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Note: The pasta method and the rice cooker method produce the same yield ratios; for uncooked and cooked quinoa as the simmer method.

Sunflower Seed and Quinoa Burgers


Camilla Saulsbury


500 Best Quinoa Recipes: 100% Gluten-Free Super-Easy Superfood

Published by Robert Rose

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My Notes

Editor’s Note: This summer, serve up these delicious Sunflower Seed and Quinoa Burgers on the skillet. This easy gluten-free recipe is also vegetarian. Although it doesn’t have beef, it’s still loaded with flavors and is sure to be a hit with the entire crowd. Whether you plan to serve these burgers poolside this summer or just want something delicious to eat in the middle of winter, this easy gluten-free recipe is one to keep right at your fingertips. If you’re looking for even more quinoa recipes, then take a look at the author’s recipe for Mini Crab Quinoa Cakes.

These veggie burgers have great texture, thanks to a combination of quinoa, sunflower seeds and red kidney beans. They get a power-up from hot smoked paprika and cumin, offset by luscious Greek yogurt, peppery arugula and sweet tomato. Whenever possible, use whole-grain or multigrain hamburger buns.

Cooking Method Pan-frying

Total Time under 1 hour

Kid Friendly Yes

Occasion al Fresco, Buffet Meal, Card Night, Family Get Together, Game Day, Pool Party, Sports Party

Recipe Course Main Course

Dietary Consideration Gluten-free

Meal Dinner, Lunch

Taste and Texture Savory

Type of Dish Vegetable


  • Food processor
  • 1½ cups cooked quinoa (see Notes), cooled 375 mL
  • 3 cloves garlic , coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (250 mL) rinsed drained canned red kidney beans
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) lightly salted roasted sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup (125 mL) packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon (3 mL) hot smoked paprika or chipotle chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon (2 mL) fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) olive oil
  • 4 hamburger buns (gluten-free, if needed), split and toasted
  • 4 large tomato slices
  • 2 cups (500 mL) packed aruqula or baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) plain Greek yogurt


In food processor, combine quinoa, garlic, beans, sunflower seeds, cilantro, cumin, paprika and salt; pulse until blended but still chunky. Form into four ¾-inch (2 cm) thick patties.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add patties and cook for 4 minutes. Turn patties over and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until crispy on the outside and hot in the center.

Transfer patties to toasted buns. Top with tomato, spinach and dollops of yogurt.

Preparing Quinoa

A significant part of quinoa’s appeal is its ease of preparation. It can be cooked several different ways to produce a tender, fluffy grain, or it can be toasted (dry or in a bit of oil or butter), yielding crisp, crunchy quinoa that can be used as you would chopped nuts. One constant, no matter how you plan to cook quinoa, though, is a quick rinse to remove any residual saponin coating.

Removing Saponin: Virtually all quinoa that reaches consumers in North America and Europe has already had the saponin removed (this includes quinoa flour and quinoa flakes). Nevertheless, it is important to give quinoa seeds a brief rinse before use, to remove any saponin residue that may remain after processing. Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly under cold water for 30 to 60 seconds. This ensures that the cooked quinoa will have a delicately sweet, pleasant flavor.

If you are uncertain whether the quinoa you purchased has had the saponin removed (for example, if you bought quinoa from a bulk foods container), soak it more thoroughly: submerge the quinoa in enough cold water to cover it by 1 inch (2.5 cm). Let stand, stirring once or twice, for at least 5 minutes or as much as 2 hours. Drain the quinoa through a fine-mesh sieve and rinse thoroughly under cold water for 30 to 60 seconds.

Quinoa Cooking Methods

To cook quinoa for a side dish or breakfast porridge, or for use in a recipe that calls for cooked quinoa, you can use the simmer method, the pasta method or the rice cooker method. All yield equally good results.

The Simmer Method: Simmering is the most common way to prepare quinoa, and the process is very similar to cooking rice: simmer one part quinoa with two parts water until the liquid is absorbed. However, it takes less time from start to finish than rice (a boon for busy cooks), and it is, I would contend, easier to produce consistent results.

