Alicia Steele Cooks Righteous Meals: Bean-N-Beet Jucy Lucy


words by Alicia Steele

illustration by Milena Burton


My first time making veggie burgers from scratch happened out of necessity after returning home to a naked pantry from a summer road trip. We had rice and beans stacked in abundance. Black beans specifically - a staple not solely in the vegetarian kitchen - are endlessly versatile and nutritious. It really just takes some thinking outside the can.

Now, a public service announcement about dry beans. I must admit, washed, soaked, seasoned and boiled for hours on low, is the best way to eat beans. Really, everything tastes so much better from scratch. Also, I’d like to limit the amount of aluminum in my life in general. However, I’m going for convenience and accessibility here, so canned it is.

Most store-bought veggie burgers tend to be dry, thin, and bland. I like my garden burgers Southside-Minneapolis-style - stuffed with sharp white cheddar! The consistency is important here. To make these burgers you will need a way to mash and combine the elements together. I use my standing hand blender. If you don’t have one you can use a potato masher (it’ll be a real arm workout). Blenders work but can be a pain trying to incorporate flavors evenly. A food processor would be the best, but you can still make it happen without spendy kitchen equipment.


Cook To This:

D.R.A.M. - Cha Cha

Kelela - Bank Head

Laura Mvula - Green Garden

Fat Freddy's Drop - Blackbird



1. Beans and Beets Jucy Lucy

1 15-oz can black beans

1/2 cup roasted beets (or jarred), chopped

3/4 cup brown rice, cooked and cooled

1/2 cup bread crumbs

3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced 

4 T scallion, finely minced

2 T fresh parsley, finely minced

2 T fresh cilantro, finely minced

2 T chia seeds soaked in equal parts lemon juice

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp coriander 

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you nasty)

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

sliced white cheddar

salt and pepper to taste


2. Lemon Garlic Aioli

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt

2-3 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced

2 T olive oil

1 T fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

3. Fixings

sliced white cheddar

fresh arugula 

brioche hamburger buns



Prepare beans and beets burger:

Rinse beans and place in a bowl (or food processor), mash till it’s fairly smooth. Mix in beets and incorporate evenly into beans. Add seasonings: cumin, coriander, smoked paprika. Throw in the rice and blend till ingredients are consistent throughout.

The rest of the ingredients can be integrated by hand or gently with electronic equipment. Add fresh garlic, scallion, parsley, cilantro, red pepper flakes, chia seeds salt and pepper. Bread crumbs should be added last to bind all the ingredients together and the chia seeds will help too. If it’s not holding up the way you want, add a little more bread crumbs, but be careful not to make it too dry or crumbly. 


Hook Up The Lemon Garlic Aioli:

In a bowl, mix yogurt, garlic, lemon juice. After well-combined, drizzle in olive oil and incorporate evenly. Bam - done!


Juicy Lucy Style:

Grab enough burger mix to cover the flattened palm of your hand. Place a few slices of white cheddar cheese on the mix, then cover it with another slab of burger. Mold around the cheese, making sure everything is sealed inside. Fire up the grill or hit medium-high on the stovetop (with some oil in the pan), cook 4-6 minutes on both sides. Essentially you want to get a nice crust on the outside without burning, while getting that cheese nicely melted on the inside. If you feeling extra cheesy, you can top burgers with more cheddar the last few minutes of grilling.


The Set Up:

I never eat a burger without toasting the buns. Spread on coconut oil and toast on grill or stove top till golden - do it!! 

Spoon some aioli on the bottom bun, place burger on said aioli bun, top it with fresh arugula, and crown with toasted bun.

Of course you’ve got the staple additions: tomato, mayo, pickles. I like good ol’ yellow mustard and maybe some hemp seeds, just to add more nutrients and a nutty flavor.

Veggie burgers are mega easy to hook up from things you have lying around. Beets add a particular deep earthy flavor here, a nod to the richness of what I like in meat-based burgers. Chia seeds help bind but also add protein and vital nutrition. With any burger I like to freak the fixings, making it bougie and even more special. Paired with a cold IPA, some music and friends, you won’t be the only one loitering in anticipation over the summer grill.