African-Inspired Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burgers

by on September 4, 2013
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Sweet potatoes, black beans, and a hint of peanut butter combine with cumin and ginger to create these delicious West African-inspired veggie burgers.

African-Inspired Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burgers

Happy Labor Day! Okay, I’m a few days late, but believe me, making these burgers was a labor (get it?) of love. I had a craving for a burger that would combine sweet potatoes, black beans, and West African seasonings, and I wouldn’t rest until I got it right. So I used my Labor Day weekend to make them three times until I finally hit on the combination of ingredients that got me sweet potato burgers that were rich with the aromatic flavors of cumin and ginger and moist but not mushy.

Making 3 dozen burgers could be a pain, but I have a little secret to making them uniformly round without getting my hands too dirty: I use a 1/3-cup measuring cup to scoop up the burger mix and then use the bottom of the cup to press it into a stainless steel form. I know, I could buy a burger press, but the steel ring is less expensive, easier to clean, and doubles as a cuff bracelet when I’m feeling all Wonder Woman-y.

Fortunately, my whole family, including “She Who Prefers Burgers Named Boca,” loved these burgers. They’re a little softer than other veggie burgers, so they wouldn’t work well on the grill (though you could reheat them there), but the flavor is just incredible. I served them on buns with most of the traditional burger condiments–ketchup and my homemade mayo–but I left off the mustard because I wanted to be able to taste the burger’s seasonings. They’re also delicious without the bun, with a little chipotle mayo or sriracha ketchup.

And they freeze well–in case you’re planning to make as many as I did!

African-Inspired Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burgers

African-Inspired Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burgers
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Grains of paradise are the seeds of a plant that grows in the swamps along the West African coast. They impart a complex peppery flavor with hints of cardamom and citrus. If you don’t happen to have them, use freshly ground black pepper and a little cardamom, as noted in the ingredients list.
Serves: 10
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3 medium sized potatoes)
  • 1 1/2 cups black beans or 1 15-ounce can, rinsed until water runs clear and drained (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter (optional)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced ginger root (or 1 heaping teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 teaspoon grains of paradise, crushed, or ground black pepper plus 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon salt (if desired)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on your heat tolerance)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 large green pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal (quick or regular oats, uncooked)
  • 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten (or a gluten-free flour blend)
  1. Cook the sweet potatoes until tender. You may microwave them, but for best flavor, pierce them several times with a fork and bake at 425 F until they are tender but still firm, 30-50 minutes depending on size of the potatoes. Allow to cool until you can easily peel them. (You can prepare the potatoes in advance; just bring them to room temperature before continuing with the recipe.)
  2. Place the sweet potatoes into a food processor. Add HALF of the drained black beans, along with the peanut butter, garlic, and all the spices. Process briefly until everything is combined and the potatoes are mashed. (You can also do this in a bowl with a potato masher and lots of wrist action.)
  3. Scoop the potato mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining black beans, onions, green pepper, and oats. Stir well to combine. Add the gluten or other flour and stir well to make sure that it’s distributed evenly. The mixture should be very thick and not too wet; if it seems wet, add a little more oats or gluten to get a very heavy “dough.” Set aside while you preheat your oven to 425 F and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. (You may also oil a non-stick baking sheet.)
  4. Form the mixture into 10-12 burgers, using 1/3-1/2 cup per burger. Burgers should be no more than 3/4-inch thick. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until outside is firm and brown but center is still a little soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before removing from baking sheet and serving.
Without peanut butter, contains 131 calories and .7g fat.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/10 of recipe Calories: 152 Fat: 2.3g Carbohydrates: 26.2g Sugar: 3.7g Sodium: 285.2mg Fiber: 5.4g Protein: 7.4g




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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 moonwatcher September 4, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Hi Susan,

Wow, these sound great!! I LOVE The sesasonings. I will definitely try a gluten free version of these. I’ll probably use either potato starch or ground up buckwheat groats for the gluten. I just recently made your lentil mushroom burgers, and in the middle of things discovered I had no tomato paste. So I created a “paste” with cooked sweet potato and chipotle in adobo. It worked really well and tasted great, so I guess that set me up to embrace a burger with more sweet potato in it. And I’ll have to check out the stainless steel form. A girl can’t have enough Wonder Woman bracelets, right? And you definitely deserve yours for coming up with such a wonderful, tasty burger!!




