Quinoa, Beet and Chickpea Burgers

One of the oddest foods I’ve ever seen was a frozen vegan product designed to look and taste like salmon, complete with a headless-fish shape and scaly “skin.” It contained a laundry list of hard to pronounce ingredients, and made me realize that just because something was vegan truly didn’t mean that it was healthy.

Being the type of person who gets more excited over side dishes than traditional main courses (case in point: I ordered pasta with a side of mashed potatoes at a nice restaurant when I was 10, to my family’s chagrin), I can’t imagine missing fish enough to eat the aforementioned Franken-soy product, or fowl enough to indulge in Tofurky. Similarly, I think that veggie burgers should stop trying to taste like beef, and that if you miss them that much, perhaps your body is begging you to indulge in a real (grass-fed, organic) burger for a good reason.

I see burgers more as a vehicle for melted cheese, tangy mustard, gooey avocado, and a crusty, chewy bun. (And I will fight you for that pickle.)

If you are currently or have ever been vegetarian, I don’t need to tell you that many veggie burgers are godawful. Unless you find one out at a good vegetarian restaurant, you are usually facing a pasty, brown hocky puck of a thing, sometimes deep fried to compensate for insipid flavor and flaccid texture. Putting the bready thing into a bun often seems redundant.

I based this formula loosely on a recipe from The Kitchn that was in turn inspired by a well-loved burger from Ohio’s Northstar Cafe. I used quinoa in place of the brown rice, and chickpeas instead of the black beans, just because I liked the idea of those ingredients all hanging out together with sauteed beets. A small amount of egg and quick oats gently bind the burgers as they sear in the pan, and they get a bright flavor boost from lemon zest and juice and fresh parsley. They’re moist and delicate enough that sandwiching one between a Honey Oat Beer Bun doesn’t seem terribly like a big starch fest (not that I would mind one of those, clearly).

Though they benefit from a generous slathering of mustard, mayo, avocado, red onion and sprouts, they would also work well served as croquettes with a dollop of minted yogurt, or cooked into felafel-sized patties and nestled in a warm pita pocket with lemon tahini dressing and shredded romaine.

You do need to cook chickpeas, quinoa, and the vegetables separately, but these components can all be made ahead (and you can use canned beans in a pinch). The burger mixture itself keeps well in the fridge, affording you burgers for days.

My favorite thing about these burgers is that although they look like rare beef, they actually taste like vegetables.

Happy meals:

Quinoa, Kale and Sweet Potato Salad
Curried Carrot Soup with Ginger and Coconut Milk
Sweet Potato, Chard and Black Bean Enchiladas

Quinoa, Beet and Chickpea Burgers

Adapted loosely from The Kitchn

If you don’t have 8 hours to soak your beans, you can cover them in boiling water and let them sit for 1-2 hours, or just cook them from dried; they will take a bit longer to cook. I like to cook my own beans, as directed below, but you can certainly use canned or jarred ones if your prefer. The half cup of dried beans that I cooked yielded 1 1/4 cups of cooked beans, but you can throw the whole can in, which should contain about 1 1/2 cups. In that case, you won’t need the bay leaf.

As I mention above, the quinoa, chickpeas and vegetables can all be cooked a day or two ahead of time. The burger mixture keeps well for several days in the fridge for on-demand burgers. Serve these with Honey Oat Beer Buns.

Update 11/13/13: A few commenters have reported that their burgers aren’t holding together well. Until I can get to the bottom of this, I would recommend weighing your beets – they should be 10 ounces in all. If you’ve weighed your beets and the mixture still won’t stick, try adding an extra egg and/or more quick oats.

Makes 6 full-sized burgers, or 12ish sliders (mini-burgers)

The burger mixture:
1/2 cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked 8 hours or overnight (or one 14 ounce can of cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup raw quinoa (white or multi)
3 medium-sized red beets (about 10 ounces)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2-4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
zest from 1/2 a medium lemon
juice of 1 medium lemon
1 large egg
1/2 cup quick (baby) oats

For serving:
several tablespoons of light olive oil, for frying the burgers
6 buns (such as Honey Oat Beer Buns), halved and toasted
mustard, mayonnaise, avocado, thinly sliced red onion, sprouts

Cook the beans:
Drain the soaked chickpeas and place them in a medium saucepan with the bay leaf. Cover with 3 inches of water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are almost tender. At this point, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the pot. Continue cooking until the beans are very tender. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour total, depending on the size and age of the beans. Add water to the pan as needed. When the beans are done, let them cool in their water until needed. If you like, you can slip the loose skins off the beans, though this isn’t necessary.

