Food & Drink

Ahead of The Big Lunch, how to make Ainsley Harriott’s black bean burgers

These veggie burgers with avocado salsa are perfect for summertime.

Ainsley Harriott is one of the celebrity ambassadors for The Big Lunch
Bean burger (L) and Ainsley Harriott Ainsley Harriott is one of the celebrity ambassadors for The Big Lunch

This year, chef Ainsley Harriott is joining Mel Giedroyc and Prue Leith in supporting The Big Lunch.

Held in the first weekend of June every year since 2009, it’s an opportunity to get people together, raise money for charity and have a positive impact in your community.

Taking place on June 1-2, Harriott says: “The Big Lunch is all about the fun of bringing people together, sharing food, making new connections and building stronger communities.

“So this June, why not get together with your neighbours to share some fun, food and friendship?”

Whether it’s hosting a street party, having a park picnic or a backyard BBQ with neighbours, it’s a chance to come together and share food with friends.

If you’re taking part in The Big Lunch this year, you might be wondering what to whip up – and luckily, Harriott is here to help with one of his favourite recipes.

“These vegan black bean burgers are full of texture and Caribbean spice,” he says.

“The crunchy peanut butter and bite of the cashew nuts adds a nice bit of body, and the polenta gives a good crisp coating. I love them spicy, but you can leave the chilli out if you prefer.

“If you have a nut allergy, try using tahini in place of the peanut butter, and stir in some sunflower seeds instead of the cashews.”

Island black bean burgers with avocado salsa


(Serves 4)

2tbsp sunflower or coconut oil, plus extra for drizzling

½ red onion, finely chopped

1 small red pepper, de-seeded and finely diced

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 medium-hot red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

1tbsp jerk seasoning

45g cashew nuts

1 x 400g tin black beans, drained, rinsed and patted dry

125g ready-to-eat brown rice or bulgur wheat

1 heaped tbsp crunchy peanut butter

1tbsp vegan mayo

25g panko breadcrumbs

A handful of coriander leaves

Zest of ½ lime

3tbsp fine polenta

2tbsp coconut oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salsa:

1 large avocado, peeled, stoned and finely diced

2 ripe vine tomatoes, de-seeded and finely chopped

½ red onion, finely chopped

2tbsp chopped coriander

A pinch of caster sugar

Zest and juice of ½ lime

For the hot pepper mayo:

3–4tbsp vegan mayo

Hot pepper sauce, to taste

To serve:

4 burger buns, halved

Crisp lettuce leaves, shredded


1. Heat a small drizzle of oil in a frying pan, add the onion and pepper and gently sweat over a low-medium heat for three to four minutes until a little softened. Add the garlic, chilli and jerk seasoning and cook for another 30 seconds until fragrant. Set aside to cool.

2. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until coarsely chopped, then tip into a large bowl. Put the softened onion and pepper, half the black beans, the rice, peanut butter, mayo, breadcrumbs, coriander and lime zest into the food processor. Season well and blitz for 30–45 seconds until well combined. Scrape the mixture from the sides and blitz again until combined but still with plenty of texture. Transfer to the bowl with the nuts and remaining beans and mix well with your hands, adding a little more peanut butter or mayonnaise if the mixture is too dry, or breadcrumbs if too wet. Divide the mixture evenly into four and shape into burger patties with your hands. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to firm up.

3. Meanwhile, mix the salsa ingredients together in a bowl to combine. Season with salt to taste and set aside.

4. In a small bowl, mix together the hot pepper mayo ingredients.

5. Spread the polenta on a plate with a small pinch of salt and gently coat the patties on all sides.

6. Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the oil. When hot, add the burgers, reduce the heat to medium and cook for three to four minutes without moving. Gently turn over and cook on the other side for 3–4 minutes or until heated through and a crust has formed. (Alternatively, spray the burgers with oil and bake in the oven at 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6 for 12–15 minutes or until crispy.)

7. Lightly char or toast the burger buns, then spread a dollop of the hot pepper mayo onto the base. Add some shredded lettuce, top with a burger and add a good spoonful of salsa. Top with a little more hot pepper mayo and finish with the burger bun top.

Ainsley’s Good Mood Food by Ainsley Harriott is published by Ebury Press, priced £20. Photography by Dan Jones. Available now.