Updated on 09.10.14

Dinner With My Family #5: Burgers and Fries!

Trent Hamm

Veggie Burgers and Baked French Fries

Yep, burgers and fries! Here’s a peek at my wife’s plate (she was handling some of the picture taking while I was getting the children seated):

Finished plate

(I think she put some sort of barbecue sauce on them as a condiment.)

So, how exactly is that a healthy meal?

For starters, the burgers are made out of beans, not beef or pork. For another, the fries are fresh potatoes, sliced and dredged in a bit of olive oil, then baked in the oven.

Even better, this meal cost less than comparable options, and it’s pretty flexible for those of you who think that a purely bean burger sounds awful.

What You Need

The ingredient list is really simple.

For the burgers, you just need a cup and a half of dried beans or a can of cooked beans, plus whatever you wish to use for flavoring. I typically use about half of a minced onion, a couple teaspoons of minced garlic, plenty of pepper, and a few dashes of salt. I also used about a mouthful of beer. You’ll also want buns or bread.

For the fries, you just need a couple large potatoes, some olive oil, and some salt and pepper. You can, of course, use other seasonings, too.

All of these ingredients (using dried beans) added up to approximately four dollars and fed our family of four with two meals’ worth of leftovers.

The Night Before (or Early That Day)

If you’re using dry beans and don’t already have some cooked, put them on to soak for the night.

Beans just getting ready to cook

The exact type of beans doesn’t matter too much. I usually use a mix of red beans, black beans, and chickpeas, a half cup of each. Use whatever you like – if you’re using dry beans, though, figure a quarter of a cup of dry beans per burger you intend to make.

You might also wish to peel and slice the potatoes if you’re making oven fries.

Fries in water

Preparing the Meal

If you need to cook the beans, do so. They will be done after sixty to seventy five minutes at a low boil. You can boil them in advance if you’d like, but use them within a day or two.

You’re also going to want to preheat the oven to 400 F. Then, take a cookie sheet and spread parchment paper on it. Take a bowl, put half a cup of olive oil in it, then start dredging the fries through the oil and placing them on the parchment paper. When they’re all spread out, sprinkle some salt, pepper, and other seasonings you might like on top of them. We like to experiment, so we tried some chili powder on ours.

Fries about to bake

Bake these in the oven for about forty minutes or so and they’ll be delicious – crisp on the outside, soft on the inside.

While they’re in the oven, take your beans and mash them.

Burger mash

I just use an old-fashioned handheld potato masher. It takes two minutes, tops.

When that’s done, take minced onions (if you’re using them) and cook in a skillet together with a couple drops of oil over medium high heat. Keep cooking them until they start to brown and have a wonderful smell, then add minced garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add all of this to the bean mash and stir thoroughly.

While the skillet is still hot, I put about a mouthful of beer into the skillet, causing it to boil and get some of the wonderful cooked pieces out of the skillet. I pour this right into the bean mash and keep stirring it.

Don’t be afraid to add plenty of whatever spices you like right to the mix. You almost can’t overdo it. The only way to go wrong is to add spices that clash in flavor.

Burger mash

If the mix is runny, add some bread crumbs or some ground oatmeal to thicken it. You’ll want it thick enough so that it easily forms very firm balls and patties.

At this point, just make small balls from the mix and form them into patties, then grill them or cook them in a skillet with just a bit of oil to help with sticking. Cook them over medium high heat, flipping regularly, until both sides are nice and browned.

Finished burger

Put it on a bun, top with condiments to your liking, and enjoy! Our family likes them, though we have been turned off in the past by awkward seasoning (but never by too much seasoning!).

Optional Ingredients

If you want to change this up a bit, the easiest way to do it is to combine unmashed beans with ground beef to make your own burgers. It reduces the cost, adds some texture to the burgers, and changes up the flavor a little bit as well.

You can also, of course, vary the flavorings. There are countless things you can put into the mix, from Worcestershire sauce to pineapple pieces. Never be afraid to experiment a little.

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  1. Tizzle says:

    I’ve been a vegetarian for 10+ years and it literally never occurred to me to make my own veggie burgers.

    I’d really like to hear a comment from you, or someone who’s tried this, about the texture. I can sense what the taste would be, but burgers imo are made or unmade by texture. (possibly I’m insanely picky)

  2. Tizzle says:

    Second question: is it possible to subscribe to the comments on a specific blog post? -I guess I’ll check back…

  3. Michelle says:

    I’ve made lots of different kinds of bean burgers and you really just have to experiment until you find the one with the texture you like. There are plenty of recipes in different food blogs on the net.

