Cuban Black Bean Burgers

These veggie burgers are made with plantain, which gives them a fragrant aroma and unique flavor. In addition to the plantain, they derive their Cuban flair from black beans, rice, red pepper, lime, coriander, paprika and cumin.

1 cup cooked brown rice (short-grain or sweet brown works great)
1 ripe plantain, peeled and diced (see Notes below for choosing plantains)
1 15-oz. can cooked black beans (or 1 ½ cups)
¾ cup rolled oats
1 medium red or yellow onion chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup grated carrots
½ of a red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cumin

1. Cook the rice if not already cooked. Place the diced plantain into a pot with some water and cook for about 5 minutes until it turns a bright yellow-orange. Drain off any existing water. This should result in about a half cup of cooked plantain. Set aside.

2. Place all of the ingredients into a large bowl and mix with a spoon. Place half of this mixture into a food processor and pulse about 7 times, then scrape down sides. Pulse again another 7-10 times until it is thoroughly mixed and sticking together but you can still see small pieces of vegetables (don’t overmix). After mixing both batches in your food processor, transfer it all back to the mixing bowl.

3. Roll into balls that are about 2” in diameter, then flatten into a burger patty between your hands or onto a cutting board, or my favorite way, between two pieces of parchment paper (great for not sticking). Place into a non-stick skillet that has been pre-heated to medium heat (if the heat is too high, they will burn and the insides will be underdone), and cook for 5 minutes. Flip over and cook another five minutes, or until both sides are lightly browned.

4. Serve with whole-grain burger buns, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, onion and/or mustard. Or serve on Romaine lettuce leaves without a bun. You can also roll the cooked burgers into steamed collard greens (steam 5 minutes then pat dry with a paper towel before rolling up sushi-style) with some condiments.

Preparation: 40 minutes (not counting cooking the rice)
Cooking time: 10 minutes per burger
Makes: 15 3-inch burgers


Choosing a plantain: Plantains come in varying sizes and appearances. For this recipe, I use a very ripe plantain so the flavor will be stronger. Look for a yellow plantain that is very ripe with dark brown/black spots on it (even if it looks on the brink of rotting, these are the good ones! See photo below). A plantain looks very much like a banana, just bigger and the ripe ones are more orange on the inside. Sometimes plantains are short, fat and green; sometimes they are long, yellow and thinner. Just be sure to get a ripe one. Get a couple if you’re not sure; they are inexpensive. They can be found most often in Mexican groceries. Whole Foods has them intermittently.

Plantain substitute: I have not tried these substitutions in this recipe, but if you can’t find plantain, you might try firm tofu mashed, or pre-cooked potatoes that have been mashed (white or sweet), skins on or off (on may be a little heartier). (Bananas would not make a good substitution, however.)

Texture: These burgers are a little softer than some veggie burgers, due to the plantain, but the flavor is so amazing that it makes up for it. If you want them to be firmer, add a bit more rolled oats, or refrigerate the mixture for at least a couple hours or overnight before making the patties.

Non-stick alternative: If you’d like to cook your burgers in the oven instead of using a non-stick skillet, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cook at 375 degrees for 20 minutes (flipping over after first 10 minutes).

Leftovers: These make great leftovers! Freeze them or eat them throughout the week. They firm up as they cool and the day after. Eat them plain or with condiments, or crumbled over a green salad. These also make great traveling food, even cold.

Above: A very ripe plantain on the left and a less ripe one on the right; use the one on the left.

Above: This is how cooked plantain looks, very dark gold in color.

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  1. says

    PERFECT timing! I have a bunch of plantains that I need to do something with … I have been enjoying them boiled with a side of avocado (like I ate every day during a recent trip to Dominican Republic), but got kind of bored with that … THANKS for this new twist!

  2. Liz says

    I am Puerto Rican and grew up eating platoons. Never considered using them in a veggie burger. Making this this weekend.