Cook the quinoa:
Place the quinoa in a very fine mesh strainer, place the strainer in a bowl or measuring cup, and fill with water to cover the quinoa. Let soak 5-10 minutes, swishing occasionally, to rinse off the bitter coating. The water will turn a beige-yellow. Drain the quinoa well, discard the soaking water, and place the quinoa in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, immediately reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot, and let the quinoa steam until tender and all the water is absorbed, 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, until ready to use.

Cook the veg:
Peel the beets with a potato peeler, then grate them on the large holes of a box grater. The beets will spray, so wear an apron and have your work area clear of things you don’t want covered in tiny red specks. Heat the oil in a wide saute pan (that has a lid that you will use later) over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic, the grated beets, and a big pinch of salt. Give it a stir, then cover the pan and let the mixture cook, stirring occasionally, until the beet is tender, 5 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and deglaze by adding the vinegar and stirring up any good stuff that is stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Make the burgers:
In a large bowl, combine the cooked chickpeas, quinoa and beet mixture and mash with a potato masher to break up the beans slightly – the mixture should still be fairly chunky. Stir in the parsley, lemon zest and juice, egg, oats, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until combined.

Cook the burgers:
Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions (a large spring-loaded scoop works well) and shape into 1″ thick rounds. Coat the bottom of a wide skillet with oil and heat over a medium flame until the oil shimmers. Carefully add the burger patties. Cook until the first side is golden, 2-3 minutes, then flip and cook on the second side until it is golden and the burger is cooked through, 2-3 minutes, reducing the heat if the burger is browning too quickly.

Serve the burgers on toasted buns slathered in any toppings you like.

47 thoughts on “Quinoa, Beet and Chickpea Burgers”

  1. I will admit to occasionally partaking in fake meats of the porcine variety…after all, when you haven't had pork since adolescence, the beauty of sausage is in the spice.
    Agree on the veggie burgers, and if I never see another portabello "burger" I won't miss a thing. These are gorgeous.

  2. 1. I pretty much never comment on blogs but I just have to say that you have the most wonderful gift for making the most amazing-looking meals out of ingredients that usually bore me or give me the heebie-jeebies.

    2. I love you approach to food! "I think that veggie burgers should stop trying to taste like beef, and that if you miss them that much, perhaps your body is begging you to indulge in a real (grass-fed, organic) burger for a good reason." I just find this so wonderful!

    3. I just discovered the masala chai snickerdoodles you posted about last month and I almost cried with happiness.

    That's all :)

  3. just made these and they were deliciouss!!! i usually hate beets, but these were great and added a lovely color. one thing i will say was that it was very hard for them to stick (maybe i added too many beets) so after my 1st batch, i had to add in an extra egg.

  4. Is it ok to keep the mixture in the fridge and fry patties individually throughout the week? (Rather than cooking all at once and reheating.)

    I just inhaled two patties over a bed of lettuce with a light balsamic vinaigrette. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!!

    I just found your blog through pinterest, I'm so excited to try out more of your recipes. …and you're so right, veggie burgers shouldn't try to taste like meat!!

    1. Definitely ok – they actually hold together better after a day of resting in the fridge. Bed of lettuce with vinaigrette? Yum! Thanks for the kind words – I'm so glad you're enjoying the site and the burgers. :)

  5. Interesting! So I just made these tonight!! But I think my beets were much larger than yours! It took FOREVER to grate them all, and now I have SO MUCH LEFT! We ate 4 burgers and there is definitely enough for liiiike at least another 6. really really tasty but also very tiring, I will sleep well tonight :) x

    1. Sorry the grating took so long (it IS rather tiring), but surely there are worse fates than too many veggie burgers? ;) So glad you like them. Ps. I like your orange tabby.

    2. yes alright I'm officially addicted to these. I've just made them for the third time tonight, the last time I had no eggs so they didn't stay together as well (but they still tasted great!) and this time I used less beets but the same amounts of everything else and it's just so perfect :) thank you for the recipe!!! I can't get enough! x

  6. I put the beets in a food processor because I had make beet burgers that way before. These didn't hold together at all, even after sitting in the fridge in patties overnight. Not sure how others are sticking together! Unless this recipe relies on the shape of grated beets.

    1. Hi Sarah, I'm sorry to hear that these are not sticking together! You could try adding another egg and/or more oats? Mine held together enough to fry; they were on the delicate side in the bun, but I liked them that way. If you didn't weigh your beets, I'm wondering if they were larger than mine, which might explain the lack of holding-togetherness?

  7. I'm planning on making these tomorrow with beets I bought today at the farmers market, can't wait. I don't usually eat eggs so there are rarely any in my fridge – is the egg optional in this recipe? or do you have a substitution suggestion?


