As a vegetarian during my late teens and twenties, I ate my fair share of veggie burgers. After college I started making my own, improving on the store-bought burgers I’d come to rely on by making my own zesty bean burger packed with herbs and subtle spices.
The recipe has come a long way since those days, and the latest version is this tender white bean number with double pesto—some goes in the burgers and some goes into a creamy sauce over top.
These veggie burgers cook up like a dream. They're sure to be a winner for meat eaters and vegetarians alike.
Pesto Is the Sauce of Summer
Pesto is my favorite warm weather condiment and I don’t skimp here: you’re going to fold some into your bean mixture and use the remainder (mixed with plain Greek yogurt) to dress your burgers.
I went with a nut-free pesto here for simplicity and for personal reasons (my son is allergic to them), but you honestly won’t miss them a bit.
Making a Better Veggie Burger
If you’ve made homemade veggie burgers before, you know that sometimes they can turn out quite dry and crumbly. That’s not the case here: creamy beans are blended with an egg, breadcrumbs, and brown rice to hold everything together.
Once the mixture is blended together, it needs to chill in the fridge for at least an hour before shaping the patties (this helps the patties hold together without crumbling apart on you). When planning your day, take this extra time for chilling into account.
Pan-Fry—Don't Grill—These Burgers
While I know there’s always a temptation to grill veggie burgers like regular burgers, I always find veggie burgers tough to grill—they can so often stick to the grates and come apart.
Instead, I prefer to pan fry these with a little oil in a nonstick skillet or well-oiled grill pan. Then we plate them up and head out to the yard—the best of both worlds.
More Veggie Burgers and Sandwiches!
Pesto White Bean Veggie Burgers
- For the pesto:
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- A few grinds of fresh-cracked black pepper
- 1/4 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
- For the veggie burgers:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to shape burgers if needed
- 1 small yellow onion, minced (about 1 cup)
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
- 3/4 cup (85 g) bread crumbs
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup cooked brown rice
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
- To serve:
- 4 hamburger buns
- 1 large tomato, sliced
- Small handful lettuce leaves
Make the pesto:
In the bowl of a food processor, add the olive oil, basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and process until smooth. Scoop the pesto out into a small bowl, leaving about 2 tablespoons behind in the bowl of the food processor (you’ll come back to this in a moment).
Add the Greek yogurt to the small bowl of pesto (the sauce you’ve removed from the food processor) and stir to combine. Set aside.
Cook the onion and garlic:
In a medium sauté pan, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 1 minute.
Blend the burger mixture:
Returning to your food processor with the reserved pesto, add the white beans, cooked onion mixture, bread crumbs, egg, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper into the bowl.
Pulse until just combined—you want it to remain slightly chunky, not completely pureed, otherwise it won’t hold together as well.
Fold in the rice and parsley:
Turn the bean mixture out into a large mixing bowl. Fold in the rice and parsley.
Chill the bean mixture:
Cover bean mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
Shape the burgers:
When you’re ready to cook the burgers, divide the mixture into 4 equal portions. Shape each into patties about 1-inch thick. If the mixture starts sticking to your hands, coat your palms with a little extra olive oil.
Cook the burgers:
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Set patties into the skillet; don't crowd the skillet—cook in batches if needed. Cook about 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown on both sides. Add a little more oil to the pan if the burgers begin to stick.
Serve the burgers on buns, topped with lettuce, tomato, and creamy pesto sauce.