It seems like everyone today wants to debate whether “fake meat” is healthy. But the actual truth is that some of it is, and some of it isn’t. We need to be more precise with our questions. So today we’re looking closer at black bean burgers. Are they healthy?
Black bean burgers are lower in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol than beef burgers, while being higher in fiber. However, they also have less protein and more sodium in some cases. The healthiest black bean burgers would be homemade, using a recipe without processed oil or flour.
Below, I’ll analyze three popular brands of store-bought black bean burgers. I’ll dive into the protein, carbs, fiber, and sodium content. Ultimately, I’ll help you figure out if black bean burgers are a good fit for your specific health goals.
Are Black Bean Burgers Good for You?
Here are eight specific questions I’ll answer about black bean burger nutrition today. Click to skip ahead to any section—or just scroll down to read it all:
- What Are Black Bean Burgers Made Of?
- Are Black Bean Burgers High in Protein?
- Are Black Bean Burgers High in Carbs?
- Are Black Bean Burgers High in Fiber?
- Are Black Bean Burgers High in Sodium?
- Are Black Bean Burgers Good for Weight Loss?
- Are Black Bean Burgers Processed?
- Are Black Bean Burgers Vegan?
1. What Are Black Bean Burgers Made Of?
Let’s start by looking at what actually goes into black bean burgers (besides just black beans). Obviously this can vary a lot between frozen, homemade, and restaurant black bean burgers.
For simplicity, I’ve collected the ingredients for three popular frozen black bean burgers here. I’ll analyze them and share my comments below the table:
|Black Bean Burger||Ingredients|
|Gardein Chipotle Black Bean Burgers||Water, Cooked Black Beans, Black Beans, Water, Cooked Brown Rice, Canola Oil, Black Bean Powder, Onions, Corn, Textured Soy Protein Concentrate, Tomato Paste, Bell Peppers, 2% or less of: Potato Starch, Sugar, Methylcellulose, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Salt, Spices, Yeast Extract, Chipotle Chili Powder, Citric Acid, Tomato Powder, Natural Flavors, Lactic Acid, Molasses.|
|MorningStar Farms Spicy Black Bean Burgers||Water, Cooked Black Beans (Black Beans, Water), Cooked Brown Rice (Water, Brown Rice), Onions, Vegetable Oil (Corn, Canola And/Or Sunflower Oil), Corn, Soy Flour, Tomatoes, Onion Powder, Wheat Gluten, Egg Whites, Bulgur Wheat, Green Chiles, Calcium Caseinate (Milk), Cornstarch. Contains 2% or less of Spices, Tomato Powder, Tomato Juice, Salt, Garlic Powder, Natural Flavor, Soy Sauce Powder (Soybeans, Wheat, Salt), Jalapeno Peppers, Gum Arabic, Cooked Onion And Carrot Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum. |
[* Note: MorningStar Farms is reportedly in the process of switching to a fully vegan recipe.]
|Don Lee Farms Chipotle Black Bean Burgers (Costco)||Organic Black Beans Cooked in Water, Organic Vegetables (Organic Sweet Corn, Organic Onions, Organic Tomatoes In Juice), Organic Brown Rice Cooked In Water, Organic Brown Rice Flour, Organic Flaxseed, Organic Soybean Oil, Organic Pea Protein, Organic Cornstarch, 2% or less of: Organic Chili and Chipotle Peppers, Organic Spices, Organic Red Bell Pepper Powder, Organic Garlic, Organic Sugar, Sea Salt.|
Here’s what I notice about these ingredients:
- The main ingredient in black bean burgers is—no surprise—black beans. Actually, I found one brand where the first ingredient is mushrooms. But typically, it’s black beans. And that’s great. Black beans are high in fiber, plant protein, and powerful antioxidants.
- Black bean burgers usually contain other vegetables, too. I’m seeing tomatoes, peppers, and onions in these ingredient lists. Obviously, more vegetables is always a good thing. They’re low in calories and high in nutrients, perhaps the healthiest food group.
- Black bean burgers often have added plant protein. Gardein has added TVP, while Costco’s brand has pea protein. These are processed ingredients, so you could view this as a negative. But if you have high-protein goals like I do, you may view it as a positive.
