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sweet potato burgers with chipotle mayo

Last week we hiked to Hermit Falls. This scenic 2 1/2 mile adventure through the forested canyons above Monrovia is one of our favorite places in Los Angeles. With majestic views of the San Gabriel Mountains, we walked through emerald fern-lined paths, winding our way through shady oaks, carefully crossing over several running streams before reaching the thirty foot waterfall at the end of the trail. The lush setting felt more like Kauai than Southern California. Here we were, high above the city, away from the noise, trying to work off the massive amounts of apple cider snickerdoodles and chocolate peppermint parfaits that were consumed during the holidays. And in those ancient hills—still sparkling like diamonds from the recent rains—the idea for this magical creation was conceived as we hiked along the babbling creek. We tested it for dinner as soon as we got home, and from the first blissful bite it was clear: they are hands down some of the best burgers we’ve tried.

Why has it taken us so long to try our first sweet potato burger? We have never seen them on a restaurant menu or in the frozen section at the grocery store, and we couldn’t find a recipe in any of our cookbooks. But the idea sounded intriguing, and as we worked up our late afternoon appetites trekking through the wooded wonderland, it was all we could think about until we got home and started cooking. Well, they were beyond expectations, and a deliciously rewarding way to end a pleasant day. Here, sweet potatoes are roasted in the oven until caramelized and bubbly, enhancing their soft creamy texture and rich flavor. Combined with smooth cannellini beans, and seasoned with fresh cilantro, chopped scallions, parmesan cheese and spiced with garlic, ginger, smoked paprika, and cumin, the tanginess from the lime juice and zest also colors this bright orange mixture with lively speckles of jade green. Formed into patties and coated in panko bread crumbs, they are sautéed until deeply browned and delightfully crispy, then topped with an addicting homemade chipotle mayo for a smoky spicy kick. Add the traditional lettuce, tomato, onions, and slices of avocado, and let the sweet potato burger revolution begin.

This recipe is a pleasure to make—and easy too, since all the ingredients for the burgers are stirred together in one bowl. It’s fun to form the patties by hand, and you can make them any size, from oversized giants to mini sliders for a sweet potato party. The chipotle mayo takes less than a minute to whip up, and we highly recommend making extra, since it’s absolutely perfect on everything from sandwiches to our famous spinach bites. We have a recipe for homemade buns here, but store-bought will also work just fine. This is our new go-to recipe for veggie burgers, and if these are the kinds of ideas we come up with while hiking, we might need to hit the trails more often.

Sweet Potato Burgers with Chipotle Mayo
makes 6 to 8 burgers

For the sweet potato burgers:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium sweet potatoes (2lbs/908g total)
1 (15oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup (12g) cilantro, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
1/2 ounce (14g) parmesan, grated
zest from one lime
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 cup (60g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (38g) panko breadcrumbs, plus more for coating the burgers
vegetable oil, for sautéing

For the chipotle mayo:
1 cup (228g) mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 teaspoons chopped chipotle chiles in adobe sauce
1 teaspoon lime juice

For assembly:
6 to 8 hamburger buns (homemade, if desired)
sliced avocado
sliced tomato
sliced red onion

Preheat oven to 400ºF, and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Drizzle the olive oil over the sheet, and set aside. Slice the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, then lay them cut-side-down on the oiled baking sheet. Poke the potatoes all over with a fork, then bake until completely softened and easily pierced with a knife, 30 to 40 minutes. Let them cool enough to handle safely, then pull the skin off and discard.

Place the beans in a large mixing bowl, and use a potato masher to smash them until smooth (Alternatively, you can purée them in a food processor if preferred). Once the beans have been mashed, add the cooked sweet potato and stir while mashing to combine evenly. Add the remaining ingredients—egg, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, ginger, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, cilantro, scallion, parmesan, zest, lime juice, flour, and breadcrumbs—and stir until evenly blended. Let the mixture rest for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the chipotle mayo: combine the mayonnaise, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, chipotle chiles, and lime juice in a small bowl and stir until blended. If making the mayo ahead of time, keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Once the burger mixture has rested for 10 minutes, place a large heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, pour in enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin layer about 1/8-inch deep. Place a plate or shallow bowl next to the skillet, and fill it with panko breadcrumbs. Form the burger mixture into a patty about 1 inch thick and 4 to 5 inches wide depending on preference. Carefully place the patty on the plate of breadcrumbs—it will be quite soft—and cover the entire surface of the burger in crumbs. Place the burger directly into the hot skillet, and repeat with the remaining burger mixture. Sauté until the bottom of the burgers are dark golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, until the second side is deeply browned.

To serve, toast the hamburger buns if desired, and spread both sides with chipotle mayo. Top with the sizzling burger, and garnish with sliced avocado, lettuce, tomato, and red onion as desired. Enjoy!