To prepare 3 cups (750 mL) of cooked quinoa, combine 1 cup (250 mL) quinoa and 2 cups (500 mL) water in a medium saucepan (see chart below for other amounts of quinoa and water and their corresponding yields). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes or until liquid is just barely absorbed. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 2 to 3 minutes for an al dente texture, ideal for salads; 5 to 6 minutes for a light, fluffy texture, ideal for side dishes; or 8 to 10 minutes for a softer texture best suited to desserts, breakfasts and incorporation into baked goods. Fluff with a fork.

Darker quinoa seeds — particularly red and black seeds — use the same quinoa-to-water ratio as the more common white quinoa. However, they do not always absorb all of the water in the designated cooking time. If excess liquid remains at the end of the cooking time, Simply drain it off.

Cooked Quinoa Yields:
Uncooked Quinoa: 2 tbsp (30 mL)/ ¼ cup (60 mL)/ 1/3 cup (75 mL)/ ½ cup (125 mL)/ 2/3 cup (150 mL)/ ¾ cup (175 mL)/ 1 cup (250 mL)/ 1 1/3 cups (325 mL)
Water: ¼ cup (60 mL)/ ½ cup(125 mL/ 1/3 cup(150 mL)/ 1 cup (250 mL)/ 1 1/3 cups (325 mL)/ 1½ cups (375 mL)/ 2 cups (500 mL)/ 2 2/3 cups (650 mL)
Cooked Quinoa: 1/3 cup (75 ml.)/ ¾ cup(175 mL)/ 1 cup (250 mL)/ 1½ cups (375 mL)/ 2 cups (500 mL)/ 2¼ cups (550 mL)/ 3 cups (750 mL)/ 4 Cups (1 L)

Note: The pasta method and the rice cooker method produce the same yield ratios; for uncooked and cooked quinoa as the simmer method.

The Pasta Method: The easiest way to cook quinoa is to boil it like pasta. This method is particularly good for individuals who detect residual bitterness from the quinoa saponins. It is not necessary to rinse the quinoa before using this method.

Fill a large pot with water, add salt if desired and bring to a boil. Add the desired amount of quinoa and cook for 10 to 13 minutes or until tender. Drain the quinoa through a fine-mesh sieve. Return the quinoa to the still-warm pan (off the heat), cover and let stand for 2 to 3 minutes. The moisture in the cooked quinoa will steam it slightly, producing a light and fluffy texture.

If using this method to prepare quinoa for a salad, do not return the drained quinoa to the pan. Instead, rinse it under cold water until cooled. Shake the sieve to remove as much water as possible, then transfer the quinoa to a bowl and fluff with a fork.

The Rice Cooker Method: Prepare the quinoa in a rice cooker using one part quinoa to two parts water. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cooking white rice. When the cooking cycle is complete, fluff the quinoa with a fork.

The Thermos Method: Quinoa (and almost any other grain) can be prepared with ease using this little-known method. Place 1 cup (250 mL) quinoa in a 4-cup (1 L) Thermos. Add 2 cups (500 mL) boiling water. Tightly close the Thermos and turn it upside down several times to combine the quinoa and water. Let stand for 6 to 8 hours. Remove lid, shake quinoa into a medium bowl and fluff with a fork. This method yields 3 cups (750 mL) cooked quinoa. You can use the quinoa immediately (it will still be warm) as a side dish or as part of a main dish. If prepared overnight, it is also a perfect way to have ready-to-eat quinoa for breakfast: simply drizzle the quinoa with milk or non-dairy milk and sprinkle with your favorite toppings. Alternatively, let the quinoa cool and refrigerate or freeze it for future use.

Cheeseburger seeds
Bread vs. Buns

How D >Who knew?

Is there any food as ubiquitous, yet as invisible, as the hamburger bun? There’s no glamour there. Billions of dollars worth of them are sold every year, yet hardly anyone gives them a second thought.

They ought to. Hamburger buns, humble as they may seem, have a fascinating history.

