Chickpea & Quinoa Veggie Burgers

chickpea & quinoa veggie burger

From beans and rice to grains and legumes to eggs and breadcrumbs to cheese and yogurt, many are the variables determining the fate of a homemade veggie burger. It’s dizzying, as maddening as trying to unlock the secret to the chewiest granola bar.

All summer, I’ve been trying to make a good one, and I’ve finally found a formula I love, the inspiration coming from a favorite fritter: falafel. If you’ve made falafel, you’re familiar with the method: soak dried chickpeas (or favas) overnight, drain them, whizz them with onions, herbs and seasonings, deep fry.

Without any binders, falafel manages to hold its shape, crispy on the edges, light and airy in the interior.

This method works beautifully for veggie burgers, too, the reconstituted puréed chickpeas acting as a binding agent, rendering additions such as eggs, yogurt, breadcrumbs, etc. unnecessary. I mean, if we’re going through the trouble to make veggie burgers, wouldn’t it be nice to keep them strictly vegetarian? These happen to be vegan to boot.

And no flavor is compromised due to the absence of these ingredients we often rely on to keep our favorite patties and meatballs and fritters intact. Here, raw onions, basil, cilantro, scallions, smoked paprika and grated zucchini offer bite, smoke, and freshness. A cup of cooked quinoa, too, provides a nice crunch throughout, the grains crisping up during the quick sear on the stovetop. Feel free to change the spices (cumin, coriander, cayenne, whatever) and herbs and vegetables (roasted green or poblano peppers would be a nice addition here, too).

Serve theses patties with naan, homemade or otherwise (love these), pickled red onions, and tahini sauce, which, if you’ve been missing as much as I, is reason alone to make these burgers.

dried chickpeas

Soak the chickpeas for 18 to 24 hours:
soaking the chickpeas

soaked chickpeas

ingredients

Whizz everything together in a food processor:
food processor

processed

Fold the grated zucchini in last:
grated zucchini added

mix

formed patties

Cook for three minutes a side on medium high heat:
pan-seared veggie burgers

chickpea & quinoa veggie burger

Reminder: Quinoa lovers: Alter Eco is having a recipe contest! Prizes are amazing.

Chickpea & Quinoa Veggie Burgers

Chickpea & Quinoa Veggie Burgers

Serves 6

Notes:

*Quinoa: This is how I cook quinoa: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, add the quinoa and cook for 9 minutes. Drain. There is no need to salt the water here because the mixture is seasoned sufficiently (but otherwise I would salt the water). For these burgers, I have been cooking a cup of quinoa at a time, which produces over 2 cups of cooked quinoa, and I use 1 cup here and the rest for a salad. But if you want to try to produce a single cup of quinoa, try starting with about 1/3 cup (66 g) of dried quinoa. It won't be perfect, but it will be close.

The weights below for the vegetables (onions, scallions, herbs, zucchini) are rough — use them as a guide. Try to stay somewhat close but don't worry about completely matching.

You can use any spices you like. Cumin is common, but I find it to be overpowering. Smoked paprika offers a nice smokiness and a nice change if you are looking for one.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (200g) dried chickpeas
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa* (I like red for its color, but you could use any variety.)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped (168g once trimmed)
  • 3 or so scallions, ends trimmed and roughly chopped (36 g once trimmed)
  • basil, cilantro, parsley, whatever you like, a small handful (25 g of each roughly)
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 small zucchini, grated (185 g once grated)
  • grapeseed oil for frying
  • serve with naan, lettuce, tahini sauce (so yummy!), pickled red onions, Sriracha (or other hot sauce, optional)

Instructions

  1. Place dried chickpeas in a bowl and cover with water by a few inches. Let sit overnight, or at least 12 hours. If time permits, 18 to 24 hours is best. Drain.
  2. Place the drained chickpeas, quinoa, onion, scallions, herbs, salt, paprika, and pepper flakes in the food processor. Process until blended, about 10 seconds. Scraped down the sides of processor and pulse again until combined. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the grated zucchini and with a spatula or your hands, incorporate the zucchini into the mixture. Taste the mixture. It should taste good, and shouldn't need much adjustment, but do adjust if necessary.
  4. Use a 1/2-cup measuring cup to portion the mixture into 6 (plus a little guy) patties. Squeeze the mixture between your hands as you shape each patty. The mixture will feel wet. When you shape the patties, the mixture might even feel a little delicate, and you will probably worry that the patties will fall apart in the pan. But, as long as your patties can hold their shape on the plate or sheetpan, you're in good shape. At this point, the patties can be wrapped and stored in the fridge for a day or two.
  5. Depending on how many patties you are cooking at one time, heat a sauté pan over medium high heat. For two patties, add 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil. When the oil begins to skid around the pan and feels hot to your hand hovering above, gently lower a patty into the oil. Repeat with another. Cook for three minutes adjusting the heat as necessary. Flip. Cook for three minutes more. Serve immediately with naan, lettuce, tahini sauce and onions.
http://www.alexandracooks.com/2014/07/31/chickpea-quinoa-veggie-burgers/