    I gotta say though, I didn’t even read this post all the way through. That first picture of the burgers just really turned me off…there are much nicer ways to present food than on a dirty plate like that. I get that the smears are probably from the burgers somehow but they are really off-putting.

  4. AnnJo says:

    Less than a pound of beans (about 50 cents), a couple of pounds of potatoes (about 15 cents) and a 1/2 cup of olive oil (about 60 cents) cost $4? Even allowing for the buns, spices and frozen veggies on the plate, that seems high.

  5. Socal says:

    Ok this is a good post. I never really considered making my own veggie burgers. Do you have to soak the dried beans first or do you just go ahead and cook them?

  6. How exactly do you measure out a “mouthful” of beer? ;-)

  7. I should have asked, don’t you put vegetables on your burgers like sliced onions (I know you minced them and added them to the beans), sliced tomato, lettuce, alfalfa sprouts???

    And Worcestershire Sauce isn’t Vegan, even though you didn’t specifically mention adding it to your food, I thought you might want to know if you didn’t already.

  8. Tizzle says:

    While I’m hanging out here, I thought I would say I love this new series. I think you give a nice amount of detail, while leaving plenty of room for experimentation (the only way I’m capable of cooking).

    In disagreement with Michelle @3, I like the realistic pictures. I get turned off by the impossibility of replicating something on the cover of Gourmet.

  9. Tizzle says:

    @6 Steven — there’s a vegetarian version of Worcestershire sauce. It’s not bad, as I recall.

  10. cv says:

    @AnnJo, what part of the country are you from? Around here (bay area), a 5lb bag of potatoes tends to run at least $2.99, and loose bins of potatoes are never under $0.99/lb. The potatoes for this meal for me would be more like $1 than 15 cents.

    Not that potatoes aren’t still a good deal for the amount of food and nutrition you get, but I think your estimates are low.

    @Tizzle, homemade bean burgers are delicious but I often have problems with them being too squishy and falling apart. If you’re vegetarian and not vegan, consider recipes that use egg as a binder, or look for recipes that combine the beans with sturdy grains like bulgur to give the burgers some body.

    Trent, I want to add my voice to those who like this series. The photography isn’t always compelling, but since you went vegan I’ve wanted to try (or already regularly eat) pretty much all of your recipes.

  11. Rebecca says:

    Here in the midwest it is a pretty regular price to find 10 lbs of russet potatoes for $2. I often pay even less. Red and Yellow varieties go for more. There is a ton of variety with make your own veggie3 burgers, it depends on what you personally like. Cooks Illustrated has a fairly good one, but it is not vegan, and not gluten free if that is important to you.

    And I know its nit picky, but 2 burgers? How about 1 burger and a big veggie salad?

  12. Kate says:


    I grind black beasn through my food processor at around the “4” setting setting and add a bit of binder. Really similar to how I make falafel actually- just a different legume. I found that tossing in veggies (these are a really great place to hige spinach, for example) and a little bit of baking soda also helps get a good texture.

  13. Katie says:

    And I know its nit picky, but 2 burgers? How about 1 burger and a big veggie salad?

    Oh my God, now we’re policing Trent’s wife’s food intake? Not okay, people.

  14. dot says:

    I usually like Trent’s recipes, however this one doesn’t sound appealing at all. The texture and ingredients seem to resemble a refried bean ball on a bun. Maybe add some grated veggies?
    I wonder how many people are going to try this recipe and actually spit a mouthful of beer in the pot? I’m still laughing at the thought.

  15. Lindsay says:

    I have made everything in this series so far. It’s great! I have had good luck with broiling bean burgers in the oven. It firms then up and gives it a different texture. Frying them sometimes leaves the inside a little soft but I like them that way to. You just have to find out how u like them. Garbonzo beans flavored with garlic and onion are super good!

  16. Ben says:

    I’ve recently starting making bean bugers after finding a great recipe in a baby cookbook! The recipe is very similiar to Trents. As he said if the texture is off firm it up with breadcrumbs or oats. I find oats work well when the patties are cooked to give it a firmer texture. I tend to grill my patties and find them better just about any bought option. P.s. Cumin, corriander (cilantro for the U.S) and cayenne are great additional seasonings.

  17. Briana says:

    #12 Katie – I could not agree more.

  18. guinness416 says:

    Oh lord, I grew up with a vegetarian mother and remember lentil-burgers, bean-burgers and “red dragon pie” ie shepherd’s pie with kidney beans being regular dinners. We kids HATED them. I’m sure yours are tasty :P but this brought back some memories!