- Black bean burgers often contain processed vegetable oil. You can make homemade oil-free black bean burgers… But most in stores or restaurants will have oil. These 3 brands have canola oil (Gardein), soybean oil (Costco), and an oil blend (MorningStar). These oils are high in calories, low in nutrients, and not very healthy.
- Black bean burgers often have some sugar and processed starches. These processed carbs—including sugar, cornstarch, potato starch, and brown rice flour—are high on the glycemic index. And just like the processed oils, they add empty calories.
As you can see, we’ve got a mix of pros and cons here. Black bean burgers contain real whole foods—beans and veggies—but they also typically have added processed ingredients.
Next, let’s take a look at some specific nutrients, starting with protein.
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2. Are Black Bean Burgers High in Protein?
Black bean burgers are typically lower in protein than beef burgers and other plant-based burgers. They generally have 5g to 12g of protein per patty. The black beans and vegetable ingredients result in more complex carbohydrates, and therefore less protein, than most other burgers.
Below, I’ve made a table comparing the protein in black bean burgers to other burger options. As you’ll see, the black bean burgers are generally on the lower end of the spectrum.
I’ve included the “protein per burger”—but also the “protein per 100 calories.” Personally, I’ve found the second to be a more helpful number. Here’s why.
If you want to hit a certain protein intake per day, you may be trying to stay under a certain calorie intake, too. In this situation, you need foods that get you to your protein goal without wasting a bunch of calories. You want high protein per calorie.
That’s why I always look at protein sources by “protein per 100 calories.” So I can be efficient in reaching my protein goals. Anyway, here’s the protein data:
|Burger||Protein Per Burger||Protein Per 100 Calories|
|Gardein Chipotle Black Bean Burger||5g||3.3g|
|Morningstar Spicy Black Bean Burger||9g||8.2g|
|Don Lee Farms Black Bean Burger||11g||4.4g|
|For comparison: Beyond Burger||20g||8.7g|
|For comparison: Boca Vegan Burger||13g||18.6g|
|For comparison: Angus Bubba Burger||26g||6.0g|
You’ll notice the real superstar here (if you want high protein) is the Boca Vegan Burger. I wrote a full breakdown of Boca Burger nutrition here if you want to learn more.
Black beans tend to be a bit closer to “garden veggie burgers” in their protein content. Both these kinds of burgers are made with veggies, which are lower in calories and protein compared to soy or pea protein.
The lower protein in black bean burgers is not necessarily bad. Most people get plenty of protein (for staying healthy). So the veggies and beans may help your nutrition a lot more than processed protein would. It all depends on your goals.
[Related Post: Is Gardein Healthy? Everything You Need to Know]
3. Are Black Bean Burgers High in Carbs?
Black bean burgers are high in carbs compared to most other burgers. The brands I checked ranged from 13g to 36g of carbs per burger. Most of that is complex carbohydrates from beans, vegetables, and grains—not sugar. Black bean burgers are not keto-friendly.
Most vegan burgers are made with concentrated protein—like soy or pea protein. So in comparison, black bean burgers are higher in carbs, lower in protein.. You’ve really got three levels of carbs when it comes to burgers:
- No carbs: Beef burgers
- Some carbs: Typical veggie burgers (Boca, Beyond)
- The most carbs: Black bean burgers
Here’s the full table of carbohydrate data to see for yourself:
|Burger||Total Carbs (Per Burger)||Sugar|
|Gardein Chipotle Black Bean Burger||18g||3g|
|Morningstar Spicy Black Bean Burger||13g||1g|
|Don Lee Farms Black Bean Burger||36g||3g|
|For comparison: Beyond Burger||7g||0g|
|For comparison: Boca Vegan Burger||6g||0g|
|For comparison: Angus Bubba Burger||0g||0g|
4. Are Black Bean Burgers High in Fiber?
Black bean burgers have around 4 to 5 grams of fiber per burger on average. They are a better source of fiber than most plant-based burgers—and much better than beef burgers, which have no fiber at all.
