Quinoa Chipotle Burger in a Lettuce Wrap

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Veggie burgers have a reputation of falling apart and tasting a lot like beans – or mushy beans – or mushy beans loaded with salt. Store bought varieties tend to hold together better than homemade but they generally lack enough vegetables, or the right vegetables to balance out the beany flavor. They also contain a host of preservatives, and sometimes soy and oil. Without a doubt, the best veggie burgers for your health are homemade so I knew I had to come up with something that held together, wasn’t mushy and had superior flavour to anything I’ve ever had before.

And I did! I have to say, these quinoa burgers are in a class of their own and without the traditional bun, you can enjoy an awesome meat-less burger that is also gluten-free, vegan, and contains no oil, soy or sugar! Best of all, these burgers won’t fall apart when cooked in a frying pan without added oil – no small feat when you realize that the fat content helps to bind ingredients together in burgers of all kinds. (Just be gentle when flipping your burger over – homemade veggie burgers are a little more delicate than burgers with lots of fillers and binders).

The ratio of quinoa/almond meal to beans (black-eye peas) results in an impressive meaty texture without an overpowering bean taste and thanks to the addition of chipotle and garlic, they are bursting with flavour. Piled high with more vegetables and a few condiments, they are ultimately satisfying!  They are also surprisingly light so make lots and don’t be surprised if people ask for seconds. Even my meat-eating friends think these burgers are super delicious!

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The quantities below will yield 6, 4-oz burgers but you can certainly make them smaller. The patties are a perfect base on which to pile an array of sauces and condiments, or to serve alongside a salad.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked red quinoa
  • 1 cup cooked black-eye peas, mashed (cannellini, pinto or navy beans also work)
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1/2-cup gluten free bread crumbs (I used homemade)
  • 2 tbsp. ground chia seeds + 6 tbsp. water
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 16-20 Butter lettuce leaves (or other types of lettuce, green leaves, such as collards or chard leaves)

Instructions

For the Quinoa Patties

In a small bowl, combine ground chia seeds and water and let set for 5-10 minutes.

In a large bowl place the cooked quinoa, mashed beans, almond meal, breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon juice, chipotle chili powder, salt and pepper. Mix well with a fork to combine the ingredients and then mix in the chia seeds, which by now will have absorbed the water. Form the quinoa mixture into even-sized patties. I use a 4-oz. ice cream scoop for this, firmly packed, and I get exactly 6 burgers. 

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Place patties on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes. At this point, the patties can be frozen to be eaten on another day. Assemble your condiments and toppings.

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Heat a ceramic lined non-stick frying pan to medium. You want the pan hot, but not too hot – the burgers will burn on the outside before they are heated through if the heat is too high. Add patties and cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side. They should be nicely browned and heated through – that’s all they need since the quinoa and beans are already cooked. 

Alternatively, the quinoa burgers can be baked in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment and bake the patties for about 15-20 minutes each side, or until lightly browned and heated through. 

Assembling the Burger

To assemble the burgers, place a couple of overlapping lettuce leaves on a plate a little larger than the size of your burger. Place your cooked, hot, quinoa patty in the centre, then pile on the toppings, sauces and condiments you like. I happened to have some yams and baby beets, homemade vegan garlic-herb cheese, and some freshly made pickled onions on hand so I threw them all on top! I also added some thinly sliced cucumbers, and a big dollop of chipotle dressing before I was done!  (The yams and beets were divine in this ensemble!)

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Finish with a lettuce leaf or two on top.

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Now I have to ask, how on earth would you wrap your mouth around something like that? As enticing as this looks, you just know the toppings and sauces will end up in your lap, or at the very least, all over your hands and face after just one bite!

Fortunately, I have a couple of solutions…

One, make a small bag out of parchment paper to hold the burger and all of its toppings, and two, enclose the burger and all of the toppings in blanched the lettuce leaves. Blanching the lettuce leaves makes the leaves supple and enables you to enclose the entire burger ensemble, keeps the juices intact and prevents the toppings from spilling out. The latter method requires a bit more effort from you up front, but your guests will thank you! 

Parchment Burger Bags

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First, tear a sheet of parchment paper from the roll, about 12-inches long. It doesn’t have to be exactly 12-inches but that length works well for these burgers. Fold the cut sheet in half and cut or tear in two pieces. Fold each half in half – lengthwise. You want the bags to be wide and shallow rather than deep and narrow. 

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Then, starting at one of the short ends, fold the edges over 3 times to secure – again, it doesn’t have to be exactly 3 folds, but you want the sides of the bags to remain closed once they’re filled with a burger and all of its accompaniments. Three times is sufficient for this. 

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When ready to serve, open the bag wide, and place the lettuce wrapped burger inside. There will be extra space around the burger so just tuck any extra parchment underneath the bottom of the burger to hold the burger securely.

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Voila! Now you can safely enjoy your burger, knowing that the parchment paper will catch all of the juices and toppings that might otherwise end up in your lap!

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Blanched Lettuce Wrappers

I used butter and romaine lettuce leaves because that’s what I had but you can use any type of lettuce. Gently remove the largest leaves from a lettuce and clean thoroughly. Then place the leaves in a large bowl and pour enough boiling water over them to cover. Leave them submerged for about a minute, or until they wilt and turn vibrant green.

Strain off the hot water and pour ice-cold water over the leaves to shock them. (This stops the cooking process and helps to maintain the colour).

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Strain and dry the cooled leaves, being careful not to tear them. Transfer to a plate or cutting board and lay in a single layer, slightly overlapping in a circular pattern. Cover up any tears or holes in the leaves as you go.

Lay the quinoa patty in the centre of 1 or 2  lettuce leaves, and top with all of your desired   accompaniments. 

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Fold the leaves over the top, enclosing the burger and toppings. The supple leaves will adhere to each other and make a nice tight seal around everything.. 

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