Tahini Sauce

3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. tahini
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon)
2 Tbsp. water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 to 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey (optional)

In a small bowl, stir together the tahini (being sure to stir the tahini itself first to make sure it is emulsified), olive oil, lemon juice, water, salt, and garlic. Taste. Add the maple syrup or honey if desired. (I like this dressing with a touch of sweetness.) Taste. Adjust with more salt, if necessary, and thin out with more water if necessary, too — the sauce should be pourable or the consistency of a traditional dressing.

Pickled Red Onions

½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or any vinegar)
Salt

In a small mixing bowl, combine the onions and vinegar. Season with salt and allow the onions to macerate until they have softened, about 15 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.

Comments

    • says

      Sara, no, I haven’t, but I’ve been meaning to. I just like the crust that forms on the seared patties. I’ve been thinking about broiling, too. Will let you know if I make any discoveries!

      • Samar says

        Hi Alexandra,
        Wondering if you tried baking them yet? I’m just about to head to the kitchen to try my very first veggie burger been researching good recipes for a while. Super excited about it, thank you x

    • says

      Marcia, thank you! Re canned beans, I think you can, but I think the flavor might be somewhat compromised. I remember reading in that Bittman article on falafel that starting with dried beans is the way to go as far as flavor goes. I worry too, that the canned beans might be too soft because they are already cooked, right? That’s what’s cool about this soaking method — the chickpeas soften a little, but not so much to make the patties mushy. Hope that makes sense!

      • Jenny says

        I’ve made these twice this week, both with canned beans. They are definitely wet and don’t hold together quite as well as yours, but my husband and I don’t care about presentation if the taste is there and these taste fantastic. Both times we polished off the recipe in 1 meal between the 2 of us. Oops haha! We did skip the naan though because we didn’t have any on hand.

        • says

          Wonderful to hear this, Jenny! And if you skip the naan, that’s carte blanche to eat with abandon, right? :) Glad to hear that canned chickpeas are suitable despite the texture. Thanks for writing in!

  1. Wendy says

    Excited to give these a try–a great method and wonderful flavors. And it’s an antidote to the recent (complicated!) veggie burger Melissa Clark posted for the NYT. I’m sure hers tastes great, but way too many steps for summer cooking! Thanks, Alexandra.

    • says

      I saw that one! I was impressed by the many layers of umami and the charcoal grill — I need to be more hardcore — but I was a little intimidated by the number of steps/ingredients.

      Hope you like these, Wendy! The method really is cool.

      • Wendy says

        I should add that we are fans of Melissa Clark’s recipes–my girls like to watch her video demos every week! But put these burgers side by side, and yours will end up on our table. Thanks!

  2. gourmet goddess says

    Hi, I know this question may sound a little silly, but I am intrigued by your method of cooking the quinoa – do you place the quinoa into the cold water, bring it to the boil, then cook for for 9 mins , or bring the water to the boil then add the quinoa and cook for 9 minutes once it comes back to the boil ?

    and thank you for putting together a veggie burger without binders – I always feel the binders are what determine the texture of the cooked burger.

    gg

    • says

      Not silly at all! I just edited the note section so it is more clear. I do not add the quinoa until the water comes to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, I add the quinoa and cook it for 9 minutes.

      I hope you give these a go! It’s so nice knowing you can make a burger without eggs or mayo or breadcrumbs — extra work, extra ingredients, who needs it? :)

      • gourmet goddess says

        Hi Alexandra

        thank you for the clarification, I will try the cooking method for the quinoa and make these over the weekend and let you know how I go !!!

