If your brown rice isn’t cooked yet, start there by following this method for the best results. Otherwise, move onto the next step.
Heat skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add raw walnuts and toast for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden brown. Let cool and move onto the next step.
In the meantime, heat the same skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add oil and onion. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and sauté for 3-4 minutes, or until onion is fragrant, soft, and translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.
Once walnuts are cooled, add to blender or food processor with chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and coconut sugar and blend until a fine meal (see photo) is achieved. Set aside.
To a large mixing bowl, add drained, dried black beans and mash well with a fork, leaving only a few whole beans (see photo).
Next add cooked rice, spice-walnut mixture, sautéed onion, panko bread crumbs, BBQ sauce, and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes, or until a moldable dough forms. If dry, add extra 1-2 Tbsp (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size) BBQ sauce. If too wet, add more panko bread crumbs. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
For larger burgers, divide into 5 patties (1/2 cup in size // amount as original recipe is written), or form 10 smaller burgers (1/4 cup in size // amount as original recipe is written). To help form the patties, line your 1/2 or 1/4 measuring cup with plastic wrap and pack with burger mixture. Press down to pack firmly, then lift out by the plastic wrap’s edge, and slightly flatten with hands to form a 3/4-inch thick patty. Set on a baking sheet or plate for grilling.
If grilling, heat the grill at this time and brush the grill surface with oil to ease cooking. Otherwise, heat the same skillet you used earlier to medium heat.
Once skillet is hot, add just enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of your skillet, then add your burgers - only as many as will comfortably fit in the pan. Otherwise, add burgers to the grill and close lid.
Cook for 3-4 minutes or until well browned on the underside, then flip gently. They aren't as firm as meat burgers, but will definitely hold their shape. Reduce heat if cooking/browning too quickly. Cook for 3-4 minutes on other side.
Remove burgers from heat to let cool slightly, and prepare any other toppings/sides at this time (such as grilling/toasting your buns).
Serve burgers as is, or on toasted buns with desired toppings. Leftovers keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. See notes for freezing/reheating instructions.
*To cook rice, I recommend this method from Saveur. It yields fluffy, perfect rice, which is key to keeping these burgers from becoming too wet or gummy in texture. // Prep time does not include cooking rice. *One 15-ounce (425 g) can of black beans yields only 1 1/4 cups black beans. So if using canned, be sure to grab two cans (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size)! Also, if black beans are unsalted, add 1/4 tsp extra salt to burger mixture (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size). *For a simple burger sauce mix 2 parts vegan mayo and 1 part ketchup. Add hot sauce or Sriracha for extra heat. *To freeze for later, cook burgers as instructed on grill or skillet. Then set on a baking sheet or plate and freeze. Once frozen completely, seal in a freezer-safe bag or container and store for up to 3 weeks. Reheat in a 375 degree F oven on a bare baking sheet for 20-30 minutes, or until warmed through and golden brown (or in the microwave for 1-2 minutes). *Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with the lesser amount of BBQ sauce and without a bun or toppings.