  19. Nick says:

    I do some freelance work for a recipe site and just posted my homemade veggie burgers this week.

    They are a bit more advanced than just beans, but the texture and flavor is worth the extra work.

    If you’re looking for a good veggie burger recipe, this is the best one I’ve found (and I’ve tried a lot).


    This will almost definitely get moderated because it has a link in it. Oh well. I tried.

  20. Nick says:

    I posted a comment with a link in it to my recipe for homemade veggie burgers that are just out of this world. They are seriously delicious although a bit more work than just beans.

    Of course, my comment got moderated because of the link, but if you google “Veggie burgers that don’t suck” it’s the very first result on a site called Tablespoon.

  21. KC says:

    Have you tried sweet potato fries – delish! They are also much healthier than white potatoes. White potatoes are nothing but starch and one of the worst things diabetics can eat – not that you are diabetic. I enjoy regular french fries as much as anyone, but I thought I’d mention that this meal, other than the small side of mixed veggies, has little vegetable content. I like the idea of a mixed salad as mentioned above. You’ll have plenty of veggies, protein (burgers) and tasty evil stuff (fries) :)

  22. Cheryl says:

    I have made falafal and mixed it with hamburger or ground turkey. I’d make my own buns, too, instead of those spendy thin buns. I’m going to try the recipe at tablespoon dot com that Nick recommended.

  23. Spondee Louise says:

    Do you spit your mouthful of beer into the pan, or what?

  24. STL Mom says:

    My kids love oven fries. I’m lazier than Trent — I don’t peel my potatoes. I just wash them, slice them length-wise into wedges, toss with olive oil and salt, then bake. My kids are picky eaters, but love these.
    We eat real beef burgers, but one pound of beef for four people is still a pretty inexpensive meal, if less healthy.

  25. Heather K says:


    I love sweet potato fries, but I find your slur against potatoes unwarranted. The starch content of one medium potato is within the American Diabetes Association guidelines for the acceptable amount of carbohydrates in a single meal. My dietitian actually recommended 45-50 grams/meal and 15/snack. Also, potatoes contain significant amounts of potassium and other minerals, vitamin C, and folate. Don’t knock ’em.

    @ Stephen and Tizzle:

    Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce isn’t vegan in that it contains fermented fish, but some of the cheap knock offs are, more, I suspect, to reduce costs than to appeal to a larger audience. This does not, of course, preclude Tizzle’s mention of versions aimed specifically at the vegetarian market.

  26. Courtney20 says:

    Half a cup of oil?? Seems like an AWFUL lot for a couple of potatoes. I know it’s good fat, but it’s still fat. Over 100g. And nearly 1000 calories. Of course I’m assuming that it all ends up on your plate, which it doesn’t – so you end up wasting about 1/3 of a cup in the bottom of your bowl. How about just “olive oil to coat” the sliced potatoes?

    Also, if you have a mandolin, you can slice them thinly very quickly and make oven potato chips. Olive oil (to coat!!), a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, and a little dried crushed rosemary. Bake at 400 for about 10-15 minutes – turn once halfway through. Watch that they don’t burn. Yum!

  27. MP3 says:

    go with sweet potato fries – more healthy – dredge them with olive oil and whatever seasoning you want (we use curry and stuff) then bake them….add a little curry powder to mayonaisse and a great dip for your fries

  28. MP3 says:

    for the bean burgers – add some chopped mushrooms – go for portobellos, or oyster, or creminis – very tasty…probably not super cheap but if the idea of bean burgers doesn’t appeal to you this is great.

  29. Michele says:

    Here in the Klamath Basin potatoes are extremely cheap- $1 for a 5 lb bag…sometimes less. We grow them here!
    The burgers sound good-but I’d put lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, mustard and pickles on them :)
    I’d probably skip the bun and wrap them in big crispy lettuce leaves, but the 100 calorie buns Trent is using are not too bad. I’m not a bread person!
    We also make mushroom fries and avocado fries a LOT! Slice up long thin fingers of big portabellas, marinate them in some red wine & olive oil with some smoked paprika for about 15 minutes, and then dredge them in panko crumbs and either pan fry or bake at 400 degrees. Pan fry is better for the crust. For avocado fries (much cheaper in season) peel, slice into long chunks, dip in soy milk and dredge in panko. Pan fry and make sure you turn them on all sides- sprinkle with salt and squeeze a lime over them! Yum!

