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This week, we’re lightening up summer with a healthy burger alternative: quinoa burgers.
Quinoa is a grain crop that is known for its edible seeds, which can be used similarly to rice. While it grows in several colors, the most commonly accessible are red, black, and white quinoa – each of which are similar in flavor but differ slightly in texture when cooked. Red and black quinoa are a bit crunchier, while white quinoa is has a fluffier, slightly stickier texture.
With a high protein and low gluten content, quinoa has garnered a lot of attention as of late. But the grain – which has has been cultivated for more than 3,000 years – was first a staple of Andean and Incan cultures where it was indigenous. According to Lost crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation, the Incans even believed the crop to be sacred, referring to it as chisaya mama or "mother of all grains.”
It really may be the mother of all grains – because quinoa has the perfect balance of all nine essential amino acids and is a good source of the vitamin B6, folate, fiber, and iron, to name a few. It’s also just as easy to cook as rice, so it’s not surprising that it has gained popularity outside of its indigenous region.
These Mediterranean-style quinoa burgers, slightly adapted from Martha Stewart, are a heart-healthy and delicious alternative to your usual beef burger. Cumin, carrots, and white beans are incorporated into these patties, but feel free to switch up the flavors with ingredients like sundried tomatoes, zucchini, cheese, and hot sauce.
Mediterranean Quinoa Burgers
1/2 cup rinsed quinoa (any color or tri color)
1 medium carrot, cut in large chunks
6 scallions, thinly sliced
15 oz can great northern beans (or other white beans), drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil, for sautéing
1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 buns or pitas, lightly toasted
Optional toppings: feta, English cucumber, red onion, tomato/roasted red pepper, hot sauce
In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup water to a boil; add quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, 12 to 14 minutes; set aside.
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In a food processor, pulse carrot until finely chopped. Add cooked quinoa, half the scallions, beans, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; pulse until combined but still slightly chunky.
Form mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick patties (dip hands in water to prevent sticking). If too soft, refrigerate 10 minutes to firm. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium; cook burgers until browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes per side.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, and the remaining scallions; season with salt and pepper.
Serve burgers in toasted buns or pitas slathered yogurt sauce and piled with desired toppings.