I was actually impressed when I checked the fiber for these frozen black bean burgers. Per calorie, some have about 2/3 as much fiber as whole black beans. Considering all the processed ingredients added, that’s not bad:
|Burger||Fiber (Per Burger)|
|Gardein Chipotle Black Bean Burger||4g|
|Morningstar Spicy Black Bean Burger||4g|
|Don Lee Farms Black Bean Burger||5g|
|For comparison: Beyond Burger||2g|
|For comparison: Boca Vegan Burger||4g|
|For comparison: Angus Bubba Burger||0g|
When it comes to having a high-fiber burger meal, keep the bun and toppings in mind, too. If you get a whole wheat bun and some veggie toppings, you can add at least a couple grams of fiber to the total.
5. Are Black Bean Burgers High in Sodium?
Black bean burgers have around 300mg to 500mg of sodium per patty. This is around average sodium content for burgers, whether plant-based or meat-based.
According to SF Gate, the average fast food hamburger patty has 378mg of sodium. So indeed, that’s right in the same neighborhood as the black bean burgers I checked:
|Burger||Sodium (Per Burger)|
|Gardein Chipotle Black Bean Burger||380mg|
|Morningstar Spicy Black Bean Burger||320mg|
|Don Lee Farms Black Bean Burger||450mg|
|For comparison: Beyond Burger||390mg|
|For comparison: Boca Vegan Burger||450g|
|For comparison: Angus Bubba Burger||90g|
You’ll notice the Bubba Burgers are actually a big winner when looking at sodium by itself.
Did You Know: The recommended daily limit for sodium intake is typically cited as 2,300mg. But the American Heart Association is “moving toward an ideal limit” of 1,500 mg per day.
6. Are Black Bean Burgers Good for Weight Loss?
Black bean burgers are a good choice for weight loss, as they have fewer calories and more fiber than beef burgers.
According to Livestrong.com, a “typical” meat burger has around 4 ounces of ground beef, which is 375 calories. In contrast, all the black bean burgers I checked had 250 calories or less per patty. Two of them were in the 100 to 150 calorie range.
Granted, a black bean burger may not fill you up as much as a 4-ounce meat burger. So you may eat some extra food to compensate. But still, choosing lower-calorie options, especially those with fiber (like black bean burgers), can help with weight loss.
7. Are Black Bean Burgers Processed?
Frozen black bean burgers are somewhat processed, as they contain vegetable oil, other processed ingredients, and quite a bit of salt. However, homemade black bean burgers are often less processed, especially if the recipe excludes oil and flour.
The word “processed” is not very precise. In reality, foods actually exist on a spectrum from “minimally processed” to “ultra-processed.”
On that spectrum, I would put black bean burgers somewhere in the middle—when they come from a supermarket or restaurant. These burgers contain whole foods like beans and veggies, but they also have added oil, salt, and processed starch.
When you make black bean burgers at home, you can make something much more wholesome, though. As long as you can get the patties to stick together, you could include potentially 100% whole foods.
So, it’s hard to rank homemade black bean burgers—but generally speaking, they will be at least a bit less processed than those in the store or restaurant.
The healthiest black bean burger would almost certainly be a homemade one.
8. Are Black Bean Burgers Vegan?
Most black bean burgers are vegan, including ones sold by Gardein, Amy’s, Dr. Praeger’s, and Don Lee Farms (Costco). However, some other black bean burgers contain egg or milk ingredients, which means they are not vegan.
I checked the vegan status of five different frozen black bean burgers:
- Gardein’s Chipotle Black Bean Burger is vegan.
- Don Lee Farms Chipotle Black Bean Burger is vegan.
- Amy’s Organic Black Bean Veggie Burger is vegan.
- Dr. Praeger’s Black Bean Quinoa Veggie Burger is vegan.
- MorningStar’s Spicy Black Bean Burger was not vegan. *
And here’s the breakdown from four restaurants I’ve checked:
- The black bean burger at Freddy’s can be ordered vegan.
- The black bean burger at Good Times can be ordered vegan.
- The black bean burger at Buffalo Wild Wings is not vegan.
- The black bean burger at Au Bon Pain is not vegan.
Overall, you can’t assume that black bean burgers are vegan—but more often than not, they are. Personally, I always ask at restaurants.
* Note: As mentioned above, MorningStar Farms is reportedly switching to a vegan recipe for their black bean burger. In that case, it may become much more consistent that nearly all black bean burgers are vegan. (Some restaurants likely use the MorningStar patties.)
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