  30. Interested Reader says:

    Instead of “dredging” them in oil, what you can do is blot the fries dry, then place them on the baking sheet, season them with salt and pepper (and anything else) then pour a tablespoon or so of oil and then toss them fries with tongs until coated. If you need more oil jut add some and toss and coat again.

    I put “dredging” in quotes because you can’t dredge something in liquid. In cooking dredge means “The process of pulling foods through dry ingredients to coat them before cooking.”

  31. Interested Reader says:

    If you are worried about the potatoes turning brown put them in a bowl of cold water. Then make sure to dry them thoroughly on paper towels.

  32. David says:

    Tahini is a decent substitute for egg as a binder in vegan recipes such as this one. Peanut butter will also work, except that peanut butter is horrible.

  33. Riki says:

    Great recipe! I love homemade bean burgers, in fact, I keep a bunch frozen for those late nights after work when I have trouble waiting more than 3 minutes for supper to be cooked. Great alternative for those of us trying to cut out red meat but who also love hamburgers.

    But Trent . . . Photography really makes a blog and these pictures are really disappointing. I know men tend not to focus on aesthetics like women do, but these images are underexposed, blurry, and generally unattractive. You MUST pay attention to quality, Trent. Your lack of attention to detail is getting to be a little insulting to your readers.

  34. Brit says:

    After checking the pantry we amazingly (going on five days being snowed in) had all the ingredients for this! We added quite a few more ingredients to the patties, mainly onions, bell peppers, and spices, and it turned out really well. The fries, however, definitely need to be turned, probably often. We ended up with half burnt/half soggy fries. But overall, it was a successful, easy, cheap dinner!

  35. pattu says:

    Instead of 40 mins in the oven perhaps you should try it in the microwave. We get decent results in about 5-mins. Although if one is not careful it would get burnt

  36. Lady D says:

    Something not mentioned in the first 28 comments:

    By peeling the potatoes, you are removing most of the nutritional value. Leave the peel on for more nutrition and less work. The potatoes do need a quick scrub under running water if you intend to eat the peel… but hey, fiber and the vitamins and minerals in that skin are good for you.

    I also need to say that I agree with comment #3. The meal could be more attractively presented…

  37. Janis says:

    @Nick (#18) thanks for the info. on how to find your veggie burger recipe. I’ll give them a try!

    We used to buy veggie burgers, but the price keeps going up… plus the ones we used to get are mostly soy. I am trying to limit the amount of soy that I eat because of a family history of estrogen-reactive breast cancer.

    Here in western Maryland, a 5 lb. bag of organic potatoes is $4.99, but I use locally grown sweet potatoes when I can get them. Drizzle with a tablespoon or so of olive oil then sprinkle with equal parts cumin, chili powder and sea salt, plus powdered lime if I have it. Or I’ll use fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. I use my hands to combine everything before it goes into the oven.

  38. Janis says:

    To clarify: by powdered lime, I mean powdered lime juice, which I sometimes find in little packets at the market. A great way to add natural flavor without calories to water (handy when you can’t just keep a lime in your pocket).

  39. Tammy says:

    The burgers sound great, I’ll have to try them, but my real comment is about the potatoes. I make these all the time, but have a much simpler way of doing them. I cut each medium potato into 8 wedges, rinse them in cold water then towel dry them. Once they’re dry throw them into a ziploc (I actually use a recycled bread bag that in years past I would have just thrown away)and put in 1 tbsp of oil. I cook mine at 450 so usually use a veggie oil of some kind since the olive oil tends to burn at that high a temp. Anyway, shake up the bag good, and dump in your seasonings and shake again. Dump the whole thing onto your parchment lined tray and bake for around 45 minutes. Oh, I also stand up each wedge so that the 2 cut sides are open to the heat and they brown up beautifully.

    I love the baggie method because every potato gets an even coating of oil and seasonings and it’s much lower in fat than just dipping them or pouring the oil over them.

    I am loving the food posts, Trent, keep them coming!!

  40. Carmen says:

    I wouldn’t have bothered with the mouthful of veg! ;-)

    I think the fries look delicious, but far from healthy. There’s a lot of white potatoes, oil and bread for this meal to be called healthy. Surely, it’s better described as a frugal and homemade alternative to fast food?

  41. AnnJo says:

    @9 CV – Re: Prices –

    I’m in an affluent suburb of Seattle, with Costco, Sam’s Club, Cash & Carry and several national chains and local groceries available.

    Pricing is all about bulk and/or sale buying.

