Black Bean-Quinoa Burgers

The burger recipe I developed for the cookbook (Cooking for Your Gluten-Free Teen) is my go-to solution to entertaining for kids, packing for picnics, summertime barbecues and especially for the school lunchbox. It can be made with ground beef, turkey or chicken, the patties can be frozen and it is very tasty. An obvious question then is: why make a vegetarian burger?

There are two answers. The first is to help balance a gluten-free diet. Meat is naturally gluten free. So are vegetables. Guess which my kids prefer, given a choice (meat, of course). We are not vegetarians; however, the current nutritional thinking is that a healthful diet should be rich in vegetables, fruits, and complex carbohydrates. As I recently quipped to Sarah, “Potato chips are not a complex carbohydrate.” A tasty vegetarian burger is the best of both worlds. It can provide protein, but not animal protein, and complex carbohydrates.

Now for the second answer to the question why make a vegetarian burger, especially when there are gluten-free readymade burgers on the market? Preparing a from-scratch vegetarian burger is time-consuming compared to slapping a ready-to-heat burger in the pan or microwave. Most readymade vegetarian burgers don’t get my family’s seal of approval. They complain the patties are “thin, tough, tasteless” and “nothing like homemade.” I can add that they are expensive, around $5 for four two- to three-ounce patties, and, worst of all, many are vegetarian but not gluten-free (read the ingredients label).

To meet the challenge of making a big, tasty gluten-free non-meat burger that held together when cooked but didn’t have the texture of foam rubber, I picked two “super foods” that are among my pantry staples: canned black beans and ready-to-cook quinoa. Black beans are high in protein, fiber and minerals and studies have shown they are beneficial to digestive health. Quinoa contains 10 to 18 percent protein and all eight of the amino acid proteins and is rich in vitamins and minerals.

All the extras in the recipe—onion, garlic, mustard, barbecue sauce, tamari, and tomato paste—are there for flavor. Because I so frequently use tomato paste by the tablespoonful in cooking, rather than open a can each time, I purchase a tube of tomato paste that keeps well refrigerated and can be used to squeeze out small quantities as needed. (Amore brand from Italy comes in 4.5-ounce tubes and Valbon, from France, in 5.3-ounce tubes.)

uncooked burgers on baking sheet ready to be put in oven.

The recipe makes eight generous patties that can be baked or sautéed, refrigerated or frozen, reheated in the microwave, and pack perfectly for the school lunch box.

Cooked burger packed in lunchbox with garnished

A word about quinoa: A form of resin, known as saponin, covers quinoa seeds and must be rinsed off under cold running water so the saponin doesn’t give the cooked quinoa a bitter taste. However, quinoa sold in the States (even imported quinoa) is usually washed during processing so the saponin has been rinsed away. That being said, I usually just put my dry quinoa in a fine sieve and rinse it under cold water just to be safe.

cooked quinoa

Black Bean-Quinoa Burgers

Yield: 8 patties

Black Bean-Quinoa Burgers


  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon gluten-free tamari (soy sauce)
  • ½ cup dry ready-to-cook quinoa, rinsed under cold water
  • ½ medium-to-large onion, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed, drained
  • 2 tablespoons gluten-free barbecue sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg


  1. Bring water to boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add tamari. Stir in quinoa. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover. Cook until all water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, place onion, garlic and oil in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to chop finely, scraping down sides and top as necessary with a silicone spatula.
  3. Add beans and pulse to chop coarsely (some pureed beans, some chopped).
  4. Transfer bean mixture to a large bowl. Add barbecue sauce, mustard, tomato paste and salt. Stir to mix.
  5. Add egg, stir to mix well. Add quinoa and mix well. Let stand for 15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°F.
  7. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Spray parchment lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
  8. Scoop bean-quinoa mixture in scant ½ cups onto parchment to make 8 patties. Press patties into shape using a spatula.
  9. Bake until cooked through, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes (so patties become firm) before plating.
  10. Alternatively, scoop patties into preheated nonstick skillet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and sauté over medium heat until browned on one side, then turn and cook on the other until cooked through. Do not crowd skillet.
  11. Serve on gluten-free buns garnished with pickle, sliced tomatoes, ketchup and mustard. Or top with a slice of cheese of choice and melt in the microwave.



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