  3. J.Anderson says

    Do we drain and rinse the beans? Making this for tonight. Going to start on your orange berry muffins in a little while :-)

    • says

      I would just leave it out; I’m not sure there is a good substitute for the plantain flavor (I don’t think banana would work). If you need more moisture, add a bit of ketchup, tomato paste, tofu or hummus. But, it may not need it. :)

  4. Victoria says

    Dear Cathy! Thank you for a wonderful website, I love most of the recipes! As for the burger recipe, I am not sure why but they turned out to be somewhat bitter in my case.. I made everything exactly as in the recipe, the only thing is – I couldn’t find a ripe plantain, so I used a not so ripe one (it didn’t turn orange in color after boiling, it stayed kind of yellowish). Could it be because of that? What would be the possible reason? I would really appreciate your insight! Thank you! Victoria.

    • says

      Hi Victoria, I think that is probably the reason the finished product was bitter. I’m a somewhat newcomer to plantains, but I believe they need to be pretty ripe, otherwise you don’t get that sweetness and lovely aroma, but instead astringency, kind of like an unripe banana. Mexican groceries are better to find the ripe ones than places like Whole Foods or Safeway (these both seem to favor the green, less ripe plantains). If you make it again with a ripe plantain, let me know if the result is different. :)

      • Liz says

        Less ripe plantains are bitter. As I child I would eat them ripe but never unripened. Think of it in this way: ripe is sweet and unripe is savory. Unripened platanos (Spanish name) are usually cooked with garlic and olive oil.

  5. Mary Pent says

    love this recipe. In utter desperation for lack of a plantain, I used a sweet potato! I’m happy to say it turned out just fine! so in a pinch…

  6. says

    I just wanted to let you know that this is now one of my family’s favorite meals. I made this for my daughter’s christening luncheon & the burgers were the first thing to disappear! (I had several main dishes available). I actually made the recipe x6 today just so I’d have a good stock of frozen patties on hand since we never have leftovers when I make this. Thanks for sharing another great recipe!

  7. Sharon B says

    Do you think it would be okay to use jasmine rice? I don’t have any brown rice handy at the moment.

    • says

      I’ve not used it, but the great thing about using short-grain is that it’s stickier, which helps the burger stay together better. So the jasmine would taste good, but maybe not hold together as well. :)

  8. jane says

    I made this recipe for a casual dinner party last week….Served it with a curried quinoa salad. It was such a hit that I’m putting writing the recipe down in my little book with favorite recipes! This will be a regular in our house! Thanks!

  9. says

    Made these on the weekend and loved them! I had never cooked with plantain before and it seemed to be a really good binder. The patties held together better than many other veggie burgers I have made. I also loved the suggestion of processing them enough so they hold together but still having some chunks in there. The texture was awesome. I served mine topped with avocado slices, with sides of steamed kale and roasted sweet potatos.

    I’m in the process of creating a 4 week meal plan (I typically do meal planning week by week and I’m looking to streamline it.). These are definitely going on the rotation. Thanks for another great recipe.

  10. Susan says

    Made these and shared them. I also use this to stuff my green peppers when my non-veggie friends and husband want a meatloaf. The green peppers add a nice flavor to the mix.

  11. Sofie says

    Hi Cathy
    Just wanted to say Thank You so much for such a great recipe totally awesome tasting, I didn’t have brown rice but use wheat couscous it work really great everything stick great and believe me this is going be my top recipe. Just excited there’s wonderful people like you. Again Thank you for sharing your recipes & helping others to eat healthy as we make our way out of GMO foods.

  12. Aly says

    Has anyone had a problem with the burger sticking the the pan with no oil being used??
    I am cooking for a client who cannot have any heated oils..
    Thank You!

  13. Sharon B says

    I love this recipe. Whenever I get a plantain in my CSA box, I make these burgers. My 2 year old even loves them. Thank you for sharing your wonderful recipes!

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