Patio season is fast approaching and I couldn't be more excited. Vancouver has been blessed with gorgeous sunny weather for the past couple weeks, and guess who jumped the gun by firing up the barbecue? Me, that's who! Although if I'm being completely honest, here's what actually happened: I had the idea that a barbecue dinner would be so fun, and then decided that a last minute evening yoga class was also necessary. It meant getting back at home in the dark at 8:30pm – sweaty and very hungry. It was only then that I realized my dreams of eating a barbecue dinner were slipping away into the night. Cue sad face. And then when I started thinking about the epic vegetarian patties I'd already prepped in the fridge…cue even sadder face. Fast forward fifteen minutes, and there's Anguel out there in the dark tending to the BBQ. Gosh, he's a keeper. If only I could distract him with heaps of delicious food so that he could forget about my (many) crazy requests…oh wait, that plan is already in action.
Although Anguel and I have pretty similar taste in food, he definitely has a softer spot for 'hefty' foods. Things like hearty pastas, huge sandwiches and chunky chili's. Typical dude stuff. And I get it: sometimes we all just want to sink our teeth into a burger. Especially in the summer months when everyone has their very large meat-y barbecue dishes lined up. Us vegetarians want to take part in the party too, right? Just hold the meat, please. Thankfully, these falafel tahini burgers totally fit the bill. They're filling and protein-packed, thanks to the chickpeas and tahini. And best of all, these burgers are a great option for serving to non-vegetarians…because the last thing you want them to do is wish they had a big steak to entertain them in between bites of veggies. Am I right?
Most falafel recipes I've made before utilize tahini in a dressing. But this time I went one step further and put the tahini directly into the patties! It helps get the mixture to the right consistency so you can shape them into patties. And, having got my tahini fix in, that allowed me to sneak another awesome flavor into the sauce – a little tzatziki anyone?
What I love about this recipe is that there's very minimal active cooking required. I like to quickly brown the onion and toast the garlic prior to chucking everything into the food processor. I think it adds an extra depth of flavor this way, but you could totally skip that step. To make cooking easier, I landed on a recipe that uses the oven to firm up the patties. Prior to serving, you could further crisp them up on a cast iron pan or even throw them on the grill. That part is totally optional though, because you can eat them directly out of the oven - they're delicious that way too.
For convenience, this recipe uses canned chickpeas. There are two camps when it comes to falafel: one swears by using soaked chickpeas and the other uses pre-cooked (canned) chickpeas. The argument for using uncooked chickpeas is that the texture is firmer; but on the flip side, pre-cooked chickpeas make for a more moist falafel. That, and it’s a lot quicker since you can usually crack open a can. I’d venture to say things are a bit different when turning traditionally small falafel balls into a bigger burger patty. In this case, we want to avoid “dry” as much as possible. Long story short, it’s canned chickpeas here, with one key modification to firm up the patty: quinoa flakes. They help add more texture to the patty - so that in the oven they bake up fairly firm, without becoming overly dry. It’s also important to keep some texture in the patty to start with, so don’t completely pulverize the chickpeas in the food processor. And for added moisture and tang, I like to crumble some feta directly into the patties. But for a vegan option, you can omit the cheese. The result is a perfectly moist patty that holds its own against all the toppings.
I'll go so far as to say the tzatziki sauce is essential for this recipe. It adds just the perfect amount of moisture and creaminess to the burger. It's really a match made in heaven. I like to make a big batch of sauce and store it in the fridge for snacking. And if you plan to serve these burgers to a crowd, the tzatziki can double as a starter (e.g. veggie platter) as well as in your main dish. Combine that with patties that can be cooked in advance…and you've got yourself a pretty pain-free meal. Now, let's get this party started!
Falafel Tahini Burgers with Tzatziki
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided (or other neutral oil)
- 1 small yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 tablespoons tahini
- ½ cup packed flat leaf parsley
- ¼ cup packed cilantro
- 1½ teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (reserve lemon for Tzatziki sauce)
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 (15 oz/14 fl oz/398 ml) can chickpeas, rinsed and patted dry (see note 1)
- ⅓ cup quinoa flakes (see note 2)
- ⅓ cup crumbled feta (extra for garnish, optional)
- Burger buns, toasted (gluten free if needed)
- Fresh veggies, such as lettuce, tomato, onion (for serving)
- ½ English cucumber
- ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Black pepper (to taste)
- Sauté onion, garlic: Heat 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, cook until golden brown on the edges, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Pulse mixture: Empty onion mixture into food processor. Add tahini, parsley, cilantro, cumin, coriander, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Pulse until a paste. Add chickpeas and pulse until the mixture looks like a chunky batter (leave some bits of chickpea for texture).
- Stir and chill: Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Stir in quinoa flakes until well mixed. Fold in feta. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Preheat: Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)
- Tzatziki sauce: Meanwhile, grate cucumber on the large holes of a box grater. Transfer cucumber to a nutmilk bag or cheesecloth, squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Add cucumber, yogurt, dill, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper to a bowl. Stir to mix. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
- Shape and bake patties: Line a baking sheet with parchment. Use your hands to shape 4 patties and place on baking sheet. Brush patties (both sides) with remaining 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil. You want the patties to be well oiled, so use a bit more if needed. Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes, flipping halfway.
- Assemble: Spread tzatziki on toasted buns. Stack with patties, fresh veggies of your choice, and more crumbled feta (if using).
- Chickpeas: Pat the chickpeas thoroughly so you don't introduce excess moisture into the mixture.
- Quinoa Flakes: Quinoa flakes can usually be found in the health foods or gluten free aisle of the store. Some stores, like Whole Foods, also sell it in the bulk section.
- Storage tips: Cover and refrigerate extra patties; reheat in an oiled skillet. Or, freeze patties and bake (from frozen) on a lightly oiled baking sheet at 300°F (150°C) until heated through.
- Nutritional estimate excludes buns.