    1. Hi Casey! The first time I made these, I fried up a test burger without the egg, and it held together so-so. The egg definitely helps bind them, so if you want to be on the safe side, I would suggest adding one. As for substitutions, I know some vegans use 1 tablespoon flax seed blended with 3 or 4 tablespoons of water as an egg substitute, but I'm not sure how that would work in this particular recipe. You could also try egg replacer, which I believe is potato starch, though I've never tried it myself so I can vouch for it. The egg is definitely the safe bet. Let me know what you end up doing. Happy cooking! :)

      1. Wonderful even low these many years, I never had to use an egg and they hold together fine. However I make mini sliders which may explain their cohesion. Also I do toast the quinoa which gives a crunchier texture throughout. I boil the water down till it all steams away and add the same amount of water before burning the quinoa then cook as normal.

    1. Hi Butterfly, I'm guessing that if you fry them first, that will flatten them out and make them easier to heat up a second time. Please let me know how it goes.

  8. there are no other words to describe these than AMAZING! so happy with how they turned out. i bought prepared beets from Trader Joe's and just patted them dry with a paper towel after i grated them. i noticed i had to add a little bit more oatmeal to the mixture so it would form better. definitely worth making again and the beet flavor wasn't overwhelming. well done! thanks for an amazing recipe. it's a keeper!

  9. I just made these following the directions exactly except I substituted golden beets for red beets. I have to say I'm quite disappointed that they would not stick together at all. Tried adding a second egg and this made little to no difference. For such a time consuming recipe, I don't think I'll be trying these again. And not sure what to do with all of this "burger" that I can't use. Oh well! I tried :)

    1. Thanks for giving the recipe a go – I'm really sorry your burgers are not holding together! A couple of commenters have had the same problem, while others report that they hold together just fine (as did mine when I made these earlier this year). The only factor that I can think of is that if your beets are larger than mine (and you didn't weigh them), they would produce more beet matter and perhaps cause the burgers to not hold together as well. (I'll add a note up top to weigh the beets.) That being said, one commenter who used more beet didn't seem to have a problem with this. Either way, I'm surprised that extra egg isn't helping them stick! I'll make these again soon and I'll report back.

      I might try adding still another egg and/or more quick oats. If that doesn't work, then I would stick the mixture in a pan and bake it in the oven for a sort of "beet loaf."

      Thanks a lot for the feedback, and I'm really sorry that the recipe didn't work out for you – boo!

    2. Thanks! I decided to let them chill in the refrigerator overnight after adding more quick oats and I also added milled flaxseed. I plan on trying to cook them again, otherwise baking it in a pan sounds like a great idea!

  10. Hi Alanna,
    I know this is a years late comment, but this is by far the best Beet Burger ever. I had to veganize it so I used an egg replacer which seems to be a potato starch, I add just enough so the mixture remains moist and holds together when cooking. I also only cook then as sliders so the size may matter somewhat in preserving their fragile nature.
    I also toast the quinoa by boiling out the water at high heat then add a cup of boiling water and remove from heat and allow to fully absorption– adds a great crunch. I top it off with a vegan curry mayonnaise to complete the flavor sensation.

  11. This recipe looks delicious and I’m so happy I got a chance to try it today! I am satisfied with how they turned out and my family enjoyed them as well! I added two of my favorite seasonings to the beets while cooking them, smoked paprika and cumin. It was heavenly. I saved half of the patties to try cooking them in the oven to see how that turns out. I’m going to prepare more tomorrow for a party. I plan to serve them as mini patties, without a bun, drizzled with avocado sauce and topped with alfalfa sprouts as hors d’oeuvres.

  12. I don’t understand why people mistakenly assume that b/c people want to go vegan, it must mean they no longer enjoy the flavors they were accustomed to & brought up on. I didn’t become vegan b/c I don’t like the taste of animal products, I did it for ethical, environmental, & health reasons. It’s not my body that craves these foods b/c I supposedly require them, but rather we all wish for the nostalgia & comfort that certain foods give us. Your body (or rather your taste buds, let’s be honest here) is going to crave pizza, ice cream, and other unhealthy foods. These cravings aren’t a signal for anything nutritious, but a desire to enjoy food as an experience. We attach food to memories & emotions, so it’s not a stretch that Vegans would want to eat the same type of foods they’ve always enjoyed–except w/o the violence, environmental damage, or health consequences of doing so. And it’s not just vegans, but meat eaters as well who are beginning to see that plants are not only healthy, but tasty too! And hopefully, as we all begin to see that taste isn’t only structured around “foods” that were once living animals, we’ll all begin to make choices that allow us to still have wonderful food experiences, while deviating from old unnecessary practices. Salud! :)

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