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Brown Rice Quinoa Burgers (vegan with vegetarian options in notes)

1 cup Brown rice
1/3 cup Quinoa (red or black), rinsed
1 ½ cups finely chopped veggies*
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
Generous seasonings to taste: salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes
1-2 Tbsp. Nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp. Flax meal
Coconut oil for sautéing

Yields about 10-12 patties

*I used carrots, celery, red bell pepper & red onion. Most anything you like or have on hand will work, but if you use a leafy green, I wouldn’t “sweat” it with the thicker veggies – it will get plenty cooked when you pan fry the patties.

Add brown rice to 2 ¼ cups water and a pinch of salt to a fairly large pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to very low, cover, and cook for about 35-50 minutes until tender and most of the water is absorbed but not all – you want a little of the rice gluten to help bind the burgers. In a different pot, add the rinsed quinoa to 2/3 cup water. Bring to a boil then reduce to very low for about 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed.

While the grains are cooking, add about a tablespoon of coconut oil and the minced garlic to a small pan on medium-low to medium. When the oil has melted, add the veggies and a generous amount of seasoning, more than you would if you were going to eat the veggies simply sautéed as-is. Don’t forget to use salt, preferably a good quality grey Celtic sea salt, Himalayan pink salt or similar. Sweat them for about 5-7 minutes until onions are just turning translucent.

When the grains and veggies are done, turn off all the burners, stir the rice and quinoa to loosen then let everything set for a little while to cool slightly and for the rice to get a little sticky, maybe 15 minutes. You don’t want it too cool completely, just so it’s not burning hot. While you’re waiting, in a small bowl, mix the flax meal with 3 tablespoons of water to make a flax “egg”; stir well to combine then set aside.

Mix the quinoa and veggies into the brown rice pan using a spatula to combine thoroughly. Blend in nutritional yeast (‘nooch), starting with 1 tablespoon. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary, add more ‘nooch if desired. Finally, blend in the flax “egg” thoroughly to bind everything together.

At this point, you have three choices: cook immediately, refrigerate overnight or freeze. If you’re going to cook or freeze, form the mixture into patties about ½ inch thick. To cook: Heat a thin layer of coconut oil in a skillet or frying pan on medium-low and lay patties gently into pan. What you want is a thin, crisp crust that’s darkened but not burnt on the outside of the patty, which takes about 5-7 minutes per side. Enjoy on a bed of salad greens, on a condiment-dressed bun or wrapped in a romaine leaf. To freeze: Layer patties in parchment paper then seal in an airtight container and place in fridge up to three months. Remove, thaw and cook as above. To refrigerate overnight: Spoon mixture into an airtight container and place in fridge. Remove from fridge the following day and allow to sit covered on the counter for 30 minutes to an hour to take the chill off. Form into patties and follow cooking directions above.

Notes:

So far, the “refrigerate overnight” version is my favorite – the flavors have a chance to develop, the binder has time to really set (making the patty a little less fragile) and I don’t have to wait too long for gratification. J I haven’t tried freezing them, but my sister said it works well and I like the ease of being able to make a lot up ahead of time.

Substitutions/Additions:

Since brown rice still has the germ, it gives more structure and a better mouth-feel – I wouldn’t recommend using white rice. Similarly, the red and black quinoa stay firmer than their white cousin; however, if you only have white quinoa on hand, you would be okay making that substitution.

Mushrooms like Portobello would be a good, “meaty” addition (if you like fungi and aren’t allergic to it). Similarly, where no allergy/sensitivity exists, TVP (textured vegetable protein, which is a soy product), can be rehydrated with water according to package instructions added when the flax “egg” is added.

Nearly any veggies could be included: white or sweet potato (shredded), sun-dried tomatoes, baked acorn squash, jalapenos, leafy greens like spinach or kale… I’ve made a very satisfactory version with sweet potatoes, sweet onion and cilantro where I didn’t sauté the veggies at all.

If you don’t have or don’t like nutritional yeast (I just have started to make friends with it) and you are okay with dairy, you can add cheese to the burgers. Feta, bleu cheese, Parmesan, Asiago or any Pecorino would work well as they are strong flavored and firm to hard. I wouldn’t recommend mixing shredded or softer cheeses into the mixture. Also, if you use cheese, you may want to cool the mixture even further after you add the flax “egg” so the cheese doesn’t melt.

Also if you don’t mind using dairy, you can use a good quality butter instead of coconut oil; just watch your temperatures to make sure you don’t scorch the butter (coconut oil can take a higher heat).

I would not recommend substituting chia for flax – the gel that chia makes ends up being too slimy-feeling in the cooked finished product. However, if you prefer to use an egg as a binder rather than the flax, you only need one egg, beaten, and, as with the cheese note above, the grain/veggie mix needs to be fairly cool before you add the egg so it doesn’t cook it.

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