The early history of the hamburger is notoriously murky. At least five parties claim to have invented the hamburger as we know it today. And because hamburgers have always been a food of the masses, casual to the extreme, their history has never been documented well enough to say definitively whose claim is the most rightful.

Bread vs. Buns

However, several of the contenders, including the famed Louis Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, can demonstrate only that they were among the first to serve grilled ground beef patties on sliced bread — not buns. And food writer Josh Ozersky, in his definitive 2008 book The Hamburger: A History, argues that hamburgers are defined, in no small part, by their buns.

“There is no doubt,” Ozersky writes. “On any kind of semantic or platonic level, no bun = no burger.”

“To admit ground beef on toast as a hamburger is to make the idea of a ‘hamburger’ so loose, so abstract, so semiotically promiscuous as to have no meaning,” he continues.

According to popular historian Michael Wallis, the first person to put a hamburger patty on a bun was a home cook from Oklahoma named Oscar Weber Billy. When Wallis interviewed Billy’s descendants for a terrific 1995 article in Oklahoma Today, they claimed that in 1891, Grandpa Billy grilled up some burger patties and put them on his wife’s “homemade yeast buns — the best buns in all the world, made from her own secret recipe.” They were a hit, and Oscar Weber Billy apparently served his hamburgers to large crowds of neighbors every Fourth of July thereafter.

Ozersky dismisses the Billy claim for two reasons. He said the Billy family didn’t photograph that first hamburger, so its age can’t be verified. And even if Oscar Weber Billy did serve his hamburger on a bun in 1891, he did so “in the vacuum of obscurity.” Ozersky instead credits Walter Anderson, the cook behind White Castle, with the invention of the hamburger bun. Anderson started serving hamburgers on buns at his Wichita, Kansas, restaurant sometime around 1915.

But 1915 seems too late for the invention of the hamburger bun: There are brief mentions of hamburger buns in newspaper articles from 1908 and 1911. And many insist that burgers — on buns — were served at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. Still, it seems fair to say that, at the very least, White Castle played a huge role — or roll — in popularizing the hamburger bun as we know it today.

Open Sesame

There’s no evidence, though, that either Oscar Weber Billy or Walter Anderson thought to put sesame seeds on their hamburger buns. But figuring out who invented a sesame-seed bun is, if anything, even more difficult than figuring out who invented its seedless cousin.

The first reference to a hamburger on a sesame-seed bun that I could find was a 1955 Time magazine article on the rise of the Burbank, California-based fast food chain Bob’s Big Boy. According to the article, when a regular customer requested “something different” in 1936, Bob’s founder Robert Wian “offhandedly carved a sesame-seed bun into three horizontal slices, slapped two beef patties between them, topped with cheese, relish and lettuce,” thus inventing the double-decker hamburger. The wording of that sentence implies that Wian had sesame-seed buns on hand, but there’s no telling when, exactly, he first started using them.

In any case, sesame-seed buns seem to have remained rare several decades after hamburgers rose to omnipresence. In a 1964 review of a restaurant called Plush Burger on East 60th Street in New York, legendary New York Times critic Craig Claiborne cited the restaurant’s use of sesame-seed buns as an unusual, luxurious touch that elevated its burgers.

Mickey D’s

But if the progenitor of the sesame-seed hamburger bun has been lost to the sands of time, its popularizer is clear. That would be McDonald’s. In 1968, the world’s largest fast-food chain unveiled the now-iconic Big Mac, a double-decker hamburger served on a sesame-seed bun. McDonald’s advertised the Big Mac in a national TV campaign that listed its ingredients as “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun.” Even though McDonald’s (unlike Burger King) kept serving most of its burgers on seedless buns, and still does, that ad brought America around to Craig Claiborne’s idea that sesame seeds are a mark of a premium hamburger bun.

Yet one question remains: What are those sesame seeds for? They can’t be there for flavor. The savory taste of the beef in a hamburger is more than strong enough to drown out their taste. You could make a better argument for texture, I suppose, or visual appeal. But in the end, their true purpose may just be another mysterious footnote in the bizarrely mysterious history of that most American of foods, the hamburger.

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