2 Loubylou September 4, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Would love to make these but haven’t come across vital wheat gluten here in England. Can you advise what it is? Really like your recipes and have just made the cumin vegetables over quinoa which was very tasty, thank you!


3 Maureen September 27, 2013 at 7:54 am

I asked someone on another vegan blog where they get theirs and this is the link they gave me:


4 Scott September 4, 2013 at 7:02 pm

thanks Susan, these look absolutely delicious! wonder-womanly make me smile 😉


5 Jean September 4, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Susan, what’s the best way to freeze them?


6 Susan Voisin September 4, 2013 at 10:31 pm

I like to freeze them with pieces of parchment paper in between so that they don’t stick together. You can stack them this way in a plastic freezer box.


7 S September 9, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I like to freeze veggie burgers on a cookie sheet, then transfer to a ziplock bag. Takes up less freezer space than a container.

Hoping to make these later in the week!


8 Claire October 13, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Do you freeze before or after they are cooked?


9 Susan Voisin October 13, 2015 at 10:20 pm

I like to freeze after they’re cooked so they warm up quickly later.


10 Tami@Nutmeg Notebook September 5, 2013 at 8:21 am

These sound delicious and I can’t wait to try them. I love your lentil mushroom burgers so I know these are going to be wonderful. I learned a great trick for making perfectly sized veggie burgers – using a jar lid like from a peanut butter jar or one similar in size, line it with plastic wrap and then press your burger mixture into it, patting it smooth, turn it over and the patty slides right out. Perfect burgers every time!


11 Miss Cruciferous September 10, 2013 at 7:04 pm

That’s a great tip, Tami!


12 Morgan October 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm

That is such a helpful tip to use a jar lid to form perfect patties! 😀 So glad I read this before making these burgers.


13 catherine mixon September 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm

In response to your weekly email for African-Inspired Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burgers. Just a question re this line in your ingredients list in your recipe:
“1/4 cup vital wheat gluten (or gluten-free flour)”
Isn’t vital wheat gluten ALL gluten? So why would the substitute for something that is all gluten be “gluten-free flour?” Is this a mistake??? Would like to make these burgers but have no interest in buying vital wheat gluten. Can I substitute regular flour or whole wheat flour? Thanks. Love your site and my weekly email.


14 Susan Voisin September 5, 2013 at 1:06 pm

The gluten-free substitute is for people who can’t have gluten. It won’t behave exactly as gluten does, but for people who can’t have gluten and want to make these burgers, its a necessary compromise. Of course, you can use wheat flour, but as with gluten-free flour, the results won’t be exactly the same.


15 Joan September 5, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Hi Susan,
These look wonderful. Black beans and sweet potatoes are my favs. Should these be frozen raw or cooked? Also could I sub spelt flour for the vital wheat gluten and would I use 1/4 cup?

Thank you so much for all your wonderful recipes. I will be ordering the stainless steel form – what a find!


16 Susan Voisin September 6, 2013 at 10:38 am

Joan, you can freeze them either cooked or uncooked, but I prefer to cook them first. That makes reheating quick and easy. As for the spelt flour, you will have to start with 1/4 cup and add more as needed to make a very thick, not wet dough. The amount can vary depending on type of flour and how moist your potatoes are.


17 Debra September 6, 2013 at 10:33 am

Hi Susan,
I want to make these. They look wonderful. I do know that the combination of black beans and sweet potatoes are absolutely wonderful.
Thanks for your recipes and enjoy your weekend.


18 Anni September 6, 2013 at 10:40 am

I don’t think I’ve commented before… this recipe looks good. I do have to admit though, that I’m commenting because I want you to know how cool it is that I see a “vegan cuts” billboard on the side instead of whatever other kind of ad pops up on other pages. It makes me smile. 🙂
Thank you.


19 Bridget September 6, 2013 at 11:55 am

These burgers were fantastic! They are going to be my new go-to burger. Thanks so much Susan!


