Cooking with spent grain is sustainable, healthy, and thrifty, too.
If you homebrew or have a partner or friend who does, you might be delighted to discover you have access to a free ingredient that is high in protein and fiber and can add delicious flavor and texture to a variety of dishes. I am talking about spent grain, or brewers’ grains, as they are sometimes called. They are what remains after the sweet sugars have been extracted during the brewing process. Spent grains have a coarse texture similar to cracked wheat, and a sweet, malty flavor. They are most commonly used to make baked goods like cookies and rustic breads, but they’re also great for adding structure and flavor to more savory dishes like chili or veggie burgers.
One of my favorite uses for spent grains is this black bean veggie burger recipe. I make these often in the summer when, after spending the day outside brewing a batch of beer, I crave a burger. These are super healthy — high in protein, low in fat — and incredibly tasty.
Quick Spent-Grain Veggie Burgers
Yield: about six 6-ounce burgers
- 1 small carrot
- 1 cup spent grain, measured after squeezing out as much liquid as possible
- 2 cloves garlic
- About ½ cup red onion, coarsely chopped
- ½ fresh red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or thyme
- ¼ cup corn flour
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 1 teaspoon chili powder or chipotle powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Black pepper
- 1 can (about 1½ cups) black beans, drained
- 1–2 eggs (for vegan burgers, substitute 1–2 tablespoons of water)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Pulse the carrot in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add the grains and garlic, and pulse again until finely chopped. Add the onion, bell pepper, and rosemary, and pulse until mixed well and most particles are under ¼ inch in size.
- Add the corn flour, flaxseed, chili powder, salt, black pepper to taste, black beans, egg, soy sauce, and tomato paste, and pulse so the beans are chopped but not puréed and everything is well mixed. To keep it from turning into mush, you might need to transfer to a bowl and finish mixing it by hand. The patties should hold together fairly well. If needed, add a little more water or a little more flour to get a consistency that will hold its shape.
- Grill on the barbecue or pan fry in a small amount of oil for about 8 minutes per side, until nicely browned and cooked through. If they are crumbly and falling apart on the grill, try using an oiled grill pan or oiled sheets of foil. Adding more ground flaxseed or egg will help bind them together better. Sometimes I use two eggs instead of one when cooking on a grill.