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Making healthy burgers

The good news is that there’s a tasty, whole-food burger you can easily make at home that is good for your health.

The patty

Where your health is concerned, the best burgers are made from beans, not beef—and they can taste great!

Start with a cooked or canned bean or lentil of your choice (leftover dhal or thick bean soup or stew also work) and mash coarsely. Add to this any ingredients of your choice, like sautéed onion, garlic or finely sliced spring onion; coarsely chopped nuts or seeds, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes; dried or fresh herbs and spices such as fresh parsley, dried oregano, ground cumin or chipotle; and a nutritious flour or leftover cooked grains to bind (for example, lupin or besan (chickpea) flour, rolled oats, cooked millet or quinoa). 

Not all burgers need egg. If your mixture doesn’t look firm enough, as a vegan alternative, you can also use “chia egg.” Simply stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds with a small amount of water until a gel is formed, then fold in. 

There are hundreds of variations on this theme, so be creative. Use a ½- or 1⁄3-cup measure to create evenly sized patties. You can oven bake (flip half-way through to brown both sides) or fry in extra virgin olive oil.


  • Choose a wholegrain bun, burrito or flat bread.
  • Spread with hummus, avocado, pesto, mustard or lemon tahini sauce.
  • Pile up with colourful raw salad or leftover roast vegetables—and don’t forget to include some sprouts.
  • Top with your patty, and enjoy! 
  • You can also add caramelised onions and homemade tomato sauce or salsa.

Time-saving tips

Make patties ahead in bulk and freeze for a quick meal. For an emergency, you can buy chilled or frozen patties, like lentil burgers and soy schnitzels, but beware of their sodium content. 

The printed version of this recipe contained a mistake in the ingredients list. Please find the amended version below. The Signs of the Times team would like to apologise for the oversight. Happy cooking!

Black bean burgers

Black beans and rice are a classic Mexican combo and these gluten-free burgers bring the traditional flavours together. Serve on toasted buns topped with the spiced salsa. You can also add more fresh salad ingredients or onion jam.

Preparation time: 20 minutes | Cooking time: 25 minutes | Serves: 8


  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 400 g soft cooked black beans
  • 1 ½ cups cooked medium grain brown rice 
  • 1⁄3 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 ½ tsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pepper, to taste
  • Salsa:
  • 1 large, firm tomato, finely diced
  • ½ medium Lebanese cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • ¼ red Spanish onion, peeled and finely diced
  • ½ medium avocado, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 tbsp chopped, fresh coriander
  • ½ small red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


  1. Place chia seeds in a small bowl and stir in 5 tablespoons of water to make “chia egg.” Allow to swell and thicken for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent clumps.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frypan. Sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for another 30 seconds. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the salsa by combining all the relevant ingredients. (Makes approximately 2 cups.) Set aside.  
  4. Mash the beans coarsely in a medium bowl with a fork. Add the rice, rice flour, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, “chia egg” and onion mixture. Stir until well combined then divide mixture into eight. Using moistened hands, form eight round balls then flatten into burgers.  
  5. Heat the remaining oil in the frypan and cook burgers in two batches on medium-high for approximately 3 minutes on each side, or until golden. Serve immediately with the salsa or freeze for up to 3 months and reheat in the oven.

Tip: Use leftover rice or beans from your fridge. Canned black beans also work, but a 400 g can provides 240 g drained beans, so use two! Home-cooked beans are usually softer and taste better!

PER BURGER: 1170 kJ (279 cal). Protein 7 g. Fat 17 g. Saturated fat 3 g. Cholesterol 0 mg. Carbohydrate 21 g. Fibre 7 g. Calcium 41 mg. Iron 2 mg. Sodium 297 mg.

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