Sloppy joes and burgers. Although both use meat, vegetables, beans or a combination as their base and both are served on buns, their similarities end there. Sloppy joes are cooked in a saucethe consistency is that of a thick bolognesewhile burgers are formed into patties. Burger patties usually rely on binding agents like eggs and breadcrumbs to hold their shape and not fall apart in the pan, whereas sloppy joe fillings are cooked like a pasta sauce.

Also, burger patties are usually kept quite simple and rely on toppings, condiments and cheese to round out their flavours. Sloppy joes on the other hand have flavourings added into the sauce base. No toppings/condiments necessary, although no one in my family would say no to pickles or a dollop of sour cream (I have a recipe for a vegan cashew sour cream here).

Since burgers rely on the patties holding their shape, they need to have just the right texture: if the patty mixture is too wet and doesn’t have the right proportion of eggs and breadcrumbs, it’ll fall apart in the pan. And if it’s too dry, the same – it’ll flake and fall apart in the pan. And let’s be honest, no amount of sauce or cheese can salvage a too-dry burger.

I’m not trying to make the case for sloppy joes by dissing burgers (I love them both equally), but these guys are definitely easier to make. And although the sauce base might take a while to cook (by that I mean about half hour), the process itself is very straightforward and fail-proof. TL;DR – sloppy joes are more forgiving in every regard.

I bought a can of black beans on sale a few weeks ago and used them here. I would normally use kidney beans in this recipe and see absolutely no point in hunting down black beans just for this. (Soak them from dried and sub with 1.5 cups of cooked kidney beans.)

The chipotle paste however, is crucial here, I’m afraid. I used chipotle in adobo sauce and it imparts a distinctive smoky-umami flavour that’s hard to replicate. I’ve tried all sorts of combos to find an alternative and although they produced good enough results, my attempts to get them to taste like chipotle were utterly futile.

Good news is that the sauce is now available online, and a little goes a long way with this stuff. Definitely snag a few cans, at least, because you’ll find yourself adding a dollop into everything – chilli con carne, slathered on grilled chicken, in marinades and dressings, or even a tiny amount stirred into scrambled eggs. Once you get a taste for this, I’m afraid there’s no going back. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.




Servings: 4 burgers


  • 4 burger buns
  • 1 can (400 grams) black beans or kidney beans (see notes)
  • ½ can (100 grams) chipotle in adobo sauce
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pickles and sour cream (optional), to serve


  • If using dried kidney beans, soak for at least 6 hours and cook until tender. If using canned beans use as is.
  • Blend the tomatoes and chipotle peppers to a chunky paste.
  • Sauté onions, peppers and garlic in oil until they brown around the edges. Add the cooked beans, the blended tomato-chipotle paste, coriander powder, oregano, cumin powder, pepper and salt.
  • Cover the pan, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 mins. Stir occasionally and cook until the mixture is thick.
  • Use a masher to lightly mash about half of the beans, leaving the rest whole. Cook for a bit longer if it appears too wet.
  • Can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to a month. Serve with toasted burger buns and your toppings of choice.


400 grams cooked beans = approx 1.5 cups



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