        Dimitra

      • gourmet goddess says

        Alexandra, these were amazing , made them on the weekend, devoured by the family – now going to be on the lunch rotation for school – SO GOOD – and surprisingly held together really well . I was worried they would be crumbly – and no-one was any wiser they were eating zucchini ☺ I think some tzatziki would be great with them as well and Trader Joe’s has these cute mini pitas that would work really well.

        thank you for a great recipe.

        Dimitra

  3. Laurie says

    Gosh, these look so freaking good! I’m going to try them with tzatziki sauce because I am addicted to it and this looks like it will work perfectly! XO!

  4. says

    Yayyyy you’ve got the burgers on lockdown! I’m so excited!! I’m going to make them immediately and eat them all next week on top of my salads. And they won’t be as disastrous as my own attempt (too. many. eggs!). I mean, falafel! So clever to use that as a starting point. This makes so much sense. I’m mostly wishing my naan was as amazing as yours, then I’d really be getting somewhere :) The tahini sauce, the pickled onions — perfection. How could I possibly miss meat! BLESS YOU ALI

    • says

      Haha, I love it. You are hilarious. And while homemade naan is a real treat, that Stonefire brand is SO good. When it’s heated up, it really tastes almost homemade. So hope you like these! Have a great weekend!!

  5. says

    Alexandra! These are FANTASTIC! I just made them and, wow. You weren’t kidding about how well they bind or fresh they taste. Thank you for the delicious recipe, veggie burgers are a unicorn in my kitchen, tricky to find…er, make? You know what I mean!

    -Alex

  6. Amanda says

    The flavor in these burgers is so delicious. My husband is obsessed. I used canned chickpeas and they turned out pretty mushy so good to know for next time! Thanks so much for posting!

    • says

      Wonderful to hear this, Amanda! And good to know about the canned chickpeas — I suspected they would make for a softer burger since they are already cooked — but I’m glad you still liked the flavors.

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  8. Liz says

    These are so delicious. I’ve been looking for a recipe that doesn’t use canned beans and that doesn’t have a thousand ingredients. I broiled the burgers brushed with olive oil and they came out really well–but I have a powerful broiler. Also, I think your way likely gives a nicer crust to the burger.

    • says

      So happy to hear this, Liz! Good to know the burgers can be broiled. I was feeling hesitant because I do like that crunchy sear, but I also think broiling is healthier, so it’s nice to know it can be done. Thanks!

  9. Lynnette says

    I was so skeptical about using the soaked chickpeas because I thought the patties would be unpleasantly crunchy. I kept reading the recipe to see when I was supposed to boil them. I finally decided to trust you since I have enjoyed all your recipes I’ve tried so far. Soaked (and NOT boiled) chickpeas for the win!! The entire family loved these. Thank you so much for your delicious, beautiful and generous website.

    • says

      Yay!! I know, nothing about the process feels natural, but isn’t the texture nice? I love the crunch. Now you can make falafel! Truly, it’s easy, but I prefer this bc deep-frying is a pain. Thank you thank you for your kind words!

  10. Lindsay says

    Ali, these were fab — Given DJ’s preference for all things meat, I figured he wouldn’t go for a “veggie burger,” so I rolled these up into balls, made tzatziki and called ‘em falafel. DJ was all over it. :) Great recipe, and so easy!

    • says

      So happy to hear this, Linds! Sometimes it’s best to leave certain details out :) Ben loved these, too, and this was one vegetarian meal that didn’t leave him hungry an hour later…I was sure he’d be scrounging in the fridge later in the evening, but he wasn’t. Success!

  11. Emily says

    Wow! I have been looking for a chickpea quinoa burger that doesn’t use bread crumbs or eggs for awhile and am so glad to have found yours! I don’t have the fresh herbs on hand but I’m going to try to make due with the main ingredients of chickpea (only have canned), quinoa, and zucchini (along with spices)! Do you think they’ll hold together with canned chickpeas and no fresh herbs?

    • says

      Hi Emily! Sorry for the delay here. One commenter wrote in saying that she used canned chickpeas, and that the burgers were a little softer than mine. She loved the flavor, and I think she’s made them a couple of times this way, but they don’t hold together as well. So, you definitely can use them, but the burgers will be wetter/softer. Hope that helps! Not using fresh herbs shouldn’t effect the texture of the burger too much.