20 Susan Voisin September 7, 2013 at 3:52 pm

I’m so glad you liked them, Bridget!


21 Murfina September 6, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Hello Susan,
Just wanted you let you know how much i enjoyed this burger. made a half recipe as a test run .
Mine turned out to have a crunchy component to the outside…. Will be making these again real soon.!


22 Susan Voisin September 7, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I like them crunchy, too, Murfina. I’m so happy you liked them enough to make them again!


23 Alisha September 7, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Thank you so much for the recipe! My mom made them this evening – so delicious and creamy! We’re great fans of this blog. With love from Jamaica, Alisha.


24 Susan Voisin September 8, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Thanks for commenting all the way from Jamaica! I’m so glad to hear you liked the burgers!


25 ellen brockett September 11, 2013 at 4:35 pm

tried these african burgers. seriously good!! will certainly make them again. thnx, Susan


26 Emma September 12, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Responding to Loubylou, I did not have vital wheat gluten when I made these burgers. I used buckwheat flour and they burgers came out great!


27 Amy September 18, 2013 at 10:31 am

These are so delicious! My fiancé and I have decided we like these better than any veggie burger on the market. I plan to have a batch in the fridge all the time!


28 nicole September 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Hi Susan, About how much do the 3 cooked sweet potatoes yield? I was just wondering if I could use canned pureed sweet potatoes that I have on hand instead. Thanks!


29 nicole September 23, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Hi Susan, how much do the 3 sweet potatoes yield? I’m just wondering if I can use a can of pureed sweet potatoes that I have on hand instead? Thanks!


30 Susan Voisin September 29, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Nicole, I didn’t measure it, so I’m not exactly sure, but my guess is that it would probably take 1 1/2 cans if the cans are 16 ounces.


31 Margie October 21, 2013 at 1:26 pm

These are great! I have made them a few times and everyone loves them. Really good flavor with the spices. They freeze well. Thanks for the recipe.


32 Morgan October 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Hi Susan 😀 I am so excited about making these burgers! I’ve been making the same quinoa black been burgers since I became a vegetarian last year. I was wondering though, because I have stopped buying canned goods such as beans and tomatoes because its very expensive compared to making dry beans from scratch and for fear of BPA, so I wanted to know if you think that lentils would work in place of the black beans? I think I’m gonna try it out because the lentils would probly be a good texture. Would love your feedback 🙂
Thank you so much,


33 mikaelah November 9, 2013 at 4:49 pm

These are delicious! I will be making them again and again and freezing them too. I am fairly new to plant based eating and your website is a solid support for me. Thanks.


34 Batvan March 16, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Can almond butter be substituted for the peanut butter?


35 Susan Voisin March 16, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Yes, though it won’t have as much flavor. In fact, I would probably just leave it out.


36 L March 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm

This looks like a great recipe! I have one question – do you just put the peppers & onions into the dough raw? Whenever I’ve made veggie burgers before I’ve had to cook them a little first.


37 Susan Voisin March 21, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Yes, this time I put them in raw to save time and I liked how they came out, but you could always precook the veggies if you prefer.


38 esomova July 9, 2014 at 6:31 pm

I stumbled upon this blog a few days ago and decided to try this recipe. I made them yesterday and they are absolutely amazing! So much better than store bought veggie burgers and best of all I know what was put into them. I will be making these again soon and plan to freeze them for easy lunches. I look forward to trying more recipes!


39 Erin October 3, 2014 at 10:07 am

Loved the recipe! I only made about 1/3 and totally regret it! Next time I’m definitely going to make them in bulk and freeze them. I used GF flour, simply because I couldn’t find the vital wheat gluten and it turned out wonderfully. I also mashed up some avocado with lemon juice, salt and pepper to make a spread for the burgers and it was delicious!


40 Pam February 1, 2015 at 12:54 pm

I made these last night and we loved them!! Thank you for all the great recipes. I love how this one got crispy on the bottom and held together so well. You are the best!!


41 Anna September 23, 2015 at 2:26 pm

These burgers are great! They are going into the “rotation”. What would be a good sauce to put on these?


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