. To this mixture, I am going to add the black beans that I reserved, the cup, and also three quarters of a cup of corn kernels. Just kind of, kind of mix this together. Make sure that the mixture is really kind of firm and not too mushy. If it ends up being too mushy and is kind of hard to form into patties because it's, it's too wet, feel free to add some more bread crumbs or rolled oats, which will help the mixture bind a little bit. My patty mixture is a great, kind of somewhat sticky but not too sticky, consistency, and um, it's not sticking to my hands too much, which is a good sign. 

So right now, I'm just gonna make, create a little disc of it at the bottom of this mixing bowl and score it into six. So going to put them on my baking sheet, and they don't need to be spaced out too much. All six should be able to fit on a half sheet. If it is super warm outside and you've got your grill going, wherever you live, also feel free to chill these burgers for about 20 to 30 minutes, and then they'll be firm enough for you to get these on the grill without them falling apart. For a size reference, the patties will be about, I think like half an inch thick, and between three and five inches in diameter. Like I said, you don't want them supermassive, otherwise they won't fit on a bun properly. And you want them evenly sized so that they also cook--especially because we're putting them in the oven. Now they're all formed. I'm gonna wash my hands, and then we're gonna get these patties into the oven. 

Step 4: Bake or fry patties

Brinda: If you do decide to fry these, they'll be super tasty. You'll just want to make sure that you pay a little bit closer attention and really only cook two, maybe three maximum at the same time. In a pan, and when you're flipping them constantly, they might tend to fall apart a little bit more easily, so giving them a lot of room to breathe in the pan and brown up instead of steam is super key here. Alright, now I'm going to stick these patties in a 350° preheated oven. So I'm going to check on them in about 15 minutes, then we'll flip them over once, and then put them in for another 15 minutes. 

It's been about 15 minutes since I put my patties in the oven and I'm just going to check them out, see how they're going and give them a good little flip. So you'll see that the tops have dried out a bit and the color has lightened considerably, which is a good sign. You'll just want to make sure that they don't look too dry and that they're also firm enough that you can flip them properly without them falling apart. So using a spatula, just gonna do a little quick flip. And they stayed together. Only one corn kernel went overboard. This is very encouraging news, that nothing is falling apart. Alright, little guys, I'll see you in another 15 minutes. 

(musical interlude)

Brinda: It's been about 15 minutes, and I am going to grab my now fully baked patties out of the oven. They are looking pretty firm and a little bit dry on the top, which is a good sign. We really don't want them to be too wet because otherwise they won't hold together very nicely. I am gonna be frying up some caramelized onions to put them on top, and I will probably also melt some vegan cheese on top of the burger and just eat it without a bun, because I don't have any today. Because my onions are going to take a while to caramelize, and because I'm pretty impatient, I'm just gonna sneak a little bite. Mmm, it's super smoky. The black beans make it really creamy. It really tastes like, just if you squint just enough, it tastes like you've been sitting out on your porch grilling these on a barbecue and letting them kind of soak up all that delicious smoky flavor. 


Brinda: Thanks for making Gena Hamshaw's black bean and corn burgers with me today. You can find the recipe on We'll have new episodes weekly, and if you have a favorite Food52 recipe, you'd like to hear us make, email it to us at