  12. Alex says

    These were good — definitely tasty — but not quite perfect for me… I think I over-processed the chickpeas for one. But also, I’m inclined to think a scant quantity of breadcrumbs would help them firm up a little — they were a little too mushy for my liking. I would also make the patties smaller (fitting two in one naan — more like falafel, I guess) so that there’s a higher proportion of crispy edge to balance the softness inside. Still, these were incredibly promising: great flavour profile, love that they’re vegan and really loved the inclusion of quinoa (a real protein hit!).

    On the topic of veggie burgers, have you ever ventured onto 101 cookbooks and read about Heidi’s idea to make the vegetarian pattie the ‘bun’. I like this idea a lot — as she says, the thing about veggie burgers that never quite works is the whole carb-on-carb thing. Having said that, finding a veggie pattie that holds up in the place of a bun is no easy task!

    Also, out of curiosity, did you make the naan? And if yes, do you have a recipe that you’d recommend? Shop-bought naan are so disappointing.

    • says

      Now that I’ve made these twice for a crowd, I would definitely encourage any other cooks not to be worried by what seems to be a rather wet chickpea mixture before it’s cooked (even though I squeeze the zucchini of excess moisture). It’s really perfect. I cook the patties in the oven (so I don’t have to stand over the stove watching batch after batch), with a quick spritz of olive oil over the tops, and I thought it gave them a wonderful crunch with a soft interior, rather a way to be quite crispy and not at all crumbly when finished. I wonder if it almost dries the patties out a little bit more than skillet-cooking? If so, it’s an advantage. While delicate, I have found them firm and that they hold together beautifully after cooking — the perfect veggie burger!

      These are excellent and none of the meat-eaters in my life have given anything but rave reviews :)

      • says

        Sophie, I’m so happy to hear this! My mom has been wanting to broil or roast them, so I will pass along your notes to her. She will be thrilled — she hates pan-frying anything. And I think you might be on to something re the oven drying them out. I bet they do firm up a bit more during their time in the oven. Hope all is well!

    • says

      Hi Alex! I always appreciate honest comments, so thank you for all of this! I think there definitely is an opportunity to add breadcrumbs here if you are looking for a firmer texture. Maybe panko would do the trick? And I am all for crispy edges, so I like your thinking re making the patties smaller. Glad you liked the flavors at least!

      And no, I haven’t seen Heidi’s post on veggie burgers. I will have to go search her archives. I totally see what she means — so what would you sandwich between the patties if you successfully make them into buns? I am intrigued! I found at Whole Foods Market even smaller naan than the Stonefire Kitchen brand, which I think is a good brand (not sure if they sell them abroad), but which I find to be a lot of bread — I always need to break them in half.

      And I have made naan at home. I used my baking steel and posted a recipe on the Baking Steel blog (http://bakingsteel.com/naan-bread-recipe/). Food52 also has a great recipe.

  13. cmouta says

    Have you tried freezing these? If so, is it better to do pre or post-searing? Would love to make a big batch to have readily available for quick lunches/dinners!

  14. Michelle says

    These look delicious and I plan to make them soon!

    Do you need to squeeze out or let sit the zucchini to get rid of the liquid in them? I know when I have used grated zucchini in other things, there is a LOT of liquid.

    Thanks so much!

    • says

      I don’t squeeze out the zucchini but I think Sophie does. I just kind of grab it from under the grater and I try to avoid scooping up any liquid. You can’t go wrong by squeezing the zucchini a little bit.

  15. Michelle says

    I just finished wolfing down one of the burgers – so very yummy!! And my DH loved them too. I pan fried two and am baking some as I type to see the difference. I didn’t squeeze the zucchini, just took from the pile like you suggested. Thank you so much for posting this recipe alexandra!

    • says

      So happy to hear this, Michelle! I hope the baking turned out well too — still haven’t tried that method but I’m curious. It’s always nice to not pan-fry when possible. Glad squeezing wasn’t necessary either. Thanks for writing in!

  16. Ashley says

    YES! We serve a similar burger at the restaurant, with cukes, mint, peppers, babaganoush, it’s amazing can’t wait to make this. Can I ask what food processor you use? I have broke 2 so far since none were powerful enough for dates, and others…

    • says

      Hi AShley! Sorry for the delay here. Those burgers sound amazing. Love the sound of all the fixins :) I use a 14-cup Cuisinart food processor. It is amazing, a serious work horse. I’ve had it for almost 10 years now.

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