    The prices I quoted were not estimates, but actual prices I paid for those items the last time I bought them, for instance, a 10 lb. bag of russet potates at one of my local grocery stores for 79 cents last weekend. Anything under 10 lbs. is usually much higher. They keep for several weeks in a cardboard box in a dark dry cupboard, so I bought two. Cost: 8 cents a pound. By the time these run out, there’ll be another sale.

    Beans of several varieties were $11-$13 for a 25 lb. bag at Cash & Carry, my local restaurant supply outlet (or Costco). Cost: 44-52 cents per lb.

    Light olive oil was $18 for two-2L bottles at Costco. Cost: about 56 cents per 1/2 cup.

    Over the last few years, grocers have become masters of pricing to extract maximum dollars from people who aren’t careful with their money while keeping the business of people who are. More people should take advantage of that.

  42. B. says:

    I have you thought about using a green pepper cut in half and grilled as a bun instead of more carbs, It’s alot more healthy.

    also Beef and pork are healthy meats. It’s just starting to annoy me that you think other wise. Pork is mostly monosaturated fat and Beef if it’s grass fed will give you lots of nuturiants and be leaner then grain fed beef.

  43. kristine says:

    Janice- love the powdered lime tip.

    Why not spray olive oil? You use so much less, that when we made the switch, and only buy store brand on sale, the cost of olive oil for us has actually gone down. And are food is less greasy. And I am with the sweet potato fries al the way! Better taste, texture, and nutrients!

    I may try these burgers, or a sloppy Joe variation!

  44. Carole says:

    I enjoy reading your food articles. Even if I know I’ll never prepare it, your obvious enjoyment and enthusiasm make it a fun read.

  45. valleycat1 says:

    #29 – Michele – avocado fries! We’ll definitely be trying that out – we have a neighbor with an avocado tree so we have a steady supply of free avo’s & need some new ideas.

    I’m with the others who stand firm against the popular myth that white potatos are evil; not if prepared thoughtfully & eaten in moderation. Although with half a cup of oil on them they are pretty bad guys – but it’s not the potato’s fault.

  46. Michele says:

    #45 valleycat- make sure the avocados are a little firm–not TOO ripe :) You will love them!

  47. Scott says:

    You can’t dredge something in liquids.

  48. SockSaver says:

    Great post as always,,BUT those potatoes as shown should have taken only about 2 tablespoons of oil, if that. We have been making oven fries for years and love them,,, sometimes throwing baby carrots in with the taters to bake. yummy

  49. Gretchen says:

    1/2 C of olive oil and the issue is the oil, not the potatoes. Especially peel on potatoes.

  50. Priscilla says:

    Trent, have you gone vegetarian? I noticed that recently the recipes you prepare don’t include meat. Beans are a source of protein, but meat provides you with far more protein and minerals that you can’t get with only vegetables. Also, leave the skin on the potatoes! That is where most of this great vegetable’s nutrients are! Good to have whole wheat rolls for the burgers, though.

  51. Ellisa says:

    People are nit-picky. This is his wife’s plate, of which she took a picture while he was getting the children seated. Some people need to improve their reading comprehension before they get all high and mighty about Trent’s food intake and plate presentation.

  52. Micki says:

    I know this is a dumb question, but I am only just startying to learn to make healthy meals for my family…How do you get the potatoes into such even fries? They are all so uniform, and it would take me forever to chop them evenly that way. Is there an appliance that can give me that uniform appearance? Or if I cook a bunch of lobsided fries, will they be ok, or will I have a bunch of overdone small ones, and undercooked fat ones? LOL, cooking is fun, but hard work!

  53. LeahGG says:

    still thinking that a mouthful is not the right way to measure beer.

  54. F.Green says:

    Enjoying the series, but is it just me, or does the first picture of the post look phallic? And don’t even get me started on “a mouthful of beer.”

  55. John says:

    please people avoid anything that is fried
    health is important

  56. Interested Reader says:

    Micki- you can get them that way by using a mandoline sliceer, which can make fries like that and also slices (like if you want to do potatoes au gratin). Just search mandoline slicer and you will get it.

    You may also be able to make those with a food processor depending on the type of blades that come with it.

    I’m not bothered by the picture as much after I read when it was taken and I’ll cut Trent slack on the photos over all. But I can’t get over the misuse and misunderstanding of cooking terms.

  57. Nicole says:

    If you mixed this with ground beef, would you get sued for false advertising? ;)

    I have to say I’m a little confused by the posts about the burgers versus salad. These patties are almost pure vegetable, are they not? Okay, technically legume. But I thought beans were pretty nutritious by themselves?

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